He has been called upon by his colleagues in the region to serve as Vice Chairman of the African Union. As Chairman of the African Union Committee of Ten for the Reform of the Security Council, he has been at the forefront calling for Africa to have 2 seats in the permanent category and 5 in the non-permanent category of the UN Security council. He has helped brokered peace in the republic of Guinea. He recently mediated with parties in Ivory Coast to end the political impasse in that country, that threatened its peace and security. He is a champion for people’s right, freedom and liberty. He has protected press freedom and human rights in his country. He has only been president and Head of State for five years, but he has left an indelible impression in the minds of political analysts as his style of leadership is that of a man running his country like a business. He has turned around his country’s social, political and economic status. He has embraced democracy and good governance, and at the heart of his government is an agenda for change that is lifting his people out of poverty. He has overseen the biggest mining and agricultural investment his country has ever undertaken. He has challenged his country’s infrastructure by building new road networks, schools, low-cost housing and health centers. Farmers have been empowered with grants and the tools to make the country self-sufficient in food. He has introduced free health care for pregnant and lactating women and children under five. He has ensured a good deal for his people as oil is discovered in rich quantities off the shores of his country. He has been the recipient of awards and accolades from South Africa to the United States. Barack Obama recently described him as an inspiration for his people. Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair has called him one of Africa’s most visionary leaders. Gordon Brown hailed him as Africa’s success story.
Ernest Bai Koroma hails from Makeni in the Bombali district located in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. An Insurance specialist by profession, he entered politics after witnessing his country endure the ravages of a brutal war that scarred its people for life and maimed and killed thousands as rebel forces tore through its hinterland with savage intent and deadly force. On assuming office, Koroma inherited not only a battered economy, but the government and civil administration was in shambles and there was no effective taxation system in place and revenue collection was hampered by corruption and inept embezzlement at the very heart of government. The challenges that faced this soft-spoken distinguished public servant were enormous. He recognized that it was vital to restore the country’s energy sector as it was imperative that for any development strategy to take off, the country’s electricity has to meet the demands it would bring. After 10 years of constant blackouts, Sierra Leone was once more electrified. The reliance on electricity by businesses across the country could not be over-emphasised. In just 100 days of assuming office Ernest Bai Koroma did the impossible, there was now electricity. His simple vision to recognise the importance energy can play in economic development, is simply commendable.
He has earned himself impressive environmental credentials by inaugurating a large new national park at Gola Forest, and banned exports by logging companies. The Koroma administration has put in place a new mineral act to ensure that civilians benefit as much from the natural resources as the investors, and have also shown concern about the local environmental impact and is ensuring strict adherence to the state’s environmental laws. He does not shy away from engaging his colleague Heads of State and governments in how to approach governance by democratic means. He has been one of the few African leaders to strongly condemn Zimbabwe President Mugabe for his human rights record and for stifling democracy in his country. He is respected across Africa and the wider world, and because of his impressive democratic accomplishment, Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative, AGI, selected Sierra Leone, the others being Liberia and Rwanda, as one of its recipients for direct administrative assistance and support in helping equip the country’s leadership with the capacity to deliver the public services which the citizens have a right to expect, to tackle deep-rooted poverty, and to attract the sustainable investment to build a strong economy for the future. The AGI with Tony Blair as Patron, has done a remarkable job in Sierra Leone.
But his vision has been steadfast. He knew the ills of society was compounded around corruption, and if Sierra Leone was to thrive as an economic powerhouse in the sub-Saharan region, graft had to be taken head on. He then embarked on rewriting the country’s law on corruption and ended up framing the most draconian measures ever put together by an African country to deal with corrupt practices in government and civil administration. He empowered the country’s anti-corruption commission to go after anyone and anywhere corruption is found to be wanting. This move saw several of his own cabinet ministers charged to court and the dismissal of top government officials from office. Sierra Leone was witnessing a dramatic overhaul in the way it was governed. A determined and fearless leadership presiding over the biggest change in government since the country became independent.
The change Sierra Leone is undergoing has been long overdue. The people have suffered and have been powerless as they witnessed their country’s resources squandered by those they had entrusted with the mantle of leadership. The future was bleak as there was no end in sight of the war that had been waged on its economic resources by disgruntled politicians and corrupt civil service personnel. The country plunged in the world economic index ranking. International aid and assistance was all that was on the table to rescue the once bread basket of West Africa. Sierra Leone has now become the beacon of hope in the region and an exceptional example of exemplary leadership that is expected of all that assume the mantle of state in Africa. Ernest Bai Koroma is simply an embodiment of this change and an inspiration to all of us.
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