Political analysts in Sierra Leone are still trying to evaluate the performance of the Ernest Koroma led APC government. The analysis are being made from the perspective of his promises upon which he was elected into office and the extent he has gone to meet some of these promises. President Koroma promised to make the Anti Corruption Commission independent, to separate the Office of Attorney-General from the Ministry of Justice, he promised to provide jobs for the unemployed, et al promises. Some of these promises have been met whilst others are yet to get the attention of the government. The Office of Attorney General is yet to be removed from the Justice Ministry. In actual sense, this may demand constitutional change.
Views vary depending on the persons you talk to; a member of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party would tell you, there is not much to write home about as far as the performance of the government is concerned. But a member of the ruling party would tell you, they have scored considerable political marks to the point that they now even qualify for re-election come 2012.
During a recent radio discussion hosted by the United Nations Radio in Sierra Leone, it became apparent that politicians are always at their best when it comes to defending their policies and objectives, even when things appear not to be well with the ordinary man. There were two panelists, Jacob Jusu Saffa and Victor Bockarie Foe, both Secretaries for the SLPP and APC respectively. Even when JJ Saffa would cry down the ruling party as not doing much to ameliorate the plight of people, Victor Bockarie Foh did all he could to convince the nation that they have scored, as a party in power over 60 percent just in two years.
He attempted to catalogue what they have done in two years; the provision of electricity for at least the capital city being one major success. And also the fact that they have made the fight against corruption a priority since the body charged with the responsibility to fight against corruption has been made independent. But for JJ Saffa, there is still more to do as far as the aspect of political tolerance could go. He argued that the current make up of government ministries is composed of mostly northerners, thus the word ‘northernization’ of government offices.
Over the years, attempts have continuously been made to still investigate the causes of Sierra Leone’s decade long civil war. And it is believed that corruption and bad governance were major factors which led to the war. At one point, corruption almost became a daily national norm, and this was so during the APC rule of Siaka Stevens. An so when this government came to power, it saw the need to intensify the fight against corruption and to an extent, this helped to build confidence and trust among people, both at the local and international levels that the Ernest Koroma led government was and still one that came with sincerity.
Generally, many scores have been got by the government in the area of fighting corruption. When it came, the government ensured major corruption related cases were pursued including that of one time Ombudsman who had problems with the courts for misappropriating state funds. However, there is still more to do despite the fact that the government has given the Anti Corruption Commission the independence to prosecute corruption related cases.
There are still allegations that political interference has shown its ugly heads in most cases that are often being pursued by the ACC; a case in point being the Income Electrix saga, when a Minister was reported to have influenced the contract, knowing full well that the contract had flaws. The President has on many occasions emphasized that ‘there will be no sacred cow in my administration…’ These are good words but there is also need for him to be supported by all to make this assertion realistic.
Also, evaluating the performance of the Ernest Koroma led government should take into consideration his efforts in completing the Bumbuna Hydro Electric Project. Practically when he assumed the mantle of leadership, the Project was at an over 90% in terms of completion. This was even disclosed by the President during the state opening of Parliament in 2007. However, it must be noted that, the Siaka Steven led APC government was the one that started this project in the early 1970s but was never completed. The Strasser NPRC junta administration also made its own vital contribution too. The Tejan Kabbah led government came but was also unable to complete it.
But latest indications are that the project is near completion with test transmission currently ongoing in the country. It should be noted that when he assumed office, President Koroma has visited Bumbuna at least on five different occasions, showing the level of commitment he has shown towards the project. A nation’s development could be ensured when there are industries which could help in even providing job opportunity for people. So in a way, President Koroma has made some success stories as far as the energy sector is concerned.
Practically the issue of political tolerance has been a debatable one in the country in recent times. To be tolerant, according to the chairman for the PDMC Mohamed Bangura ‘should go beyond one party merely attending the function of another party…’ but should take into consideration the need to consult even opposition members when it comes to taking critical decisions. Bangura thinks the government should do more in ensuring politically tolerant environment. But this is not the view of Information Minister, Ibrahim Ben Kargbo. For him, there has always been an enabling environment for the operation of all political parties.
The main opposition SLPP has also accused the ruling APC as a government that has ‘northernized’ all state institutions. This is another critical area that President Koroma should not downplay. Granted that a party works with the team it thinks can perform, there is also the need to ensure the inclusion of all and sundry, pending, they can perform. I recently had an interview with Moijueh Kai Kai, deputy Minister of Labour. He thinks, it is the prerogative of the President and indeed, as stated by the 1991 Constitution, to appoint people into positions of trust. For Kai Kai, the President should appoint the best team to run the country ‘and if it happens for the best team to come from one area, then so be it…’
Interestingly, Deputy Minister Kai Kai was a strong member of the now opposition SLPP prior to the 2007 elections. He comes from Pujehun. But he had to resign from the SLPP to join the PMDC of Charles Margai and also later left the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change for the All Peoples Congress party where he is now enjoying a deputy ministerial position. But from a holistic perspective, electing the ‘best team’ should take into account all factors, like the region, tribes and others. And this is where I think the government should also pay attention. The SLPP, like all other parties, is relevant to the sustenance of Sierra Leone’s development be it political, social and economically. And as such, they should be part of the country’s development agenda. Until that is done, I think Ernest Koroma has made great successes within his two years in office. But he still has some challenges to face.
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