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"What kind of president do we have in Sierra Leone?"

Austin Thomas

29 September 2011

Our President and his Vice


Poor quality of leadership in Sierra Leone risks squandering the peace and economic gains that were handed over to the present government in 2007; and this is seriously affecting the country’s economic growth.

Decisions that could have positive impact on officials as well as the public, are not being taken. Instead government officials are left to do as they please.

Our leadership deficit means that little has been done over the last four years, in cementing the hard won peace, and to improve our livelihood by creating jobs and maintain economic stability. Millions of men and women are deeply trapped in abject poverty.

How can we achieve the Millennium Development Goals in 2015, when our leadership has failed several times to stamp its authority and take the required action that will bring about good governance, economic growth and prosperity?

The country is once again sliding down the road of pre-elections violence, largely sponsored by those in power. It seems that a key priority for this government, upon taking up office in 2007, was to goad their party supporters to terrorise and intimidate the opposition SLPP.

If our president - Ernest Koroma, was in any way serious about bringing about change and development, he would have taken appropriate measures, by making sure that those found guilty of politically motivated violence are punished swiftly, in accordance with the laws of the land. Instead he has allowed impunity to reign supreme.

This act of impunity was once again repeated  in 2009, when the offices of the opposition SLPP were set on fire, innocent women raped, and ironically, with the police protecting APC supporters carrying out their criminal acts.

But what has the president done about the series of politically motivated violence waged against the opposition?

A committee was established by the president in 2009 to investigate the causes of the attacks against the SLPP; but once the committee had handed over their report to the president that was the end of the matter.

The report, we have recently been told is in the office of the Attorney General. It is now two years, and the report has not been published, nor has any action been taken to implement its recommendations. One then has to wonder, whether the president has even bothered to read the report, in order to acquaint himself with its findings and recommendations.

Elections violence started after Ernest Koroma’s APC took over the reigns of government in 2007, and it seems there is no end in sight. The president has woefully failed to curb politically motivated violence in the country.

Nothing is being done to eradicate poverty and improve our lives. Inflation index is increasing by the day, yet the government is just busy spending money on misplaced projects that will not lead to economic growth and job creation.

Even farming for food self-sufficiency and export, which should be the backbone of our economy, is now being neglected by the government.

The decision to force importers to sell rice at a controlled price that does not reflect their business costs, exposes the government's ineffectiveness in managing the economy. What they seem to forget is that Sierra Leone is driven by a market economy, and prices are determined largely by costs.

The declining value of the Leone - compounded by very high taxes, are having a huge effect on the costs of imported goods, hence we see prices generally having doubled since 2007. Inflation has increased from 8% to just under 20%.

I really do not understand the kind of leadership we now have in the country. Certain events of national interest and security are taking place regularly in the country, yet the president is failing woefully to show us that he is in control.

How can we the citizens feel secure under such leadership that has no vision and has lost grip of the economy and those within its purview?

The present leadership lacks innovation and qualities required to build a better country. I would like to give three instances to show that president Ernest Koroma is not a good leader, and should he choose not to show effective leadership – we will all continue to suffer.

Firstly, I will start with a cabinet decision taken at the end of last year that all students studying in China should be accorded the same privilege regardless of how they got their scholarship.

The cabinet had endorsed that decision, and the minister of education had no alternative but to respect the will of the cabinet. But What happened thereafter was the opposite; the minister did not implement the cabinet's decision. Did the president take any decision on such blatant disrespect; a big NO.

Secondly, the minister of Internal Affairs as it was reported gave orders to his security personnel to shoot at youths demonstrating against him in Kono. Instead of the president taking strong action against the minister, he came out with a bogus speech telling the world that no minister or government official is above the law and that he will set up another investigative committee to look into the matter.

Thirdly, the Shears-Moses Commission of inquiry findings and recommendations with respect to the violence committed in 2009 against the opposition SLPP, has been swept aside by the president and no action taken.

The report says, and I quote; "The central figures in the event of 16th March, 2009, were Idrissa Kamara (Leather Boot), Foday Mansaray aka Foday Government Wharf".


