The Sierra Leone Telegraph
Home Archives Links to Sierra Leone News

President Koroma Kick-starts His 2012 Elections Campaign: Is a Second term in the offing?

Abdul R Thomas
Editor - The Sierra Leone Telegraph

14 February 2010

As President Koroma kick-starts his 2012 elections campaign in the south-eastern region of the country – the political heartland and nerve centre of the opposition SLPP - both sides of the political spectrum are now beginning to raise the ante.

The ruling party’s sponsored media have started counting the potential electoral gains arising from the President’s audacious and auspicious visit to the opposition’s geo-political power base – Kenema and Kailahun. In response, the opposition SLPP is denying the validity of those claims, denouncing them as cheap propaganda.

“If President Koroma consolidates the dramatic breakthrough he made over the weekend and maintains a progressive presence in Kailahun , the incorrigible Patrick Foyahs and Sama Banyas may still stick to their unsung and unprogressive band wagons, but one thing is certain: When 2012 comes, President Koroma may prise away from the grasp of the SLPP important votes in Kailahun that , added to his clean-sweeps elsewhere, will definitely ensure him a second term” – says Cocorioko (10th February 2010).

Whether cheap propaganda or not, anyone reading Sierra Leone’s newspapers in the last few days – both on-line and printed, would be forgiven for thinking that the 2012 elections are here and that electioneering fever is about to descend upon the nation. But that’s all the better for the country’s fledgling democracy, as the main opposition SLPP party makes up its mind as to whether it wants to come out of self induced coma.

Perhaps images of the President strolling majestically along the streets of the opposition’s heartland, amidst jubilating crowds – including senior opposition grandees - may very well nudge the opposition SLPP out of slumber to smell the roasted northern coffee. There are exciting times ahead for Sierra Leone’s politics.

The ruling APC party, conscious of the need to win a second term to continue its ‘Agenda for Change’, is frenetically desperate to win the hearts and minds of the Southerners, if they are to win the 2012 Presidential elections in the first round. But will the opposition SLPP scupper their game plan, before it is too late?
Sensing that the opposition is not prepared to lie down and roll over, there are deafening cries and pleas from the government sponsored media for the opposition to put politics aside and embrace Koroma’s APC economic and social development agenda. But is this good for the country’s liberal democratic pluralism? This move really smacks of a possible return to a ‘one party state’.

In its 10th February 2010 edition, this is what Cocorioko News – one of the government’s sponsored news media, had to say:

“President Ernest Koroma is doing a marvellous job in Sierra Leone. Let us forget about partisan politics and our different political attachments for a moment. Let us look at the direct evidence. In just two years, look at President Koroma's achievements for Sierra Leone.”

Irrespective of the achievements of President Koroma – whether real or imagined – Sierra Leoneans cannot afford, nor should they be encouraging or promoting the return to a ‘one party state’. It will most certainly be a sad day for liberal democracy in Sierra Leone, if the main opposition finally wakes up and finds itself pitching tents with the ruling party, for whatever reason they may wish to conjure.

Liberal democratic pluralism is about a contest between competing sets of ideas, values and principles that underpins the policy framework of political parties. The people of Sierra Leone sacrificed their lives during those dreadful ten years of civil war - in order to witness a return to the liberal democracy that ushered in the APC party into power in 2007, after spending twenty years languishing in the political wilderness. Let us not forget that.

During his visit to Kailahun and Kenema, President Koroma promised the people of the Southern region, that he will bring them much needed economic prosperity and social advancement. But critics are questioning whether this is purely aimed at garnering southern electoral support ahead of 2012, or a genuine desire by the President, to bring the region into the 21st century.

Politics is about the allocation of scarce resources amongst many and diverse needs.
Given the already polarised nature of Sierra Leone’s politics, will the Northerners and Westerners (Freetownians) – the heartlands of the ruling party’s power base - be willing to sacrifice their survival for the prosperity of their Southern based brothers and sisters? The President may well be making political promises he cannot fulfill.

