Shocking defeat for Yayah Jammeh at presidential polls after 22 years in power

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 December 2016

yahya-jammeh

I was in The Gambia in March this year for a week, visiting my maternal ancestral homeland. The capital Banjul was bustling with human activity. But there was an eerie and uneasy calm, as political tension and media repression stifled free speech and civil liberty.

Yayah Jammeh’s twenty-two years of authoritarian rule have choked the spirit of Gambians, especially young people whose aspirations of a better and prosperous Gambia have been frustratingly dashed.

After twenty-two years in power, The Gambia has become a despotic state with family members and business associates of president Jammeh benefiting from lucrative contracts as well as running most of the country’s big businesses.

There are rumours that Jammeh has mortgaged the country’s tourism and groundnut driven economy to the Moroccans. Most imported household and consumer goods come from Morocco.

Tourism – the country’s main foreign exchange earner – especially from Europe, has in the past two years declined substantially, because of increasing political repression.

Gambia’s youth unemployment is one of the highest in the sub-region. Political repression has stifled the entrepreneurial zest of young Gambians. Thousands of educated unemployed young men and women could be seen sitting idly on the beaches – some selling handmade crafts to tourists to put food on the table.

Life under Jammeh has been very tough for Gambians, but yet the people have kept their dignity, and waited patiently for yesterday’s presidential polls to cast their votes.

Now the people have spoken. They have rejected twenty-two years of dictatorship, economic mismanagement and rampant corruption. This is how the BBC reports Jammeh’s shocking defeat:

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Bio writes chairman and leader of Sierra Leone opposition SLPP – chief Kapen

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 December 2016  

chief-kapen-in-london1Chairman and Leader (Chief Kapen – Photo above)

Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP)

15 Wallace Johnson Street

Freetown

December 1, 2016

Dear Chief Kapen,

Conduct of Lower Level Elections and the Role and Composition of 10-Man Committee

Let me start by thanking your administration for all the efforts made to conduct lower level elections amidst some challenges. I am pleased about the Rules and Regulations that guide this process and about the participation of our membership at all levels, contrary to the situation towards 2013 National Party Conference, which is the basis for most of the challenges now.

This process is anticipated to create a level playing field which is an essential element of our internal democracy.

Since this process will identify delegates for the elections of national officers and flagbearer and as an Aspirant for the SLPP Presidential Candidate for the 2018 Elections, I would like to raise concerns of the role of 10-man Committee referenced in your letter dated November 29, 2016 to the Commissioners of the PPRC.

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Lighting up rural Sierra Leone – is this yet another unfulfilled promise?

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 December 2016

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Less than 12% of households in Sierra Leone have access to electricity supply, and even less so among the country’s rural poor.

But this week’s announcement by the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID – also known as ‘UK Aid’) to help 500,000 people in rural communities get powered up, could be a possible light at the end of a dark tunnel, after decade of unfulfilled promises by the government of Sierra Leone.

If successfully delivered, the Ministry of Energy’s Rural Renewable Energy Project, funded by UK Aid, will harness the power of solar energy to tackle energy poverty in rural communities across the country.

The total cost of this massive electrification project is not clear. But estimate suggests a capital requirement of about $100 million to make any serious impact on Sierra Leone’s rural communities.

But there have been similar big announcements of the development of solar electricity in Sierra Leone that never took off. For example, on the 30th of June 2014, the Koroma government was awarded $18 million dollars by the United Arab Emirates to develop a large-scale solar park in the capital Freetown.

Two years on, there is no money and there is no solar park. Yet this week, there is another promise – another signed agreement for another solar project. Is this just another empty promise?

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Government will remain focused – says president Koroma of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 1 December 2016

president-koroma-in-china-30-nov-2016-1

Sierra Leone’s President Koroma has said, despite the difficulties that the country is faced with, his government will remain focused to its transformation drive and not allowed to be distracted.

President Ernest Bai Koroma spoke on Wednesday, 30th November, 2016, at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Beijing, China, whilst addressing citizens and friends of Sierra Leone, at a welcoming reception hosted in his honour by the Embassy.

According to President Koroma, since 2007 government has remained focused and committed to the country’s transformation drive, initiated in 2007 through the ‘Agenda for Change’ and later an ‘Agenda for Prosperity.’

The President highlighted progress made over the years in the health, agriculture and infrastructure sectors, adding government has become more transparent and accountable to the people.

The country, he said, was doing extremely well to the point of becoming the fastest growing economy. The Ebola outbreak and drop in prices of metals globally however have had adverse effects on the country.

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Reasons why president Koroma of Sierra Leone and his ministers are in China?

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 November 2016

president-koroma-ministers-arrive-in-china-29-nov-2016

President Koroma and key ministers are in China this week to appeal directly and personally to the Chinese political leadership, especially president Xi Jinping. They desperately need help – and they need it fast.

Sierra Leone is at risk of falling apart, due to rampant corruption, economic mismanagement and politicisation of business and everyday public life.

Nine years ago, president Koroma was the new kid on the political block – after winning the 2007 elections, with whom anyone and everyone interested in getting their hands on Sierra Leone’s rich natural resources wanted to do business. And there were few offers, including the Chinese.

Today, president Koroma and his senior ministers need to secure the ruling APC party’s term in office for another five years at the polls in 2018. But staying in power for another five years costs money. The country is bankrupt.

Can China help president Koroma’s ruling APC party stay in power beyond 2018?

Large swathes of the country’s population, especially the youths are getting very restless and jittery about the worsening state of the economy. The opposition SLPP and the media are turning up the heat on the government’s poor record in office.

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Sierra Leone elections watchdog demand publication of 2018 election timetable 

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 November 2016

sierra-leone-election-2012

When the executives of the ruling APC party of Sierra Leone last week announced that they were pulling out of the country’s Constitutional review process, it caused consternation among opposition parties and civil society groups.

The question many are left asking after their surprised withdrawal from a process the government itself was responsible for setting up, was how could the ruling APC party distant itself from the national consultation process after publication of its draft report?

It seems the ruling APC party are not happy with some of the recommendations made in the report for constitutional change, including limiting the powers of the president.

But while that row is still playing out with much uncertainty as to the outcome, there are new fears the ruling APC party may be contemplating delaying the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections in 2018.

Last year, government officials announced that those elections will be held no later than February, 2018. But the exact date is not yet known, and there are doubts the ruling party has officially accepted the February 2018 deadline.

The date set for elections in Sierra Leone is of significance for holders of public office that are contemplating contesting those elections. According to the country’s Constitution, public officials nominated for elections must have vacated their public office at least twelve months prior to the date of the election.

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Another strategic visit to China by president Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone

John Baimba Sesay – China

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 November 2016

president-koroma-in-china-2013

President Ernest Bai Koroma is slated to arrive in Beijing on Wednesday, 30th November, 2016, on the invitation of his counterpart President Xi Jinping of China.

During this all important visit, both leaders will be discussing ways of further lifting the bars of cooperation ties between the two nations.

Both countries have, for decades stood by each other. Not only did Sierra Leone play a crucial role in China’s entrance into the UN, China on the other hand, has been a key development partner of Sierra Leone. This is visible in the country’s infrastructure, health, and human resource development.

When Ebola struck Sierra Leone, the Chinese first provided an international response by providing capital funds and medical equipment. They deployed medical personnel and trained health professionals.

Realistically, there has been a positive surge in ties between the two nations, especially in the last couple of years and with particular reference to the presidency of Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma.

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