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EMANCIPATION AND RELEVANCE – THE CREOLES’  IN SIERRA LEONE

By Titus Boye-Thompson, Communications Consultant

The term emancipation refers to the struggle of a people to find their way in society and to claim that degree of relevance that they would generally aspire to. Several other qualities are attached to that word, like freedom, the ability to decide on who represents the said people within the political establishment and also by some mechanism of how their own views and aspirations are established within the body [politic. In evolving democracies, such aspirations are embedded in constitutionality, in that even those who are determined minorities within a national environment can have a way of being represented by none other than themselves.

Sierra Leone has in some ways adopted a peculiar system of political dynamism that lack plurality and fluidity. As the country’s democracy evolves, it seem to be taking the shape of what has been referred to as a “two tribes” mentality, wherein every aspect of political and social engagement is divided between two distinct and correspondingly opposing regional and invariably tribal lines. What this produces is a constant battle between the two major tribes on one plane and then gradually coalescing to a regional shift or bias given the demographics of how these two tribes and their coterminous linguistic kith have settled in the country. The South and East have complementarities of cultures and mores as does the North and North West. The West is the melting pot but even in that, it plays out more evenly the dichotomies of the rest of the regional imbalances existing in the rest of the country. The Western Area, as the West of the country is predominantly known, plays out national emotions in a much more complicated spatial distributive style due to co-habitation patterns, leaving the tribal idiosyncrasies to become more evident in terms of political affiliations and sympathies.

The Regions are divided into chiefdoms and other cohorts with Paramount Chiefs in control of major locations. Paramount Chiefs are on top of the pecking order whilst section chiefs and other village heads are provided smaller roles as administrative cohorts. The case is not the same for the Western Area and here lies the problem. Whilst the Paramount Chiefs now have direct representation in Parliament, the country is left with an archaic system that was invented to seduce the Traditional mainly Tribal Monarchical  Chiefs into compliance whilst dividing their lands and areas of influence to smaller units of sub chiefdoms and sections as the British Colonialists unleashed the “divide and rule” principle. The representation of the people at Parliament through Paramount Chiefs are the only method of representation that allows for practically every tribe to be so represented in parliament other than by voting but surprisingly, the Creoles are denied that privilege for automatic representation in Parliament. As it stands, the Creoles are the only tribe not directly represented in Parliament other than by general elections.

Since 1787 when British abolitionists and philanthropists supporting the anti-slavery movement established the settlement of Freetown, the Creoles who are the descendants of these black poor brought back to Africa and later joined by others including liberated Africans rescued on the high seas, have fought to establish within their own circle, a unique people of common experience and heritage with a shared culture that is now entrenched within Sierra Leone society.

Whilst these developments have been neither politically vigorous nor sedentary  in context, they had always fallen short of that integration with the rest of the country due to the historic attitude of separation of culture and a socialization that embed the complexes of disparity, privilege and superiority between the Creoles and the indigenous peoples. As a result of the inherent tribal hegemony of the more vociferous ethnic groups encouraged by the Colonialists who later came in to impose a British administration per se, raised the impasse to become a justification for the demarcation between the peoples and their aspirations for national unity. The British Colonialists in their haste to walk away from Sierra Leone and faced with the malaria induced black death in Freetown, ceded power to the indigenous peoples in such rash manner, disempowering the Creoles in governance. The old arguments that the Creoles are unwilling to engage in national politics must be turned on its head. No other tribe has been required to engage as much as the Creoles have been subjected to and with so much pressure mounted against them. Every significant tribe in Sierra Leone is represented in Parliament by a Paramount Chief so why should not the Creoles be so represented is the main context of the deliberate disenfranchisement of a people. The irony is that no one can argue that the Creoles are not a significant tribe in Sierra Leone. Unless you accept the dictum that questions whether the creoles qualify to be a tribe as described or otherwise purported by the others. It has no relevance to the fact that the Creoles can claim a common ancestry, a common culture and a common language with a distinctive characterization as a people of commonality and values. Nonetheless, the Creoles have seen their attempts to engage in mainstream politics systematically sidetracked by the two tribes dichotomy. Their aspirations have almost always been left to fester at the corridors of political brinksmanship. It is interesting that if they had been able to unite under a single leadership so that their political dynamics could be coalesce into a political third force has been more to their detriment as can be expected.

This is no attempt to paraphrase Sierra Leone’s history but to capture a miniscule of the disadvantage the Creoles have suffered in their attempt to call this place a home. Suffice it to say that the issue of Creole representation in Parliament must now be considered de rigueur for correcting the wrongs done to a people of such supine character and talents in this country. The issue also of the Mayor of Freetown to be a Creole, enshrined in Constitution must not be a hard pill to bear. After all, there are no Paramount Chiefs in Freetown. The Creoles must have their own political platform to administer and to create a policy that gives their issues and aspirations top considerations. I stand by such a campaign openly and would hold this as the mantelpiece of a campaign for the next Mayor of Freetown. Intrinsically, no tribe would realistically hold censure against Creole Mayors because, in their hearts of hearts, everybody knows that it was the Creoles who built this city. When two tribes go to war, let it be known that the Creoles would always be here to settle the scores, amicably and impartially.

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