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Page added on July 4, 2012
Political leadership has been identified as pivotal in fighting corrosive corruption, unmitigated violence, abject poverty and promoting free, fair and transparent elections in African countries.
The people of Sierra Leone voted in Dr Ernest Bai Koroma (in photo) as President in 2007 because they believed that he would provide effective leadership in tackling the myriad problems facing the country since Independence.
His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma assumed office amidst rapturous excitement and unprecedented euphoria, and since then, his performance and leadership style has yet again earned him another accolade as the 9th most effective President in Africa and the 3rd most effective President in West Africa. The award was conferred by the East African Magazine last year.
According to the East African Magazine, five respected international indices of governance, plus the new NMG (National Media Group) Political Index that was developed to grade political leadership were used to reach a conclusion as to those leaders who were more effective in addressing the problems of violence, corruption, poverty and free and fair elections in Africa. The Mo Ibrahim Index was graded at 15%, Democracy Index at 15%, Press Freedom Index at 15%, Corruption Index at 15%, Human Development Index at 5% and the NMG Political Index at 35%. President Koroma’s final grade in all the parameters was 61.89%=B.
The report notes that President Ernest Bai Koroma “has been as successful managing Sierra Leone’s international relations as he has been with its internal affairs. He has convinced the United Kingdom to boost bilateral aid by a further 50 million Pounds Sterling in 2010. His focus on agricultural development is bearing fruits, and donors are gushing at the results.”
“The UN Development Programme gave him an award this year, saying: “This award is for President Koroma who has given everything to ensure that there is sufficient food for the farmers who are doing the hard job.” The report also noted that, President Koroma’s moment of the year was in September 2011, “during the US President’s address to United Nations General Assembly. Sierra Leone was held up as an example of good governance in the global South.”
In analyzing this report, it is worthy to note that as a country, this is something we should be proud of as the nation is set to move forward following the end of a protracted war ten years ago. The award calls for celebration among Sierra Leoneans for the simple reason that their resolve to give the mantle of office to President Koroma in September 2007 has not turned out to be a monkey on their backs in their ceaseless aspirations for good governance, peace and quiet and sustainable development to prevail.
President Koroma has been very upbeat about his human rights record since he came to power. At the Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission Universal Periodic Review held at the Bank of Sierra Leone Complex, in Freetown, in November 2011, President Koroma declared that, “We have as a nation done better than most countries that came out of war to defend, protect, and promote human rights. We have moved away from the era of extra-judicial killings and torture of innocent people; we have moved away from the times when journalists were beaten by government officials in government offices; we are moving away from the image of Sierra Leone as a place of grave human rights abuses. We have made a commitment as a nation; never again shall we allow the violent and the violators amongst us to get the upper hand.”
The fact that since His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma assumed the mantle of office on 17th September 2007, there are no political prisoners, no person has been executed, people are exercising their rights of free speech unfettered over radio stations all across the country, journalists criticize and write what they feel in more than 60 newspapers nationwide, and free, fair and regular elections have been held is something we should be proud of as a nation.
Furthermore, the Gender Equality Bill has been passed; social rights are being promoted and protected as exemplified in the provision of free health care for vulnerable women and children. This shows that a culture of rights is taking hold in Sierra Leone under the astute, visionary and transformative leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma. Compare this to the performance of past leaders of this great nation in totally different circumstances, one would unmistakably notice that President Koroma stands tall above all his predecessors.
Since Independence, from Sir Milton Margai to his half-brother, Sir Albert Margai, through Dr Siaka Stevens to Joseph Saidu Momoh, the NPRC and AFRC interludes and to Dr Ahmad Tejan Kabbah; no leader has maintained, protected and promoted human rights as His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma.
Streamlining the issue further, one would also conspicuously notice that President Koroma and Sir Milton Margai are the two foremost protectors and promoters of human rights in Sierra Leone since the attainment of self-rule in 1961. However, whilst there were political prisoners under Sir Milton Margai’s rule, there are none under this government led by the astute and transformative leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma. On the day of Independence on 27th April 1961, Siaka Stevens who led the main opposition to Sir Milton Margai’s rule was incarcerated (together with other dissenters who were against the manner in which the country achieved self-government) at the Maximum Prisons at Pademba Road.
If the East African Magazine were to grade the Milton Margai and Ernest Koroma eras, I’m sure Sir Milton would be rated as B, whilst Dr Koroma would get a resounding A+. Of course, this is somewhat premature as the latter still has a long way to go when he wins the presidential elections later this year. For example, there are no political prisoners under the reign of the astute and transformative leadership of President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma. Under Sir Milton Margai there were not just political prisoners, but also the fact that the SLPP was intolerant of opposition, especially when the nascent APC was formed out of disaffections immediately after the Lancaster Conference that conferred selfhood status on Sierra Leone.
According to C. Allen in his book, “Sierra Leone since Independence” (page 310), when the APC was formed, “only in Bo could it campaign in the South. In the North, the authorities and courts were used extensively against it. Permission to open an office in the northern capital, Makeni, was refused, prominent APC supporters in Bombali and Kambia were banished to the South; the APC MP for Kambia West was imprisoned by a native court; the office of Port Loko was closed soon after its opening, and the Organizing Secretary jailed.”
This is an unquestionably crystal clear attempt by the Milton Margai leadership to muzzle genuine opposition to his rule from 1961 to 1964. President Koroma has been in office for almost five years now, and it’s clear that political prisoners are neither in prison nor are they unjustifiably harassed in furtherance of their rights to unhindered association or free expression.
In all of this one realizes that putting the two leaders on a scale, President Koroma stands tall above even the Founding Father (Milton Margai) of Independence insofar as defending, protecting and promoting human rights in Sierra Leone were concerned.
Watch out for part two where I will be comparing the human rights record of President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, Sir Albert Margai and Dr Siaka Stevens.
By Jarrah Kawusu-Konte
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