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Teachers in Liberia are now paid on time: Lessons for Sierra Leone

23 November 2011

Most of Sierra Leone’s schools, colleges and universities remain closed since last July, because salaries of teachers and lecturers have not been paid for many months, and demands for better working conditions have not been met.

The crisis is not about to end soon, as inflation continues to rise, making an already bad economic problem worse for the government.

Many in Sierra Leone are blaming the government for its poor management of the public finances, despite the implementation of what the government itself believes to be 'sound fiscal and spending tracking' systems.

However, there is an old adage: A system can only be as good as the people who manages it and the level of commitment they put into making sure that the system works.

Critics of the government say that the ministry of education is one of the most poorly managed departments in the country; dogged by the lack of leadership, corruption, and patronage. Many believe that the incompetence of some senior officials, including the minister is transforming the ministry into a mere shadow of what it used to be in the 1960’s.

Sierra Leone like neighbouring Liberia is a nation that is rebuilding itself with the help of the international community, after ten years of civil war that saw the destruction of most of its institutions and infrastructures. But unfortunately, that’s where the similarity ends.

Liberia may be a war-torn country like Sierra Leone, but its people and government seem to have the will and conviction to want to genuinely rebuild their education system, recognising that without education there will be no economic development, and poverty will worsen.

As a reflection of this commitment, teachers in Liberia are now paid on time - thanks to a new system set up by the government with help from IMF experts.

Liberia’s example be emulated by neighbouring Sierra Leone?

In its Report: "IMF Technical Assistance Finds A Teachable Moment in Africa", it is clear that with strong leadership, political will and commitment to change, a nation can transform its misfortunes and rebuild for the future.

This is what the Report says:

Stephen George is a public high school principal worried about the usual things: how students will fare on upcoming exams, crowded classrooms, and how to make sure his teachers get paid on time.

George has his work cut out for him. Matilda Newport High School in Monrovia, Liberia on the west coast of Africa has all the usual stresses that keep high school principals around the world awake at night.

The civil war wreaked havoc on daily life for the almost four million people in the small West African country. Roads and buildings were destroyed, people were displaced from their homes, and schools shut their doors.

George, the teachers, and students have to contend with the legacy of nearly 15 years of civil war in Liberia.

There are 25 year-olds in his grade 9 classes, 15 year-olds who are the head of the family taking care of themselves and younger siblings after the death of their parents in the war.

And until recently, it took two weeks for his teachers to hunt down their pay checks.

"The previous system was very hectic because in their spare time, you wouldn’t find teachers in their classrooms; they had to leave school to collect their checks," said George in an interview with IMF Survey online.

In rebuilding their lives, Liberians and their government need practical help to fix their economy and financial system.

The IMF’s technical assistance draws on experts in specialized fields such as budget reform, public financial management, and payment systems, from around the world. A country needing help sets its own goals and decides how to achieve them while drawing on the best practices and experience from over 100 countries.

To repair the system, the Ministry of Finance, with guidance from IMF experts, had to do three things:

- make a list of the teachers and their banking information

- encourage banks to open bank accounts for teachers who didn’t have one

- and then take one check for the whole salary amount to the bank, and ask the bank to simply deposit each teacher’s pay checks directly into their account.

George says the new system is much better and works fine.

Rebuilding after war

How a government manages public finances and runs a smooth financial system is about a lot more than just collecting taxes, and having a transparent budget process and payment system: it’s about governing in an efficient and legitimate way.

"The challenge this government faces is how do you get away from the ills that led to the war; how do you prevent the recurrence of the civil conflict we had in this country? It basically boils down to governance," said Patrick Sendolo, Head of the Special Projects Implementation Unit in the Office of the President, during an interview in his office in Monrovia.

Reforms to help improve the economy, as well as monetary and fiscal policy are key to good governance, according to Sendolo.

"All of those things come together to ensure that as much as possible of the government’s revenues are kept in the coffers to go towards schools, hospitals, clinics, roads and the kinds of things that make people happy, and make society the ultimate beneficiary of the government’s revenues, and prevent the kinds of conflict we experienced in this country over the past 15 years," he said.

Civil society organizations are pushing not only for reforms, but also for more accountability and transparency in how taxpayer resources are managed.

"Those were some of the reasons why we fought the war because people felt marginalized not only politically, but also economically," said Jonathan Doe Nah, the executive director for the Centre for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia.

After a long and destructive civil war, Liberia is slowly recovering. George Kennedy, a reporter and columnist for the Daily Observer newspaper in Monrovia likens the experience to being in a closed house with the heat rising.

"You have the doors closed behind you, and at the end of the hallway the door opens for you," said Kennedy. "When you go out, the breeze begins to touch you; that’s how it feels now after years of war."

Reforms lead to rising revenues

The IMF’s technical assistance is supported by several donors including the European Union, Japan, and Sweden. Their funding has allowed the IMF to share its deep reservoir of knowledge, experience, and experts with Liberia so that the country does not have to start from scratch, but instead can adopt best practices that work for them.

"One of our technical assistance [projects] that we all remember because it’s critical to our reform was the crafting of the public financial management law," said Augustine Ngafuan, Liberia’s Minister of Finance, during an interview in his office in Monrovia.

"The IMF fielded a technical advisor for more than a year who worked with us, discussed the details, nuances and challenges, and was with us during the process of the legislative review and approval. What this has done is put together an overarching frame of laws for public financial management."

Raising revenues is key to help Liberia rebuild. Money is needed to build roads, bridges, and schools, and to fund social programs.

"When the government took over we had revenue of $88 million, and we’re now at $340 plus million U.S. dollars," said Elfrieda Stewart Tamba, Deputy Minister in the Revenue Department at the Ministry of Finance.

"Our modernization strategy has a three-year life span, and we hope that within the third year we could have achieved the level of professionalism and built the integrity of our organization to the point that Liberia could become an African reference for the delivery of professional services to tax payers and for the revenue we collect," she says.

Building local knowledge and expertise

For progress to continue, Liberia needs to build on its success by sustaining the training and development passed on through IMF technical assistance. For example, peer-to-peer exchanges among African countries with good practices and experiences to share have helped in the modernization of Liberia’s shipping ports.

"One of the things we need to work on is to ensure a robust transfer of knowledge mechanism in technical assistance," said Ngafuan.

"As I usually tell our technical assistance advisors, your relevance is seen by how quickly you make yourself redundant."

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Mapping a new future for Africa

Dennis Kabatto

17 November 2011

The Pan African Network at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SPAN) in partnership with the Institute for African Studies (IAS) will hold its 5th annual African Diplomatic Forum (ADF) tomorrow, November 18, 2011 at the School's Kellogg Centre in New York City.

The ADF is an annual conference that gathers African diplomats, academics, students and activists to discuss the continent’s interests and role in international affairs.

Organizers say this year's theme, "The Blueprint," will take into consideration the enduring challenges of identifying the necessary foundations, developing the right tools, and drawing a coherent and unified plan for building a continent of strong institutions supported by strong civil societies.

  "Our aim for this conference and all the Africa-focused forums we organize is to promote dialogue, to educate participants and to elicit thoughts on the direction of Africa's economic growth and development" said Modupe Onemola, a Gambian born Nigerian graduate student and Vice President of SPAN.

"This year we will focus on strategies needed to move the continent forward, region by region. ADF 2011 will consist of panelists from top-level organizations to grass-root leaders who are dedicated to the planning of Africa's future for the coming years," added Ms Onemola

The ADF 2011 is convened at a crucial time when Africa faces a serious threat of becoming a conflict prone continent, considering the recent post electoral crises in Cote d’Ivoire as well as crises in Egypt, Tunisia, Somalia and Libya.


Liberian born Foday Soko Sackor is a SIPA Masters of International Affairs student – specialising in Energy Management. He is the elected President of SPAN 2011 Executive Board.

Mr. Sackor believes that this year’s forum discussions of some of the key challenges and opportunities for African development and political security "will yield some very practical ideas and explore issues that are very much part of current policy discussions, and could very well inform the research and career paths of students, as well as the work of professionals who participate."


In his response to the question of security ramifications of the recent NATO bombardment of Libya, Mr. Sackor said; "as for the issue of Libya, our panel themes are designed to address the key issues of African political development and security, but not necessarily to focus on any one event. Libya is an extremely pertinent topic. All issues of security and governance affecting the continent are on the table and we look forward to the perspectives our panelists and participants are going to bring to the dialogue."

  Horace Campbell, professor of African-American studies and political science at Syracuse University, currently Visiting Professor - Department of International Relations, Tsinghua University in Beijing, China has written extensively on Africa’s development and security. In an email response to a request seeking comments for this story, said; "the idea of building institutions in Africa cannot move forward without regard for how current institutions are integrated into an international criminal syndicate to plunder Africa."

Prof. Campbell also contends that; "Africans must be more forceful on the question of war crimes in Libya. There must be an international tribunal for investigating the war crimes. The crimes against civilians and the indiscriminate bombings of Sirte are issues that must dominate the question of African security. Why, we as Africans are not pushing hard enough is my problem."

During the one day forum, panel discussions - led by experts from academia, the public and private sectors, the UN and civil society, will revolve around the collective security, aspirations and empowerment of African people, and how those who take on the role of stewards for the continent's development can fulfil their duties to maintain its progress.

ADF 2011 will focus on the following themes; Democracy in Conflict; ICT, New Media, and E-Governance in Africa; Role of Women in Political development; Leadership in Africa – Past, Present and Future; Institution Building - Enhancing Efficiency and Effectiveness; BRICS - The New Roles and Relationships for African Development.

Mr. Ahmed Tidiane Souaré, former Prime Minister of the Republic of Guinea will deliver this year’s Keynote address.

The event is free and open to the public. Those interested can click here for more information:

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Former London-based SLPP politician branded an APC mole

16 November 2011

The difficult now facing Sierra Leone’s main opposition SLPP party is the question as to how best to deal with disgruntled presidential aspirants who not only lost the presidential candidacy election early this year, but have also failed to be appointed by Maada Bio – the presidential candidate as his running mate for next year’s election.

There are rumours and plenty of evidence of some supporters of the party defecting and declaring for the ruling APC party. But few would have imagined a scenario where any of the losing presidential aspirants, would openly declare their support for president Koroma’s APC in retaliation to the party’s choice of Dr. Kadi Sesay as presidential running mate.

There have been suspicions that Usu Boie Kamara would not only leave the SLPP after his defeat and Bio’s failure to appoint him as running mate, but would join the ruling APC to help president Koroma win a second term.

But it is now obvious after Usu Boie’s unscheduled visit to the SLPP party office in Freetown two days ago, meeting with senior SLPP executives, that he is going no where, but has instead reaffirmed his support for his party.

This demonstration of strong loyalty and conviction by Usu Boie Kamara, which is also being shown by other aspiring SLPP presidential candidates, augurs well not only for the party’s survival and chances of wining the elections in 2012, but the development of Sierra Leone’s democracy.


It is for this reason that news of Kadi Johnson-Cole’s declaration of support for president Koroma during a radio interview in Freetown has been received with dismay, not only by party loyalists, but political observers in the country.

Kadi Johnson-Cole went to Freetown in 2010 after living in London for many years as an active member of SLPP, to campaign and fight for election as the party’s presidential candidate.

But she lost the election and her deposit of £8,000, managing to poll a single vote. 

Following her defeat, she did not resign from the SLPP. Hence, her defacto defection announced on the radio has angered many in the party. She is reported to have said on air that: "Such running mate appointment makes me feel like an idiot. We chose Maada Bio because we thought it was the best choice to unify the party’s south-eastern stronghold, but the running-mate appointment should have been someone with strong social background and can interact with the least people in society."

What is surprising for many though is Kadi Johnson-Cole’s decision to attack and fight her own party from within, rather than resigning. This has prompted accusations of disloyalty, egoism, and betrayal of trust.

But what is certain is that the SLPP party’s official response will be swift, and would no doubt lead to the expulsion of Kadi Johnson-Cole from the party. 

Commenting on this latest development, this is what the erudite and veteran SLPP politician Dr. Sama Banya says:

"There is an unfortunate peculiarity in most African politics; it is that people generally tend to gravitate to the party in power. This characteristic is more common especially in Sierra Leone politics. There are very few stories of people leaving a ruling party that is, the party in government, and the party which is in power at a particular moment in time.

"Generally the reverse is the order of the day, with people leaving an opposition party, especially one which has lost power, when people, sometimes those who held prominent positions in the ousted party or benefited most from their connection to it, suddenly see god and cross carpet.

"One has seen more examples of this in the present disposition than at any other time in the politics of this country. Various excuses are usually given, such as family pressure, going back to their roots; they are impressed with the development strides of the new leadership etc.

"Unfortunately for such characters, they deceive no one but themselves, because the public easily sees through their facade of self-seeking deception.

"Take the case of the recent Koinadugu cross-carpeters. What we do not know about their character could be placed on my eyelids and I wouldn’t even blink. One of them had previously held an executive position from which he was released following very serious criticisms of his leadership.

"He was given a second opportunity, a new position which brought him into daily contact with the chief executive. From that he worked his way to a more lucrative position.

"In his new position he refused to push for the appointment of a chairman for which there was provision in the establishment of the commission, but continued to combine both positions until his party left office.

"When he presented himself before the Parliamentary Committee on Appointments, the then opposition (now today’s government) walked out of the sittings in protest because of the man’s previous record.

"Today for the sake of bread and butter, he has not only become a praise singer of the leadership which is now in power, but he has actually declared for the party. One could go on with more examples of the type.

"I would like draw readers’ attention to last weekend’s monologue programme on which one of the guests was a failed SLPP flag bearer aspirant who then declared for the winner, and had been very close to him no doubt for obvious reasons.

"But her colleagues and many members of the party had reservations about her commitment or a secret agenda. Although she had paid her mandatory candidature fee of 50 million Leones, people continued to have their doubts.

"In a recent exclusive interview at her request with a colleague and me, she volunteered that the other ladies didn’t trust her and that they felt she was a mole for the ruling APC party; they therefore tended to marginalize her and to keep her away from their activities.

"We listened very carefully to her narrative and then asked some relevant questions after which we promised to make inquiries and get back to her either alone or with some of the others.

"In the meantime after a series of consultations, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio the opposition SLPP Presidential candidate, named the former university don, former minister in the previous SLPP government of President Tejan-Kabbah and erstwhile national deputy chairman of the SLPP and Flag bearer aspirant Dr. Kadi Sesay as his running mate.

"The monologue programme host David Tam-Baryoh in introducing the lady in question said that he had been seeking to get her on his programme without success until then. The timing also coincided with Maada Bio having named his running mate, or did the lady come forward in order to vent out her disappointment at not being the chosen one?

"In answer to Tam-Baryoh, she stated very categorically that the SLPP Presidential candidate had erred in choosing Kadi Sesay as his running mate, stating among other reasons that Kadi was not a grass roots politician like herself. Then she admitted that she thought she should have been chosen rather than the other Kadi.

"I have no problem with peoples’ egotism and all that, but what shocked me and has led to the title of today’s column was Kadi Johnson-Cole’s declaration that she would prefer the incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma to win a second term in next year’s Presidential election.

“I was shocked; as a member of the SLPP I felt betrayed, a sentiment that many others have since expressed to me.

"It was difficult to understand the lady’s position. Here was a woman who had aspired to the flag bearer position of the party, here was a woman who had signed a declaration of her commitment to our party whatever the outcome of the leadership contest; yes, and here was this woman now telling us and the listeners to Tam-Baryoh’s radio programme that she would prefer President Ernest Bai Koroma of the opposition APC to get re elected.

"Was that not a confirmation of the accusation levelled against her that she might well be an APC agent among us, that is an APC MOLE?

In the circumstance I would advise the woman to voluntarily resign from our party. The alternative and my preference would be that the party EXPELS her forthwith. There should be no place for people with such devilish intentions."

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Sub-Saharan Africa failing to meet the Millennium Development Goal on Sanitation

15 November 2011


A new 'report Off-track, off-target', released today by the international charity WaterAid, shows that there are more people in the world today lacking adequate sanitation services than in 1990.

Unless urgent action is taken, nearly all governments in Sub-Saharan Africa will fail to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) pledge they made to halve the proportion of people without sanitation by 2015.

On the current trajectory, it will take over two centuries for Sub-Saharan Africa to meet its sanitation MDG target. What is more, only 20 countries in the region are on track to meet the water MDG target by 2015. All of this has massive consequences for child mortality in Africa.

Released a day before World Toilet Day, the report states that to get the sanitation and water MDGs back on track, countries in sub-Saharan Africa need to spend at least 3.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) on these services. The report also calls on donor countries to double global aid flows to water, sanitation and hygiene by prioritising an additional US$10 billion per year.

The report also identifies that it is Africa’s poorest people who are being left behind; poor people in Africa are five times less likely to have access to adequate sanitation and over 15 times more likely to practise open defecation than Africa’s rich. According to WaterAid, governments should tackle this inequity through better targeting of water and sanitation resources and services to the poor.

The WaterAid report highlights that the shortfall in water and sanitation services costs Sub-Saharan African countries around 5% of GDP each year ($47.7 billion in 2009), more than is provided in development aid to the entire continent ($47.6 billion in 2009).

In a coordinated move, an international group of 34 female economists have also written an open letter to the leaders of eleven donor and developing country governments, to draw attention to the international water and sanitation crisis. In it they state:

"On the day you read this letter, 4,000 more children under five will die due to diseases brought about through unsafe water and poor sanitation. This equates to more child deaths than AIDS, malaria and measles combined, making it the biggest child killer in Sub-Saharan Africa."

  Every $1 invested in water and sanitation generates on average an $8 return; making it the deal that will deliver for billions of the poorest people across the globe. Barbara Frost, WaterAid’s Chief Executive, said:

"Governments in both donor and developing countries have it in their power to save hundreds of thousands of children’s lives every year by increasing what they spend on water and sanitation. Investments in these basic services are engines of economic growth and prosperity in developing countries, but unless we grasp this opportunity we will be failing the millions of poor people whose health, livelihoods and opportunities suffer because they lack these essential services."

The Off-track, off-target report is being published on the day WaterAid launches the Water Works campaign to urge governments across the world to do more to tackle the water and sanitation crisis. The campaign aims to show world leaders that taps and toilets are simple, effective and affordable, and that investing in these basic human needs is an urgent priority.

On World Toilet Day WaterAid will also join other members of the End Water Poverty campaign in 50 coordinated 'Crisis Talk' events in over 20 countries where local groups will be meeting with politicians to discuss the water and sanitation crisis.

In Tanzania, Crisis Talk events are being organised to coincide with the local government budgeting cycle; in the UK, WaterAid’s local supporter groups are meeting with their Members of Parliament; in Bangladesh regional events will be held where the public affected by poor water and sanitation provision will hold members of parliament to account.

Click here to read the full Report:

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Expo to boost business opportunities in Nigeria’s fast growing ICT sector

15 November 2011

The growth of the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) sector is at an all-time high in Africa and around the world. Mobile communications markets in Nigeria, Cameroon and the Ivory Coast alone earned combined revenue of $8.6 billion in 2009, according to business research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. This is estimated to reach $12.6 billion in 2016.

"There are a lot of growth opportunities in both the business and ICT sectors in Nigeria," said Protea Hirschel, ICT industry analyst at Frost and Sullivan, in a recent statement. "Broadband growth alone stands at 23% over the next six or seven years."

  W.AFRI-TEL, the West African Telecom Exhibition, which takes place from 8 to 10 May 2012 at the Eko Hotel fair ground in Lagos, Nigeria, will facilitate business opportunities in this booming sector, enabling exhibitors to gain access to the massive Nigerian telecom market that contains over 80 million mobile subscribers.

Now in its 11th year, W.AFRI-TEL is the only event of its kind in the region and the flagship event for the ICT sector. Collins Onuegbu, CEO of IT solutions company Signal Alliance, is also optimistic about the sector’s future.

"Nigeria’s economy is growing by 7% annually while other countries are struggling, and one of the growth drivers is technology. There are numerous opportunities in software, telecoms and all forms of infrastructure, and I believe the Nigerian economy must look to the ICT sector for it to develop and grow in the near future," he said.

Government backs growth

The Nigerian Government is also committed to the growth of the sector. Minister of Communications and Technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson, recently confirmed the newly established ministry will deliver on its mandate to provide robust and efficient ICT infrastructure in Nigeria.

