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IS SIERRA LEONE A RELIGIOUS STATE?

By S. I. Kamara

Today, we are being told irrefutably that black Africans are the first to appear on planet earth as the human beings we know today – Homo sapiens.

It is also known that before the coming of strangers like Europeans and Arabs, African people were governing themselves the way they wanted depending on how they interrelated. Africans had Kings, and Chiefs who ruled according to consensus. The people were not running naked as was described by the missionaries then but had their own industry that supplied them their own needs.

The foreigners that came to Africa, the Europeans and the Arabs, all had different plans and aims for coming. For the Europeans, it was for what we had underground – minerals etc; whereas the Arabs unlike nowadays, were traders moving from place to place selling their wares and settling anywhere that was favorable for them and intermarrying. The Arabs brought a way of life that gradually attracted their hosts.

Black Africans were praying to God, thanking Him for everything. Every African tribe had the name of God independent of the other, so it is not Christianity or Islam that brought the notion of God to them. Whatever way they were worshipping God served them very well as did the other peoples of the planet. But the European thought that the easy way to get grip of the minds of the Africans was to introduce them to their religion using the image of Jesus Christ as part of the Holy Trinity.

Backed by the power of the state of origin, schools were built e.g. in Sierra Leone, then university, the FBC all to promote their version of Christianity. In the process the African converts were obliged to change their names and adopt the ones given to them in a policy of tabula rasa. Those who went through that indoctrination were given commensurate jobs in the newly created civil service with the relevant amenities all to make them not only different but superior in some sorts than other members of society.

Those who were Muslims resisted, unfortunately at the beginning, to send their children to the newly established schools for fear of them being converted to Christianity. The society that was somehow homogenous suddenly became divided by class and religion. This policy was used and spread right through colonial Africa, a policy many would agree that is partly responsible for the difficulty in getting peace and harmony in our countries. Let me extrapolate this whole scenario to the troubles in Lebanon, where minority Christians were given Presidential powers as opposed to the others. That arrangement ended in a civil war later.

In Sierra Leone after independence, the Krios dominated the civil service rightly so as they were the ones that embraced the religion of the colonial master, Christianity. They became the vogue that every other tribe wanted to be as the amenities they enjoyed gave them sort of superiority over the indigenous tribes.

Other tribes then became easy prey for the British to expand their influence the Mendes and Temnes near them started changing to other forms of Christianity they were exposed to. It was becoming clear the divide that was developing in Sierra Leone. Those who went to school and gained education the colonial way assumed the aura of supremacy that the rest of the country then followed. But the numbers were small vis a vis the rest of the population in the hinterland who were either Muslim or adherents to the religion of their ancestors.

For those Sierra Leoneans born outside of Freetown where the vast majority of the people are ruled by native law and custom, they know that when it comes to the crowning of chiefs the ceremony is not performed with Christian or Islamic values but by the laws and traditions that the ancestors in that  particular area had left for them. The British never attempted to destroy it because it would make indirect governance using the chiefs difficult.

As the world is now, when one looks at the different peoples in terms of religion, one is easily inclined to associate Europeans with Christianity, Arabs with Islam, Indians with Hinduism, Jews with Judaism, Chinese looking people with Buddhism, the Japanese with Shintoism. But what about black people, which religion defines us?

With all these considerations and especially the population composition the constitutions of Sierra Leone have never declared the state to be a religious state.  Going through the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991, I have not seen any section or subsection that states that Sierra Leone is a Christian or Muslim state, meaning no religion has any constitutional superiority over any other religion including Ancestral worship of Sierra Leoneans before the coming of the Europeans and the Arabs.

Section 6 subsection 2 states:  Accordingly, the State shall promote national integration and unity and discourage discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, circumstance of birth, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties.

I am not a lawyer but I can read and understand at least what this section is saying is that the State being represented by the President is supposed to promote national integration and unity of the people irrespective of whatever religion they belong to. In Sierra Leone there are many people who want nothing to do with Christianity and Islam but are afraid to say so thus giving the loud mouths to believe that only two religions exist in Sierra Leone. No, no and no.

Under which section of the Constitution is the President of Sierra Leone operating when according to section 40 subsection 2:  The President shall be the Fountain of Honour and Justice and the symbol of national unity and sovereignty when he goes to public functions and only the Christian and Islamic clerics are detailed to pray for the President and the nation? What about those who are not either? Is that not behaving ultra vires the constitution?

When Brigadier Julius Maada Bio as Head of the NPRC, made his first visit as head of State to President of Ghana then J J Rawlings, he was received at the tarmac at Kotoka International airport by Rawlings and none other than a traditional priest. What was the significance of that?

I end where I started. Is Sierra Leone a religious state, if yes which religion?

 

 

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