Sierra Leone: The Paradox of Economic Decline and Political Stability


  • Frank Ly





Anyone who has read Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle and who thinks the real Third World can't outclass its own caricature is due for a visit to Sierra Leone. All the crazy contrasts are there: - There is the fabulous wealth of the few, frivolously parading before the eyes of the many; - there are politicians commuting between prison and power; - jujumen mingling with priests, Christmas carols with Koranic charms; - solemn UN experts concoct impressive development plans to be taken on fishing trips abroad by an expanding body of ministers; - broken-glass-topped fences bear witness to a national obsession with "tiefs"; yet there is official looting on a formidable scale; - white imperialists bribe black elites who have temporary access to the public purse; - there are muddy waters with glistening diamonds, and beaches so white they leave footprints as on virgin snow; - and this June and July there will be splendid Organization of African Unity (OAU) conferences that will cost this tiny country of 2.9 million people on the west coast of Africa all of a year's government budget.

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