"This includes optimising communications infrastructure in the area of digital content, domestic software applications, the delivery of private and public services, e-business and e-government, and promoting the use of ICT technology in all spheres of life," she confirmed.

"The purpose of this development is to deploy information and communication technology to drive transparency in government, improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of public service delivery and increase the contribution of the ICT industry to the GDP," continued Johnson.

John Thomson, Managing Director of Exhibition Management Services, organisers of the expo, says the potential for growing Nigeria’s ICT sector – the largest telecom market in Africa – is undisputed and largely untapped.

"Nigeria’s mobile market possesses tremendous growth potential, considering that the penetration rate was just 57% at the end of 2010," said Thomson.

"With rapidly improving mobile infrastructure and intense competition among mobile operators, expectations are that the number of mobile subscribers will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 15% during 2011 to 2014, with a penetration rate exceeding 88% by the end of 2014."

Nigeria accounts for 16% of the continent’s mobile subscriptions.


"As the only show of its kind in the region, W.AFRI-TEL has revolutionised Nigeria's telecoms sector,” says Thomson. "The expo offers a complete business-to-business matrix attracting exhibitors and trade visitors from Africa and abroad. It’s an exciting opportunity for the entire African telecom industry to come together and showcase their products to the world."

W.Afri-Tel Expo will serve up numerous networking opportunities for participants and act as a meeting ground for the entire industry. Showcasing the latest ICT technology and business solutions on offer makes this expo a must for traders looking for future breakthrough technology.

The 2012 W.AFRI-TEL will run alongside a newly-introduced trade expo - the West African International Trade Exhibition for Retail Products (WAITEX). Modelled on the highly successful Southern African International Trade Exhibition (SAITEX) held in Johannesburg annually for the last 18 years, the show provides a platform for exhibitors from around the world to access the West African market.

W.AFRI-TEL is endorsed by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON).
For more information on W.AFRI-TEL, contact John Thomson of Exhibition Management Services. Tel: +27 11 783-7250, e-mail or

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"Why I chose Dr. Kadi Sesay as my 2012 elections running mate"

12 November 2011

Dr. Kadi Sesay

After many months of procrastinating and rancour, Sierra Leone’s opposition SLPP party will today celebrate the appointment of former trade and industry minister - Dr. Kadi Sesay, as its 2012 presidential election running mate.

Taking place in Port Loko in the north of the country – the ancestral town of Dr. Sesay, the ceremony is expected to attract thousands of party supporters and well wishers of Dr. Kadi Sesay, who is also well known as a 'gender rights and democracy activitist' throughout Sierra Leone.


Dr. Sesay’s appointment alongside the party’s elected presidential candidate – Julius Maada Bio, does not come as a surprise. The SLPP is keen to present itself to the electorate as a credible and progressive party, putting 'equality of opportunity and fairness' at the heart of its vision for Sierra Leone’s development.

Although critics of SLPP have denounced her decision to accept the appointment, the Newstime Africa Newspaper describes Dr. Sesay as: "An outstanding public servant, who has managed to shy away from controversies that would damage her hard-earned reputation. It is extremely difficult for a politician in Africa to maintain a dignified record in office for a long period of time, but this once University professor has been a shining example of excellence in public service."

The empowerment of women in a society that economically and socially cannot do without its women folk – yet struggles to respect the equality of rights of women and girls, will play a much bigger role in the country’s politics.

Changes in the country’s demography show women outnumbering men significantly, and this trend is set to continue, with major implications for public policy in Sierra Leone.

But is this the reason why presidential candidate - Julius Maada Bio decided to appoint Dr. Sesay as his running mate in next year’s elections taking place on 17 November?

Speaking in a national radio broadcast two days ago, this is what he told the people of Sierra Leone:

"Today I have the honour and pleasure to name my Running Mate for the Presidential election slated for 2012.


"That person is no other than Hon. Dr. Kadi Sesay. Kadi is a Temne and was born in Rotifunk, Moyamba District. Both of her parents hailed from Port Loko District and came from a strong Muslim heritage.

"Kadi Sesay is a household name in Sierra Leone. It means many things to many people. In politics, she is commonly referred to as the Iron Lady of the SLPP, the peace maker, the consensus builder etc, etc. Outside of politics, Kadi is a mother, a policy advisor and a teacher.

"In all she has given 30 years of dedicated service to the country in the field of teaching, leading democracy and peace building initiatives, and managing the state at ministerial and party political levels. By appointing Kadi, I believe I am fulfilling many promises at once:

"First and foremost, judging by her track record, Kadi deserves the appointment in her own right as a person who has distinguished herself in her professional calling and even beyond.

"Secondly, she is a woman. Indeed, a woman of humility, respect, honesty, commitment and self-worth. By this appointment she becomes the first Sierra Leone woman to rise almost to the pinnacle of leadership in the SLPP.

"The women of Sierra Leone have been asking for a quota of 30 per cent participation in public life. I sincerely believe they deserve more than that and my Party and I are committed to enhancing the status of women in this country.

"Thirdly, she is not only a woman; she is a woman from a traditional and humble home in the North. By this appointment, she is not only a trail setter; she is also a role model and a symbol of hope especially for the girl child.

"Fourthly, Kadi is from the North-West so to speak just as I am from the South-East. Forging a sense of unity and destiny between the peoples of the South-East and North-West so that they can work together and gel together as one nation remains the cardinal aspiration of the SLPP as symbolized in the motto “One Country, One People”.

"Fifthly and lastly, in the course of my campaign for the position of Flag Bearer of the SLPP, I promised not only the people of the North but those of Port Loko District in particular that my Running Mate shall come from that District. Of course, the scenario then was different.

"Kadi was an aspirant for the position of Flag Bearer while Dr. Abass Bundu, also from the District, was one of my strongest supporters in my bid for the position of Flag Bearer. I pay him the highest tribute for showing selflessness, understanding and broadmindedness.

The SLPP presidential candidate also told the nation:

"Today we mark yet another milestone in the political development of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and its historic relationship with the Northern Region. As you may be aware, the SLPP was the product of an amalgamation of various interest groups from both the then Colony and Protectorate.

"The Party also brought together many great personalities from every corner of Sierra Leone to think and act as one. From the North were such eminent political figures as Amadu Wurie of Gbinti, Y.D. Sesay of Batkanu, Kande Bureh and Siaka Stevens.

"In their company was a huge retinue of Paramount Chiefs the most notable being Adikali Modu and Bai Koblo Pathbana, Bai Shebora Komkanda and Kompa Yek of Port Loko District; Bai Farama Tass and Bai Shebora Yumkella of Kambia District; Almamy Sorie Conteh of Tonkolili; Bai Lansana Marah of Koinadugu; and P.C. Alimamy Dura of Bombali District.

"The seed all of these great men sowed together germinated and blossomed throughout the length and breadth of Sierra Leone in ways they themselves could hardly have imagined – the seed of unity, freedom and equality of opportunity for all Sierra Leoneans.

"These are the great values that the SLPP stands for.

"To the Founding Fathers and many other fallen heroes who contributed to the development and growth of the SLPP in the North, I pay special tribute."

With all eyes now set on the 2012 presidential, parliamentary, chieftaincy and local elections, Bio is fully aware of the tough challenges ahead for his SLPP party, which just four years ago lost by a narrow margin to president Koroma’s All Peoples Congress party - but not after a re-run of the election and the opposition PMDC entering into a coalition with president Koroma.

But Bio appears confident. "Fellow Sierra Leoneans, The stage is thus set for the SLPP to bounce back to power in 2012. I know you will make this certain by voting massively for the SLPP and yours truly," he told the people of Sierra Leone, as he ended his nationwide broadcast.

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Top Sierra Leonean head of Canadian Intelligence Review Board resigns

11 November 2011

Dr. Arthur Porter


Dr. Arthur Porter, who until yesterday was the Chairman of  Canada’s intelligence Review Board has tendered his resignation to the Prime Minister, following Newspaper report of his 'undeclared financial dealings' and external political relationships.

Dr. Porter was trying to broker a $120 Million finance package with an Israeli businessman and the Russian government, on behalf of president Koroma of Sierra Leone.

He was recently honoured by president Koroma with the title of Ambassador Plenipotentiary of Sierra Leone.


It is not certain whether Dr. Porter will also lose his other lucrative public sector positions in Canada as a result of this fiasco. He is the head of one of Canada's largest health care providers - McGill University Health Centre.  

News of his resignation, though disappointing to many Sierra Leoneans and expected, was reported yesterday by the Canadian National Post, which broke the story days ago about Dr. Porter’s financial affairs many regard as "unbecoming of the head of a Canadian government intelligence agency".

Reporting for the Canadian National Post, this is what Kathryn Blaze Carlson and Brian Hutchinson said:

Arthur Porter, the beleaguered chair of Canada’s spy review board, has resigned amid revelations of his business dealings with a notorious international lobbyist.

"Dr. Porter has submitted his resignation to me, and I have accepted it, effective immediately," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

Dr. Porter was the federally appointed chairman of Canada’s Security and Intelligence Review Committee, which reviews the activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, but has offered his resignation after the National Post first reported this week Dr. Porter had wired $200,000 in personal funds to Ari Ben-Menashe, a Montreal-based businessman who often acts as a middleman in negotiations between the Russian Federation and developing countries.

In June 2010, Dr. Porter signed a consultancy agreement with Mr. Ben-Menashe’s private company, which obliged Mr. Ben-Menashe to secure a $US 120-million grant from Russia for “infrastructure development in Sierra Leone” managed by Dr. Porter’s own company, Africa Infrastructure Group.

Dr. Porter has mining stakes in Sierra Leone, a country battered by years of war and corruption, and was named by the president of the country to the position of Ambassador Plenipotentiary — a rare title defined as someone with authority to represent a head of state.

Questions arose, then, as to whether Mr. Porter, was in a conflict of interest, whether by working with an international lobbyist on private business dealings outside Canada or by virtue of his plenipotentiary title with a foreign government.

"(The latter) is a complete conflict of interest and it raises the spectre of the potential for foreign influence in Canadian affairs — sensitive Canadian affairs," Wesley Wark, a specialist in the history of intelligence services and national security policy at the University of Toronto, said shortly before Mr. Harper’s announcement.

"The simple fact that someone is on the one hand serving in a very sensitive Canadian position, and on the other hand holds an appointment — however honorific — for a foreign government, is just not on."

Dr. Porter, who was appointed to the committee in 2008 and then promoted to chair last September, told the National Post earlier this week he was not aware of Mr. Ben-Menashe’s background, which includes multimillion-dollar deals with Zimbabwean strongman Robert Mugabe.

Mr. Ben-Menashe was also arrested in the United States in 1999 and charged with illegally attempting to sell three military transport airplanes to Iran. He went to trial and was acquitted in 1990.

Peter St. John, a security and terrorism expert at the University of Manitoba who helped establish the spy review board back in 1984, said board members have to "stay squeaky clean" given the sensitive nature of the job.
According to the committee, members have "access to all information held by CSIS, no matter how highly classified that information may be," with the exception of federal Cabinet secrets.

"This is a very responsible position that deals with Canada’s intelligence," Prof. St. John said. "You have access to an extraordinary amount of information at high levels of secrecy. You have to be very discrete, and you have to have your hands clean, all the time."

Mr. Harper said a process for replacing the chair will begin "shortly", and said Carol Skelton — a current board member — will act as chair until a new one is appointed.

"I would like to thank Dr. Porter for his service on the Security Intelligence Review Committee and to his country," Mr. Harper said in a statement.

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Ruling APC party MPs vote of no confidence on Deputy Speaker of parliament - Chukuma Johnson

10 November 2011

With a parliamentary majority of more than two-thirds, it should be expected that an election held in the wells of Sierra Leone’s parliament for the position of deputy speaker, would be easily won by the ruling APC party's incumbent candidate - Chukuma Johnson. He did not succeed, after failing to win the confidence of his own party colleagues.

Chukuma Johnson has served as deputy speaker of parliament for over four years and needed to poll a two-thirds majority to be able to continue to serve as deputy speaker.

But political analysts say that he has fallen out of favour with many of his APC parliamentary colleagues, who regard him as arrogant and a thorn in their sides in the fight against corruption.

It is understood that Chukuma Johnson was recently responsible for a parliamentary committee's decision to suspend the funding of the country’s National Revenue Authority (NRA), whilst president Koroma was visiting Germany, to the annoyance of DFID officials.

The incumbent deputy speaker of the House - Chukuma Johnson, was contesting his parliamentary job against the popular opposition SLPP political activist - Honourable Bernadette Lahai, who is said to have polled 38 votes to Chukuma’s 42 votes.  A majority of 82 is required.

What is evidently clear is that the majority of ruling APC MPs sitting in parliament did not vote for their political ally - Chukuma Johnson.

In the absence of an outright majority, the Speaker of parliament - Abel Stronge has decided to hold another election in accordance with the country’s Constitution.

It is not understood whether president Koroma will now urge the party’s whip in parliament to line up his parliamentary MPs to vote for deputy speaker Johnson at the next polling.

A win by the opposition SLPP's Honourable Bernadette Lahai, will most certainly spell a huge morale victory for the SLPP party in a parliament that is dominated and controlled by the ruling APC MPs.

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SLPP to end uncertainty over choice of 2012 presidential election running mate

10 November 2011

Unconfirmed reports from Freetown say that the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party will name its 2012 presidential election running mate tomorrow Friday, 11 November, at the party's office in Freetown.

  As expected, Dr. Kadi Sesay is poised to be named alongside the elected presidential candidate – Julius Maada Bio.

Dr. Sesay was one of the 19 candidates who fought in the party’s leadership election early this year, but lost comprehensively to the former military strongman – Maada Bio.

Although many in the party have been expecting Maada Bio to name Usu Bio Kamara as his running mate, what is obvious is that in arriving at what must have been a very difficult decision for Bio, the most important question in his mind would have been:

"which of the contenders will help maximise the party's chances of winning the general elections slated for November 2012?"

Given the party’s very strong and deep-rooted foundation in the southern half of the country, it is absolutely crucial that Bio appoints a running mate of northern and western (Freetown) origin, for the party to have any chance of winning the 2012 elections.

There are at least five contenders for the position of SLPP presidential running mate: Usu Boi Kamara, John Ernest Leigh, Kadi Sesay, Abbass Bundu, and Alpha Wurie, all of whom had lost the leadership election – but had vowed to stay in the party to help win the 2012 elections.

  The demographic structure of Sierra Leone shows that over two-thirds of the country’s population are under the age of 35 years and the majority are women.

It is these two factors, in addition to the regional-ethnic balance that would most seriously task the mind and decision process of Maada Bio in the next twenty-four hours, prior to announcing the name of his 2012 elections running mate.

Irrespective of whose name is drawn out of the hat, that decision is bound to cause ripples across the deep fault lines opened up at the recent leadership election.

  But the fact remains that Dr. Kadi Sesay is the best option, if the party’s objective is to galvanise those fault lines and appeal to women voters across the country - advocating for equal rights and the elevation of women into leadership through 'affirmative action'.

Kadi Sesay is a northerner with a strong political base in the country’s capital – Freetown, and a household name that resonates among the female constituents both in Freetown and the north of the country.

She is a former lecturer at the University of Sierra Leone, and a Trade and Industry Minister in the Kabbah led SLPP government, which was defeated by Ernest Koroma’s APC at the 2007 polls.

Few Sierra Leoneans would dispute her political experience and professional credentials.

With the naming of the SLPP's 2012 presidential election running mate tomorrow, one thing is certain apart from ending months of speculation: the party can now get on with the serious business of appointing its shadow cabinet or campaign team - responsible for drafting the party's 2012 elections manifesto, as the huge task of fund raising unfolds.

With president Koroma's government fast running out of policy ideas and credible initiatives aimed at tackling poverty and joblessness in the country, inflation crippling every household; many in Sierra Leone - especially the youth, would welcome tomorrow's announcement at the SLPP party office in Freetown.

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Why is the Anti-Corruption Commission reluctant to investigate the Freetown City Council?

8 November 2011

When critics of the Koroma led government castigate the president for failing to fully put his zero tolerance for corruption to a test, they are quickly labelled as detractors. Not only has the president failed in curbing corruption in high places, but is stubbornly refusing to ensure that the Anti-Corruption Commission takes its investigation wherever evidence of financial malfeasance and impropriety leads.

Recent Auditor General’s Reports have shown alarming levels of misappropriation of funds across various local authorities in the country – totalling hundreds of billions of Leones, and the Freetown City Council is no exception.

Mayor - Herbert George-Williams

  For the last two consecutive years, the Mayor - Herbert George-Williams, management and elected Councillors of the Freetown City Council, have faced huge difficulty balancing the Council’s Accounts, as tax receipts decline amid rising expenditure and allegations of corruption.

Since 2008, the management of the Council has relied on central government subventions in order to meet the costs of salaries. Local service provision - such as cleaning of the city suffers in consequence, as street cleaners and refuse collectors resort to frequent industrial actions – including 'work to rule', with growing mountains of uncollected refuse now becoming a major part of the city’s landmark.

The 2009 report of the country’s Auditor General shows a whopping Le710, 500,000 missing from the Council’s accounts.


The Mayor and senior management have been accused of misappropriation and misuse of public funds, prompting the country’s parliamentary committee responsible for public accounts oversight to carry out an investigation into the allegations.

  Some of the allegations of corruption levied against the Mayor, elected Councillors and senior management of the Council include:

Failure to implement procurement regulations according to law.

"It was observed that an amount to the tune of Le183,678,000 relating to Consultancy Services for the drawings of structures, Site Clearance etc., was given to three different contractors without the knowledge of the Procurement Unit, thereby demonstrating the procurement procedures were not adhered to, and the contract agreement was not produced for inspection."

"The sum of Le959, 298,890 was discovered from among the contractors plus additional payment made with respect to the Sewa Ground Market, but was not stated in the financial statement."

"Le46,273,976.60 were deducted from suppliers but there was no NRA receipts to prove whether those monies were submitted to NRA."

Gross negligence and failure to keep proper records in accordance with the rules laid down by the Auditor Office:

"Examination of payment vouchers presented for audit inspection revealed that payments made totalling Le1,069,139,935.25 were without the relevant supporting documents; receipts, local purchase orders, and that payments were made by Council amounting to Le770,634,405.05 for which payment vouchers were not presented for audit inspection."

Freetown City Council Chief Administrator - Bowenson Phillips

  "The sum of Le213,098,064 was disbursed by the council not having the signature of neither the Chief Administrator nor the Treasurer. The sum of Le164,910,000 was paid in respect of 'operation sweep' revenue collection drive, and other related activities, but there was no signature of the recipient of the money."

Although the parliamentary public accounts committee is investigating those corruption allegations, many in the country are dumbfounded as to why the Anti-Corruption Commission has not stepped in to carry out its own investigations as required by Law.

With the dismal failure of the Anti-Corruption Commission to pursue and successfully convict several high profile officials of the government for corruption, observers say that it is unlikely the president will authorise an ACC investigation into the affairs of the Freetown City Council.


The Mayor of Freetown who himself was recently named in a major Report into political violence in Freetown,  is a close friend of president Koroma and a key player in the ruling APC party.

Political observers believe that the mayor is "one of the president's sacred cows".

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Standard Bank loans African Minerals $130 Million to speed up iron ore production in Sierra Leone

5 November 2011

Standard Bank yesterday announced that it has entered into a two five-year loan deal totalling $130 Million with African Minerals Ltd's (AML), to help speed up development of the company’s first phase Tonkolili iron ore project in Sierra Leone.

This loan deal Standard Bank says "will help boost the Sierra Leone economy".

According to Standard Bank, the $130 Million loan is in two parts: $40 Million made out to a local South African manufacturer - RRL Grindrod, which is part of the JSE listed Grindrod Group - to supply 20 locomotives on lease to African Minerals. That portion of the loan was insured by the Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa.

The second tranche loan of $90 Million, was given directly to African Minerals, so as to purchase ore transporting wagons and other mining equipment.

"The locomotives and wagons will be used to haul iron ore along a 200km rail line, of which 130km has been newly constructed in the past 10 months, linking the mine in the Tonkolili district in northern Sierra Leone to the port of Pepel. Under Phase 1, up to 15 million tonnes of iron ore a year will be exported. Sierra Leone becomes the third African country to produce significant volumes of iron ore after South Africa and Mauritania," says Standard Bank.

