A second international airport in Sierra Leone is no longer a priority for President Koroma 

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 November 2015

Roads in BoThe debate as to whether Sierra Leone needs a second international airport, amidst growing poverty and lack of investment in public services and infrastructure, such as health, education, access to clean water and electricity, low-cost housing, and safe trunk roads, has intensified in the last few days. (Photo: A trunk road leading to Bo in the south).

But government ministers and officials have failed to make a strong business case, justifying the need to borrow about $400 million from the Chinese to build the new airport in the north of the country.

Those arguing for the new airport, including the country’s foreign minister Samura Kamara,  say that the existing international airport at Lungi, located in the northern district of Port Loko, is old and too small to cope with the growing economic needs of the country.

Last week, the foreign minister Samura Kamara told Awoko newspaper reporters in Freetown that, the government wants to construct the new airport because of the constraints passengers face to get to the existing Lungi international airport, and that if there is any problem, then Sierra Leoneans will need to travel to Guinea or Liberia to board flight, because there is no other airport in the country.

“I am optimistic that this project will succeed. And it’s just a matter of time, we will kick-start the project, as it is one of the biggest projects that this government wants to undertake to bring more economic benefits to the country, ” the foreign minister told reporters.

But President Koroma has spoken: ‘My government will invest in developing the existing airport’. And that’s final – end of debate, hopefully for another twenty years.

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Sierra Leone presidential hopeful Yumkella arrives in Bo

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 November 2015

Yumkella in Bo 2

The people of Bo in the southern province of Sierra Leone and political heartland of the country’s main opposition Sierra Leone People’s party (SLPP), came out in their thousands yesterday, Friday, to welcome presidential aspirant – Kandeh Yumkella.

Until yesterday, the head of the Sierra Leone police in the country had refused to provide security for Yumkella’s planned visit to the district, a decision many in the SLPP describe as ruling party political interference by powers from above at State House.

Yumkella’s visit to Bo this weekend comes amid tension in the party, with accusations of intimidation levied against former military leader and 2012 presidential candidate of the party – retired Brigadier Maada Bio.

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Sierra Leone’s entrepreneurship can rise from the ashes of Ebola

Zainab Tunkara Clarkson

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 November 2015

ZeeClarksonWith the recent Global Entrepreneurship Index showing Sierra Leone to be almost at the bottom of the table, there is need now to start paying serious attention to this problem.

But it must be done as part of a concerted and co-ordinated post-Ebola recovery programme. (Photo: Zainab T Clarkson).

Reading the Global Entrepreneurship Index (GEI) for 2015, one cannot but observe the fact that Sierra Leone comes a disturbing and worrying 128th out of the 132 countries surveyed.

Apart from the fact that we are close to the bottom of the table, it is also frightening to see that Sierra Leone slipped five places down, from last year’s ranking when we were 123rd.

Sierra Leone stands below the likes of Uganda (123), Benin (124), Burkina Faso (126), Madagascar (127), and Mauritania (129); with Malawi (130), Burundi (131) and Chad (132).

According to the Washington based Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute who produced the report, Sierra Leone scores 14.6 compared to the best score of 86.2 by the top-ranking country – the United States, followed by Canada, Australia, Denmark and Sweden.

With entrepreneurship widely accepted as the engine of economic growth, employment creation, prosperity and global competitiveness, Sierra Leone must do more to develop this sector, if it is to have any chance of coming out of its current economic predicament.

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Government of Sierra Leone asks IMF to rubber-stamp its poor borrowing decisions

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 November 2015

Ebola - Weep Not MotherIf the Koroma government had properly managed the Ebola funds grant-aided to the people of Sierra Leone last year, of which $14 million was stolen, it would not have been necessary for the government to significantly increase its borrowing requirement in order to address its revenue shortfall this year.

Despite strong advice from the IMF and World Bank for the Koroma government to keep within the agreed borrowing ceiling, the government’s insatiable appetite for big spending, amidst a deadly Ebola crisis was all too apparent.

The criticisms about the government’s uncontrolled borrowing is not only about increased national debt, but the scale of the increase and the government’s poor prioritisation of spending in the face of mass death, poverty and suffering.

