Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma was elected into office almost two years ago, following the decision by Sierra Leoneans to democratically ‘overthrow’ the now opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party from government. In the first place, the decision among the people to reject the Sierra Leone People’s Party which was in power must have sent some strong message to all African politicians that the people’s power should not be underrated for any reason.
The election of Ernest Bai Koroma came at a time when the electorates wanted a change and so even when Ex-President Tejan Kabbah and his Sierra Leone People’s Party did their utmost to ensure they stay in power, it became absolutely difficult for them to be accepted again for a third term. From a practical perspective, the Tejan Kabbah led government did it best to ensure that institutional reforms like the National Revenue Authority, the Independent Media Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, the National Commission for Social Action, et al were created during his tenure.
In fact, credit is being paid to ex-president Tejan Kabbah for leading the national call and efforts that saw the end to our civil war that lasted for over a decade. And so even when some political analysts have opined that the Kabbah led SLPP as a government was removed from power for their failure to perform, others have however submitted that they performed to some extent but for their failure to communicate their successes to the people of Sierra Leone.
And this is one major success of the current political administration led by President Ernest Bai Koroma that came to power on the platform of change. When he assumed office some twenty four months ago, President Koroma promised to effect several changes in the lives of the ordinary Sierra Leonean, with particular reference to the provision of electricity, the fight against corruption, the provision of a politically tolerant environment for the operation of all political parties and many others. Generically, as a country Sierra Leone was infested with broad day light corruption, especially during the first rule of the All Peoples Congress party of then President Siaka Stevens.
But the current leadership has taken this issue with some level of seriousness, as was envisaged following the amendment to the Act establishing the Anti Corruption Commission, the body responsible to fight graft. At least there has been some public confidence drive from within the ACC, in trying to change the perception of Sierra Leoneans about it functions. Before this time, the Commission was seen as a tool that was more often used by the ruling party to puncture those perceived as political opponents from within the party. So in real fact, when this government came, it had to do some image laundering on the anti graft commission, just as was the case with the Office of the Ombudsman.
When he took over the reins of power, President Ernest Bai Koroma gave priority to the issue of generating electricity to, firstly, the capital city and later all provincial headquarter towns. Prior to his coming to power, Freetown, the capital for Sierra Leone was referred to as one of the darkest cities in the sub region but today, some changes have occurred in this direction. At least Freetown now enjoys relative supply of electricity. A country cannot develop when there is no electricity. It is only with this in place that a nation is sure of getting investors from the international front. With electricity, a nation is guaranteed production in industries that could be an avenue for job creation.
At present, efforts are underway to complete the Bumbuna Hydro Project which as a matter of fact was started in the later 1970s by the All Peoples Congress Party of Siaka Stevens. During the runoff to the 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, the issue of providing electricity for the whole country was a political campaign tool and as such with the election of President Ernest Bai Koroma and almost two years in office, the people are highly looking forwards to the fulfillment of some of these promises. In a recent interview with Newstime Africa, Information and Communication Minister, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo spoke of his government’s commitment towards the completion of Bumbuna and promised that in the next couple of weeks, the Hydro project will be completed.
There is a lesson learnt by politicians in Sierra Leone that when you know you cannot deliver, then don’t promise the people as they would have to use that when it comes to seeking their political mandate for another term. This was the case with Ex-Present Tejan Kabbah who had promised the people a bridge linking the capital city and the international airport. There was also the promise of ensuring that the country is food self sufficient by 2007 but all these promises became unfulfilled. The people were therefore not happy with the SLPP. The SLPP was not voted!! And there should therefore be some lessons for the currnet set for politicians, although there are indications that it will be a different scenario with the current government.
From a practical standpoint, the issue of governance must go beyond mere political promises; it entails communicating to and with the electorate and it is only when this is done that a government is sure of being re-elected. From what has been happening so far since the last elections twenty four months ago, President Ernest Bai Koroma has succeeded in gaining the support and sympathy of the people of the country. In fact, he has once in a while tested his political popularity by paying unannounced visits to the city business centers during weekends. And each time he attempts doing this, he gets thunderous applause from cheerful people who are almost always prepared to literally drop their cloths on the floor for him to walk through.
The concept of communication and good governance has been encouraging under the current national leadership and it is hoped, such a trend will continue. It is a democratic dictate that the people must be part of the governance of a state. This could be ensured by always talking to them. This may appear to be lacking in most African countries where the political class sees nothing good in reaching the people who elected them into office.
But at least, in Sierra Leone, there have been efforts aimed at promoting good governance, although a lot is still to be done in addressing allegations by opposition parties that efforts must be embarked upon to promote a politically tolerant environment for the operation of all political parties. Whether from a political standpoint or otherwise , President Koroma has taken steps aimed at national development, but the success of these efforts could only be determined in the next three years from now when the people shall be going back to the polls for another election.
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