Conservative estimates put the potential revenue to be generated by Phase 1 of the project for Sierra Leone and AML at about $2 Billion a year.

Sierra Leone holds some of the largest iron ore reserves in Africa. Tonkolili's resources are over 12-billion tons. However, to date the country has been unable to benefit fully from this resource because of insufficient rail and port capacity to transport the ore from the mines to export markets.

Iron ore extraction is widely seen as one of the engines that will drive the reconstruction of Sierra Leone's economy, which had been ravaged by years of civil war.

David Humphrey, Standard Bank's Director for Structured Asset Finance and Leasing, says the funding is significant as the locomotives and rail infrastructure upgrade will enable Sierra Leone to resume iron ore exports after they were halted about 25 years ago.

  "Sierra Leone is a country that has received marginal foreign direct investment, and we are delighted that by supporting our clients, RRL Grindrod and AML, Standard Bank has been able to inject a substantial sum into Sierra Leone, more than it has received in the past from traditional donor agencies. By being able to fund the rolling stock for the newly completed rail line between Tonkolili and the port means we have been able to play a major part in Sierra Leone's ability to export iron ore again," says Humphrey.


According to Humphrey, the increased exports will have a strong multiplier effect on the Sierra Leone economy as the country will benefit from new jobs, taxes and royalties.

"We see this loan as an important catalyst for Sierra Leone's economic growth. Mining and its associated infrastructure is a sector where Standard Bank has globally recognised expertise. This transaction again demonstrates our capabilities to provide such funding for the right projects across borders, even in countries where up to now we do have not had a direct presence. The investment is also a strong example of how Standard Bank supports projects that help unlock Africa's wealth and move the continent forward," says Humphrey.

He also said that; "There is a number of major infrastructure projects underway or planned right across the continent and we are confident that Standard Bank can help in the financing of these initiatives."

African Minerals made its first shipment of iron ore from Sierra Leone to China last week.

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President Koroma assist 754 Pilgrims in Mecca

Alhaji M.B. Jalloh - Information Attaché, Saudi Arabia

3 November 2011



Head of the Sierra Leone 2011 Hajj Mission to Mecca, yesterday handed President Ernest Bai Koroma’s charity payment of US$100  to each of the 754 Sierra Leonean pilgrims performing this year’s Muslim pilgrimage in Mecca.

The money is to help pay for the lamb needed to perform the  sacrifice.

Alhaji M.S Kargbo who is also the Special Assistant to the President on Political Affairs, said the gesture was as a result of a request made to the President by the pilgrims, shortly before they left Sierra Leone last month.

In a ceremony held in downtown Mecca, the Hajj Mission Chief told the pilgrims that the President appreciates Islam, and has been able to cut across religious and tribal barriers in the country, since his assumption of office in 2007.

Receiving the gesture, various speakers prayed for the President’s continued good health, God’s guidance and sustainable strength to enable him achieve his set goals. They also prayed for sustainable peace and prosperity in Sierra Leone.


Most of the recipients said that they will continue to stand behind President Ernest Bai Koroma at all times. "For some of us, no matter what, we will stand by him day and night and at all times."

They also said that President Koroma has never let Muslims  down, as he is always at the forefront of all their wishes and endeavours.

"This is the first time Sierra Leone has experienced such a positive stance towards the development of Islam, especially as it is from a leader with a different religious background," they said unanimously.

Many of the pilgrims interviewed were very much overwhelmed by the gesture.

The ceremony was witnessed by Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Permanent Representative to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), H.E Wusu Munu and other high profile dignitaries currently taking part in the Hajj rituals - Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to Ghana, H.E Osman F. Yassaneh, Deputy Leader of Parliament, Hon. Mohamed Soufian Kargbo and the Deputy Mayor of Freetown, Gibril I. B. Kanu.


Performance of the sacrificial Lamb is one of the Hajj rituals which pilgrims offer on the 10th day of the Hajj Month.

Meanwhile, the Hajj ministry says in a statement last night that many of the 2.5 million pilgrims for this year’s pilgrimage will leave for the Mina valley, located five km east of Mecca, on Thursday evening in preparation for the annual event, which culminates in the standing at Arafat on Saturday, 5th November.

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"The Gambia is making important progress in its fight against poverty" – says IMF

2 November 2011

With presidential election slated for 24 November, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission to the Gambia, led by Mr. David Dunn ended its visit yesterday, after two weeks of intensive talks with various stakeholders and government officials to review economic progress.

  The economy will dominate debate in the coming weeks, as Gambians struggle to cope with the global economic downturn and its effect on the country’s tourism industry.

According to BBC News Africa: "President Yahya Jammeh is standing for re-election but said he had no plans to campaign as his victory was "a foregone conclusion" and only God could remove him from power. Opposition parties said in October 2011 that they had failed to forge an alliance that might have improved their chances of unseating the incumbent."

The IMF team assessed the government’s efforts in managing its financial and exchange rate policies, in line with Article IV of its charter, and at the end of its review issued the following statement:

"Over the past few years, The Gambian economy has achieved robust growth, despite the prolonged global economic crisis. The Gambia’s Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by around 6½ percent a year during 2008-2010, driven mainly by agriculture.

"Tourism and remittances, however, were hit hard by the global crisis. This year, although tourism has begun to show signs of recovery, GDP growth is projected to slow down slightly (to about 5½ percent), as poor weather conditions in some areas of the country have harmed crop production.

"The 12-month inflation rate has dipped to about 4 percent in recent months and is projected to remain below 5 percent for 2011 as a whole. Gross international reserves remain at a comfortable level at just under 5 months of imports.

"The Gambia, however, continues to face a number of challenges, notably a heavy debt burden. In particular, large fiscal deficits in recent years led to a surge in domestic debt, most of which consists of short-term T-bills that must be regularly re-financed. Interest on domestic debt is on the rise and now consumes 18½ percent of government revenues. Including obligations on external debt, interest consumes 22½ percent of government revenues.

"To address the high cost and risks of this debt, the government has taken bold actions to curb new domestic borrowing. Indeed, the mission commends the government for exercising strong fiscal discipline so far this year—an election year—despite further revenue shortfalls.

"By strictly controlling spending, new domestic borrowing is on track to be just over 2½ percent of GDP this year, down from about 4½ percent of GDP in 2010. This improved performance has contributed to lower inflation and a drop in T-bill yields (by about 3 percentage points since late last year)

"The government aims to continue making progress on easing its debt burden, by gradually reducing new domestic borrowing to about ½ percent of GDP by 2014. The government will also restrict external borrowing to concessional loans with soft terms.

"The mission commends the government for observing strict limits on borrowing from the CBG, including the elimination of its overdrafts. This has allowed the CBG to implement a more consistent and proactive monetary policy. At last week’s meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee, the CBG lowered its policy interest rate for the first time in 2011, by 1 percentage point, to 14 percent.

"If inflation remains subdued, there may be scope for further cuts in the policy rate going forward.

"Falling tax revenues is a major concern. Tax revenues (relative to GDP) have fallen steadily since 2007, and are down to less than 12½ percent of GDP in 2011 (3½ percentage points of GDP below their peak in 2007). At the same time, the tax base has eroded substantially, while the remaining taxpayers face high tax rates.

"To improve this situation and restore revenues, the IMF mission strongly encourages the government to consider a comprehensive tax reform over the next few years, building upon the planned introduction of a value-added tax (VAT). Simplification would facilitate tax compliance, and major improvements in tax administration by the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) would be essential.

"The mission recommends that government immediately implement fully its fuel pricing formula, including a specific excise tax, and rigorously adhere to the monthly price adjustments going forward. Implicit fuel subsidies led to substantial tax revenue losses, which could have been used for other priority programs that more directly benefit the poor.

"The IMF mission observes that The Gambia’s banking system as a whole is well capitalized and liquid. Still, the CBG must remain vigilant with its supervision of the system. Banks’ nonperforming loans have begun to fall, but they are still high, and some banks continue to incur losses. We welcome the CBG’s ongoing efforts to build capacity to conduct stress testing for the banking system. The IMF will continue to support this effort with technical assistance. The IMF mission also commends the CBG for taking immediate steps to improve the performance of the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB), which started operating last year.

"To benefit from lower interest rates, it is important that borrowers establish good credit histories. The CRB plays a central role in informing banks about creditworthy clients.

"The Gambia is making important progress in its fight against poverty, particularly in the areas of education and some health indicators. Progress on reducing income poverty is also anticipated from the inclusiveness of the strong growth of agriculture in recent years.

"The government plans to build on this progress with the launching in the coming months of the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE) 2012-15. The mission commends the authorities for the serious effort in the preparation of the PAGE.

"However, given the government’s heavy debt burden and falling tax revenues, financing the PAGE faces some major challenges. To ensure that scarce resources are used effectively, the mission encourages the government to continue its ongoing progress on public financial management and transparency, especially in the budget process.

"Although there is some scope for additional borrowing on concessional terms, greater assistance from donor grants would be most welcomed. Private sector participation is also an important option—particularly in the energy sector—but it is critical that proper institutional arrangements are in place.

"In the energy sector, despite some steps underway, NAWEC lacks financial stability and regulatory issues, such as cost recovery and automatic cost-of-fuel adjustments in electricity tariffs, need to be resolved. In this regard, the mission urges the government to work together with the World Bank to put in place an effective energy strategy as soon as possible.

"The mission commends the authorities for preparing a budget policy paper for the 2012 budget and the submission of the audited 2007 government accounts to the National Assembly on October 31, 2011.

"To reduce the current backlog, it is expected that the audited accounts for subsequent years will be prepared and submitted to the National Assembly at an accelerated pace.

"In 2012, the priority areas of public financial management include improving transparency in the budget process, strengthening budget execution, and building capacity in internal and external audit functions.

"The mission wishes to express its gratitude to the Gambian authorities for their hospitality and the candid and constructive spirit in which the discussions were held. The Executive Board of the IMF is expected to discuss the report of the mission in January 2012."

The mission met with Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Mambury Njie, Governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG) Amadou Colley and other senior officials of the government and the CBG.

It also met representatives of the National Assembly, political parties, the business community, civil society, labor unions, students, and The Gambia's development partners.

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Sierra Rutile increasing its investment in Sierra Leone

29 October 2011

Sierra Rutile Ltd. is increasing its production of rutile to 200,000 tons a year, as a key operational objective in the Bonthe District of Sierra Leone. This will make Sierra Rutile one of the world's largest producers of this precious mineral.

Following a recent serious accident involving the capsizing of its dredging platform, the company has invested in two new platforms. The accident had raised doubts as to the company's safety policy.

Sierra Rutile is investing over $170 Million in expanding its mining operations in Sierra Leone, the company reported in a statement in Freetown last week.

Hundreds of jobs are expected to be created by the company by the second half of next year. The planned increase in mining production is significant for the country’s economy, which is currently struggling to weather the global economic downturn.

Although there are concerns regarding the environmental impact of the proposed increase in mining production, the company has assured the government and local communities of its willingness to comply with the country’s environmental Laws.

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Ghana’s overall economic growth is projected to reach 13½ percent this year – says IMF

29 October 2011

The International Monetary Fund (IMF)
were in Accra, Ghana last week, to conduct the fifth review of Ghana’s economic program under the IMF’s Extended Credit Facility, and they were not disappointed with their findings.

At the end of the mission, IMF team leader for Ghana, Ms.
Christina Daseking issued the following statement:

"The stability of Ghana’s economy has improved significantly since the start of the government’s 2009 economic program supported by the IMF. The then sizeable fiscal and external current account imbalances have been greatly reduced, the inflation rate has declined to single digits, and the stock of international reserves has risen to about US$5 billion, up from only US$2 billion at the end of 2008.

"A combination of fiscal consolidation and monetary easing in 2011 has reinforced the favourable economic setting and contributed to a robust and broad-based performance of the economy. Boosted further by the start of oil production, overall economic growth is projected to reach 13½ percent this year and more than 8 percent in 2012, with average inflation expected to remain broadly unchanged at a rate of 8½-9 percent.

"The main risks to the generally favourable outlook arise from possible adverse developments in world commodity prices and foreign investment inflows, and from public spending pressures ahead of the 2012 elections.

"Fiscal outcomes for the first half of 2011, together with preliminary data for the third quarter, indicate a strong performance. All quantitative performance criteria and indicative targets for end-June 2011 were met, and an annual deficit below the current target of 5.7 percent of non-oil gross domestic product (GDP) should be feasible.

"The lower deficit reflects an impressive increase in tax revenues, where reforms are beginning to bear fruit, but also a shortfall in foreign-financed capital spending. The wage bill, on the other hand, is now expected to absorb a larger share of public expenditure and non-oil GDP.

"This reflects both the sizeable costs of moving public sector employees onto a uniform pay structure - the 'single spine' - and a 2011 base pay increase that was well above the rate of inflation. As a result, there is a risk that inflationary pressures could rise again, unless domestically-financed spending, can be kept in check.

"Plans for a significant scaling up of infrastructure investment call for new revenue measures and restraint in other spending areas in the 2012 budget. The government has secured a large financing package on nonconcessional terms to finance critical infrastructure investments, some of which are expected to be self-financing.

"The mission agreed with the government on the importance of infrastructure investment to boost Ghana’s growth potential and economic development. Thus, discussions focused on the appropriate evaluation and phasing of investment projects and on supportive revenue and expenditure measures to create the space for larger capital spending, while preserving macroeconomic stability and the sustainability of public debt.

"This is particularly important in light of the prospective decline in Ghana’s access to concessional financing reflecting its new middle-income status.

"On the revenue side, the mission encouraged the government to continue its efforts to strengthen tax administration. It also supported adoption of additional tax policy measures, particularly in the area of natural resources, where taxation is low in comparison with peer countries. Passage of new legislation to broaden the tax base will also be important.

"On the expenditure side, key priorities are sustainable management of the wage bill, strengthening of public financial management - where some reforms have taken longer than expected - and the regular adjustment of energy and other regulated prices to avoid costly subsidies and the need for large and disruptive adjustments in the future.

"Discussions with the Bank of Ghana focused on the challenges of maintaining low inflation, while responding to volatility in the foreign exchange market. The mission supported a policy of targeted intervention to smooth excessive exchange rate volatility and manage liquidity, while allowing the exchange rate to adjust to more lasting trends. It further encouraged the Bank of Ghana to stand ready to adjust policy rates should upside risks to inflation become acute, stressing the importance of effective coordination of fiscal and monetary policy in maintaining low inflation.

"During the mission, agreement was reached on a wide range of policy issues. Discussions will continue over the coming weeks on a few outstanding issues related to the government’s 2012 economic program. Pending agreement on these issues, the mission will recommend to the IMF Executive Board the completion of the fifth review in December 2011."

The mission met with President John Evans Atta Mills, Finance Minister Kwabena Duffuor, Bank of Ghana Governor Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, other senior officials, members of parliament, and representatives from the private sector, academia, and civil society.

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Princess Anne concludes her historic visit to Sierra Leone

28 October 2011

  Her Royal Highness Princess Anne and her husband Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, have ended their four days visit to Freetown, which started on the 23 October. This auspicious Royal visit was made in celebration of Sierra Leone’s 50th anniversary of independence.

The visit also marked almost 50 years to the month, since Her Majesty the Queen visited Sierra Leone in 1961, cementing the deep friendship and historical ties that binds both countries.

Arriving late on Sunday night, the Royal couple’s first taste of Sierra Leone was crossing the bay from Mahera to Freetown, a truly unique airport arrival experience.

They awoke the following morning to the bustling sights and sounds of Wilberforce, and then wound down Hill Cot Road for a call on His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma.

During their meeting, the Princess and President discussed the depth and breadth of the historical links shared between Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom, and enjoyed a lively conversation about the strength of the 21st century relationship.

Their discussions built on a similar conversation during the recent visit of Henry Bellingham MP, the UK’s Minister for Africa.

Keen to experience more of Sierra Leone and to meet its people, the Princess undertook a busy schedule of visits throughout the peninsula.

Talking with businessmen and women, she learned that British and Sierra Leonean companies are working well together across a range of sectors, with the value of trade between the two countries almost doubled during 2010. This dynamic partnership will contribute immensely to the prosperity of both countries.

Princess Anne (far Right) with the minister of health - Zainab Bangura (centre) at the PCMH Hospital


The Royal Family strongly supports development and human rights work around the globe, and the Princess is no exception.

She was keen to use her first visit to Sierra Leone to see for herself the progress made in health, education and equality - since the end of the war.

Staff at the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital (PCMH) described for her the significant role that the UK’s development assistance continues to play in helping to build Sierra Leone’s future; especially through the Free Health Care Initiative.


The Save the Children Fund showed her their work with vulnerable groups at Kroo Bay. The Princess is President of SCF’s UK chapter. She was pleased to feel a personal connection to the ongoing work of British aid organisations and volunteers in Sierra Leone.

The Princess rounded off her stay in 'Sweet Salone' by taking the time to explore the country's diverse culture, environment and history.

She visited Bunce Island and spent an enjoyable afternoon amongst the wildlife at the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, both of which highlight the potential for a vibrant tourism trade in Sierra Leone - bringing further investments, jobs and development.

Just after lunchtime on Wednesday, 26 October 2011, a small crowd gathered at Lungi to bid a fond farewell to Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal at the finale of an historic royal visit to Sierra Leone.

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How much value-for-money is the Anti-Corruption Commission giving to the tax payer?

25 October 2011

  Last Thursday, 20th October 2011, Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission Czar - Mr. Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara told president Koroma at State House, that the ACC had recovered a total of Le867,906 Million in fines and levies paid to the state by those found guilty of corruption so far this year.

According to State House statement, Mr. Kamara presented the ACC’s 2011 Mid-Term Report and its Strategic Plan for 2011-2013.

But what is not known is the year-on-year success rate of the ACC, with respect to the number of convictions; the costs of investigating and prosecuting cases; and the revenue generated from recovered corruption fines and levies.

With the annual cost of running the ACC estimated at over Le5.9 Billion, it is necessary that the tax payer feels comfortable and reassured of the level of value-for-money that they receive from the work of the ACC.

The ACC chief received a 50% increase in monthly salary early this year - rising to almost Le50 Million.

Critics say that at an annual salary of over Le600 Million, the ACC Boss must be expected to generate at least Le5 Billion, which is equivalent to the annual cost of running the ACC.

Hence, few in Sierra Leone will be impressed with the Le867 Million cheque handed over to president Koroma last Thursday by the ACC Czar, especially as State House reports that: 'Mr. Kamara acknowledged the political will the ACC is enjoying from the leadership of the commission’s oversight personnel and president Koroma, in the execution of its duties.'

"There has been no political interference at all in the work of the ACC from the government," the ACC Czar told the media.

So, a lot more is therefore expected of the ACC, given the overwhelming political support it enjoys from the president.

Mr. Kamara reported that 'a survey recently conducted indicates the effectiveness of President Koroma’s zero tolerant in the fight against corruption, has resulted to an increase in government revenue and rapid reduction of corruption'.

But no evidence was presented by Mr. Kamara during his State House presentation, in support of this claim.

  The Anti-Corruption Commission's '2011 Mid-term Review of performance Report' has not yet been published, and public confidence in the ACC is bound to remain very low, until such time that the Report is published.

Indeed, as State House itself reports; 'Mr. Kamara said that since the enactment of the ACC Act in 2008, the commission has so far been able to raise over Le5 Billion Leones.'

But does the ACC represent value-for-money, when the total cost of running the ACC since 2008 has exceeded Le15 Billion?

ACC records show that in 2008, the amount of money recovered from those convicted was Le772 Million.

And in 2009, Le1.8 Billion was raised, from a total of eleven people found guilty of corruption in that year, by the former ACC chief – Abdul Tejan Cole.

In response to Mr. Kamara’s presentation, President Koroma is said to have 'instructed the ACC Commissioner to intensify the campaign and put a seal on corrupt practices in Sierra Leone, by sniffing out the people’s monies from the wrong hands and bring them into government’s coffers'.

But at the present pace and intensity, it is difficult to conclude that the ACC is doing very well.

"I must say that I am very happy with the progress made by the ACC in the fight against corruption. The transparency international’s acknowledgment of our efforts in the eradication of corruption, and the World Bank award have indicated that we are making progress in the fight against corruption," president Koroma told the ACC Czar.