Last year, as thousands of Sierra Leoneans were dropping like dead flies – knocked out by the Ebola virus, the government was too busy negotiating a crooked deal, to deceptively purchase 50 buses it says were needed to meet the nation’s public transport needs.

At the same time, over 200 doctors and nurses in hospitals and makeshift community health centres died, after putting their lives at risk, trying to make do with poor quality and sometimes little or no protective wear.

The government said it had no money, but yet could borrow hundreds of millions to spend on its grandiose capital projects, purely for its own vain political reasons.

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Why a new airport will not be beneficial for the people of Sierra Leone

Nyamacoro Silla

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 November 2015

New look Lungi International Airport 2

Over the last month or so, there have been several discussions on the proposed Mamamah airport project, which has been brought to the public’s attention. (Photo: Lungi airport president Koroma no longer wants).

The Mamamah airport project is one that the government of Sierra Leone has been doggedly seeking finance to embark on, well before August 2013.

And it is important at this time, to examine and explore the reasons why embarking on this debt laden airport venture will be most detrimental for Sierra Leoneans.

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High on the weed of political self-indulgence

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 November 2015

President Koroma and his agenda for prosperityAn orchestra conductor does not face the crowd. President Koroma’s insistence on doing just that and dishing out meaningless platitudes, rather than leading the country in getting our national priorities right, is to my mind, the blot on his determined bid to be the best leader Sierra Leone has ever had.

For example, how can a government that is hell bent on foisting on the present and unborn generations, a national debt that will enslave the nation for a damn long time, be considered progressive and an agent of change, even though people are united in their opposition to the fanciful project for which the debt is being incurred?

Citizens are frustrated by poor economic growth, high inflation and corruption, and lack of social amenities.  They clamour for zero tolerance towards poverty, and yet find themselves at the epicentre of an abrasive leadership.

President Koroma’s failure to clearly identify the nation’s pressing challenges and outline his clear programmes for tackling them, complete with a timeline – especially post-Ebola, is indeed laughable.

In retrospect, it is a reflection of the paucity of ideas as to how best to effectively engage the masses of this country and get them to buy into the truly tough decisions that need to be taken, if we are indeed determined to push for a far better country than what currently obtains.

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Sierra Leone president Koroma relaunches his failed agenda for prosperity

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 November 2015

President Koroma and his agenda for prosperitySince the declaration of Sierra Leone as Ebola free two weeks ago, there has been a flurry of activity from the Koroma government – egged on by the IMF and the World Bank, to kick-start an ailing economy.

Sierra Leone’s economy is seriously ill and in desperate need of resuscitation.

The economy is as much a victim of the Ebola virus, as it is the product of eight years of poor governance, poor leadership, misplaced priorities, corruption, and the lack of strategic direction.

Foreign companies that were once thought of as the backbone and lifeblood of the government, have now turned out to be nothing but pawns in a corrupt game of monopoly.

Take African Minerals Ltd, Sierra Leone’s jewel in the crown – the largest iron ore mining company in the country. Since going into liquidation before the start of Ebola, and then rescued by the parent company of the Chinese investment company that provided most of its investment capital in the first place, is still struggling to find its feet.

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I am the best man for the SLPP’s presidential candidacy

Ambassador Alhaji Umaru Bundu Wurie

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 November 2015

Ambassador-WurieI am Ambassador Umaru Bundu Wurie (Photo), affectionately and widely known as “Bond Wurie”. I grew up in a working class family in Gbinti, a small town in the Dibia Chiefdom of Port Loko District in northern Sierra Leone.

I graduated from Bo School, in the south of the country. With humility, yet with rugged determination and clear intention, I will be running for the leadership of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), our nation’s proud Grand Old Party of “One Country, One People” fame and glory.

I am asking for your support of my candidacy, which, if successful, will then accord me with the privilege and lifetime opportunity to be the SLPP candidate for the Presidency of our beloved Republic in the elections of 2018.

I am currently a Grand Chief Patron of the Party, and have been fully active since 1996.