In its 5th February 2010 edition, the Sierra Leone Telegraph predicted that unemployment and policies designed to tackle youth joblessness, could be the battleground on which the 2012 elections are fought.

Since then there has been a flurry of news reports, mainly highlighting the government’s efforts and successes in attracting foreign direct investments, or strategies aimed at tackling the obscene levels of joblessness in the country.

As the 2012 electioneering drive is cranked up by both sides, so are the propaganda machines beginning to churn out headline grabbing news that calls for closer scrutiny. For example, the on-line pro-government NewsTime Africa in their 9th February 2010 edition had this to say:

“4,000 jobs Created as President Koroma Secures $400 Million Bio-fuel Investment for Sierra Leone.” The question on everyone’s lips is; where are the 4,000 jobs? It seems the devil is in the detail. Two days after publishing that over-enthusiastic headline, the Press Secretary of State House issued this statement, as though to dampen any over exuberance:

“The President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma has witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the government, Addax Bio-energy Sierra Leone and the Addax & Oryx Group that will see USD 400 million to be invested over the next few years in the country’s Agribusiness sector. In keeping with the government’s drive to create employment opportunities for the people, 4000 jobs will be created through direct employment, contracting and out-grower opportunities that will raise the incomes of farming and rural communities.”

President Koroma said, “Today is a very special day for me, the government, and people of Sierra Leone, especially the people of Bombali and Tonkolili districts, particularly those in the Makari/Gbanti, Malal Mara and Bombali Shebora chiefdoms” where this project will be located.

In another ruling party propaganda spin, Cocorioko (Wednesday, 10 February 2010) headlined: ‘Sierra Leone's Hydro-Power Dam Lighting up Freetown’. The paper said;

“Sierra Leone's first hydro-power dam, almost 40 years in the making, was switched on in November 2009. It now produces 50 megawatts of electricity, sending regular power to most parts of the capital, Freetown.”

But is Bumbuna really producing 50 mega watts of electricity? In an attempt to clarify the hype, the report mentioned;

“But transmission networks damaged during the country's civil war are so dilapidated that the capital can only absorb half of the dam's energy.” Readers would no doubt be asking themselves; if Bumbuna is producing 50 mega watts of electricity and Freetown receives 25 mega watts, what is happening to the remaining 25 mega watts?

Those figures just do not add up it seems. But then it’s the start of electioneering and 2012 will be all about winning the propaganda war, rather than winning the battle of facts. This is where the main opposition SLPP is seriously failing, and will continue to fail, if they persist on the path of ‘quiet rapprochement’.

What is also interesting about the Cocorioko spill is that prior to “Bumbuna, the country functioned on an emergency power plan costing $2 million a month to fuel diesel generators that produced only enough power to cover essential services.”

This confirms comments made by critics and the opposition as regards government’s claim that the entire Capital City was electrified, prior to Bumbuna, which justify the millions of Dollars spent to consolidate the ruling party’s political capital, gained at the 2007 elections.

It now seem as though plans for Bumbuna phase 2 will also feature highly on the 2012 electioneering agenda. According to Cocorioko: “The second phase of the Bumbuna dam project will build a larger reservoir upstream that could add more than 100 megawatts to the dam's capacity - enough to cover greater Freetown and parts of the Northern provinces. But it will be costly. Unless the government can secure the entire investment cost of $520 million, the second phase could be a long time coming.”

Awareness Times, Awoko and Premier News (11 February 2010), reported another major government electioneering campaign spin. After two years in the making, the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA), in collaboration with the ministries of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, and Trade & Industry, have launched a three-year investment strategy aimed at attracting or creating 25,000 new jobs across the country.

The government said they will achieve this, by supporting 25,000 independent farmers to develop their capacity to grow and supply crops, required by the processing plants to be established in the country by foreign investors. The Strategy was launched on Wednesday 10th February 2010, in Freetown.
Although the main opposition SLPP had on several occasions highlighted the worrying levels of corruption in Koroma’s government, they would really need to sharpen up their campaign strategy, and fast, if they are to put on a strong fight back in 2012.

