NOT JUST AFGHANISTAN, JOE BIDEN, SIERRA LEONE AS WELL

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By S. Momodu

On 16 August, the world watched images of desperate Afghans clinging to American warplanes in Kabul in the wake of the fall of the Afghanistan to the Taliban. Ashraf Ghani, the ousted Afghan president fled the country over the weekend.

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In our humble home, it is routine for everyone, including the children, to follow global issues and we spend some time analyzing topical issues.  

In his address about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, some of the things that President Joe Biden indicated that I will always remember:  I do not regret my decision; I will not repeat the mistake of the past; the buck stops with me.

Granted that the speed with which the Afghan military collapsed caught many people off guard, the truth is that America cannot continue supporting Afghanistan forever.

In his address, Mr. Biden said: “We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals: get those who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001, and make sure Al Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again. We did that. We severely degraded Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We never gave up the hunt for Osama bin Laden and we got him. That was a decade ago. Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy. Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on American homeland.”

The American president went on: “When I came into office, I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban. Under his agreement, U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, just a little over three months after I took office. U.S. forces had already drawn down during the Trump administration from roughly 15,500 American forces to 2,500 troops in the country. And the Taliban was at its strongest militarily since 2001. The choice I had to make as your president was either to follow through on that agreement or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the spring fighting season. There would have been no cease-fire after May 1. There was no agreement protecting our forces after May 1. There was no status quo of stability without American casualties after May 1. There was only the cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, and lurching into the third decade of conflict. I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces.”

Like withdrawing from Afghanistan, there is never a good time to stop spoon-feeding Sierra Leone when all most of us know is corruption. The evidence is overwhelming. I am a strong believer that things can positively change in Sierra Leone if we are really committed to it beyond ridiculous tribal and regional sentiments.  

As Taliban forces rapidly advanced on to the capital a few days ago, the Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. “If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision. American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.”

Biden’s remark on Afghan forces not willing to fight for themselves is apt for Sierra Leone. In my view, the USA and others should not be endlessly supporting us when most of us are insanely dishonest.

After many years of serving at the international level, I was looking forward to returning home and contributing beyond the dirty politics and greed that has gone viral in the country. I was shocked at the alarming levels of malfeasance, and sadly, even when kleptomaniacs were made to account, most compatriots simply supported crooks. Has the looting ended after the recent Commission of Inquiry? Of course not. The unpatriotic game has escalated in diverse ways.

Like Afghanistan where Americans have been dying, during the civil war in Sierra Leone, we had people from various parts of the world who paid the ultimate price for us to enjoy peace, including UN peacekeepers.

 After spending some months at home in 2020, it was very easy for me to decide to relocate and make better preparations to return in future. Some people believed I could enter politics like most journalists do these days – possibly join the faltering All Peoples Congress or the usually vindictive Sierra Leone Peoples Party – get a juicy job and get rich like most politicians who could not explain how they got their wealth, including the self-styled champion in the fight against corruption, former President Koroma.

It is pathetic that most people today use politics in Sierra Leone as a conduit to get jobs and then fleece the nation. During my stay in Sierra Leone, I was humbled when the country’s Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman Swaray, recalled to my mild surprise that I never joined the world of journalism for short-term gains. He was spot on. I have an undying passion for truth-telling and do not believe in following the crowd to do what is wrong.

Starting my career in Makeni, the grace of God has taken me to many countries around the world. I can authoritatively say that at the bottom of individuals, families, and nations that have serious issues is corruption. Today, most people only focus on short-term benefits. In my last piece – “Is it fate to become corrupt, or do we choose to?” – I stated that no country will develop through corruption, through donor support, or by borrowing.

President Biden described some of the unfolding events in Afghanistan as “gut wrenching”. As one who covered the Sierra Leone civil war in the 1990s for both the local and international media, what we experienced was far more gut-wrenching as savagery ruled the land: amputations, splitting bellies open including of pregnant women, locking people up in houses and setting them ablaze, and several other repulsive acts that would make even Satan bow down his head in shame. The question is: What do most politicians seek in Sierra Leone today? To make a difference or “chap u chap” or “cut u cut”?

Told by compatriots that I must be corrupt to survive in the country, I elected to relocate after handing over the management of Beyond Borders, which I set up primarily to preach values which are apparently in acute shortage in the country.

Since he walked into the Oval Office seven months ago, Biden was determined to see that his presidency would do what his three predecessors did not: end America’s longest war.

As the situation in Afghanistan continues to make headlines, my core belief is that “withdrawing” from a paradise for corruption like Sierra Leone and letting Sierra Leoneans deal with their own destiny is long overdue. It is high time Sierra Leoneans stopped repeating the mistakes of the past and now.

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