The political climate has changed for the better, over the past two and a half years in Sierra Leone! It is very rare in African politics to see a leader committed to his people’s welfare that employs a conscience-politics approach to changing the dynamics of how his country is governed. For over 30 years, this small West African country has been yearning for change. It has experienced the brutalities of different kinds of conflicts, and has witnessed the innocent slaughter and maiming of its people.
The introduction of a new style of politics is certainly an injection of a new spirit of hope, optimism and expectation. The new president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, has achieved the impossible in African standards. He has challenged the economic and political dilemma of his country and transformed the country’s outlook in a dramatic fashion that has already attracted international acclaim, and a massive inflow of investment. It takes fortitude to take on these challenges and succeed in a short period of time, considering the obstacles and what this leader inherited.
On assuming power, Sierra Leone was at the brink of economic collapse. The country’s institutions were plagued with endemic corruption and malpractices. There was no formidable development plan or strategy in place to address the dilapidated infrastructural damages that emanated from the 10 year civil war. The economy was in tatters and the country’s coffers looted by greedy politicians whose only reason to ever get into politics was to get rich quick.
The dilemma that faced this new leader was not only to address these ills; but to design a new framework to put in place policies that will institute a temporary halt to the suffering of his people, until a thorough analysis has been made as to how much damage has been done. But being a man of vision with the promise of running the country like a business entity, Ernest Bai Koroma embarked on addressing the root of his country’s problems. His utmost concern was tackling corruption and establishing an efficient revenue system. He was also cognisant of the fact that the energy sector had to be revitalised to ensure an efficient administrative and commercial system. The country’s hydro-electric potential was quickly enhanced to provide continuous 24 hours electricity to power vital industries and government departments, and to improve on the standard of life of the masses.
One of the most important decision the Head of State had to make on assuming power, was to invite stakeholders to have a hands-on in how the country is governed. This is unprecedented in African politics. In other words, the country’s revenue and expenditure management were opened to enable outside scrutiny by independent international bodies, not at their request but at the request of the president, Ernest Bai Koroma, who has been determined to end the suffering of his people. He asked the respectable former British Prime Minister to help introduce good governance in his country. Blair’s African Governance Initiative sent experts to the country who have been involved in a day-to-day administration on how government policies are implemented. This has been remarkable. In march this year, I had the privilege of interviewing Tony Blair, who described President Koroma as a leader committed to changing his country in the right way. Blair went on to say that his governance initiative would only be willing to work in a country where they are satisfied with the leadership, and are confident that the government is working in the interest of the people. This is indeed a serious endorsement of President Ernest Koroma’s work as a leader.
We must not as a nation take the important contribution President Ernest Bai Koroma has already made in transforming our country’s fortunes for granted. Some of us have high expectations of our leader. We sometimes fail to understand that our country’s problems did not come about as a result of a few days of mismanagement, corruption, civil war or even lack of good governance. The damage inflicted on our country is the result of an orchestrated campaign by disgruntled politicians and civil servants who had no good intentions for the state, over a long period of time. These same politicians time and again unscrupulously switched political allegiance to enable them to have access to our coffers. And with total disregard for our welfare as a people, they looted our country’s resources with no conscience. Some of these very politicians are now members of the SLPP hierarchy, and are vying for one more chance to completely wreck our country’s economy.
This is why president Koroma came to power. He is determined to stop the SLPP from laying hands on our mineral wealth and vital resources one more time. During his time in opposition, Ernest Koroma was powerless in stop these scoundrels milking our economy. He witnessed with utmost disgust, how our country was being taken down the perils of destruction. The only way he knew he could make a difference was to assume the mantle of leadership in the country. Journalists like Sylvia Blyden, Sheku Kallon and a few others benefited financially during the last SLPP regime and they were stunned at Ernest Koroma’s victory. Some of them have still not recovered from the shock as they have been deprived of the many illegal contracts that came their way. Because all this has stopped, these journalists have started a media campaign of terror with the help of SLPP stooges, to tarnish the good name of our leader and the APC government, in an attempt to sabotage the new agenda for change. It seems the SLPP did not complete the damage they have done to our country. They are now asking the electorate to grant them another opportunity to finish the job. Not that they have presented a better alternative, because they don’t have any, they are resorting to using corrupt journalists like Sylvia Blyden to employ bad media politics in order to fool the electorate.
There is now an increasing need to investigate the NPRC regime that perpetrated the worst human rights record in the history of our country. Innocent people were killed at random, and some of the country’s finest professional military officers were murdered in cold-blood. This is not something that should be allowed to melt way into thin air. This government has a responsibility to investigate on behalf of the families of these gallant men and women, as to why they were killed. Those who are hypocritically trying to prevent this from happening, should hang their heads in shame, as crimes against humanity were committed. It is imperative of this government to close this sad chapter in our country’s history by getting to the bottom of what really happened. How can the families who endured the pain of seeing their loved ones massacred without reason, ever come to terms with their loss, if they are deprived of justice? President Koroma should go ahead with implementing the mechanisms to pursue the perpetrators and serve justice to those found wanting. Those who are found guilty, should face the full penalty of the law! And they must never be allowed to participate in the politics of our country or hold any high office of state!
You may be aware that the present SLPP leader, John Oponjo Benjamin was a Finance Minister during the period of NPRC rule. He single-handedly presided over the mismanagement of what was left of our country’s wealth, when on the exit of the NPRC, the vault of the central bank was half-emptied, as members of the regime handed power to the more corrupt SLPP government. Some of this money was used to purchase lucrative homes abroad and maintain a playboy lifestyle that started on the beaches of Sierra Leone. We should not forget that Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, who became leader and then president of the SLPP government, was an adviser to the NPRC government when they took power. He must have witnessed this all. Some of those who were members of the governing council of the NPRC are now executive members of the SLPP. One of them, Julius Maada Bio has even thrown his hat into the race of becoming the party’s leader. You can imagine the mixture of SLPP blood and that of the NPRC. Not only will Bio bring back his school boy politics if he is allowed to regain power, he will be surrounded by the same old guard of the SLPP.
If we fail as a country to take advantage of this opportunity to stop this party with reckless determination to bring our country down, the chances are, we may never be faced with the prospect of an overturn of our fortunes soon again. For those who witnessed the carnage inflicted on our people, there should be no reminder of what we have endured as a nation. For those whose political ambitions far outweigh love for country, this is a wakeup call to revisit our consciences and allow common sense to prevail.
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