Freedom of expression in line with freedom of the press, with a serious guarantee of human rights and the rule of law, is something you wouldn’t expect to be associated with an African leader. Taking the flack from the media day in and day out, is not the kind of stuff a typical African leader would tolerate for too long, no matter how calm or mentally disciplined they are. But, one man has not only made it the standard of governance in his administration, he has set the pace and the blueprint on how a leader can rule effectively and still maintain an atmosphere of accountability, freedom of the press, and preserving the human rights and dignity of every citizen in his country.
This is remarkable, but because its about an African Head of State, you wouldn’t find it on the special report pages of the Guardian Newspaper, or the Washington Post. In fact, the world’s media have had difficulty understanding that an African leader could possess such outstanding credentials, and in fact, have in the past set out a witch hunt agenda just to find out whether within the framework of the Koroma presidency, there is any anomaly. Make-believe stories, inspired by opposition elements, and influenced by rogue diplomats, were peddled in the media to instigate doubts about the genuine intentions of President Ernest Bai Koroma. The pro-opposition media in the country had nothing to write about and could only settle for fabricated stories borne out of rumour mongering, deception, and lies, resulting in the flagrant abuse of the press freedom they now enjoy. Some headlines were deliberate and meant to cause harm to the reputation of some government officials.
The most vicious headlines ever written by any opposition madia in Africa made it to the front pages of some newspapers in Freetown. The opposition was desperate to mislead the international community about the success story taking place around them. They had to do something to tarnish the good name of the APC leader or else they would have nothing to stand for; and become politically irrelevant is not something Sierra Leone’s oldest political party want to be known for. In fact, when the SLPP opposition leader, a former brutal dictator, Julius Maada Bio, was recently interviewed on the BBC Focus on Africa programe, he said, under president Koroma only 4 kilometers of roads have been built. The interesting thing is, during this presidential election campaign, Bio has been able to travel wide across all the regions of Sierra Leone, using hundreds of kilometers of newly built road networks. Just an example of how deceptive the opposition in Sierra Leone can be.
The building blocks of democracy are in place in an African country that has only known corruption as a way of life for most of its recent history. Western diplomats assigned to the country have had the privilege of witnessing democracy at work in a country they have never thought would attain such. But, instead of writing home about the remarkable feat achieved through one man’s vision, the dossiers that normally end up reaching the foreign desks of home offices are littered with damning accusations of inept governance and mismanagement of the meagre aid and assistance they offer as support. With that meagre assistance, comes an itinerary to define the process of governance in the country, with looming threats to withdraw aid if the sitting government refuses to dance with the tune. A serious extension of colonial rule mentally indeed.
But, despite all these obstacles, Sierra Leone is moving ahead with a new agenda for prosperity. The culmination of a successful Agenda for Change that ushered in a vibrant economic growth, the biggest in Africa; free health care for pregnant and lactating women with children under five; the largest road network ever built in Africa within 5 years; improvement of standard of living that saw a 300% increase in wages across the employment spectrum; thousands of jobs created as a result of new investments by foreign companies in the areas of energy, mining and agriculture; farmers being provided with all the tools to make the country self-sufficient and postion it to become a donor country. Making business and commerce work by reducing red-tape and facilitating investment with the enactment of new laws to protect investors and guarantee a good deal for the country, has become an important priority for the Koroma-led government, and it has paid-off as the world’s biggest companies line-up to tap the huge resource potential the country has on offer.
President Ernest Bai Koroma has indeed provided the model for good governance in Africa. His legacy has been well defined, and history will never be unkind to a man who has taken the ills of society and replaced despair with hope and expectation. Sierra Leoneans now have something to be proud of and look forward to each day; and its not about the next bullet that will ricochet through their windows, or the uncertainty that the past SLPP government presided over; but about the next development project the APC government has embarked on to help change their lives and make a difference to the future. Sierra Leone under President Ernest Bai Koroma is a success story in the making, and the world should pay close attention, as it may well provide the benchmark for others to emulate.
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