Although president koroma is satisfied with the performance of the ACC in tackling corruption in Sierra Leone, questions remain unanswered as to whether the ACC is giving value-for-money to tax payers and most importantly - winning the fight against the president's zero tolerance for corruption.

With the 2012 general and presidential elections just twelve months away, the performance of the ACC in combating corruption will become a major campaign issue, in a country where poverty and low economic growth continues to destroy lives, and average daily income is less than $1 Dollar.  

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Visit to Sierra Leone of Her Royal Highness - The Princess Royal

21 October 2011

  Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, accompanied by her husband Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, will visit Freetown for the first time from 23-26 October to take part in the ongoing celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Sierra Leone’s independence.

This will also mark almost 50 years to the month since Her Majesty the Queen’s visit in 1961.

The visit highlights the deep roots Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom share as well as the lively modern relationship. The Princess Royal follows the successful visit of Mr Henry Bellingham, Minister for Africa, who represented the UK during the 50th anniversary of independence celebrations in April this year in Freetown.

  During the visit The Princess Royal will be received at State House by H.E. President Ernest Bai Koroma and have the opportunity to visit charities with which she is associated: Save the Children UK as President and Voluntary Service Overseas as Patron.

The Princess will witness the work of a number of other Non-Governmental Organisations and volunteers from the UK and elsewhere on projects across Sierra Leone. These include the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital, Mercy Ships and the Milton Margai School for the Blind.

Trips to the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Bunce Island will give an insight into the rich and varied history, culture and environment of Sierra Leone.

During the visit, The Princess Royal will also meet representatives of a number of UK companies working in Sierra Leone.

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50th Independence celebrations chief and others granted bail

20 October 2011

Dr. William Konteh – the former executive chairman of the 50th Independence celebrations committee and his executive secretary – Yeniva Sesay-Sogbeh appeared at the High Court in Freetown Wednesday, 19th October 2011, on corruption charges, where they were granted bail.

Also indicted and granted bail was the owner of Vimco enterprises – Victor Cole, who was charged last Friday, for the unlawful acquisition of benefit relating to the breach of procurement rules.

William Konteh is said to have been indicted on a 19 count charge relating to the misappropriation of funds.

Bail was set at just over £17,000 for all three accused, who are facing a 24 count charge for a range of offences contrary to the country’s Anti-Corruption Laws, including the misappropriation of donor and public funds, and the unlawful acquisition of benefits.

The accused were also ordered to surrender their travel documents, along with sureties, based on a submission made by Justice Nassiru Tejan-Cole, who is acting for the accused.

Acting as prosecutor for the Anti-Corruption Commission, Justice Reginald Fynn successfully requested that the trial be conducted without a jury, so as to avoid further delays, after a lengthy investigation by the ACC lasting over seven months.

There has been media allegations involving the disappearance of over $1.5 Million donated to the 50th Independence celebrations committee to help the country in preparing for the celebrations.

The case was adjourned to 9th November 2011, by the High Court Judge - Abdulai Charm.

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SLPP Uk and Ireland branch elects a new executive committee

19 October 2011

  The SLPP UK & Ireland branch has finally elected a new executive committee last Saturday, 15th October 2011, in South-East London. According to the Sierra Leone View (SLV), the election was peaceful and  colourful, attracting members and party stalwarts from all over the UK and Europe.

Poll opened and closed on time, and counting was observed by the press in order to ensure transparency. The event was a 'GREEN FAMILY' affair, says SLV.

Most of the candidates were nominated – unopposed, with their names printed on the ballot papers. Voters had the opportunity to vote for or against. All candidates secured over 80% of the votes.

Speaking to SLV, the Secretary General of the party’s electoral commission - Mr. Ansu Momoh said that the election was an important milestone in the efforts to reinvigorate the SLPP in the United Kingdom and Ireland, as a very formidable diasporan entity.

  "..With such an unwavering spirit of determination for a new direction, the SLPP UK and Ireland is well placed to compliment the efforts of the parent body to achieve our ultimate goal - sharp 12 in 2012, under the transformational leadership of Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio," Momoh told SLV.

The positions of Secretary General and Chairman were won by Mr. Sarjoh Aziz Kamara and Mr. Jimmy Batilo Songa respectively. Songa won the Chairmanship following a tight race against his opponent - Mr. Ansu Sillah.

Songa was declared winner by the Chief Electoral Commissioner - Mohamed Yongawo, after polling 84 out of 131 votes cast.

SLV reported that Songa had the momentum during the campaign, and was therefore predicted to win. However, it was the manner in which Sillah responded to the outcome that members of the SLPP UK & Ireland branch will always remember.

He proved that he is a democrat, a leader that accepted defeat and wasted no time to congratulate the winner. He respected the will of the people in good faith.

In his victory speech, Songa called for peace and urged all branch members to join him to reposition SLPP UK & Ireland in the Sierra Leone political map, and to work tirelessly to ensure a Julius Maada Bio presidential victory in 2012.

He also acknowledged that although he won the elections, he has no doubt about Sillah’s leadership potential. He referred to Sillah as a true leader and stressed that he will work with him to promote the objectives of the party.

  The elections were "credible" according to Dr. Jonathan Tengbeh from Oxford, who calls for unity, reconciliation, and for the new executive to do as promised.

"Today is a day for SLPP UK & Ireland to celebrate their democratic achievement," said Alhaji Momodu Koroma, running mate of the former Vice President Solomon Berewa in the 2007 elections, and aspirant in the recently concluded flagbearer elections.

Momodu Koroma urged other branches in the Diaspora to find a common ground, as they address the challenges facing the party and the country as a whole.

Dr. Fred Konteh from York who was also in attendance, reiterated that there is a lot of hard work ahead and the executive must immediately embark on reconciliation efforts.

Among party devotees present were former chairmen Tamba Lamina and Harold Saffa, Arthur Freeman, Kai Pokawa, Steve Swarray, The PMDC Chairman Mr. John Komeh, Alhaji Khalil Mustapha, Dr. Jacob Anderson, Mrs Kankay Barlay, Mrs. Binta Bah- Kpokawa, Mrs. Rosaline Mamawa Momoh, Mrs Cecilia Kefue Listie-Cole, Nancy Banya, Mr. and Mrs. David Ben-Hirsh, Mr. Brima Katta from Reading, and Mr. Lansana Kormoh from Bradford.

  The entire hall was in a jubilant mood after the victory announcement and vote of thanks was given by Madam Hawa Kallon - chairlady of the branch.

The other elected members of the new executive committee are: Mr. Nathaniel Sandi – Deputy Chairman; Mr Ibrahim Kormoh - Financial Secretary; Mr Morris Vibby - Organising Secretary; Ishmael Kebbay Jnr - Secretary Young Generation; Mrs. Kenye Sandi - Secretary Women's Wing; Sheku Lexmond Koroma - Publicity and Propaganda Secretary; and Joe Thomas - Auditor.

Photos - courtesy of the Sierra Leone View

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“Will Sierra Leone ever achieve peace and reconciliation?” – A rebuttal

Elisha Kamara

18 October 2011

I read your article entitled: "Will Sierra Leone ever achieve peace and reconciliation?" You are trying to make a case to look at the larger picture; and basically excuse the excesses of the NPRC for which the family of the 29 who were unjustly killed are seeking a redress.

Peace and reconciliation are abstractions that should be left to the individuals who have had their peace taken from them. The inquest that the families are requesting will not have any lasting effect on the hard won peace in the country.

Let me say at the outset, I support a call for an inquest. It is the least the state can do. There is no time limitation on murder, whether state sponsored or not. Though I take cognisance of the fact that state excesses have been going on since independence, but are you not missing the point of the call for an inquest?

Yes, it will not bring the loved ones back, but at the very least it will answer nagging questions that these families have not had answers to in almost two decades.

I disagree with your premise that it will be difficult to prove the culpability of the various actors, are you aware that the pursuit of justice for the holocaust is still on going?

In the case of the 29 there are still eyewitnesses living today that can testify before an inquest. Most of the main actors are still around to answer questions and provide explanations for the course of action that was taken.

Don't you want answers as to how our prison service was supposedly part of the plot by assisting incarcerated individuals to plot against the government? Don't you find it odd that no one in the prison system was ever indicted?

To me it also seems that you are avoiding the use of the word 'compensation', instead opting for 'mitigation of loss suffered'. I find that even more baffling. When a crime as egregious as that committed by the state on certain families by executing their loved ones, who through no fault of their own - but that they were at the wrong place at the wrong time, then the very least these families can expect is to get answers from the state.

I don't expect there will ever be any justice for these individuals who the populace knew where wrongly executed. But please let there be a semblance of justice in our beloved country.

It will be wrong for me to impugn wrong motives on you for the said article, but I cannot help but feel that political expediency has more import than the rule of law or the feelings of the grieving families on this issue.

Thanks you for the article and your expressed thoughts. But in a civilised society we can agree to disagree. I hope this discourse will continue.

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50th Independence Celebrations Boss charged to court for corruption

17 October 2011


After seven months of investigations by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the former executive chairman of the 50 years Independence Celebrations Committee – Dr. William Konteh and eight others were last Friday charged to the High Court.

They were indicted by the ACC on various counts of corruption, including; the misappropriation of donor funds, unlawful acquisition of benefits, and breach of procurement contract rules.

The Anti-Corruption Czar - Mr. Joseph Kamara, told reporters last Friday that his investigations show that huge sums of money donated by the international community for the celebrations cannot be accounted for.

Early this year, very serious allegations were made by the media, regarding the disappearance of over $1.5 Million donated to the government of Sierra Leone by the international community, to assist with the country’s celebrations of 50 years of independence.

Following those allegations, president Koroma took the immediate decision to terminate the contract of the chairman of the independence celebrations committee – Dr. Konteh with immediate effect, subject to investigation by the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission.

The 50th Independence Celebrations Committee (Yeniva Sesay-Sogbeh and Dr. Conteh - far right)


Dr. Konteh and other members of the independence celebrations committee were charged to the High Court, along with his personal assistant - Mrs. Yeniva Sesay-Sogbeh.

It is not certain whether former publicity adviser to the Committee - Ms. Vickie Remoe, will give testimony for the prosecution.

Ms. Remoe's story published just weeks after the initial media allegation of corruption was published, proved to have been quite instrumental in forcing the government to act swiftly in launching the Anti-Corruption investigations.


It is understood that if found guilty, Dr. Konteh may have to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars with interest, or face custodial sentence. Dr. William Conteh is the younger brother of Dr. Richard Conteh, who is the minister of trade and industry and a key member of the Koroma government. 

Dr. Konteh and his co-accused were granted bail and are expected to appear at the High Court tomorrow Tuesday, 18 October 2011.

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Yenga’s future still uncertain after Guinea talks

17 October 2011

President koroma (left) arriving in Guinea

  President Koroma’s arrival in Conakry, Guinea last Thursday gave optimism and hope to the people of Sierra Leone for the return of Yenga by the Guinean authorities after ten years of unlawful occupation through the use of force.

But after spending twenty-four hours with the Guinean president and his officials, president Koroma and his large entourage, which comprised of Sierra Leone’s top military officials – including defence minister, Palo Conteh, returned to Freetown last Friday empty handed.

It doesn’t appear Yenga would be vacated anytime soon. But according to State House statement, both governments "have strengthened bilateral relations, with the signing of a joint communiqué by their respective foreign ministers on security, bilateral trade, the free movement of citizens, goods and services".

Analysts say that this bilateral agreement will do very little towards ensuring the handing over of Yenga back to Sierra Leone, other than reflecting the immense power Guinea has over its neighbour Sierra Leone.

During the talks between the two leaders, president Conde is reported to have "acknowledged President Koroma’s effort in maintaining peace and quietness within the framework of the MRU, especially in institutional reforms in peace, security and defence, national reconciliation, improvement of the standards of living of the people, the holding of credible elections, free movement of people goods and services as well as sub-regional stability".

Many in Sierra Leone would regard president Conde’s reference to Koroma’s "quietness" as a sign of weakness, which strengthens the resolve of the Guinean authorities to maintain their presence in Yenga.

State House says that "both presidents noted the security significance of Yenga, thus reiterated their firm commitment towards achieving the sustainability of sub-regional stability, which they said will enhance intelligence sharing, the control of epidemics and diseases, address the problems of food security and infrastructure within the MRU basin".

But how much comfort does this give the people of Yenga who have lived under foreign occupation for over ten years, knowing that the government of Sierra Leone continues to lose the diplomatic initiative?

  Responding to questions from the Sierra Leonean and Guinean media after signing the the communiqué, president Conde said; "Yenga poses no threat and there can’t be any problem between Sierra Leone and Guinea because of Yenga. I know that there are certain people in Sierra Leone who want to fight my brother - President Koroma because of Yenga."

State House in Freetown is optimistic. "President Conde said he will work closely with President Koroma to find a final resolution to the Yenga issue, and indicated willingness to sign any proposal put forward by the Sierra Leonean delegation on Yenga."

Did president Koroma not present the Guinean president with a firm proposal for the evacuation of Yenga for signing?

President Conde said; "For me, Guinea and Sierra Leone are the same country, so Yenga will not be an issue."

President Koroma said that both countries have enjoyed excellent relationship. "We have an opportunity to transform what we have now. What we do expect is the restructuring of the MRU secretariat, for the effective operation of the union to engage on institutional reform in the organization."

He underscored the significance of peace and tranquillity in the sub-region as a key component in harmonizing multi-and bilateral relations among member states as a critical component. "We must ensure that member states of the union do not destabilize peace in the MRU countries, and it should be our common interest to be our brothers’ keeper," said president Koroma.

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USA soccer team goalkeeper Bill Hamid supports education in Sierra Leone

Ambrose Thorpe - USA

14 October 2011

USA goalie - Bill Hamid

  Sierra Leonean soccer enthusiasts and well wishers are delighted at the decision of the USA soccer team management to select Bill Hamid as team goalkeeper.

Bill was born in the USA, but his parents originated from Sierra Leone.

On the 22nd October 2011, Bill Hamid will be taking part in a USA Major League Soccer (MLS) match between D.C. United and Sporting Kansas City (SKC) scheduled to be held at the historic, forty five thousand seating capacity Robert F Kennedy (RFK) Memorial Stadium in Washington D.C.

Bill Hamid made his professional USA Major League Soccer debut in 2010 at the age of 19 years. With a win by his team D.C. United on his debut - May 5, 2010, he became the youngest goalkeeper in MLS’s history to win a regular season game.

At the October 22nd event, Sierra Leonean soccer fans will get an opportunity to meet Bill in person after the game. A percentage of proceeds from ticket sales for the match will go towards promoting children’s education in Sierra Leone, a cause supported by the soccer celebrity.

Coach Hamid

  The benefit event is a culmination of months of ongoing negotiations between Save Sierra Leone Foundation’s executive member Coach Sullay Hamid and the management of D.C. United.

Coach Hamid (a.k.a. Passadie), the proud father of the soccer star and quite arguably his number one fan, is the owner of Premier Athletics Club a very successful Virginia based soccer training establishment.

Comparable to his passion for soccer – Coach Hamid played seven years of professional soccer with the Queens Park Rangers (QPR) of the English Premier League.

He is one of those rare breed of Sierra Leoneans, adorned with an unparalleled and almost religious like passion for helping others.

To say that Coach Hamid is extremely devoted towards enhancing lives in Sierra Leone is an understatement, because he is all about that and so much more. The admirable fact that his son, Bill Hamid has chosen to actively embrace a similar path lends credence to the old African adage that "the coconut does not fall far from the tree".

Although Bill Hamid is the first entrant amongst soccer players of Sierra Leonean origins to go into the USA national soccer team, USA Major League soccer has embraced other Sierra Leonean soccer talents in recent years.

Kei Kamara

  Those attending the D.C. United and SKC match will also have an opportunity to meet the gifted Sierra Leonean striker Kei Ansu Kamara who plays professionally for SKC and leads SKC with nine goals and four assists this season.

Kei will probably attempt to do what he does best as the lead scorer at SKC; attempt to score goals by striking power shots into goalkeeper Bill Hamid’s net.


There is also the talented Sierra Leonean midfielder Michael Lahoud who started his professional MLS career in 2009 and currently plays for California based, Chivas USA.

The D.C. United benefit event is the start of a process utilizing Save Sierra Leone Foundation (SSLF) as a platform to foster collaboration amongst leading Sierra Leonean athletes in the USA to collectively use their sports celebrity status to create awareness for noteworthy causes benefiting Sierra Leone.

The SSLF project is also supported by the Embassy of Sierra Leone - USA, journalist Dennis Kabatto and singer and multimedia artist Giileh Scholz - founder of the Sierra Leone Association of Musicians and Artist (SLAAM).

Efforts to reach the younger generation through the popular social media outlets are being pioneered by Yolanda Thompson - SSLF Vice President, and Emma Fofanah - a current George Washington University MBA candidate.

To support the event, please visit where you will be able to access a D.C. United web link that allows you to purchase tickets for the event at a discounted price. Join us in witnessing the Bill Hamid – Kei Kamara faceoff - and take the opportunity to get to meet these gifted soccer players in person.

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Is President Koroma in Guinea today to demand the return of Yenga?

13 October 2011

President Koroma


Report from State House says that President Koroma will be visiting neighbouring Guinea today. The reason for this unscheduled visit is uncertain, but according to State House, President Koroma will "hold talks with President Alpha Konde, within the mandate of the Mano River Union".

The two neighbouring countries are locked in a border dispute involving the Sierra Leonean village of Yenga, which has been unlawfully occupied by the Guineans since the civil war in Sierra Leone.

Both sides are claiming legitimacy. But there is little doubt that the Guinean authorities have no evidence to prove their legitimacy.

It is reported that Guinean soldiers and government officials have been mining gold in the disputed village and therefore have no appetite to leave anytime soon.

But State House in Freetown, has chosen to down play the importance of the Yenga issue in today’s talks between Koroma and Konde, and instead says that: "The visit is being made to further initiate bilateral talks between Heads of States of sister countries so as to deliberate on vital sub-regional issues, ranging from common boundaries, security and trade."

Today’s high-level meeting will include inter-ministerial discussions involving key ministers and top brass of the Koroma government; the foreign affairs and international cooperation minister - Joseph Bandabla Dauda; minister of information and communication - Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo; political and public affairs minister - Alhaji Alpha Kanu; the minister of defence - Rtd. Major Paolo Conteh; and the minister of works, housing and infrastructure - Alimamy P. Koroma.

What is also significant about today's high-level meeting is that President Koroma is being accompanied by the country’s chief of defence staff - Brigadier General Robert Yira Koroma and other members of the security sector.

Analysts believe that today’s meeting is more than negotiating the delivery of 20,000 tons of rice sold to Sierra Leone by the Guineans last month. They say that the agenda of today’s meeting has got Yenga written all over it.

Presidents Koroma and Alpha Konde in Guinea

  There are speculations that today's meeting may also have been prompted by fears in both countries, about the possibility of violence returning to the streets of Monrovia, following the announcement of the result of Liberia's presidential election.

President Koroma and Konde will no doubt today be discussing contingency plans to help deal with any outbreak of political violence in Liberia.

Political observers say that with previous high profile meetings between successive leaders of both countries ending in failure to resolve the Yenga issue, it has been important for both governments to down play the significance of this issue at today’s talks.


President Koroma may once again have to return to Sierra Leone - empty handed without Yenga, tomorrow: Friday the 14th

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What has ten years of 'New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD)' achieved?

Dennis Kabatto

12 October 2012

The New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) concluded its five day celebration as part of its 10th year anniversary commemoration in New York yesterday - Tuesday.

Adopted in Lusaka, Zambia in 2001, NEPAD is an African Union program spearheaded by African leaders to pursue new priorities and approaches to the political and socio-economic transformation of Africa.

NEPAD's objective is to enhance Africa's growth, development and participation in the global economy.

The week long commemoration kicked off Thursday, October 6, with key events including; a special briefing of the African Group by NEPAD on "advancing NEPAD implementation over a decade of opportunities" at the offices of the AU Permanent Observer Mission to the UN, followed by a three hour closed reception hosted by the AU Observer Mission to the UN in New York.

On Friday, October 7, United Nations and African officials gathered at the UN Headquarters and elsewhere in the city for a series of high-level meetings and events, designed to reflect on its achievements, foster debates and generate suggestions for further improvements.

A High-Level panel discussion on 'NEPAD and the MDGs: Progress, challenges and the way forward', took place in the Economic and Social Council Chamber (NLB), followed by be a press conference in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium.