There have been several calls for the SLPP party to appoint an ad-hoc shadow cabinet, comprising of their elected members of Parliament, to begin the process of constructive parliamentary engagement with the government, the media and their constituencies.

It is unlikely that this suggestion would be implemented until after the party has held its Presidential candidate leadership election in 2011, by which time it could be too late to get their manifesto together, let alone raise funds and begin campaigning in earnest.

But for now, it seems that the mantle of SLPP ‘politicking’ has been left on the shoulders of the unofficial peripatetic party spokesman – Dr. Sama Banya. In response to the government’s sponsored media frenzy surrounding the opposition SLPP party’s ability to take on the ruling party in 2012, Dr. Banya said:

“Our critics often insult us, verbally abuse us, describe us as senile, refer to us as dinosaurs etc. But all this is usually to conceal their (the ruling party’s) inability to respond satisfactorily to the points we raise; in short, they are usually confounded by the truth of our position.”

But what is the opposition’s response to the charge that they too had practiced regional parochialism in developing the country, when they were in power? In his latest commentary (11 February 2010), Dr Sama Banya had this to say:

“The SLPP government had a broad approach to rehabilitation and reconstruction and development generally. There was the resurfacing programme of the Masiaka to Makeni road, the resurfacing of the Bo to Masiaka Road, the construction of the Rogbere to Palmelap Road through Port Loko and Kambia.”

He also asserted that; “Funding had been secured for the hillside road but the hassle over compensation continues to this day. In the midst of all this and other developments, that government, which our detractors accuse of doing nothing for the people Kailahun, was able to obtain funding for the feasibility study of the Kenema to Koindu road.”

“In addition and of much importance, it (the SLPP government) held a donor conference here in Freetown at which the first 63 million United States dollars was pledged for the first phase of the work, for which the APC is now taking credit. In addition, they want us to keep silent about it! No way. The Holy Book admonishes that we should not light our lamp and hide it under a bushel; its gonna be right on the peak” – says Dr. Banya.

Is this tough talking or shadow boxing by the veteran politician? To be truthful, this seems like defensive posturing from an opposition party that is allowing itself to be caught against the ropes, and now on the back foot.

SLPP need to be much more proactive, constructive and decisive as to what they will offer the electorate - that is different to what is currently on offer from the Koroma government. As Cocorioko spurred on:

“President Ernest Koroma is doing a marvellous job in Sierra Leone. Let us forget about partisan politics and our different political attachments for a moment. Let us look at the direct evidence. In just two years, look at President Koroma's achievements for Sierra Leone.”

“We did not have electricity .He has brought light and has completed the Bumbuna Hydroelectricity Project. We had the highest and the most shameful and pitiful post-natal maternity death rate in the world. Since he came to power, President Koroma has helped to reduce it significantly.”

“Our roads and infrastructure had deteriorated to stone-age standards but President Koroma has launched road construction and development projects all over the country.”

“Mining had been destroyed in Sierra Leone by bad governance and the war but President Koroma has revived mining activities and is even bringing back the Marampa Mines. President Koroma is even resurrecting the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (SLPMB), which could be a major revenue earner and would definitely boost farming. Safe pipe-born water has been a thing of the past in Sierra Leone but President Koroma has used government funding to begin rehabilitating the water pipes.”

The 2012 elections battle lines are now being drawn, but they are still not as clear as one would expect. The elections are less than two years away. The main opposition SLPP has an uphill task to get its act together, if they are to take over the reigns of power, especially with rumors from the government sponsored media, of senior opposition members now routeing for the government.

Will President Koroma win a second term in office in 2012 - sharp 12?

Back to main list of articles

Email the Editor
The Sierra Leone Telegraph

©2009 – The Sierra Leone Telegraph – All Rights Reserved.