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Page added on July 27, 2012
Sierra Leone is a country known for many things – from her democratic credentials (given her resolve to move away from military rules, to ending a decade long civil war) – to her natural resources. From diamonds, gold, to iron ore, these resources have in one way or the other helped in determining the country’s path, be it developmental or otherwise. Religiously, we are a tolerant people, we are friendly in nature
Our development path should be determined by ourselves. If that was lacking, this must be a different case today, because we have commenced seeing a twist in our development efforts, with Sierra Leoneans taking the lead in moving their country. And this has to do with the able leadership that has been constantly provided by President Koroma. President Koroma’s leadership has been one with exceptional qualities, with the needed desire for change and development.
In 2002, through the concerted efforts of Sierra Leoneans, President Tejan Kabba (h) led the process of ending Sierra Leone’s civil war. The reason being, there was the desire on the part of Sierra Leoneans to live as a people, united with a common agenda- which was repositioning the country at the global level in terms of sustenance of peace, democracy and good governance and above all, moving in line with social-economic and infrastructural challenges of the 21st century. Given the determination and the support that he received from all and sundry, including the support he got from all the political spectrum in the country, ex-President Kabba (h) therein was able to set up institutional reforms, like the creation of state institutions aimed at sustaining the democratic credence that we had achieved, coupled with the peace that we had given to ourselves as a people. We then saw institutions like NRA, Nassit, NaCSA, IMC etc. The instructional reforms left behind by Kabba (h) are today serving as governance legacies that will always remain to go with him.
He had his failures-like not making some of these institutions fully operational and not been able to meet people’s expectation. NRA was a case in point just as is government succeeded in not just reducing the very existence of the IMC, but we saw even in his person, the then President taking people to court even when he had the option of firstly, utilizing the very institutions he had set up to settle issues that have to do with media- and public officials-the IMC. The criminal level laws were a daily political tool of the former government, with media practitioners threatened regularly with the use of such law against them.
The failure of effectively utilizing the concept of public communication was just among the dozens of failures we saw under the former regime.
But we today have seen a different picture in terms of governance and putting people’s expectations into practical term. Being the type of astute and grass root politician he has been for years, President Koroma has always seen value in not only communicating his government’s policies to people at the upper class, but we have seen a dynamic change in Sierra Leone’s geopolitical make-up wherein, even at the local levels, we now continue having a feeling of the Presidency. The Presidency is today part of the people. A President that is seen and felt by those who elected him is what we now have in Sierra Leone.
Granted that the then government made some inroads, but when we juxtapose such to what President Koroma has done in a period of less than five years, we could categorically state that much has been achieved by him and with him standing the ground of reelection, we are pretty sure of getting more goodies. We today can proudly tell the whole world that Sierra Leone is a progressing national, with her governance indicators making headlines, with people like Tony Blair helping in the country’s rebranding efforts.
What we have seen in terms of infrastructural development, from the perspective of fixing our road network is just too encouraging. The roads linking Freetown and the peninsular villages have been exceptionally good , Wilkinson road is today a class ‘A’ road in the city, feeder roads in places like Bo, Kenema, Makeni are in a perfect state, with the roads linking Sierra Leone and her sister country-Guinea today being in good state. You ensure more agricultural activities with good road network in a country. The more activities you have in the agricultural sector, the more chances you have for you people to be engaged in business and trade ventures, which is good of r a country’s development process.
Roads, President Koroma’s success
Not only can we measure the country’s progress in terms of infrastructural development, we also would need to look health sector.
When President Koroma came to power in 2007, he worked towards upgrading the country’s health sector to the point that there was the introduction of a free health care scheme in the country over a year ago.
