Images that were circulated on Twitter last week have caused distress across the world. But the real tragedy is that to Sierra Leonans ourselves, those images are tragically familiar.
The picture was of women selling foodstuffs right next to piles of garbage at Lumley in Freetown. As the journalist who posted the picture, Vickie Remoe, said, “This is what leadership failure is to me.”
This is about more than economics or even sanitation. It is about more than the lack of opportunities our fellow citizens have to earn a decent living and the lengths they will go to in order to feed themselves and their families.
It is about human dignity.
What is it about our nation that has led to so many being forced to surrender their human dignity in order to make ends meet? Don’t our people deserve better than this?
Why should we settle for conditions that almost every other country in the world would never tolerate? And isn’t this a sign of the failure of political leadership over many, many years?
The short and easy answer is that no one should have to settle for a situation in which human dignity must be sacrificed and dispensed for the sake of being able to exist. Where is the hope? Where is the optimism? And if a country’s leadership cannot deliver those invaluable qualities, isn’t it time for a change?
But there is a warning here for any politician or political party who seeks office merely for that office’s own sake: the people of Sierra Leone have long since lost patience with those who promise much, who talk a good game but who fail to deliver. That can happen only so often before democracy itself is deemed to have failed.
That is what is so dangerous about political cynicism – that people who yearn for a better way of life feel let down by politicians who promise much but deliver little.
It’s time Sierra Leone took a different path, one that leads to human dignity and a renewed faith in democracy.