Sub-Saharan Africa: People’s representatives (MPs) go for more cash as citizens starve

“… Members of parliament in Sierra Leone are craving for a pay rise and have even called off parliamentary sessions until the minister of finance David Carew consent to increase their salaries.
Effects of long time conflict and war still haunt Sierra Leone. (Net photo)
Effects of long time conflict and war still haunt Sierra Leone. (Net photo)

“… Members of parliament in Sierra Leone are craving for a pay rise and have even called off parliamentary sessions until the minister of finance David Carew consent to increase their salaries.

I was not aghast because politicians of Sierra Leone, as the case with many other countries particularly in Africa, do not seek the interest of the people but themselves and their families.

As the Godfather of democracy, Abraham Lincoln of the United States of America said ‘nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power,” remarked Mariama Kandeh of the Concord Times-Freetown on 28 November 2008.

Sierra Leone is a West African state, which only emerged from a decade of civil war in 2002. Not surprising therefore, the recent dramatic call from the Sierra Leonean MPs to have their salaries raised to six thousands USA Dollars, raised a lot of dust around the world.

In real essence, the country faces many difficulties due to the aftermath of the war. With high levels of poverty and economic decadence, the MPs demands sound very unfortunate.

The country’s ‘name’ virtually brings memories of the infamous transatlantic slave trade. Remember the capital Freetown was a home of repatriated former slave in late 1780s. Therefore, that history is down the books.

The unrealistic demand followed the Kenyan MP’s resistance to have their scandalously huge salaries of about 5.6 million Rwandan Francs taxed.

This is a rather discouraging event in the poor African region and actually, self-mockery for both countries given the track record and history of poverty in both.

If we only take the two countries Kenya and Sierra Leon, as case studies, we can easily expose the reason as to why the Sub- Saharan Africa remains poor.

Sierra Leon is an impoverished state that has had all its wealth wasted and recklessly exploited by a bad leadership. In spite of it being well endowed with natural resources such as diamonds, its people have starved and died at the hands of failed politics and leadership.

Now, the MPs of that country and other leaders should be forging ways and means to rebuild the country’s shattered economy, by sparing every coin.

They should use the same resilience to focus all the assistance on the vulnerable groups in their population, who do not have basic needs or services.

It is absolutely wrong and immoral for MPs in Sierra Leone, to think about increasing their salaries from 2000UDS to 6000USD. Most postcolonial African leaders have taken this very dangerous ‘anti-people’ line. “Get into power enrich yourself and all around you maximally.”

The same blame goes to the Kenyan MP’s reluctance to have their huge allowances taxed. It sets a very dangerous precedent.

How can a legislator convince peasants that paying taxes is a national duty for every citizen, when he or she is refusing to pay?

“They are blocking a bill that will make them pay taxes just like any other Kenyan. What is this suppose to mean? What do they think they are? They increase their allowances and refuse to pay taxes?

Unbelievable! Basically what you are demonstrating to us is that you don’t care. You are out to get rich at all cost and you are willing to be involved in illegality to reach that end,” writes Jamia Ya Kenya, on issues affecting women and children.

This sheer greed is ruling over politicians in Kenyan, particularly the MPs. Look, they are wrestling with heavy food crisis where the price of maize floor (Ugali) has hiked.

Ugali is the main staple food in Kenya. “We cannot afford a situation where maize flour becomes a luxury,” complained Isaac Ruto, the Kenyan Minister of Agriculture.

We hope this ‘plague’ will not affect Rwanda, as it seems to be spreading like wild fire. In Rwanda MPs are paid a reasonable salary of 800.000 Rwfs (1300USD approximately). Any move to increase it would be very unrealistic since they also enjoy some other privileges.

Allowances given to MPs in Rwanda are reasonable because they resonate with the country’s resources. It would be dangerous, if they claimed for an increase to meet the current wave of myopic and greedy demands in ‘some’ Sub-Saharan countries.

People’s representative must work hard to make sure that poverty and hunger in the Sub-Saharan Africa become history.

Members of parliament like the Catholic Clergy under normal circumstances must be exemplary, by swearing in for ‘spiritual poverty’.

MPs should be in the lowest class of citizens, if they are to serve the vulnerable. Wanting to live far above the middle class therefore, is against the law of common sense.

Representing  people, especially the deprived and vulnerable is a noble cause that demands a unique character.  Hence it beats logic when such people think of enriching themselves in the house of people-Parliament.

This is where we go wrong in this part of the world. It also explains why we are what we are-extremely poor and succumbing to neo-colonialism.

Otherwise, if we live according to Abraham Lincoln’s fear that power tests man and woman’s power, we are doomed.

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