Sierra Leone, my home country, celebrates 50 years of independence from the United Kingdom today. Amidst the celebrations of this important milestone, there is controversy. In an op-ed piece I wrote for Critique Echo, a German-Sierra Leonean newspaper, I argued against the emphasis on celebration, and instead, called for a period of national reflection. I highlighted the monumental task facing the country, comparing life for the average Sierra Leonean today and at independence in 1961. For example, In the year immediately after independence, Sierra Leone’s GDP was $142.73 per capita. If you adjust that for inflation, it would be roughly $1029.88 in 2011.Today; Sierra Leone’s GDP is around $903, a difference of about $126.88.This means that we are significantly poorer now, than we were 50 years ago.
I concluded that it is more patriotic to emphasize stocktaking and learning from our past mistakes with a view of remedying our situation than just putting a focus on celebration.