Speaking at the conference, were: Cheikh Sidi Diarra, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General for Africa; Ibrahim A. Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD; Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria; and Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

"All these are opportunities for us to look back at the role of NEPAD and the remarkable progress Africa has made over the past ten years," said Mr. Diarra - UN Under-Secretary General and Special Adviser for Africa.

Also in his briefings, Mr. Diarra called on developed nations to give Africa access to open international markets for its exports, reduce or write-off their debts and to complete the Doha talks on trade. He urged African countries to increase domestic savings and lessen their dependence on foreign aid.

Speaking at a special briefing to the African Group as part of activities in New York to commemorate NEPAD’s tenth anniversary, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, the Chief Executive Officer of the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, explained that NEPAD had played a crucial part in the steady progress that was being made by the continent - both in terms of democratization and development.

"The African leaders set up the African Peer Review Mechanism to advance good governance and democracy," he told African diplomats.

The peer review mechanism is Africa’s unique and innovative approach to governance. Its reports serve as early warning system of impending threats to peace and stability in Africa.

So far, 30 African countries have signed up for the review and 14 of them have completed the process.

The mechanism has been one of the NEPAD Agency’s most successful programs in encouraging democratization among members. For example, its reports anticipated the violence that followed the 2007 elections in Kenya and the 2008 xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

The President of the UN General Assembly, Nassir Abdul Aziz Al-Nasser, on Friday praised the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), for enhancing the continent’s economic growth, development and participation in the global economy.

Al-Nasser said that NEPAD had also contributed "significantly towards Africa's socio-economic progress achieved over the past decade. Africa has been the home of six out of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world," he said at the UN General Assembly, which hosted a high-level event to mark NEPAD's 10th anniversary on the theme: 'NEPAD and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Progress, Challenges and the Way Forward.'

NEPAD has also been instrumental in the development of Sierra Leone’s agriculture and Fisheries.

According to John Baimba Sesay, Communication Specialist at the West Africa Regional Fisheries Program (WARFP) NEPAD "allocated U$1, 4 million to carry out target activities: support to policy, legal and regulatory framework and needs; development of an operational framework; and establishment of the National CAADP Sub-Committee of Fisheries, to ensure effective management of both the industrial and artisanal fisheries to promote economic benefits for Sierra Leone," Mr. Sesay said.

Despite these positive reports of progress, NEPAD’s critics are less than impressed with its achievements. During an African Forum – 'Envisioning Africa Focus Conference', 50 African scholars criticised NEPAD for adopting social and economic measures that contribute to the marginalization of women. They said that NEPAD does not question the global economic system, which, in civil society's view, plays a major role in Africa's continued marginalization.

The African scholars also mentioned that NEPAD may be seen as a continuation of the highly questionable Structural Adjustment Programs, which now include the privatization of public services, such as water, electricity supply and health services.

  Yetunde Odugbesan is a graduate of the United Nations Worldview Institute and currently a PhD Candidate (ABD) at Division of Global Affairs - Rutgers University in New Jersey. In a statement via email, she said "as NEPAD celebrates its tenth anniversary, there is both cause to celebrate and to further re-assess NEPAD's success rate in implementing their various development programs in African countries."

Ms Odugbesan also contends that "although NEPAD boasts of setting up various programs, the issue of delivery has been a constant problem. Many initiatives of development have stayed in its initial stages due to ineffective implementation, which creates a poor perception of NEPAD's ability to deliver results".

"Political instability, high levels of corruption and poor infrastructure are still plaguing African countries, according to Transparency International, with many of the African countries reported to have high levels of corruption," she added

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Sierra Leone gets fibre optics internet communication

11 October 2011

The people of Sierra Leone will soon be enjoying faster and cheaper access to the world wide web, once work in relaying fibre optics cable has been completed in 2012.

According to Reuters, a major milestone in the World Bank funded project to link up the country with the rest of the world - via broadband, was celebrated in Freetown yesterday, as the first fibre optics connection to the outside world was achieved, with the arrival of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable in the capital Freetown.

Sierra Leone, which is still recovering from a devastating 11-year civil war that ended in 2002, is part of a dwindling group of countries still wholly reliant on highly expensive satellite bandwidth for internet connections.
Numerous studies have identified cheap and fast Internet as a factor that can boost a country's economic growth.

Wearing a white baseball cap that bore the words "Fibre Landing", Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma said the event was proof that his country was making progress.

"We are transforming because, as we are speaking, the only available communication outside Sierra Leone is through the satellite, and it is expensive, the quality is limited, and the capacity also has some limitations," he told an event to mark the landing of the cable by Lumley Beach in Aberdeen, Freetown.

Gilbert Cooper, director of administration of the state-owned Sierra Leone Cable company that is landing the cable, told Reuters that the fibre optics broadband platform "would only become operational during the second half of 2012 as other preparations need to be completed first".

When complete, the 17,000-km (11,000-mile) ACE cable will run from France to South Africa, connecting 23 countries. The cable was launched by France Telecom as part of a consortium with telecom operators in participating countries.

Sierra Leone, along with neighbouring Liberia, missed out on previous fibre optics cable laid down the West African coast, such as SAT-3.

"At that time we had a civil war, we didn't have the opportunity to articulate the arrangement to have a landing station here," said Senesie Kallon, deputy director general of Sierra Leone's National Telecommunications Commission.

At present, Internet access in Sierra Leone is currently slow or expensive, and often both. According to the National Telecommunications Commission, the country as a whole has just 155 Megabits of bandwidth, less than would serve a small American or European town.

Shadi Al-Gerjawi, CEO of mobile phone company Africell in Sierra Leone, said the cable would provide more than forty times the current bandwidth in the country. "October 10, 2011 will always remain a memorable date for us," he said. "Today is a major milestone in the life of the telecommunications industry in Sierra Leone."

The World Bank estimates that bandwidth in Sierra Leone costs 10 times the level in East Africa and 25 times the U.S. price. Barely one percent of the 5.4 million people in the country have access to Internet services.

The Bank is providing $30 million to fund the connection of Sierra Leone to the cable offshore, in return for which it said Sierra Leone would end the current monopoly of the state operator on its international gateway for voice calls.

"There was an opportunity to connect Sierra Leone to ACE in 2011 and if the country were to miss that it wasn't clear there'd be further opportunities," said Vijay Pillai, the bank's country manager in Freetown.

The International Telecommunication Union said in August that nine African countries remain wholly dependent on satellite Internet.

Alongside Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Guinea, Liberia, São Tomé and Príncipe and the Seychelles all lack fibre optics connections to the wider world.

Fast broadband communications will help to promote a more open society and local economic development, especially; industry & business growth; improved health care delivery; education and learning, especially in hard to reach rural communities.

But observers say that the growing demand for electricity in the country needed to power-up homes, businesses, hospitals, public institutions is yet to be addressed.

Current electricity generating capacity in the country is a mere 30 mega watts at the best of times, compared to the estimated requirement of 400 mega watts. This, analysts say will pose immense constraint on the full utilisation of the new fibre optics broadband internet communication platform.

According to estimates, only 5 in every 1000 people in Sierra Leone have access to a computer.

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British Ambassador to Sierra Leone calls for the repeal of death penalty Laws

11 October 2011

As we celebrate the eighth 'World Day against the Death Penalty', the lives of prisoners incarcerated around the world are being taken away by the state. Others are painfully awaiting their fate, with their lives hanging on the balance. Elected officials and the judiciary will decide whether they should live or die.

While those on death row wait to hear about their fate, they die very slowly as every bit of what makes them human is stripped away: faith and hope. Yes, those arguing for the death penalty will argue that, if they are   guilty as convicted, then they must die.

But what gives us the divine authority to take anyone's life in retribution?

In Sierra Leone the death penalty has been used by successive governments to settle scores against those that threatens the establishment or merely pose a challenge to their way of life and thinking. Common criminals have been executed for armed robbery and murder, based purely on circumstantial evidence.

There have been many instances of miscarriage of justice, which the state cannot put right. To millions of people across the world, including the Sierra Leone Telegraph, state executions is wrong and must be brought to an end. Adding his voice to this call today is the British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone – Ian Hughes.

Writing on the Foreign Office blog, this is what he has to say:

  Benjamin Franklin said that only death and taxation were certain. He may have been right, but his two certainties could hardly be more different.

Death is part of the immutable framework of life. It existed before humanity came to be. It will exist long after we are gone. We each have but one life which once taken away cannot be returned.

Taxation is a human law. It changes with human experience, with society’s preferences. It can go up or down; it can be applied rigorously or forgiven; overpayments can be refunded.

Death’s permanence is the root of my problem with capital punishment.

We yearn for justice, strive for it, and demand respect for it. Yet our expectations of it change from generation to generation, from year to year, from experience to experience. In its essence, justice is an aspiration.

While trying to work out how to achieve it, we settle for the rule of law, which hard experience shows is our best defence – often our only defence –against another law: that of the jungle.

The rule of law tells you that if you do certain things you will be punished: steal from your neighbour, punished like this; bribe a judge, punished like that; kill someone, punished like the other.

Does the law dispense justice? Sometimes. Is it effective? Sometimes. Is it wrong? Sometimes. And if the law can make mistakes, its decisions must be reversible.

Execution – legal killing to enforce the law – has been with us for as long as there have been laws. It used to be applied widely. Nowadays it is mostly reserved for murder. If you take a life, the law can say, you forfeit your own.

Is execution consistent with the rule of law? Yes. Is it also justice? Sometimes. Is it right? No. Why not? Because the rule of law is unjust if it is incorrectly applied: mistakes must be correctable. And miscarriages of justice in capital cases cannot be repaired. It is therefore a longstanding point of principle for UK governments to oppose capital punishment in all circumstances.

While there have been no executions in Sierra Leone since 1998, execution is mandatory for murder convictions. A number of Salone men and women languish on Death Row in Pademba Road.

Many Sierra Leoneans I talk to believe that the threat of execution is essential to keep the peace. I respect that view, but disagree with it and hope to change it as part of a debate between us on what democracy means, how it works, and what it aspires to be.

My team and I have been working with our EU colleagues to engage with government, Parliament and Civil Society. We hope the moratorium will evolve into full-fledged abolition soon. In the meantime we encourage and support those like AdvocAid who facilitate effective measures to examine the facts, procedures and circumstances relating to capital cases considered by the Judiciary.

I point to the discharge by the Court of Appeal in March of “MK”, the longest serving woman on Pademba Road’s death row. The Honourable Justices’ decision demonstrates my point about the need to be able to reverse decisions that may be mistaken.

Today is the eighth World Day against the Death Penalty. Around the world British Ambassadors and High Commissioners are marking this occasion with discussions with governments, civil societies and Parliaments. In London our Human Rights Minister, Jeremy Browne, has made a statement setting out the case for permanent abolition of this measure.

I am pleased that the government of Sierra Leone, too, is active. In April President Koroma commuted all death sentences to life imprisonment, and three death-row prisoners have been pardoned. Abolition is on the legislative agenda but it needs to move from theory to practice. It has been discussed during the Constitutional Review Process, and will continue to be a topic there after the 2012 election.

I welcome this debate and encourage further action to bring Sierra Leone justice into the twenty first century.

The Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Report said: "Respect for human dignity and human rights must begin with respect for human life. Everyone has the right to life. A society that accords the highest respect for human life is unlikely to turn on itself….The abolition of the death penalty will mark and important and symbolic departure from the past to the future".

"The burning of the house of an offender is not permissible punishment for arson. The rape of the offender is not permissible punishment for a rapist. Why should murder be a permissible punishment for murder?" - Justice Ismail Mohamed (South Africa).

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Sierra Leone’s opposition parties unite in condemnation of government’s attitude towards political violence

7 October 2011

SLPP Chairman - John Benjamin

  Yesterday marked an historical turnaround in Sierra Leone’s political history, as leaders of the country’s main opposition parties; SLPP (Sierra Leone people’s party), PMDC (peoples movement for democratic change), and NDA (national democratic alliance), met at the head office of the opposition SLPP to discuss and present a united front against what they see as the continuing attack on the country’s democratic ideals by the ruling party.

The nation is preparing for presidential and general elections in 2012, but with heightened political tension and continuing distrust between the opposition and the government, there is growing fear of the eruption of widespread unrest and violence.

Yesterday’s discussions in Freetown centred on the recent political violence in Bo and Kono, police ban on all political activities, and the refusal of the government to publish and fully implement the reports of the commissions of inquiry into the spate of political disturbances, including the attack on the SLPP offices which took place in Freetown in 2009.

Observers have described this summit as the first public meeting of its kind between the main opposition parties, showing greater maturity and collective resolve, uniting in condemnation of the government’s use of 'selective justice' and impunity.

Present at the meeting were; Mr John Oponjo Benjamin – chairman and leader of the SLPP; Mr Charles Margai – leader of the PMDC; and Mr Alex Matthew Kaikai -Information secretary of the NDA.

At the conclusion of the summit meeting, a joint statement was issued. This is what it says:

The Public is aware of the mounting incidence of violence since the ruling All Peoples Congress assumed power in 2007. The violence started with the attack on the Sierra Leone People’s Party offices around the country. It continued with intimidation and thuggery at various bye-elections around the country.

It has now culminated in the violent attack on the SLPP Flagbearer, the death of a bike rider, gunshot injuries to over 20 people and the subsequent burning of three premises including the offices of the APC in Bo.

Following the violent incident in Bo, the Inspector General of Police on Wednesday 21st September 2011, assumed unconstitutional powers to impose a blanket and indefinite ban on all political processions, rallies and public meetings.

PMDC Leader - Charles Margai

  Despite several assurances that the ban was limited to a month which will be reflected in a subsequent Press Statement that is still pending; the Inspector General extended the ban to processions organized by Members of Parliament for the State Opening of Parliament.

The Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 makes provision in Chapter IX for the appointment of Commissions of Inquiry. It empowers the President to appoint such a Commission on any matter of public interest.

Where a Commission is appointed to inquire into a matter, it is enjoined by the Constitution to make a report in writing to the President who shall then cause it to be published together with a Government White Paper thereon within six months of the date of submission of the report.

Under these provisions, many Commissions of Inquiry have been appointed, including the Commission appointed by the President on 10th December 2009, chaired by E.E.C. Shears-Moses Esq.

This Commission was charged with the mandate to investigate the incidents of political violence and intolerance that occurred in Gendema Town in the Pujehun District, Freetown and Kenema in March 2009.

The decision to appoint the Shears-Moses Commission emanated from the Joint Communiqué dated 2 April 2009, signed between the All Peoples Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).

Recognising that both democracy and the fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in our National Constitution were under attack by way of rising tension and the escalating incidence of political violence and intolerance, the Shears-Moses Commission was mandated not only to determine the circumstances and facts relating to those incidents but also to determine the respective roles and responsibilities of political parties and law enforcement agencies, as well as make recommendations for preventing the recurrence of such incidents in the future and for eradicating the incidence of political violence from our body politic.

To further underscore these points, the PMDC made written submissions to the Commission even though it was not a party to the Joint Communiqué. The Shears Moses Commission submitted its Report to the President about a year ago.

Contrary to the constitutional prescription that a Commission’s Report should be published within six months of receipt, this stipulation has simply not been adhered to. Despite persistent demands for publication, the Government has either deliberately ignored the Report or has just let it gather dust on its shelves.

We consider such misfeasance utterly repugnant and unacceptable in a civilised society, for it creates the impression that ill-motivated elements so inclined can perpetrate acts of political violence and intolerance anywhere anytime with absolute impunity.

Equally so, it is difficult for our Parties and the public in general to understand why a Government that lays claim to being responsible and a respecter of the rule of law and human rights would allow this to happen in the full knowledge that the appointment of the Commission was necessitated by the need to ascertain the root causes of intolerance and political violence in the country and the urgency of taking adequate measures to prevent its recurrence in future.

In contrast to this uncaring attitude of the Government of President Ernest Bai Koroma towards the Shears -Moses Commission Report, we observe the extraordinarily hasty response of his Government to the Investigation Panel’s Reports on the disturbances in Kono and Bo.

Incidents of political violence within the APC in Kono and between the APC and SLPP in Bo occurred on the 3rd and 9th September 2011, respectively.

NDA Presidential candidate - Mohammed Bah

  Whilst for the Kono incident President Koroma directed the Police to investigate, for the Bo incident he constituted on the very day a broad-based Investigation Panel headed by Mr. Kelvin Lewis of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) to look into the stoning of the SLPP Presidential Flag Bearer, Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio, the burning down of houses and the shooting and injuries sustained by several persons.

This Panel submitted its Report three weeks later, on 30th September 2011.

On 5th October 2011, less than one week after its receipt, the Government described the Report of the Panel as “good”, accepted its findings and recommendations, assured the general public that they would be fully implemented and declared that “over 40 persons” would soon be charged to court.

The promptitude with which President Koroma’s Government acted on the Kelvin Lewis Panel Report clearly demonstrates a capacity to act speedily if his Government is so minded. It also portrays a double standard of behaviour: one standard for the Shears-Moses Report and another for the Kelvin Lewis Panel Report.

In these circumstances, therefore, and bearing in mind the vital importance of preserving fully our country’s hard won peace and democracy, we demand from the APC Government of President Ernest Bai Koroma full and immediate implementation of the findings and recommendations of the Shears-Moses Commission Report.

We also demand the immediate lifting of the ban by the Police on political processions, rallies and public meetings. Unless and until these are done, the Political Parties (SLPP, PMDC and NDA), reserve the right to withdraw their co-operation and participation from the Government.

To begin with, the Parties’ National Executives hereby direct that all Members of Parliament belonging to their Parties shall forthwith withhold their participation from Parliament until further notice and that all their members and supporters shall refrain from participating in any consultations and deliberations relating to the proposed Sierra Leone Conference 2011.

In addition, there are several recommendations in the Joint Communiqué of 2nd April 2009 - still awaiting implementation. Again, we call upon the Government to implement these outstanding recommendations without further delay.

In this connection, we are of the view that the United Nations and the other moral guarantors of our country’s peace have a continuing role to play.

We are also concerned about the effect that the arrest of over 40 party stalwarts might cause in a large city like Bo. Meanwhile the Parties are calling on all their members and supporters to remain calm and to be law abiding.

Done in Freetown this 6th day of October 2011

John Oponjo Benjamin - Chairman/Leader SLPP


Charles Francis Margai - Leader PMDC

Alex Brihim Matthew Kaikai - Information Secretary- NDA

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Government takes swift action on the Kono and Bo violence

5 October 2011

  The government of Sierra Leone has acted swiftly to ensure that the findings and recommendations of the police and civil reports into the violence, which took place last month in Kono and Bo are implemented, following strong criticisms and accusations of political cover up.

In a statement issued by State House today, the government says that in the case of the disturbances in Kono, which saw the police opening fire at riotous youths; "the evidence adduced, indicates that the attack was not spontaneous, but had been pre-planned by 12 unscrupulous persons bent on disrupting law and order."

Although the government’s statement on the Kono Report, which was handed to the government last week, does not name those 12 accused of perpetrating the violence, it is understood that supporters of both the interior minister and the vice-president were involved in the skirmishes, which prompted the police to open fire using live ammunition.

The statement confirms that; "his Excellency the president directed the police to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident in which the entourage of the minister of internal affairs was attacked, leading to skirmishes and the discharge of gun shots by the minister’s security guards."

"The report has been considered by the office of the attorney-general and minister of justice, and the prosecution of these suspects for several offences will commence shortly," says State House.

But it is the report into the Bo violence that has provoked much interest and curiosity, as it involves the presidential candidate of the opposition SLPP, who himself suffered head injuries during the disturbances.

The government’s statement issued this afternoon, says that; "Concerning the disturbances in Bo, his Excellency constituted a broad-based independent investigation panel to look into the stoning of the slpp presidential flagbearer, the burning down of buildings, and the shooting and injuries sustained by several persons."

"In the case of the incident in Bo, the independent investigation panel chaired by Mr Kelvin Lewis of the Sierra Leone association of journalists presented its report to his Excellency the president on 30th September 2011."

As in the case of the Kono report, the general public would take very little comfort from the fact that the government has refused to name the culprits involved in the Bo violence.

However, it says that; "Government accepts the findings and recommendations of the panel and assures the general public that they will be fully implemented. Over 40 persons will soon be charged to court to the intent that the full force of the law will be brought to bear."