I am proud to present myself to you and the nation. My campaign will be enlightened, thorough and responsible, and will address the many years of our country’s neglect, decline and lack of competitiveness, relative to other African countries and the world in general.

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Sierra Leone Telegraph calls for big changes to the country’s Constitution

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 November 2015

Sierra-Leone-ParliamentSierra Leone’s 1991 Constitution which was hurriedly cobbled together and passed through a One Party State parliament that was dominated and run by the APC party in 1991, has always been regarded as unsatisfactory and unfit for purpose.

It is a constitution that was put together at the height of deep political instability in the country, as the nation slowly progressed to anarchy and a failed state.

It is also the constitution that has failed to galvanise and act as a beacon of justice, fairness, equality and hope, for millions of Sierra Leoneans across the country, who feel dis-empowered and enslaved by those they elect, and betrayed by a judiciary that has now become highly politicised, polarised and perceived as corrupt.

Sierra Leone’s 1991 Constitution has become a political weapon, used and abused by those in power for their own political ends and self-preservation, rather than to promote justice, fairness, equity and liberty for all. This has to change.

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IMF approves $64 million for Sierra Leone amid fears of an economic meltdown

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 November 2015

president koroma at end of ebola rally - 071115.jpg2On the eve of the World Health Organisation declaring Sierra Leone Ebola free, the minister of finance – Marah presented his 2016 Budget to the houses of parliament.

According to the minister, the government will need hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and borrowing in order to balance the books next year.

By the end of this financial year, the government would have spent over Three Trillion Leones, running a huge deficit and increased borrowing.

For next year – 2016, the government has set its spending at almost Four Trillion Leones – a whopping Three Trillion Nine Hundred and Thirty-Eight Billion, Four Hundred and Sixty-One Million, Eight Hundred and Twenty-Thousand Leones (Le3,938,461,820,000).

But so far this year, the National Revenue Authority (NRA) has only managed to raise less than Two Trillion Leones (Le1.7 Trillion), leaving a shortfall in revenue of almost Two Trillion Leones, which must come from somewhere, if the government is to meet its budget spending promises.

The government may need to cut back on public services, reduce public sector wages, increase the rates of taxes, and or widen the country’s tax base.

But one thing it cannot keep on doing year on year is, piling up the public sector borrrowing.

Is Sierra Leone facing a financial meltdown?

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The retired Brigadier is holding SLPP to ransom – at what cost?

Alan Luke

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 November 2015

Maada Bio - Brigadier2The defeat that the SLPP suffered over the weekend in the By-Elections is entirely due to Maada Bio’s subjugation of the national interest and party’s interest to his thirst for power.

Since becoming the flagbearer, the SLPP wittingly or unwittingly have allowed Julius Maada Bio to hijack the party and hold it to ransom.

The party leadership cannot fully absolve themselves of any blame, because at some point, the position espoused by Julius Maada Bio was acceptable to the party leadership.

Without any scrutiny of his character, ideas and record, they made it easy for him to supplant the party’s governance, procedures and values.

He succeeded in shifting a party that was inclusive, towards a Mende / South Eastern hegemonic rhetoric, that does not address the daily concerns or aspirations of the poor and vulnerable and the country’s youths.

No wonder SLPP failed spectacularly in Freetown.  Even the good people of Kailahun (SLPP’s heartland) could not put their faith in the party, and instead preferred the devil they know.

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Sierra Leone opposition SLPP suffers spectacular defeat at the polls

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 November 2015

slpp musical chairsThings cannot get any worse for the main opposition political party of Sierra Leone – the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), as it suffered one of the most spectacular electoral defeats in its history last weekend.

With the exception of Bonthe, the party lost four of the five bye-elections contested.

SLPP received a resounding beating by the ruling APC party, whose credibility has reached rock bottom after massive corruption scandals, and their catastrophic mismanagement of the Ebola crisis that has taken the lives of over 4,000 people.

Supporters of the opposition SLPP may have failed to turn up in their droves at polling stations across  the country, where bye-elections were held last Saturday, but there is little doubt the few that turned up to cast their votes, were either suffering from political amnesia, or confused as to who were the official candidates of the party.