Idrissa Kamara left His Excellency the President and State House unguarded to attend to the scene of the violence, which showed a lack of respect for those in authority and a keen interest in supporting violence by all means. Women were assaulted with his support and assistance, whilst looting took place in his presence.

One of the recommendations of the committee report says that: "Members of the security forces, who have betrayed the trust put on them to protect the citizens, and found to be unprofessional in their activities, or support violence, should be dismissed from their employment to serve as a deterrent to others in future. In this regard we specifically indicate Mohamed Turay (Yete Yete), Idrissa Kamara (Leather Boot)."


Incompetent ministers are still at work, causing problems for citizens - as teachers and lecturers go on strike. Most schools are yet to open. Meanwhile, Idrissa Leather boot is still at State House - beating up people or giving orders for peaceful Sierra Leoneans to be beaten.

No actions have been taken by the president who is the first gentleman of the country. The international community is watching with utter dismay that a president can be so lethargic and insensitive to the needs of his own people.

It is now being reported in the country that the minister of Internal Affairs has issued a press release stating that the president is his 'only' boss and not the vice president. What a shame! I really do not think that the minister understands what he is saying.

In 2007 we voted for Ernest Koroma as president and Sam Sumana as vice-president. Not even the president can sack Sumana unless he is mentally ill, found guilty of corrupt practices, etc.

The internal Affairs minister - Musa Tarawallie should know that with respect to the chain of command, after Ernest comes Sam Sumana - so he is answerable to the vice president.

In the USA, it would be absurd for Hilary Clinton to tell Joe Biden that he is not her boss. The next day Obama will fire her because such a statement causes disrepute within the cabinet and that’s what is going on in Sierra Leone today.

Ministers are more powerful than the vice president; ministers are not taking orders from the president, and yet we continue to praise the government for "doing an excellent work".

What does president Koroma really thinks, during his quiet moment, when he remembers that he is in charge of a country that has about six million people looking up to him to provide for their security and livelihood?

Does he think that we are so stupid as to continue to support him blindly - even to our early graves? I would like to challenge my colleague journalists preaching hate messages, to instead publish issues that matter to the people of the country.

This is not about whom we like or dislike, the party we support or hate, but daily burning issues that need to be addressed, such as; the economy, education, health, unemployment and poverty.

They might do the president a lot of good, if only they can serve as checks and balances. Also, they can help him to win the next election, if they are willing to caution him that he is making far too many mistakes by protecting his 'sacred cows', instead of taking appropriate action as a leader.

Teachers are angry that the government has lied to them by not meeting their demands. Should we blame the teachers or should we caution the government and tell the leadership that enough is enough, you need to start addressing the plight of the people?

As journalists we need to ask ourselves whether our continuous prevarication of the truth - because of our support for Ernest Koroma, is giving us peace of mind, knowing fully well that it is the plight of millions of Sierra Leoneans that is at stake.

The teachers have been complaining for far to long. Lecturers have gone on strike. Should we look at their problems as politically motivated or should we listen to their cries and try to put pressure on the president, so that he can address their needs?

If the education minister who was once himself a lecturer had put aside his pomposity and talk with colleague lecturers and teachers, definitely there would have been a solution to the industrial action.

Instead he behaves as though he is from another planet, and we journalists refuse to understand, and prefer to preach hate - because of our soft spot for this leadership or the brown envelope that we receive on a regular basis.

If we have a leader that cannot take decisions, it is therefore obvious that we will have a chaotic government, with every minister behaving as they please, because nobody asks questions. I do hope that it doesn't get to the point where a cabinet minister will one day slap the president because he or she believes in the power of impunity.

Only a decisive president can change the cause of our sick country, and the earlier Ernest Koroma begins to take charge of this country the better it would be for all of us. Sierra Leone in the last four years has taken a big leap backwards in the economy, peace and poverty.

We need to see the president at work in the next year, by taking over the driving seat to stir us back to the road of economic recovery and peace. We cannot afford to experience the return of eleven years of senseless war, causing massive loss of lives and destruction of property.

Education is the only way out of poverty, and if this government can stop using our youths as dogs of war, the better it will be for us all. Let us remember that; "Power is like an egg. If you don’t handle it carefully it falls from your hands, but if you hold on too tightly to it, it breaks in your hands."


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