A poorly populated coastal area of Africa was developed into a city, which later expanded into the interior by enveloping a large inter-land. The piece of land adequately populated with a central administration, was later recognized as one of the countries of the World – Sierra Leone. What is the secret behind this accomplishment? How did it happen?
Sierra Leone shares boarder with a developed country, which had been attracting people from many parts of the world. This country had been a war zone now for the past fifteen years. The infrastructure and the economy of the land have been completely destroyed. The poor and destitute people now look for support from the United Nations and other compassionate nations for survival. What happened to Liberia? Sierra Leone and Liberia, two sister nations have experienced periods of ‘rising’ and ‘falling’. However in this section, a specific period of their history will be brought into focus to show how leadership can shape the destiny of a nation.
Magbaily Fyle brought the history of Sierra Leone to the present generation by narrating how the nation was born. According to him activities leading to the founding of the country started in the late eighteenths century in England. Granville Sharp, one who spoke against the ills of slavery, succeeded in bringing up the case of a former slave, James summerset, who was being re-enslaved. The Judge in the matter, Lord Mansfield, ruled that slavery was not part of British law and set the slave free. This decision of Lord Mansfield resulted in a social problem in London, as many more slaves became free. The freed slaves were referred to as the black poor.1
It took a leader to see a problem and at the same time see the solution of that problem. Whether Granville Sharp felt that he contributed to the social problem or not, is not of major importance. Granville sharp and others who were like minded persuaded the government to look for a place in Africa to repatriate these free slaves. An area in the West coast of Africa was identified for the purpose. It was gradually developed into a city and a country, which latter became recognized as Sierra Leone, one of the nations of the world.
Having briefly narrated this history of Sierra Leone, it is important to discuss the role of the leaders, who took the initiative, in shaping the destiny of the country. David Barrett points to the significance of leadership in the following quote: “… Granville Sharp and` other philanthropists, championed the rights of these men and press the need for a free town to which the Africans could be repatriated from England.2 These were leaders who were not just generous to some individuals but had a vision for a people – the blacks. In bringing that vision to pass they had to be involved in politics and needed financial support. They got the political support of the government and the financial support of businessmen. In addition, according to these words of Magbaily Fyle: “the colony governors, especially Charles McCarthy, saw to it that missionaries from the Church Missionary Society (CMS) work among the captives to start schools and convert them to Christianity.3 Religion was used to unify the people. It should be noted that many of the returned slaves have already embraced Christianity. Sierra Leone became the leading Western African country in western education and had the first university of higher learning.
Without the good leadership of these men, Sierra Leone would never have had such development at that period of her history. The poorly inhabited coastal land developed into a modern city.
The civil war, which breaks out in Liberia in 1989 really destroyed the country. There was a complete breakdown of Law and order and many warring factions and the government soldiers fought for absolute control. West African forces under the name of ECOMOG had to intervene and later guided the country through a democratic election. The leader of one of the warring factions, Charles Taylor, won the election. From public opinion it was concluded that many voted for Taylor because they feared that if he didn’t win, the war will continue. Is that really a good reason for electing a leader who will have responsibility over a whole nation? Alphonso Toweh, in an article in the West African magazine, “Liberia: the way forward”, described what happened to the nation when Taylor took over the reigns of power. He observed that prior to the elections, disarmament was carried out and large quantities of arms were taken from former fighters. He said that most of the fighters had high hopes of being reintegrated into society, some hopes of training opportunities and other hopes of some sort of benefits to be given by the international community. Alphonso Toweh pointed out that none of these things happened when Taylor took over.4 It had also been agreed that following the election there should be a restructuring of the army but Taylor didn’t observe that as well.
One can understand why the country plunged back into another civil war, which was worse than the first. Taylor acted as a dictator and sank the country deeper into poverty and confusion. He has now been safely moved out, but many more people are still fighting to lead the nation. What qualifies them to lead? In Liberia there is political instability, a wrecked economy and restricted religious freedom. The freedom fighter, who had promised the people so much, has led the country towards a destiny that could be changed by divine intervention.
A Retrospective Look at the Peace Process in Sierra Leone
After a period of ten years of civil war, which brought destruction on the infrastructure and the economy of the country, peace was gradually brought back to the country. The country is now experiencing positive changes and much had been achieved after the war. The government, in concert with other organizations, took the leading role in achieving the peace and bring about reconciliation. In addition, these organizations are putting efforts together to ensure the sustainability of the peace.
This section will take a retrospective look at how the government worked with other organizations, Christian Council of Churches, Inter-Religious Council and Christian Literature Crusade, in achieving and sustaining peace in Sierra Leone.