Whatever the reasons for the SLPP supporters staying away from the polling stations last weekend, or refusing to vote for the official party candidates, what must be said is that SLPP has now reached rock-bottom in popularity.

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Ebola has gone underground – will it return to Sierra Leone?

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 November 2015

(FILES) This file picture dated November 7, 2014 shows people walking past a billboard reading "Stop Ebola" in Freetown. Sierra Leone said on March 19, 2015 it will confine around 2.5 million people to their homes across the capital and in the north in a three-day shutdown aimed at stemming the Ebola epidemic. AFP PHOTO/ FRANCISCO LEONGFRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: Last year, 7th November, 2014, a billboard “Stop Ebola” in Freetown. 

It is now seven days since Sierra Leone was declared Ebola Free last weekend – 7th November 2015, by the WHO. So far, there have been no reports of any deaths linked to the virus, since two fatalities were recorded on the 11th to 16th September 2015.

All has been quiet on the war-front, except for the scare early this week in Freetown, when reports of a school teacher who collapsed and died, with blood coming out of his eyes and mouth at a school in Kissy, in the eastern district of the capital went viral.

It is understood that the deceased was taken away for testing to determine cause of death. But there have been no reports about the post-mortem result.

The ministry of health and the Ebola authorities have remained tight-lipped, prompting serious questions about government’s transparency and openness once again, in reporting suspected cases and allaying fears of citizens.

Ebola has gone underground, but will it return to Sierra Leone?

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An SLPP giant is gone but not forgotten – Tribute to Alhaji Khalil Bun Mustapha

Harold Saffa

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 November 2015

Alhaji Khalil Mustapha

It will be unimaginable to call the name Alhaji Khalil Mustapha (Photo) without mentioning SLPP in the same breath. Apart from his strong Muslim faith and love for his family, the SLPP was his next greatest passion.

Born on the 8th of September, 1948, Alhaji Mustapha entered Bo government secondary school in Sierra Leone, on the 14th September, 1965. His registration number was 2214 Mustapha Kalilu.

The end of his secondary education coincided with the turbulent post independence politics of Sierra Leone, with the two dominant political parties – APC and SLPP fighting for supremacy.

With the fall from power of the SLPP in the late ’60s, Alhaji Khalil Mustapha along with other young supporters of the SLPP, was left with the burden of rescuing and resuscitating a once dominant political outfit.

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Sierra Leone must now go back to the drawing board

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 November 2015

salone poverty1So Ebola has taken a bow. Thank God for that. I must however also thank the dreaded virus for bringing home to us, the sorry state of our nation and the true picture of our underdevelopment.

Ebola has exposed our need for improvement, vision, planning and continuity. The question is: How can this victory translate to something higher?

Already, our leaders, rather than express the inherent flaws in their focus hitherto, are beginning to brainwash us with mere slogans and empty promises. They want us to believe that we can form a 21st century nation by wishful thinking and political rascality.

They fail to appreciate that it is only in geometry that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points.

As usual, they are not emphasising to themselves and to we as followers, that until we reinstitute those mechanisms for social justice and equity from top to bottom, we will continue spitting in the wind. Besides, if we all think the same way, then nobody thinks.

Which is why, every time Sierra Leone flashes through my mind, I weep. My heart bleeds for our motherland and I feel frustrated. My soul aches. I cry for the generations to come.

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Alie Kabba Speaks about Sierra Leone’s Ebola free status

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 November 2015

president koroma celebrates end of ebola - 061115

Many Sierra Leoneans in and out of the country are today questioning whether it is indeed appropriate and in good taste, for sections of the society to be celebrating the end of Ebola in a carnival like manner. (Photo: President Koroma toasting to the end of Ebola with a champagne forgetting the tears of those that have lost their loved ones).

They say that the declaration today of Sierra Leone achieving Ebola free status by the WHO, ought to have instead been recognised as a major milestone, dedicated to the memory of the more than 4,000 people that have died of the virus – including the twelve doctors and more than 200 other health workers, and their loved ones that are today mourning their deaths.

Sierra Leone is a nation that is full of paradox, which is making it all the more harder to adopt a sober and measured response to matters of national importance, solemnity and decorum.