The decision of the government to swiftly act upon the reports and to publish its initial comments on the findings, will no doubt be applauded by many Sierra Leoneans, especially supporters of the government.

But the decision not to fully publish the reports will continue to fuel suspicion of a political cover up, aimed at protecting those bearing the greatest responsibility for the violence in both Kono and Bo.

Both main political parties – the ruling APC and the opposition SLPP, continue to pour blame on each other for the Bo violence, while the suspected violent power struggle between the minister of the interior and the vice-president, is said to be the root cause of the shootings in Kono.

The government’s statement attempts to calm the nerves of a wary and war beaten population, as well as quell political disquiet, but is not short on misgivings.

"It is regrettable that in spite of strenuous efforts on the part of government to ensure that peace, security and stability prevail within a truly democratic environment; some ill-motivated persons continue to stoke up the flames of chaos and anarchy thereby exposing peaceful citizens to harm and danger," says the statement.

Reiterating its 'anti-violence policy', State House said that; "Once again, government strongly condemns violence in all its forms, and reaffirms its commitment to take every necessary step to guarantee that our hard won peace is maintained. Government also assures the entire nation that the lives and properties of all citizens will be protected."

Since the Bo violence, which resulted in scores injured, one fatality, and the destruction of properties, both main parties have pulled back from the brink of further violence, with the police acting resolutely by placing a temporary ban on all publicly organised political events.

"Government strongly appeals to all political parties to provide responsible leadership that is consistent with modern democratic best practice, failing which it will have no alternative but to use the provisions of Sierra Leone and international law to ensure that the rule of law reigns supreme," says State House.

Last Sunday, president Koroma called upon the attorney-general to present to the cabinet ministers for immediate action, the 2009 report into political violence, which took place in the country's capital - Freetown.

There are calls for that report, and the Kono and Bo reports to be published by the government, without any further delay.

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Is President Koroma losing control of law and order?

4 October 2011

Speaking at a thanksgiving service held at the Wesleyan Church in his home town of Makeni last Sunday, in celebration of the end of his first term in office and his 58th birthday, the president said that he will be asking the International Criminal Court at the Hague, to 'continuously monitor the conduct of political leaders and their supporters, as the country approaches the 2012 elections'.

  He said that this request is necessary in order to bring an end to the culture of impunity in Sierra Leone. But opposition politicians and critics say that this reaction by the president, shows that he is either losing grip of the increasing breakdown of law and order, or trying to deflect attention from the recent investigation reports into political violence in Kono and Bo.

The contents of the reports are unknown and president Koroma has not yet published the findings and recommendations.


But he told reporters in Makeni that 'there will be no hiding place for perpetrators of political violence in the country, and that the law will not stop at any point in prosecuting anybody found culpable of violence related offences, adding that democracy goes along by the will of the people … not by the use of force'.

Critics believe that, rather than making request to the ICC to assist in monitoring law and order in the country, the president should free up the police and criminal justice system of political interference.

They say that an independent police force and judiciary, should be more than capable of administering law and order and bring violators to justice.

According to State House, President Koroma was resolute when he told reporters in Makeni that; 'political and any other forms of violence will soon be history and that no country will develop without peace and tranquillity'.

The President said that his government has performed very well during its first term in office, with evidence everywhere in Sierra Leone of improved governance structures. He said that his government has no political prisoner and no journalist has been jailed since he assumed office.

The Paramount Chief - Massa Yeli Tham told the President to 'continue with his good work in all fronts of governance, but must create more employment opportunities for the youths'.

He praised the government for its efforts in providing free health care for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five; energy; infrastructural development in various towns and cities; agriculture and food sufficiency; and for fostering inter-political party tolerance and peace in the country.

But in a rather surprised response to critics, whom have called for the immediate publication of the Shears-Moses Report into political violence, which took place in Freetown in 2009, President Koroma called upon the Attorney General to submit the Report to ministerial cabinet for action.

Observers say that the president's seeming urgency to act on the recommendations of the Shears-Moses Report after two of dithering, obscures the immediate need to publish the Kono and Bo violence reports handed to the president last week.

"It now looks as though those two reports - the Kono and Bo violence reports, will now take a back seat while the president decides what to do about the findings and recommendations of the Shears report. The government lacks commitment and conviction when its comes to tackling politically motivated violence, as we the SLPP are always at the receiving end of such violence," says a senior executive of the opposition SLPP.

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Government unveils road construction policy

4 October 2011

  After four years in power the government has now decided to unveil its 'Roads Construction Policy', prompting questions as to why it has taken so long for the government to translate rhetoric to policy. And yet it is still many light years away before the policy itself is fully implemented.

It is understood that the government has spent over $800 Million on road construction, and the rehabilitation of feeder roads destroyed by ten tears of civil war.

The need for the construction and rehabilitation of feeder roads in Sierra Leone, especially in the rural areas is dire. Farmers are unable to transport their produce to markets; local people struggle to gain access to social and health care services; while school children walk many miles across make-shift tracks to get to school.

But hopes were raised yesterday - 3rd October 2011, when the Ministry of Works, Housing and Infrastructure announced it will reveal the government’s roadmap for feeder roads construction at the Wusum Hotel in Makeni.

According to State House report, the new feeder roads policy will clearly identify those ministries, departments and agencies that will have primary responsibility for its implementation to avoid confusion, duplication and dereliction of duty.

  "Feeder roads are very much important to farming communities in rural areas; in that they provide access to transportation for farmers, to enable them move their produce from farm sites to marketing centres. There will also be a clear roadmap indicating the tasks of every stakeholder in the construction and rehabilitation of feeder roads," says the Works Minister.

Minister Alimamy Koroma, said that the policy statement will outline delegated powers conferred on the ministry of finance and economic development; ministry of works, housing and infrastructure; local councils; and the Sierra Leone Roads Authority, with respect to the co-ordination and management of the construction of feeder roads, and the rehabilitation and maintenance of existing roads.

Speaking to the Communications Unit of the President’s Office, the minister said there are too many actors and stakeholders involved in the construction, maintenance and rehabilitation of feeder roads in the country, hence the need for government to formulate a co-ordinated policy.

Policy analysts say that this new co-ordinated approach should ensure that standards of quality, agreed budgets and completion time would be achieved.

"Works on feeder roads have not been properly done and the standards vary from one point to the other, with very little coordination of rehabilitation and maintenance," says minister Koroma.

He confirmed that his ministry will have full responsibility for the co-ordination of all road construction works, funded by the ministry of finance and economic development. He said that local councils will be responsible for the maintenance and rehabilitation of feeder roads, supervised and monitored by the Sierra Leone Roads Authority.

But with the excruciating suffering now being encountered by local residents, businesses and users of Wilkinson Road in Freetown, this new policy will make no difference in bringing much needed respite, as the construction work carried out by the Chinese company has not only over-run its time and budget, but has made the life of people in the area an absolute misery.

The Wilkinson Road construction project has been poorly managed since its inception. The awarding of the contract and co-ordination of the project schedule are totally at odds with standards of best practice.

Observers say that there was no risk analysis conducted. Compensation has not been made by the government to businesses for loss of trade, and to residents for damage to property.

Electricity and water supplies have been cut off for several months, leaving local communities in desperate quandary.

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President Koroma receives political violence reports

1 October 2011

Exactly twenty-one days yesterday, the peace and tranquillity of the people of Bo were seriously disturbed, when supporters of political parties went on the rampage, causing tremendous destruction to property and perpetrated ugly violence, which left scores wounded and one person shot by the police.

The violence in Kono started when the vehicle carrying the opposition SLPP presidential candidate for the 2012 elections – Julius Maada Bio entered the city of Bo, escorted by a convoy of party executives and loyal supporters were attacked.

It was reported that the convoy was attacked as it went passed the offices of the ruling party – APC. The SLPP leader sustained head injuries.

In August, there were violent scenes in the Kono district of the eastern province of Sierra Leone, when forces loyal to the minister of the interior opened gun fire on local youths - said to be supporting the country’s Vice president. There were no reports of fatalities, but political tension has risen in Kono and there are fears of a return to full-scale running battles.

Following the violence which took place in both Kono and Bo, president Koroma immediately launched investigations alongside police inquiry, into the causes and make recommendations.

President Koroma receiving the Bo report


Both the committee and police investigators have completed their investigations and have yesterday handed their reports to the president, who is then expected to request criminal action to be taken by the director of public prosecutions.

Receiving the reports at State House in Freetown yesterday, president Koroma said that; "People of this country should be free to come out and vote for their choice of candidate in the coming elections, so that the results will reflect the will of the electorate."

Acknowledging the importance of ensuring 'credibility and confidence' in those reports, the president said that the independence of the investigations was necessary; hence his appointment of respectable citizens and representatives of civil society groups to form the panel.

"The committee is not a commission of enquiry and I have not looked at the report. But the composition of investigators in the committee is credible, and the understanding is that there should be political tolerance," he said.

The president said that the democratic credentials of Sierra Leone must be maintained, and that 'political leadership in a democratic dispensation is not about owning private armies - considering the situation the country is emerging from'.

"Nobody is above the law; be you a supporter, councillor, an MP or a political leader. Whosoever is responsible for the eruption of violence in those districts will face the full force of the law," president Koroma promised.

But confidence in the president is waning. Many in Sierra Leone say that they have heard that promise from the president on far too many occasions, and yet no action has been taken – those found guilty are scotched free with impunity.

Since the completion of the Shears-Moses investigations into the causes of the politically motivated violence against the opposition SLPP in Freetown in 2009, no decision has been taken by the president to publish the report or implement its recommendations, which observers say could have far reaching implications for the maintenance of law and order in the country.

But in a strenuous bid to restore confidence, credibility and trust, president Koroma said yesterday that the outcome of the investigations into the violence in Kono and Bo, will serve as a stern warning to leaders of political parties and their supporters.

"We must provide responsible leaderships for our political parties. And any political leader who provides a leadership that sends a signal of violence will pay the cost - locally and internationally," says the president.

"There will be no hiding place to whoever is found wanting for causing unrest in the country."

These are serious threats, but will the president back up his tough promise this time with tough action? That remains to be seen.

According to statement from State House, president Koroma has instructed the Police to follow up evidence contained in the reports, wherever they may lead: "Be you APC, SLPP or PMDC, the law will take its course," says president Koroma.

Police chief Munu delivering Kono report


President Koroma said that the Police should build institutional capacity of the force, in order to make it more effective in investigating similar outbreaks of violence, rather than relying on the civil society for this work to be done.

But observers say that it is ironic that the yet to be published Shears-Moses report of 2009, had called for the immediate  restructuring of the police force, to reflect the demands of today's policing and the need for professionalism.

State House also revealed that the Inspector General of Police - Francis Munu had received intelligence, before the eruption of violence "that certain group of political parties’ followers had decided to set ablaze offices of all political parties in the country".

Why did the Inspector General of Police fail in taking appropriate action to avert the violence, given his admission to the president of prior knowledge of attacks on lives and property?

Many Sierra Leoneans now believe that this lack of judgement and indecisiveness have without any doubt, made the job of the police chief untenable. But will the president take appropriate and decisive action?

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President Koroma’s lunch with US president Obama – whats the scoop?

28 September 2011

In global politics it is not unusual for world leaders to take the opportunity during conviviality to share and exchange pleasantries with fellow leaders. And it is also true that on such occasions, especially at UN events, leaders of powerful nations do discuss strategic interests and would seek support for issues of national concern.

President Koroma was certainly the 'man of the moment' in New York last week, when he sat next to US president Obama and UN Secretary General during lunch. But this was no ordinary lunch.

There have been speculations as to what could have been on the agenda of Obama’s lunch discussions with Koroma. But what is interesting is that pro-Koroma media and supporters were in awe and celebratory mood, as stories about the lunch broke in New York.

Did president Obama discuss the decision of Sierra Leone’s opposition SLPP to elect former military chief – Julius Maada Bio as their presidential candidate for the 2012 election?

Did president Obama advise Koroma of US solidarity and support for Koroma’s second term bid for the presidency?

Whatever the official answers are to those questions, pro-Koroma media have already made up their minds about the contents of the lunch discussions.


"Events at the ongoing 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly are demonstrating clearly that President Ernest Bai Koroma has won universal acclaim for his impeccable leadership, respect for multi-party democracy, fundamental human rights and the rule of law, not to mention his immaculate socio-economic and political development in Sierra Leone," says Cokorioko News - a paper published by Sierra Leone's government minister at the UN.

Events at the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly? What events?

Well, according to Cokorioko; "Since his (president Koroma's) arrival in New York, world leaders have been requesting President Koroma to be alongside them while presiding over functions. He is the model they are using to demonstrate their ideals."

Really? But one has to wonder what the UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon and president Obama thought of the gun shoot-out between warring factions of Koroma’s government, recently in Kono and the violence in Bo, which left one person dead.

Corruption in high places continues to destroy any chance of meaningful economic growth in Sierra Leone, and the discovery of oil has heightened worries as to how best to manage the country’s new found wealth. Unemployment, especially youth unemployment, stands at over 70%. The economy has been in serious recession since 2008, with inflation now at 19%.

So why are world leaders – including president Obama, queuing up at the UN to study the ‘Koroma formula’ for good governance and economic success?

What is also intriguing about the story, is the alleged decision of the US president to sit next to president Koroma during lunch, so as to show his opposition to Bio's bid for the presidency. Cokorioko is resolute:

"The U.S. President made the request at a time when he has told the UN General Assembly that he will not allow any leader who has abused human rights to enter the U.S.," says Cokorioko News.

But why would president Obama want to compromise his diplomacy and foreign policy in such a manner?

According to AFP News; "Obama was seated between Ban and Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma, whose 2007 election was seen as a test of the West African country’s emergence from the chaos of a decade-long war. He too faces a contested election next year."

"Obama had a chance to chat with Koroma and other leaders at the head table as they savoured a lunch of roast lamb with goat cheese and peppers, followed by a crème Brule dessert with red fruits, and washed down with wines — a French white and a California red," says AFP.

The truth about the Obama – Koroma lunch discussions is simple and void of any conspiracy theory.  The US president must have decided to take the opportunity to discuss recent eruption of violence in Sierra Leone, and the heightening of political tension between the two main parties.

President Obama would have certainly tried to calm the nerves of Koroma, and possibly offer a friendly advice to keep focus on maintaining law and order, along with an assurance of US support in helping the country prepare for the 2012 elections.

Perhaps more importantly also, would have been the need for Obama to sound Koroma on key African political developments such as Libya, Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Liberia, as well as lobby support against the Palestinian proposal for an Independent State.

Former British Prime Minister - Tony Blair, who is adviser to president Koroma, was also spotted in New York at an evening dinner event acting as president Koroma’s political chaperone. Was Blair lobbying Koroma’s vote in support of the Palestinian proposed two state solution to the middle-east crisis?

Whilst president koroma would no doubt have savoured his lunch and dinner with Obama and Blair in New York last week, what he would have also learned is that in global politics, there is no such thing as a free lunch and Maada Bio could not have been on the menu.

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GAVI Alliance delivers on its promise to tackle diarrhoea and pneumonia

27 September 2011

  The global health partnership - GAVI Alliance, set up to save children’s lives and protecting people’s health by increasing access to immunisation in poor countries, has announced today that it will be stepping up its work in developing countries.

GAVI is supporting child immunisation efforts in Sierra Leone and has made a huge difference to the lives of many.

The organisation says that it will now provide additional funding to 34 developing countries to deliver more vaccines: 16 to introduce rotavirus vaccines, and 18 to introduce pneumococcal vaccines. This announcement will mark a major step towards protecting children against severe diarrhoea and pneumonia, the two leading child killers in poor countries.

According to GAVI, the roll out of rotavirus vaccines across the African continent has already begun in Sudan, and today’s announcement confirms funding for 12 more African countries to follow suit.

"Thanks to our donors and partners, the GAVI Alliance is now delivering on its promise to protect more children across the developing world against rotavirus, pneumococcal disease and other life-threatening yet preventable diseases," said GAVI CEO Seth Berkley (M.D).

"The death toll of rotavirus and pneumococcal infections in Africa is particularly devastating, and this is where these vaccines will make the most significant impact, not only in lives saved, but also in terms of healthy lives lived," he added. "Immunisation enables good health and healthy people are more productive and ultimately fuel economic growth."

An ever-increasing number of countries have applied for vaccine funding and yesterday – Monday, GAVI’s Executive Committee approved applications from 37 countries: 16 for rotavirus vaccines, 18 for pneumococcal vaccines, five for pentavalent vaccine, and 12 for other types of vaccines.

Twenty-four of the thirty-seven applications are from African countries.

Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhoea in children under five years of age, killing more than half a million children each year worldwide and causing illness in several million more.

Nearly 50% of all rotavirus deaths occur in Africa, where access to treatment for severe rotavirus diarrhoea is limited or unavailable.

Pneumococcal disease causes pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis and also takes the lives of more than half a million children each year worldwide, the vast majority of them in Africa and Asia.

The funding of 18 more countries, of which 12 are in Africa, will see the introduction of pneumococcal vaccines, which will take the total to 37 since the roll out of pneumococcal vaccines in GAVI-supported countries began in December 2010 in Nicaragua.

By 2015, GAVI and its partners plan to support more than 40 of the world’s poorest countries to rollout rotavirus vaccines and immunise more than 50 million children. In addition to Sudan, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Guyana, and Honduras have already introduced rotavirus vaccines with GAVI’s support.

"The high number of approved applications for funding for new vaccines in this latest round is yet another milestone in the fight to prevent child deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases," said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General.

She also said that ;"as demand for new vaccines increases further, WHO will continue providing critical support to countries for decision-making on new vaccines, surveillance, and immunization programme planning, training, and evaluation."

"These new vaccines will prevent millions of children from dying of pneumonia and diarrhoea, the biggest killers of children under five," said UNICEF Executive Director - Anthony Lake.

"In rolling out these vaccines, we need to focus especially on reaching the children at greatest risk, for it is among the most vulnerable that these vaccines can make the biggest difference, especially if they are combined with better nutrition, sanitation and other critical interventions," says Anthony.

"Vaccines prevent disease and give children a healthy start to life – they represent one of the best investments in global health," said Dr. Rajeev Venkayya, Director of Vaccine Delivery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dr. Rajeev Venkayya also said that; "we must work together to ensure that all children have access to the right set of vaccines, in rich and poor countries alike."

Rotavirus vaccines have proven to be highly effective at reducing severe and fatal diarrhoea and have saved thousands of children’s lives. Recent studies show the swift and significant impact of rotavirus vaccines to reduce child deaths and improve children’s health.

For example, prior to the introduction of the vaccines in Mexico in 2006, 50% of deaths due to childhood diarrhoea were caused by rotavirus. The country has since seen a remarkable 46% reduction in the number of children under age five dying from diarrhoea.

GAVI and its partners also plan to support more than 40 countries to introduce pneumococcal vaccines and immunise more than 90 million children against pneumococcal disease by 2015.

The GAVI Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in both industrialised and developing countries, research and technical agencies, civil society organizations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private philanthropists.

Since it was launched at the World Economic Forum in 2000, GAVI has prevented more than five million future deaths and helped protect 288 million children with new and underused vaccines.

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Opposition SLPP takes political initiative and moral high ground

26 September 2011

It is now three weeks since the eruption of serious violence in Sierra Leone’s Southern district of Bo, leaving one person dead – apparently shot by the police, several properties torched, and scores wounded.

The inquiry set up by president Koroma to investigate the causes of the violence is yet to complete its task, which many say has already been polarised by briefings and counter-briefing by government ministers and the opposition.

Amid the tension and accusations levied at the police for their role in the Bo violence, president Koroma has had top level meetings with senior officers of the security forces, including the army to make contingency plans, should there be an outbreak of similar levels of violence elsewhere in the country.

Sections of the population have accused the police of 'acting indifferently' during the disturbances, whilst others say that some police officers actively participated in perpetuating the violence. But with the Inquiry still at its infancy, it is impossible to obtain an independent view of what actually took place on Friday, 9th September 2011.

  Taking the political initiative and moral high ground last Thursday, the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party – SLPP issued a statement calling for all political parties to work together towards formulating a joint-communiqué, which denounces all forms of political violence, as senior police officers place a temporary ban on all public political events until further notice.

"The decision is as a consequence of recent political unrest emanating from Bo (in the south) and Kono (in the east) and intelligence reports of pending attacks and counter attacks on political opponents," says police chief - Francis Munu, in a statement issued after a meeting between the police and political parties.

