The press release carried by the Sierra Leonean-owned Vancouver, British Columbia-based www.thepatrioticvanguard.com that it is to launch a weekly radio talk show dubbed “Development Dialogue” on the Freetown-based United Nations Radio FM 103 to discuss accountability among Sierra Leonean elites is a step towards opening up Sierra Leone’s development fronts to people. This is after years of lack of genuine interaction among ordinary Sierra Leoneans, national ministers, senior bureaucrats, development experts, academics, diplomats, media professionals, and representatives of non-governmental organizations operating Sierra Leone’s development process.
When Sierra Leone was founded in 1961, it was basically a development project that radiated non indigenous values. Infact, English-speaking West Africa was ruled from Freetown, making it the centre of diffusion of neo-liberal development paradigms for Anglophone West Africa. Sierra Leone’s values were not reflected in the country’s initial development projects – an indication of weak foundation of Sierra Leonean nation-state as development scheme.
As today’s growing international development literature and research demonstrate, the inability of Sierra Leonean elites to mix indigenous Sierra Leonean norms, values and traditions into national development saw gradual cracks in the foundations of the proud nation-state. The climax of this saw the brutal Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels emerge from the long developmentally-neglected outbacks of the country: amputating, raping, fighting and looting diamonds. The enlightened had descended into primitivity, because Sierra Leone’s elites, despite their long-running pretensions, could not hatch holistic national development policies that balanced its neo-liberal Western structures with its indigenous norms, values and traditions.
What we see here are elites shielded from the norms, values and traditions of Sierra Leoneans in their national development planning. As the buffer between the people and the government, as the intellectual fronts between the people and centers of power, as the eyes and ears between the governors and the development aspirations of Sierra Leoneans, the elites did not reflect the real developmental struggles of Sierra Leoneans in regard to their norms, values and traditions.
It is in this sense that the National Communications Strategy Project programme is appreciated. The idea of starting this programme through the discussion of intersection between the “Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) and the national development policy framework of Sierra Leone,” demonstrates its seriousness as Sierra Leone and other African states have been entangled for years in neo-liberal policies.
The use of Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSPs) as a starting point by the National Communications Strategy Project programme shows the apparent shift in development thinking in relation to the Sierra Leonean environment. Unlike the much-maligned Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) that were imposed verbatim on Sierra Leone and other developing countries, the PRSPs are prepared by the member countries of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund “through a participatory process involving domestic stakeholders as well as external development partners, including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.” Broadly, the PRSPs are not only for consideration for debt relief but healthier macroeconomic practices and the overall development process of the PRSPs member countries.
As the Accra based development bi-weekly Public Agenda reported (March 23, 2007) citing a press release by the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office (March 12, 2007), the IMF acknowledges that policies, practices and aid towards Africa, suggestive of other international development agencies, contains “ambiguity and confusion.” The ambiguity and confusion are the result of lack of broader inclusion, or more appropriately “miscommunications to external audiences,” as the IMF is quoted saying and has become aware of, Sierra Leone and other African states’ history, experiences, norms, values and traditions into the IMF, the World Bank and other international development agencies policies and practices towards Sierra Leone and other Africa states. Therefore, the National Communications Strategy Project development dialogue programme should be a forum for opening up into the long-neglected Sierra Leonean history, experiences, norms, values and traditions into the discussions of its development process.