a) The Council of Churches in Sierra Leone
A quarterly publication, Monitor, of the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone, had in its front page this description – “Sierra Leone shall rise again”5 This description said a lot and part of the implied information was the hope of rising from the destruction and setbacks of ten years of civil wars. Marju Mansaray, editor of the publication commented: “From 1997 to date, the Council of Churches In Sierra Leone, through the Inter-Religious Council (IRCSL), has spearheaded a campaign of peace aimed at fostering unity, love and justice for all. The signing of the Lome Peace Accord was the outcome of sacrificial efforts by IRCSL, Parliamentarians and the civil society movement, working together, to end an unending senseless war through dialogue and reconciliation.6 This statement by the editor revealed that various authorities or leaderships worked together in helping Sierra Leone come out of the pits of rebel war. The CCSL was one organization, which worked with the government to bring an end to the war. The statement already quoted, ‘Sierra Leone shall rise again’, were the words of the president of the organization, Rev, Bishop Humper. He was very optimistic in making this statement. The other half of the statement reads: “The Flames of Unity lit on Monday May 8, 2000, must be allowed to burn unhindered in the years ahead.7
In should be noted that the Inter-Religious Council, an arm of the CCSL was formed primarily to take the leading role in the peace initiative. This council is made up of Christians and Muslims. This council could be said to be an umbrella for two independent bodies. One of the roles of the IRCSL, following the signing of the peace accord was monitoring the peace process. For example, they published a statement condemning the Revolutionary United Front or the rebels, on the 10th May 2000, when they breached the Lome Peace Agreement.8 The IRCSL was a strong arm to the government in achieving and sustaining the peace. One can see how the concerted and persistent efforts of these organizations have contributed greatly in changing the destiny of the nation.
Another publication of the Council of Churches, ‘UPDATE’, also revealed the consistent effort of CCSL in sustaining the peace process. According to the publication, 350 ex-combatants in Maforki, Masimera, Yoni and Koya chiefdoms benefited from a consignment of agricultural inputs supplied by the Council of Churches as part of the reintegration program by the National Commission For Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration. CCSL indeed had put actions to words and have helped the government authority to achieve the national goal.
b) The Christian Literature Crusade Bookshop
Some may wonder whether a bookshop can make any genuine contribution in shaping the destiny of a nation. The leadership, however, of CLC had thought about that long before Sierra Leone had her problems and had come up with an idea. CLC has a publishing arm, which addresses issues of national interest. The management taps the resources of many, in the form of writings in which they address issues, and publish them in their magazine, ‘The catalyst’. In this way many people have been given the opportunity to contribute in addressing nationals, social or religious issues. Two such contributions of individuals, who addressed issues relating to the rebel war, will be briefly discussed.
In an article on ‘Peace, Reconciliation and the Political Future of Sierra Leone’, one of the contributors made this statement, “The shape of the political future of Sierra Leone in the next five to ten years will hinge on three factors: the response of the victims to the overtures of peace and reconciliation; the level of remorse shown by perpetrators of the atrocities; and the way the political institution conducts itself…..9 The writer went on to explain these three factors.
Another contributor of the magazine. He addressed the issue of reconciliation from a biblical perspective. His focus was a challenge to apply biblical principles to the socio-political context in Sierra Leone. Many felt that once the peace agreement had been signed everything was over, but in reality, God receives the rebellious sinner who comes with an open, contrite and repentant heart. But the stubborn and unrepentant heart faces the wrath of God. Mercy and Justice are inherent in God.10 Many people had the opportunity of learning these facts through the publications. But since the magazines are widely sold, one may dire to say the message is getting across.
In summary, one could see the roles various leaderships played, both from the academic and practical perspectives, in helping Sierra Leone rise from the ten years of rebel war. In the Sierra Leone situation it is also seen how politics, religion and the economy are vital elements in shaping a nation’s destiny. This calls for an appreciation of the concerted efforts of the various organizations that supported the government in attaining and sustaining peace.
The subject of this chapter is ‘the shaping of a nation’s destiny through leadership’. In addressing the subject some nations in Bible times were first considered. It was seen how good leadership resulted in the rise and prosperity of a nation and the reverse is true for bad leadership. Leadership in the nations of Israel and Egypt were examined at different points in history.
The subject was also examined from the perspective of the contemporary world. It was seen how the good leadership of Graville Sharp and other philanthropists in responding to social problems in England, which was caused by the freedom of slaves resulted in founding of Sierra Leone as a nation. Sierra Leone became a leading nation to start western education in West Africa and the base for the spreading of Christianity in West Africa. On the contrary it was seen how bad leadership in Liberia, under Charles Taylor took the nation into new debts of poverty.
Finally, a retrospective look was taken at the ten years civil war in Sierra Leone. It was seen how good leadership helped the nation to rise again. It was noted that it was a concerted effort of both the political and religious leadership. It was also noted that three elements were important in shaping the destiny of the nation by leadership. They are the political situation, the religious atmosphere and the economy. When the political situation is stable and religion binds people in unity, the economy is likely to improve. Only good leadership can create the conditions mentioned above and when those conditions are created, the nation is moving towards a good destiny. When the opposite of those conditions are seen, it is an indication of bad leadership and the country is heading for a bad destiny.
Magbaily C Fyle, The History of sierra Leone: A Concise Introduction (London: Evans Brothers Limited,
1981), p. 34.
2 David B Barrett, Schism and Renewal In Mica: An Analysis of Six Thousand Contemporary Religious
Movements (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 15.
3 Magbaily Fyle, The History of Sierra Leone: A Concise Introduction (London: Evans Brothers Limited, 1981) ) p. 39
4 Alphonso Toweh, West Africa: Liberia: The Way Forward. Logos, Issue 438414th-20th July, 2003
5 1.C. Humper, Monitor: Sierra Leone Shall Rise Again. Freetown Communication Desk of The Christian
Council Sierra Leone, Vol. 1, No. 6, 2000.
6 Ibid. p 4
7 Ibid. p 10
8 Ibid. p 10
9Claudius Davies, The Catalyst: Peace Reconciliation and The Political Future of Sierra Leone. Published by CLC Sierra Leone, September-October, 2002
10 Leopold Foullah, The Catalyst Reconciliation In Biblical Perspective. Published by CLC, September-October, 2002.