The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom on Friday, 21st October 2011 reported that “…Blair cites Sierra Leone’s free healthcare programme for pregnant women and children under five as an example of what can happen under the right leadership. The idea for free healthcare had been “knocking around” for years, he says, but only under President Ernest Koroma did things take off last year. AGI [African Governance Initiative] supported the government in developing a plan for abolishing fees for health services, getting donor backing and implementing system-wide reform…. But while the scheme has been welcomed and is showing positive results – the number of women giving birth in hospital has doubled, for example, and child deaths from malaria have fallen… (http://www.guardian.co.uk/2011/oct/20/africa-tony-blair-poverty-democracy)
The free health care has been a great success since its introduction. Sierra Leone is a country trying to overcome the challenges of a post war country. The people are poor, and many of them do not have the means to buy the drugs. So the introduction of the free health care had been a direct way if addressing this challenge. There has been an increase in the drugs purchase from an encouraging 7.7 million dollars to about 11 million dollars must have been as a result of the increase in the number of pregnant and lactating women visiting our hospitals today.. The figures, in fact increased from 800 per year prior to the introduction of the scheme ‘to over 9,000 in eight months after the health care was launched…this shows a 60% drop of women and children who were dying as a result of complicated cases.
The other day, a serving Member of Parliament from an opposition stronghold in Sierra Leone, Hon. Robin Fallay, was on Monologue, commending the free health care initiative. In his words, “the free health care has helped in reducing infants, mortality in the country and I appreciate that.” When this scheme was introduced by President Koroma, some had to criticize it, with a view of making political gains, but interesting then, at their very detriment. In essence, President Koroma has scored great marks in this direction. The reelection of President should also be determined from his efforts to saving lives of people, especially our children and lactating women.
This is true, also with the fight against corruption, which is also another flagship of President Koroma’s first five years term in office. The ACC today has a free hand to work, with a number of high profile cases prosecuted with no government’s interference. Independence of the ACC body was very lacking during the tenure of our former government.
There has been a stable media landscape within the last four years. The last time a media practitioner was arrested in Sierra Leone was prior to the 2007 elections when the Publisher of Standard Times was arrested on the orders of the then President. The media landscape in Sierra Leone during the period 1996-2007 was so treacherous that, not only were media practitioners arrested and jailed, as was in the case of late Olu Gordon, Paul Kamara et el, but we also witnessed the killing of some, with ate Harry Yansaneh being a case study. Paul Kamara was imprisoned for his conscience. The manner and circumstance under which Harry Yansaneh was literally murder by thugs under the directives of a then serving MP of the then ruling party was just as politically motivated as the efforts used to intimidate For Di People at the time, from being too critical of the then government.
This today is a different ball game in itself, with close to a dozen of media practitioners helping the government in the rebranding efforts for the country. With dozens of media outlets registered since President Koroma came to power, with media practitioners today critiquing the President on national issues, with media practitioners serving in ministerial positions, among others.
The bottom line is, there are legacies President Koroma will be pointing to at the end of his five years of governance- from the establishment of the Open Government Initiative, the creation of the Office of Diaspora Affairs, his ability to reach out to all and sundry especially in opposition strongholds, his respect that he has earned in the international community- like ECOWAS, the UA, and the UN body, his role in the pursuant for African solution to African problems as was seen in his role in the Ivory Coast political impasse, his role as Head of the of the Committee of Ten Heads of State of the African Union for the reform of the United Nations Security Council, his ability to transforming Sierra Leone into an investment friendly country, his ability to create the corporate affairs commission, amongst other are all pointers to what he has achieved within a short five years period.
With all these successes, you begin to look at the period 2007 (when President Koroma was elected) and 2012(when he is seeking reelection) and then would be tempted to conclude that much has been achieved in such a short period. What I have also argued is that in Sierra Leone’s governance system, a five years period is just as challenging to perform as even planning to initiate development project and to implement such within a 60 months period. But given what we have seen, we all would agree that President Koroma has started the process of reposition Sierra Leone with his Agenda for Change and the next five years, which will see the implementation of the Agenda for Prosperity, we surely will move the country to another level.
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