18. 02. 10
posted by: Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (The Original Hi-Tech)
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The People’s Manifesto: My Reflections on Human Development!

I am very pleased to see human development, not least the ‘focus on developing the country’s human capital through free education’, placed at the heart of the SLPP People’s Manifesto largely informed by the party’s political ideology of social democracy. Yet, I am far from surprised by this inclusion of human development as the central nervous system of the People’s Manifesto, given that the principal author of this sacred political document, our presidential hopeful, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio himself is aware that lack of it (human development) was largely to blame for the 11-year civil war that devastated Sierra Leone for the greater part of the 1990s.  Small wonder that the manifesto very early on clearly affirms that the SLPP party’s ‘New Direction Social Democracy political ideology aspires to create a more just and equal society in Sierra Leone as the only insurance to avoid another war and recurrent political instability.’

 As somebody who is widely believed to have played the most important role in laying the foundations for the peaceful ending of the deadly civil war in Sierra Leone, one can understand why Maada Bio is so concerned about how best to sustain this peace.  Going by his New Direction Vision outlined in the People’s manifesto, I can see that he plans to do this by making sure that the economic, social and cultural structures of violence epitomised in the lack of human development which largely caused the civil war in the first place are addressed once and for all. It is therefore easy to see that for Maada Bio, his main m

This is my candid reading of the situation: When Maada laid the foundations for the peace we are all enjoying today by bringing Foday Sankoh and his RUF rebels to the negotiating table in 1996 for the first time since the outbreak of the civil war in March 1991, a feat that seemed impossible until then, he wanted to deliver the peace and sustain it! This explains why he wanted a little more time before handing over back to civilian rule following his palace coup against Strasser that put him at the helm for just about three months. However, as one who always puts the interest of the people first, among all others, including his own, Maada accepted the will of the people who called for democracy before peace at the historic Bintumani conference and presided over the process of returning the country to multi-party democracy.otivation for seeking the presidency could well be to finish the apparently unfinished business of sustaining the very peace he made the most singular contribution to bringing about. In this regard, it is difficult to dismiss Maada as just another dreamer!

It is therefore Maada’s motivation to consolidate and sustain the peace and democracy which he played a pivotal role to bring about in Sierra Leone that has made him to put human development at the very heart of his party’s New Direction Social Democracy and Development Model.  Maada’s passion for the idea of human development as a panacea for all what has gone wrong with Sierra Leone during the pre and post-conflict period is underpinned by research by British anthropologist Paul Richards and others who argue that youth marginalisation and exclusion, massive unemployment, absolute poverty and deprivation were among the root causes of the 11-year old civil war in Sierra Leone that caused nearly 150, 000 deaths and massive destruction of property. The focus of his vision for the country on the political ideology of social democracy is frankly borne out of his desire to use the idea of human development as both the means and an end to the development of Sierra Leone as a whole.

Some critics may want to dismiss Maada Bio’s New Direction vision of human development as too ambitious and therefore out of tune with the neo-liberal political and economic realities of our time. However, such critics may be making a sad mistake since they should remember that the People’s manifesto made it very clear from the onset that the SLPP NEW DIRECTION ‘is based on free market neo-liberal economic development principles’, although it committed ‘to depart from the traditional principle whereby only the market economy determines individual performance and reward’. This means that it is the human rights-based approach to development,  which 1998 Nobel prize winner for Economics, Amartya Sen, describes in his ground-breaking book ‘Development as Freedom’(2001) as the human face type of neo-liberal capitalism , that will be the guiding principle of this SLPP NEW DIRECTION. It is for this reason that the NEW DIRECTION ‘is based on inclusive politics, inclusive development and inclusive economic growth whereby the benefits of economic growth are re-distributed to all Sierra Leoneans through the provision of affordable housing, public health services and free education.’ The NEW DIRECTION social democracy and development model is therefore supported by the more people-friendly, rather than the more classical and fierce type of neo-liberal type of capitalism where only the very few would benefit from economic growth and economic development. On the contrary, the people-friendly social democracy-based neo-liberal capitalism ‘gives every Sierra Leonean a voice, ownership and a stake in the country and its future’.

 This people-centred version of capitalism resonates with Amartya Sen’s ‘capability approach’ which puts the development of the capabilities of people to develop themselves at the centre of all political, economic, social and cultural policies and activities in society. In fact, what is more, it resonates with the moral dimension of neo-liberal capitalism which, Adam Smith, the founder of modern capitalism himself recognised and captured in his book ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’ (1759) which he published before his 1776 classic ‘The Wealth of Nations’. Thus, contrary to the widely held view among neo-liberal classical economists that modern capitalism is only informed by the fierce market logic-driven type of economic development, it also has a moral face that puts the  interest of the people at the centre of all its activities. In fact, Adam Smith, no doubt a firm believer in the private sector as the engine of economic growth, also believed that not all sectors of human activity should be completely left in the hands of private business; he singled out education in particular as a sector of human development which should not be completely left in the hands of the private sector.       

This people–centred type of development has been put into test in many countries of the most advanced and emerging economies and so I see no reason why we cannot achieve it here in Sierra Leone under the NEW DIRECTION of the SLPP. As I always say, where there is the political will to bring about human development there would always be a way. Besides, the People’s manifesto has been very clear about this! Moreover, our presidential hopeful, who has a tried and tested record of saying things and delivering on them, is ready to hit the ground running to deliver his party’s human development flagship project.

NB—I will focus the part 3 of this article on IMPROVING GOVERNANCE in PART 4 OF THE SLPP MANIFESTO to be published next