"In a wider security interest for peace, it has been deemed necessary to observe a cooling period from the hanging threats of crime, fear and disorder by imposing a blanket ban on all political rallies, processions and public meetings until further notice.

All political meetings should be confined to political party offices as the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has not published the timetable for the 2012 elections which are still over one year away," says the police statement.

The government is yet to respond to the opposition’s demand for a joint-communiqué. It is understood that the president has decided not to comment any further on the Bo and Kono violence, while the inquiries are on-going.

In their statement, the opposition SLPP said that it "wishes to inform the general public that a consultative meeting between the Inspector-General of Police and the leadership of registered political parties, namely: the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), All People’s Congress (APC), National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) was convened at Police Headquarters on Wednesday 21st September 2011."

The statement went on to say that; "Thereafter the Police singularly issued an undated Press Release - the contents of which were not discussed during our meeting.

"In that meeting the SLPP as a responsible Political Party reiterated its abiding commitment to ensuring at all times respect for the Rule of Law and the maintenance of law and order.

We like to bring to the attention of our wider membership and the public that the position of the Party was that the outcome of the meeting should be conveyed in a communiqué signed by the parties and that the chairpersons of the SLPP and APC should further meet and issue a joint statement condemning violence and criminality."

"The incidence of violence that occurred in Bo on Friday 9th September 2011, resulted in the death of one person and injuries to about twenty (20) other persons including the Presidential Nominee of the Sierra Leone People’s Party. An investigation of the incident has been instituted by Government which is still ongoing.

"In any case, even before the aforementioned meeting at Police Headquarters, the leadership of the SLPP had decided to put on hold the nationwide 'Thank the People' tour to allow its Presidential Nominee to receive medical attention abroad.

The Police at the Consultative Meeting referred to above assured us of a 'cooling down' period of thirty days before the lifting of the blanket ban which was not reflected in their Press Statement. We take great exception to that omission which we believe is a restriction on our constitutional rights and liberties and call on the Sierra Leone Police to review their blanket and indefinite ban immediately," says the opposition SLPP.

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Guinea: Putting the Transition Back on Track

The International Crisis Group

24 September 2011


After the election of Alpha Condé to the presidency in November 2010, legislative elections are set to complete a new phase in Guinea’s political transition. However, recent violent ethnic politics and the political actors’ mistrust in the electoral arrangements are cause for concern.

Condé’s unilateral move to overhaul the electoral system has gained little praise, and with his party’s gloomy prospects for the legislative elections, suspicion is increasing.

He has done too little too late to promote reconciliation or dialogue with the opposition.

Guinea can afford neither a makeshift electoral system, nor a new campaign based on ethnic factors. Rising pre-electoral tensions could spark inter-communal violence and offer an opportunity to take action for those in the army unhappy about loss of power.

The 19 July military attack launched by some soldiers on the presidential residence confirmed this is a real possibility. A genuine agreement between the main political actors on the organisation of the legislative elections is crucial and urgent.

Without the international community’s significant involvement, chances of success are slim.

Guinean President - Conde


Condé’s accession to power provided an extraordinary opportunity to end 50 years of authoritarianism and economic stagnation.

The new government faces immense challenges with limited means, even if donors seem prepared to increase aid.

The failure of the 19 July attempt against the president’s life indicates that, for the moment at least, it has the military hierarchy’s support.

Condé has consolidated the normalisation process begun by his predecessor, General Sékouba Konaté, and sent the army back to the barracks and away from Conakry.

The imposition of heavy security measures since 19 July, however, has set the process back. Security sector reform is still at a preliminary stage.

The new authorities show willingness to provide good economic and financial governance, but strict budgetary discipline will depress the economy, at least in the short term, so they are trying to compensate by responding to social demands, importing food and improving electricity supply.

There are indications of an ambitious long-term economic restructuring program.

On the other hand, it is only recently that dialogue with the opposition has begun and some conciliatory gestures have been made. For example, on 15 August the president met with one of the leading opposition representatives for the first time since the election.

He plays both sides though, for example accusing the main opposition party of being responsible for the 19 July attack before the judiciary has even looked into the case and long ignoring, before rejecting it, a memorandum about the organisation of the elections handed by the opposition to the government on 17 August.

The legacy of his own election is cause for some concern, including for the legislative contests, because it gave new impetus to the idea that Guinea’s history is a struggle between its four major ethno-regional blocs. In the first round, most politicians started by organising their own communities.

The second round – during which ethnic rhetoric built steadily on all sides – was a scarcely disguised debate on supposed Peul domination, with Condé, a Malinké, attributing hegemonic ambitions to that community from which his opponent and the main opposition party leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, comes.

Although the security forces were responsible for the worst violence, political mobilisation along ethnic lines sparked clashes and claimed victims. Organisational weaknesses of the electoral process fed these tensions by allowing mutual accusations of fraud at every stage.

The new government has done little to cope with this grim legacy and been slow to organise the legislative elections, which are indispensable for completing the institutional arrangements required by the constitution.

It kept quiet for months about the elections procedure, until, on 15 September, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) suggested they be held on 29 December 2011.

However, the authorities had already begun to overhaul the electoral register, made changes to the INEC and redefined the division of labour between it and the territorial administration ministry.

The National Transition Council (an interim legislative body) and civil society tried to mediate, and under domestic and international pressure, the authorities finally called for consultations and abandoned the creation of a new electoral register.

The initiation of a dialogue has not so far enabled any agreement on the bones of contention: the composition and functioning of the INEC, the electoral register and the elections date.

The suspicions generated by the electoral system risk accentuating tensions in certain areas and leading to inter-communal violence. This could in turn spark reprisals elsewhere in the country or provoke a brutal reaction from an army that 19 July showed is still divided about the return to a civilian government capable of putting an end to crude activities of illicit enrichment. It is also split by factionalism, partly along ethnic lines.

Further delaying the elections is not an option: it would only worsen tensions and suspicions, and a national assembly based on a popular mandate is urgently needed in order to restore balance in the political system and take further steps toward democracy.

Because another period of electoral instability could endanger the young Guinean democracy, the government and the opposition must discuss electoral arrangements at the highest level, and all political actors must refrain from stirring up inter-ethnic tensions.

The international community, which partly withdrew after Condé came to power, must accompany this final stage of the transition, providing guarantees for the legislative elections as it did for the presidential election.

President koroma of Sierra Leone and Conde of Guinea


The Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) and the UN must reinvest vigorously in Guinea to preserve the gains acquired since the demise of Lansana Conté’s regime in December 2008 and the removal of the military junta led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara in January 2010.

Unfortunately, the democratic transition in Guinea is not irreversible.



To President Condé:

1. Engage in direct and periodic political dialogue with the leaders of the most important parties (those that received more than a certain percentage of the votes in the first round of the presidential election, 5 per cent, for example), at least until the legislative assembly is in place.

2. Refrain from ambiguous and dangerous rhetoric accusing unidentified citizens of “sabotaging” government actions; avoid misusing his prestige as an opponent of authoritarian regimes as justification to avoid the political debate that is indispensable for a democratic system; and take a clear public stand against the ethnically-laden provocative speeches by some of his allies and supporters.

3. Avoid any political statement which may be understood as interfering with the judicial process for investigating the 19 July attack.

To the Guinean Government:

4. Work with opposition parties, especially the Union of Guinean Democratic Forces (Union des forces démocratiques de Guinée, UFDG) and the Union of Republican Forces (Union des forces républicaines, UFR), to seek a genuine consensus about the electoral process, including the calendar, the voters register and the Electoral Commission.

5. Continue to accept the National Transition Council (NTC) as a legitimate legislative partner until the National Assembly starts functioning, as set out in the constitution.

6. Prepare draft organic bills on the institutions required by the constitution, especially the Supreme Judicial Council, the Supreme Court and the Economic and Social Council.

7. Guarantee the freedom to demonstrate, a constitutional right.

8. Continue efforts to promote good governance and implement commitments made to this effect, notably publication of mining contracts and asset declarations by the president and ministers.

9. Continue the fight against impunity by both:

a) increasing the resources available to the judges investigating the massacre of 28 September 2009 and ensuring independence and fairness of the judicial process, as well as witness protection; and

b) continuing efforts to punish abuses of power committed routinely by members of the security forces.

10. Proceed expeditiously with security sector reform, including by transforming strategic plans into concrete actions and by taking into account all the security actors, among which the almost 6,000 young men recruited by Moussa Dadis Camara.

To the opposition parties:

11. Accept government proposals for dialogue on the electoral process and other important issues without insisting that strict observance of the constitution is the answer to all the country’s problems.

12. Play a constructive role in the NTC and use this forum to defend their positions.

13. Cease questioning the legitimacy of President Condé’s election.

14. Take a clear, public position against the escalation of ethnic tensions promoted by some of their supporters.

To the Independent National Electoral Commission:

15. Prepare, in cooperation with civil society, a code of conduct to be signed by all political parties contesting the elections, committing them to refrain from any comment that risks stirring up inter-communal tensions during the campaign, and ensure it is widely available to citizens.

To the National Transition Council:

16. Continue to fulfil the legislative role attributed to it by the constitution, including by adopting organic bills on the institutions required by the constitution, in particular the Supreme Judicial Council, the Supreme Court and the Economic and Social Council, independently of whether the government takes the initiative or not.

To Guinean civil society:

17. Watch and contribute to the establishment of a code of conduct that must be prepared by the INEC and create an independent observatory, possibly in association with the Independent National Human Rights Institution, to monitor the respect of the above-mentioned code, the treatment of ethnic issues in the media and political life, document abuses and publish regular reports.

18. Create an independent observatory, possibly in association with the Independent National Human Rights Institution, on impunity, with representatives of civil society, jurists, military and ex-military personnel, to monitor judicial cases involving members of the defence and security forces and publish regular reports.

To Guinea’s international partners, especially the Group of Friends of Guinea:

19. Reaffirm their availability and vigilance regarding completion of the transition, especially monitoring of the legislative elections, notably by:

a) convening rapidly a Group of Friends meeting with member states’ foreign ministers and member organisations’ high-level representatives in Conakry;

b) continuing regular meetings with the ambassadors of the main political actors.


To the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, the President of the ECOWAS Commission and the President of the African Union Commission:

20. Continue to the establishment of the National Assembly the prominent political role they played before the presidential election, including by:


a) resuming the offer to mediate, which they did successfully until the presidential elections, this time with the objective of facilitating dialogue between the president and his opponents; and helping the government and the main political parties to reach an agreement on the Independent National Electoral Commission, the electoral agenda and register, as well as on the role of international guarantors;

b) preparing, with other relevant actors in the UN system, a technical assistance mission for the elections; and

c) allowing General Sékouba Konaté, whose role in the first stage of the transition was unanimously welcomed and who now has important responsibilities in the African Union, to demonstrate his continuing commitment to the transition, especially through meetings with President Condé.

To the UN Secretary-General Special Representative for West Africa:

21. Take on entirely the coordination of international efforts in support of security sector reform, liaising with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), as the Guinean authorities requested to the UN, through the rapid establishment of the permanent coordination mechanism necessary to attract and preserve donors’ trust in pursuance of the reform.

To the President of the Commission of the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS):

22. Mobilise, as of now, the necessary means to send an election monitoring mission, which would be deployed in all regions of Guinea before and after the legislative elections.

To the UN Peacebuilding Commission:

23. Work with the government to define a calendar for priority tasks, especially security sector reform and national reconciliation.

To all bilateral donors interested in security sector reform, especially the U.S., France and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS):

24. Reaffirm support for security sector reform and advance its coherence by strengthening coordination of bilateral initiatives by the UN.

To read the full Report - go to The International Crisis Group:

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President Koroma at the UN

Dennis Kabatto

21 September 2011


The President of the Republic of Sierra Leone Dr. Ernest B. Koroma, accompanied by his wife Mrs. Sia N. Koroma and some of his key cabinet officials, arrived in New York late Monday afternoon to attend the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), which commenced in Manhattan on September 13, 2011.

While in New York, President Koroma is scheduled to attend an Africa America Institute (AAI) African National Reconciliation and Peace Award, honouring the People of The Republic of Sierra Leone, at its 27th annual Awards Dinner Gala.


The event will take place today Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 at 7 pm at The Light House at Chelsea Piers in New York City.  Tickets to this mandatory Black Tie or National Attire event are $500 - $1,000 and Tables $5,000 - $100,000.  Pupa Baja and the Dry Eye Crew – a Sierra Leonean group are slated to perform at tonight’s Awards Dinner Gala.

AAI says that the award is in recognition of the remarkable strides that Sierra Leone has made in the almost 10 years, since the end of the 11-year civil war that killed and maimed thousands and all but destroyed its formal economy.

President Koroma will deliver his 3rd address to the 66th Session of the UNGA on Friday, September 23, 2011. 

According to the Department of Information and Public Affairs at the Sierra Leone Mission to the UN, President Koroma will also ring the Closing Bell of the NASDAQ Stock Exchange at One Liberty Plaza in downtown Manhattan’s Financial District on Friday, September 23, 2011.

The event is sponsored by American Foundation for African Children’s Organization, which claims to work directly with local African organizations to provide a suitable learning environment for underprivileged children.

On Saturday, September 24, 2011, President Koroma will proceed to the Garden State of New Jersey for a Retreat and Working Lunch with members of the All People’s Congress North America (APC/NA) at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre located at 135 Davidson Avenue in Somerset, New Jersey.

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President Koroma rehearsing his 2012 election campaign theme: "I don’t have blood in my hands"

21 September 2011

  Speaking to a congregation attending last Friday’s Juma prayer at the Jamil-Ul-Jalil Temne Mosque at Oldfield Street, freetown, President Koroma pulled no punches. He laid down his marker for a tough fight at next year’s general elections.

The special Juma prayer was held at the mosque to mark the President’s fourth year in office.

Although campaigning has not yet officially commenced, the president took the opportunity to take an indirect shot at the Opposition SLPP presidential candidate – Julius maada Bio.

According to statement from State House, President Koroma told the congregation that 'unlike others he has no blood in his hands and that he did not take up power through the sacrifice of innocent lives in Sierra Leone'.

"I don’t have blood in my hands. And it is God that directed the people of Sierra Leone to vote for me as President of the country. It has always been the will of the people and God" – said the president.

"We have over 50 newspapers and 42 radio stations currently operating in the country, that air and publish whatever they want, but no journalist has been imprisoned and the government has no political prisoner", he said; as he raised his hands to show the congregation his proverbial 'clean hands'.

"We are here to worship in peace and to thank God for what he has done for us as a country; because it is Allah that directed the people to vote for me as President. After four years in office, we are thanking the Almighty God for giving us the opportunity to serve him", president Koroma told the congregation.

Speaking about his record in office, President Koroma said; "when we came into office, Freetown was the darkest city in the world. But that became a thing of the past. We thank God for sparing the lives of our women and children, and for directing our leadership, so that we are now doing things that have restored hope to Sierra Leoneans and pride to the country."

Asking the people of Sierra Leone to thank God for his divine intervention, in achieving peace, stability and development, the president warned that; "anyone who thinks he can disturb the peace, will be severely dealt with by the law."

He said that anyone found wanting for the recent violent disturbances in Bo, will be prosecuted. A commission of enquiry has been appointed by President Koroma to investigate the causes of the violence in Bo and make recommendations.

"Nobody will get power again through the barrel of a gun or find his way to State House through violent means. Sierra Leone is owned by Sierra Leoneans. Therefore, all of us should take the lead in the transformation process of the country. And we as a responsible government have done all that we are supposed to do", says the president.

Taking credit for progress achieved in the last four years in office, President Koroma told those attending the Friday Juma prayer at the Temne Mosque that; no other government in Sierra Leone has ever achieved what his government has done after four years in office.

Speaking on behalf of the Mosque, Alhaji Issa said that; "the congregation is not here to praise President Koroma, but to thank God for giving the country a good leader in the person of Ernest Bai Koroma, who is judiciously utilizing state funds for the reformation of the country".

Chairman of the Jamil-Ul-Jalil Temne Mosque called upon President Koroma to focus his energy on the problems facing the country’s youth. He said that they are the future leaders of the country.

Youth unemployment, which is likely to be the most contentious issue in 2012, now stands at more than 80% in some towns and cities, while the rate of unemployment nationally, has reached 65%.

The opposition SLPP is yet to comment on the content of the president's speech.

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President Koroma calls for a national conference on the future of Sierra Leone

20 September 2011

  Sierra Leoneans struggling to survive on less than a dollar a day, may be forgiven for pouring scorn on president Koroma’s proposed national conference to discuss the country’s future, after four years in power.

The price of rice has gone up from Le60,000 in 2007 to almost Le200,000 in 2011; electricity and water supplies are intermittent, causing enormous hardship in most towns and cities.

But supporters of the government are hoping that the conference will map out a new future, based on a framework that could address poverty and other socio-economic malaise.

But as the country heads for elections in 2012, government’s critics are not convinced of the president’s intention. They want to know what has happened to the government’s flagship development plan – the 'Agenda for Change', if the president is now calling for a new 'agenda', after four years in power.

  First mooted during his 50th Independence celebration speech on 27 April 2011, the president said that he would like all Sierra Leoneans – irrespective of tribe and political party affiliation, to be involved in a national debate about how the country is being governed and where the country is heading.

Political opponents are pouring cold water on the idea of a national conference, which they regard as an unnecessary and cunning diversion by the president, away from the economic hardship and failure by the government to turn the country around in 36 months as promised.

According to a statement from State House, president Koroma last Thursday said that the proposed conference will transcend party politics, and will focus on the role of private and public sectors, good governance, civil society, effective checks and balances, the role of members of parliament, the independence of parliament and the judiciary, the functions of non-governmental organisations.

"But if the people of Sierra Leone are getting ready to pass their verdict on the performance of the APC government in a year’s time, why does the president want to change course now?" Asked a senior opposition SLPP executive.

The president made the declaration whilst addressing the inaugural meeting of the conference steering committee at the Miatta Conference Centre, in Freetown.

  President Koroma said that "Sierra Leone must transform itself and that there will be no reversal".

"We must transform that statement into real action. We should be a united people and a prosperous nation", president Koroma told his audience.

President Koroma said that after 50 years of Independent mistakes have been made, and bold steps must be taken to learn from those mistakes.

According to statement from State House, the outcome of the proposed national conference "will help prepare Sierra Leone’s private sector to handle the influx of huge investments that are about to come into the country".

"We must have everybody - including political parties, fully involved. That’s why we have invited Sierra Leoneans at home and in the diaspora to come and participate in the development of a strong human resource for the country", said President Koroma.

The co-ordinator of the national conference steering committee - Herbert McLeod, said that his committee will encourage and consult with universities, schools and colleges in the country, to ensure the success of the proposed conference.

It is not yet certain when the conference will take place and whether opposition political parties will participate. There are no budgets allocated to the conference steering committee.

But, will the outcome of the conference lead to the enactment of the long awaited Freedom of Information Bill?

Will the national conference produce a revised Constitution for Sierra Leone, after the recent constitutional review, the recommendations of which are yet to be published and acted upon?

Will the proposed conference discuss the findings of the public enquiries into politically motivated violence committed in 2009 in Freetown against the opposition by pro-government supporters; recent political violence in Kono and Bo respectively?

Will the outcome of the national conference lead to the formulation of a cross-party National Development Plan that will replace the government’s 'Agenda for Change'?

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Liberia’s economic Performance has been good and all monetary and fiscal targets for the first six months of 2011 were met – says IMF

16 September 2011

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission to Liberia, today ended its seventh review of the country’s economic performance. In a statement issued in Monrovia this afternoon, the head of mission - Mr. Christopher Lane, said that Liberia has met all of its monetary and fiscal targets in the first half of this year.

President Sirleaf Johnson

  Liberia has seen a steady improvement in its economic fortunes, under the strong leadership of President - Mrs. Helen Sirleaf Johnson, who has taken very bold steps to restructure the economy and implement strict fiscal programme.

"Considerable progress has been achieved in finalizing a number of administrative reforms, plans, and legislation; publication of the Liberia Revenue Code is expected shortly" - says the IMF mission.

But some concerns have been raised by the mission, in particular - the pace of some of the reform programmes.

"Progress is ongoing on the remaining structural benchmarks, including customs systems upgrading and the launching of the integrated financial management information system. Further progress is needed in the area of financial reporting by state owned enterprises, relatively few of whom are complying with current reporting regulations" – the IMF cautioned the Liberian authorities.