Few civilised nations in the world would think of marking the end of a devastating national crisis or war with a carnival. But in Sierra Leone – we just did, out of poor taste to the memory of the dead and for the benefit of our own selfish ends.

A statement by Alie Kabba – SLPP presidential aspirant brought into sharp focus the solemnity of today’s announcement, and the gross failure of leadership to tackle the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone which led to the loss of more than 4,000 lives, $14 million stolen from Ebola funds, and the catastrophic collapse of the economy.  This is what he said:

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Sierra Leone is now Ebola free as country starts ninety days of intensive surveillance 

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 November 2015

ebola burial teams3

Sierra Leone has today – 7th November 2015, been officially declared Ebola free by the World Health Organisation, after meeting the standard requirement of 42 days without a new case of the disease, and since the last patient was discharged from hospital.

Today’s declaration may have come one day earlier than expected, but who cares, certainly not the six million people of Sierra Leone, who have watched and mourned as over 4,000 of their compatriots died of the virus in the last eighteen months.

But the cost of the crisis is yet to be counted. The country’s economy has contracted with falling export revenues and declining business activity.

President Koroma has today announced the ending of the state of emergency regulations, which was aimed at reducing levels of transmission of the virus across the country. But the most difficult task now begins.

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Maada Bio and the burden of ambition

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 November 2015      

Julius Maada-BioTo put it rather indelicately, it has become imperative that collectively as a people, we need to pull our fingers out and bring the head off the navel and out of the sand, and see where our rear is located.

Then we might be able to prevent being taken for idiots wily-nilly, by the political elites.

Obviously we are quick to look for alibis in the overbeaten refrain, that ours is a developing democracy and an evolving nation from the ravages of war.

Sure it is, but that is also because its where we want it to be; and while the rest of the world is moving up a gear, we are happy to give excuses for impunity and stunted egalitarianism.

Which is why it is sad that there are so many things going on today that demand answers and which nobody among those best placed to provide them, seems ready to respond to, in the hope that we are all so stupid as not to notice.

One such puzzle which I’m still at a loss understanding is the zealousness of Maada Bio’s sudden Ebola (political) Virus campaign.

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Sierra Leone health officials and WHO prepare for post-Ebola Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 November 2015

Ministry of health officials - 041115Senior officials from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, officials from WHO, DFID and the Commonwealth this week conducted a four-day assessment tour of six of the districts in Sierra Leone worst affected by Ebola. (Photo: Health ministry officials).

As the people of Sierra Leone wait in anticipation of the WHO declaring the country Ebola free on the 8th of November, according to the ministry of health, the district visits were aimed at getting first-hand knowledge of the level of preparedness of the districts, ahead of the transfer of responsibility for monitoring and reporting from the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC), directly to local and District Health Management Teams (DHMT).

The six districts visited were Port Loko, Kambia, Bombali, Koinadugu, and Tonkolili – all in the north of Sierra Leone, and Kono in the east.

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Presidential hopeful Dr Tengbe speaks exclusively about SLPP’s chances of winning the 2018 elections

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 November 2015

Dr Jonathan Tengbe 1One of the most underestimated candidates for the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) presidential flagbearership – Dr. Jonathan Tengbe (Photo), has today spoken exclusively to the Sierra Leone Telegraph.

He told the editor – Abdul Rashid Thomas (ART) that, he will be travelling to Sierra Leone in the next two days to attend a conference along with all the other party presidential aspirants, to find a peaceful solution to the current infighting that is threatening to destroy the party’s chances at the general elections in 2018.

“I will be leaving for Freetown on Wednesday, 4th November, 2015, to attend the next level conference for peace and Unity in our Party, which will be chaired by Professor Joe Pemagbi. The aim of the conference is to collate the conclusions of all on-going peace initiatives into one implementable communique to be approved by the party’s National Executive Council (NEC),” said Dr. Tengbe.

Jonathan Tengbe (J.T), who is a highly successful global engineering consultant, presently working for the government of Qatar, also spoke about his passions and aspirations for the presidency.

This is what he told the Sierra Leone Telegraph about his values, principles, and chances of winning the SLPP presidential flagbearership.

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