It would seem that President Sirleaf would need to continue further work in the way the government is run, so as to ensure that gains achieved in the economy are not cancelled out by poor governance.

To this end, the IMF believes that; "It will be important, however, to further improve economic governance, transparency, and financial oversight of the operations of state-owned enterprises as required under the Public Financial Management law."

The mission is quite satisfied with the growth of the economy so far this year. It says that; "Recent economic developments are broadly encouraging. Economic growth in 2011 is accelerating, supported by resumption of iron ore production and increased output in the rubber and forestry sectors."

Mr. Lane said that; "The mission welcomed the progress made both in maintaining macroeconomic and financial stability and in making progress on the development agenda, notwithstanding the challenges posed by elevated food and fuel prices."

But with Liberia’s effort in rebuilding its infrastructure destroyed by years of neglect and war, the control of public spending and the financing of large capital programmes, have been a huge challenge for President Sirleaf.

"The fiscal out-turn in the 2011 financial year, has demonstrated improved resource mobilization, expenditure, and spending composition compared to the previous years" - says the IMF mission chief – Christopher Lane.

The role of the commercial banking sector in stimulating private sector growth, without causing inflationary pressures is just as important for Liberia, as much as the expansion of the economy through public spending.

In this regard, the IMF says that "the banking sector continues to expand and financial soundness indicators are improving, with a recent deterioration of bank loan portfolios being successfully contained".

The IMF is pleased to report that; "the launch in September of mobile banking will bring access to financial services to a larger share of population."

"Performance under the IMF-supported economic program has been good. All monetary and fiscal targets (performance criteria) through end-June 2011 were met."

The role of the Liberian Central bank in achieving these targets is significant.

"The mission welcomes the Central Bank of Liberia’s commitment to maintain its strategic focus on price stability and its ongoing efforts to strengthen the credit environment and improve its supervisory capacity through the adoption of risk-based supervision, as well as steps towards developing the financial sector and further enhancing internal management and financial controls" - says Mr. Lane.

What is also encouraging is that, according to the mission; "Monetary developments are on track and no significant changes to the monetary policy stance appear warranted."

It seems the government of Liberia is well poised to further improve its economic performance in 2012, if current trajectory is maintained.

The IMF is confident that; "Economic prospects for 2012 and over the medium term remain favourable, helped by buoyant prices for iron ore, rubber and palm oil."

But there are external risks, says the mission chief. "The downside risk to this outlook is a potential slowdown in global economic activity which could lead to lower commodity prices and hence lower fiscal revenues, employment, and growth."

In concluding, however, the IMF mission warned that while prospect for 2012 looks promising; "The approved FY2012 budget balances the need to expand priority expenditure with fiscal prudence and measures to safeguard efficient budget execution, including the preparation of a contingent budget to accommodate potential additional revenues."

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Lessons from Nigeria’s 2011 Elections

The International Crisis Group

16 Sep 2011

With the April 2011 general elections, Nigeria may have taken steps towards reversing the degeneration of its previous elections, but the work is not finished. Despite some progress, early and intensive preparations for the 2015 elections need to start now.

Voter registration need not be as chaotic and expensive as it was this year if done on a continual basis. Far-reaching technical and administrative reforms of, and by, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), notably internal restructuring and constituency delineation, should be undertaken and accompanied by broad political and economic reforms that make the state more relevant to citizens and help guarantee an electoral and democratic future.

The deadly post-presidential election violence in the North and bomb blasts by the Islamic fundamentalist Boko Haram sect since President Jonathan’s 29 May inauguration indicate the enormous challenges facing the new government.

It must show more determination to contain violence in society. Addressing chronic poverty and the North’s underdevelopment – major grievances – would strengthen its hand.

The resounding, if controversial, victory of Goodluck Jonathan over veteran opposition leader General (ret.) Muhammadu Buhari was not the only significant change brought about by the elections. He was the first southern minority leader to win the presidency, having become the incumbent by his predecessor’s death in office. 72 of 109 senators lost their seats.

In the House of Representatives, 260 of the 360 members are newly elected. President Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) lost its two-thirds majority in the Senate and now holds the governorship in only 23 of the 36 states, compared to 27 after the 2007 elections.

A major winner was the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), whose success in the South-West has returned this region to its tradition of being in opposition to the ruling party at the centre. Another winner was the All-Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), which wrested control of Imo state from the PDP; along with Anambra state, which it won in 2007, it now holds two core South-East states.

In short, despite the presidency result, the polls shattered the PDP’s one-time near invincibility.
After three flawed elections – 1999, that heralded the Fourth Republic, 2003 and 2007, the last being the most discredited – the 2011 polls were critical for Nigeria’s fledgling democracy and overall political health.

The eve of the elections was marked by a blend of cautious optimism and foreboding. Attahiru Jega, INEC chair, and his team won plaudits for instituting important reforms, including to the voting procedure; the introduction of the idea of community mandate protection to prevent malpractice; and the prosecution and sentencing of officials, including the electoral body’s own staff, for electoral offences.

There were also grounds for pessimism: the upsurge of violence in several states, encouraged by politicians and their supporters who feared defeat; an ambiguous and confusing legal framework for the elections; and a flawed voter registration exercise, with poorly functioning biometric scans, that resulted in an inflated voters roll.

Few, however, predicted the violence that erupted in some Northern states following the announcement of the presidential results. With over 1,000 people killed, the protests made the elections one of the bloodiest ever.

The polls were also riddled with malpractices, logistical deficiencies and procedural inconsistencies. Reported voter turnout of about 78 per cent in the South-South and the South-East during the presidential elections exceeded the national average by at least 50 per cent, suggesting electoral fraud.

Yet, the polls were, on balance, the most credible to date. Across the country, the strength of the electoral process appeared mostly to have trumped its weaknesses. Domestic and international observers commended INEC for improved logistics and a smooth voting process.

A combination of electoral, constitutional and economic reforms is needed to make the 2015 polls truly free and fair and to ensure they are not tainted by blood.

The proposals from the 2009 Uwais Electoral Reform Committee report should be widely published and reform efforts enhanced to make the system more inclusive; economic reforms should be introduced to reduce poverty and create jobs for restive young school-leavers and graduates.

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, which was signed into law in late May and guarantees the right of access of individuals and groups to information held by public institutions, and the new Sovereign Wealth Fund scheme are important steps forward.

Constitutional reform should be done with a more holistic, less piecemeal approach, with the full involvement of the Nigerian people, who have long been demanding it.

President Jonathan pledged to transform the country during his campaign. Yet, his cabinet, a hodgepodge of recycled, failed and controversial ministers, party stalwarts indicted in the past, a few probable reformers and some technocrats, inspires little confidence among Nigerians.

The new government’s priorities should include:

• releasing funds to INEC so it can begin early preparations for the 2015 elections;

• directing INEC to compile, maintain and update the National Register of Voters on a continual basis, in accordance with Section 9 (1) of the 2010 Nigerian Electoral Act;

• using the Uwais Committee’s extensive recommendations as the basis for a broad debate on constitutional reform, including a review of the simple-plurality electoral system for legislative elections;

• responding to the genuine grievances of those living in parts of the North that are considerably poorer than some wealthier Southern states and prioritising improving their dire living conditions, while not overlooking states with similar problems in the South;

• disclosing the results of the investigation into post-electoral violence, including the identities of those responsible and the causes, and working with state governments, local councils, traditional and religious leaders, relevant non-state actors and key local figures to prevent recurrence in 2015;

• prosecuting those responsible for electoral malpractices or post-electoral violence, regardless of their status; and

• putting more effective procedures in place for challenging possible massive rigging, as opposed to individual instances of abuse at polling stations.

To read the full Report - Africa Briefing No.81:

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Guineans donate rice in return for the disputed Yenga?

16 September 2011

President Koroma and President Conde


Neighbouring Guinea’s decision to donate 2,000 metric tons of rice to the government of Sierra Leone, has been received with mixed emotions.

Whilst many regard the gesture by the Guinean authorities in Conakry as one of 'brotherly generousity', most Sierra Leoneans are sceptical, and see it as a cynical ploy to bribe Sierra Leone’s politicians in return for the disputed village of Yenga.


Yenga is in Sierra Leone’s territory, bordering the state of Guinea. It was occupied by Guinean troops after the end of Sierra Leone’s civil war.

There have been numerous reports of human rights abuse and the maltreatment of local people, who are refusing to be governed by the Guinean authorities.

The former Sierra Leonean government of Ahmed Tejan Kabbah had tried diplomatic negotiations with the Guineans under the auspices of the regional body – the Manor River Union, for the peaceful return of Yenga to Sierra Leone, but without success.

The expectation of the people of Sierra Leone is that President Koroma would step up the pressure on the Guinean government to relinquish control of Yenga. Today that hope has been dashed.

The Guineans appear to have bought their way from the negotiating table by donating 2,000 metric tons of rice to the government of Sierra Leone, in order to help President Koroma achieve his failed food self-sufficiency programme.

In 2007, at the height of election campaigning, then opposition leader - Mr. Koroma, told the people of Sierra Leone that if elected and within three years, he will ensure that no one in the country goes to bed hungry.

The price of rice has increased from Le60,000 per bag in 2007 to almost Le200,000 in 2011. Rice is in short supply; the Guineans know it and they have used it as a bargaining chip in return for the disputed territory of Yenga, which many believe to be rich in minerals – gold and diamond.

According to statement from Sierra Leone’s State House; 'during the presentation ceremony held at State House, Freetown, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma expressed delight in receiving the Guinean delegation.'

'He underscored the significance of the gift from President Prof. Alpha Conde, stating that it will further consolidate long standing bilateral relations between the sister MRU states.'

"We have to work together to unify both countries", proposed President Koroma. But no mention of Yenga, not even as a reminder to the Guineans that Sierra Leone is not for sale.

Instead, the head of the Guinean delegation - Mr. Dumbuya told President Koroma that; "it is through God’s guidance and direction that President Conde was able to consider Sierra Leone as a good neighbour in a dire need of help…"

"When I was at the Kennedy Street Ware House, handing over the consignment to the Sierra Leone Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Richard Conteh, I told the people of Sierra Leone to be calm", he said. How patronising and arrogant?

Presidents Koroma and Conde: A marriage of convenience, or rice diplomacy?


But surprisingly, President Koroma seems rather oblivious and happy to be told by neighbouring Guinea – also one of the poorest countries in the world, yet able to feed itself with some rice to spare, not to worry about food as Guinea can always feed Sierra Leone.


Mr. Dumbuya disclosed that rice will be available for both countries up to late 2012 and will be cost-effective to enable the people get foods on their tables. He said there are presently rice cargoes off-shore waiting to discharge huge consignments of rice for sale and consumption in Guinea and Sierra Leone', says the report from State House.

So, where does this cosy arrangement between President Koroma and President Conde leaves our poor farmers that have been told to put all shoulders to the wheel, so as to transform Sierra Leone into a food basket, rather than a basket case?

It seems President Koroma has decided to shred his 'food self-sufficiency programme through farming’ and turn to the Guineans, who are more than happy to oblige, just as long as Yenga stays off the political agenda.

With the price of rice in Sierra Leone showing no sign of coming down anytime soon, diplomacy has given way to the real 'politics of hungry stomachs'.

But at what price?

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UN peacebuilding office in Sierra Leone to stay for another year

15 September 2011

Amidst rising political tension and the renewal of violence in Sierra Leone, the Security Council meeting in New York, decided to extend the presence and mandate of the United Nations office in the country, until September 2012.

The UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) was established immediately after the end of the country’s brutal civil war to help bring peace and stability, and support a programme of development.
With the help of the UN, Sierra Leone has staged two relatively peaceful general elections and local elections, since the end of the war in 2001.

Hope for a brighter and democratic future has been on the horizon, until the outbreak of political violence in 2008, 2009 and most recently at Kono and Bo, raising fears of chaos at next year’s polls.

Although there have been calls by sections of the international community for the country to now stand on its own feet and take responsibility for organising and supervising its elections, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon thought otherwise.

The UN Secretary-General is said to have requested an extension of UNIPSIL’s presence in the country, "so that it can continue its assistance to the Government, including in relation to the preparations for the national and local elections in 2012".

"The renewal will also enable UNIPSIL to continue its peace consolidation and national reconciliation efforts, its support for good governance reforms, as well as tackling anti-corruption, drug trafficking and organized crime, addressing youth unemployment and building support for international donor assistance," says Mr. Ban Ki-Moon.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted the resolution to extend UNIPSIL’s mandate until 15 September 2012, and called on the Government, political parties and all stakeholders to contribute to ensure that next year’s elections are peaceful, transparent, free and fair.

But sceptics in the country say that with the general and presidential elections due to take place in October 2012, the decision to pull UNIPSIL out of Sierra Leone in September 2012 is far from wise.

The widening gulf between the ruling party and the main opposition party is threatening the peace and stability of the country.

The hope now is that perhaps the role of UNIPSIL for the rest of their mandate in Sierra Leone, will be dedicated to helping the political parties rebuild confidence, trust and put in place a framework for promoting peaceful co-existence.

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Six months rise in tourism revenue - but future remains bleak

14 September 201


Sierra Leone's tourism industry made an amazing turn around in the first six months of this year, which is now being eroded by the continuous - yet to be explained sea weed invasion, that is threatening to blight the country’s picturesque tourism resorts into 'no go areas'.

According to AFP report from the country’s National Tourist Board manager - Cecil Williams; the fledgling tourism industry generated $19 million in the first half of the year, compared to $10 million dollars earned for the whole of 2010.


"But this figure is likely to be affected for the next six months due to the unprecedented seaweed disaster that has engulfed some of the country's pristine beaches in recent weeks," he said.

Since June of this year, some of the country's beaches are being plagued by tonnes of seaweeds. The government is now looking up to a group of scientists from the Senegalese-based Westland International Africa, to provide much needed answers as to the causes of the outbreak and how the invasion could be stopped.


Spokesman for the country’s Environmental Protection Agency - Edward Bendu told AFP; "It is a strange phenomenon and it has never happened on such a large scale. The rapidity with which the seaweeds are appearing on the coastal beaches is startling."

The effects of the seaweeds invasion are devastating for a country still trying to rebuild its infrastructures and economy, after ten years of civil war.

According to the Tourism manager - Cecil Williams, the industry provides employment for about 5,000 people, with over 35,000 people indirectly benefitting.

"Hotels have done reasonably well and the occupancy of most of them increased due to keen competition," Cecil told AFP.

Statistics from the World Travel and Tourism Centre projects that Sierra Leone's tourism industry will grow by 5.8 percent per year between 2010 and 2019.

But with the continuing difficulties posed by the invading seaweeds, the chances of achieving this growth is looking quite grim. The government has been criticised for its lack of leadership in dealing with the problem, which is also affecting the fishing industry.

In 2009 the Lonely Planet guidebook ranked Sierra Leone as "one of the world's top 10 places to visit".

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UN report on Sierra Leone’s effort to build the peace

Dennis Kabatto

14 September 2011

  The Executive Representative of the UN Secretary General and head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL)  - Mr. Michael von der Schulenburg, presented his Seventh Report on progress to the UN Security Council, yesterday in New York.

The UN Report comes in the wake of last week's breakdown of law and order, and the return of politically motivated violence in the Kono and Bo districts of the country.

Several people were injured in the outbreak of violence, including the presidential candidate for the opposition SLPP - Julius Maada Bio. There was at least one fatality.  

Sierra Leone is still recovering from the effects of a brutal ten year war. Mr. Michael von der Schulenburg told the Security Council that though Sierra Leone remains on track to become a stable democracy, with a viable economy, recent violent incidents between rival political groups have highlighted the potential for unrest.

"I feel that this is an occasion to commend in this Council the people of Sierra Leone for what has been achieved during the last nine years in consolidating peace and building a democratic society," said Michael von der Schulenburg, when he presented the UN chief’s latest report on the country to the Council.

On the recent clashes between supporters of the two main political parties, Mr. Schulenburg, urged Sierra Leonean politicians not to forget what the country has achieved, build on those accomplishments and conduct their affairs responsibly.

Mr. Schulenburg


"Elections are still one and a half years away and this must not start to embitter the social and political climate in Sierra Leone," said Mr. Schulenburg, who is also the head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL).

He called for resolving of outstanding issues ahead of the next year’s general elections, including reaching agreement on the polls’ legal framework and an electoral code of conduct. Mr. Schulenburg voiced support for the idea of an inclusive and non-partisan national conference floated by President Ernest Bai Koroma to discuss the country’s future.


He told the Security Council that Sierra Leone’s economy continues to grow and that the Government was implementing infrastructure projects and pursuing a policy of privatization. Iron mining is expected to generate considerable revenues for the country in the coming years, he said, cautioning that transparent management of new resources could pose challenges.

Mr Schulenburg also cautioned of widespread poverty, youth unemployment and limited capacity for the delivery of social services, however, continue to put a damper on the country’s development potential.

"Notwithstanding the creation of the Youth Commission and concerted efforts by development partners, no substantive success has been made in fighting Sierra Leone’s rampant youth unemployment," he said.

He called for the better targeting of development programs implemented through better cooperation between the Government, its development partners and the private sector.


Sierra Leone Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Mr. Joseph Bandala Dauda attended the Security Council release of the Report in New York.

In his statement, he thanked the UN Security Council and friends of Sierra Leone for their "relentless support and active interest in consolidating peace and maximizing our gains in post conflict efforts in Sierra Leone. The Secretary-General’s report accurately catalogue the progress made and remaining challenges in our peace efforts and peace consolidation and transition to a more developmental phase."

Minister Dauda assured the Council that Sierra Leone government "will continue to engage with ALL stakeholders as was demonstrated in working with UNIPSIL to established the government’s aim at preventing political violence, fostering inter-party dialogue…further enhancing women participation in politics."

He disclosed that Sierra Leone "is also making steady progress in putting structures in place to addressing youth unemployment which continues to be a challenge, trans-national organized crime, corruption, participation of women in peace building, public service and gender based violence," he added.

Minister Dauda also briefed the Council on the steps taken by President Ernest B. Koroma in response to the political crisis in Bo including his condemnation of the incidents and convening an emergency security meeting at State House that was attended by leaders of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) Political Party Registration Commission (PPRC), the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Deputy Minister of Information & Communications, the Chief of Staff, Inspector General of Sierra Leone Police and key representatives of political interest groups.

This month the Council is expected to renew the mandate of UNIPSIL which expires on September 15th. The renewal of UNIPSIL mandate comes at time of high tension between political parties in Sierra Leone due to regional loyalties that divide party lines.

Distrust between the parties and contest of presidential and local by-election have raised concern over a possible resurgence of political violence and intolerance in the country.

UNIPSIL was established by Security Council Resolution (1829) of August 4, 2008. Its mandate involves political and development activities to support the government of Sierra Leone indentifying and resolving tensions and threats of potential conflicts; monitoring and promoting human rights, democratic institutions and the rule of law including efforts to counter transnational organized crime and drug trafficking.

The mandate also calls for consolidating good governance reforms, with a special focus on anti-corruption instruments such as the Anti-Corruption Commission amongst other activities.

Sierra Leone is one of five countries – along with Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), Guinea-Bissau and Liberia – on the agenda of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, which was set up in 2005 to help post-conflict countries avoid slipping back into war.

To view the Security Council Meeting on UNIPSIL - go to:

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Politically motivated violence returns to the Streets of Sierra Leone

10 September 2011


It was not long ago that the UN Security Council, meeting in New York, declared Sierra Leone an excellent example of how post-war peace can be built and sustained. Today, this hard-won accolade and international political capital, have gone up in smoke, as violence returns to Sierra Leone.

The UN peace-building programme has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the country, after ten years of brutal civil war that saw over 200,000 people killed.


Since the end of the war in 2001, the international community, in particular the governments of Britain, Germany, Ireland, Japan and many others, have also invested over $3 billion in supporting the UN’s peace-building and economic development programme.

The return of politically motivated violence and bloodshed to the streets of Sierra Leone in the last week has called to question, the commitment of the country’s political leaders of all shades, in achieving national reconciliation and the need to put country above personal ambition and sectarian interests.


Last week, senior members of the ruling APC party jockeying for power, staged running battle using heavily armed security officers who opened fire on local people in the Eastern district of Kono.

Internal struggle for the leadership of the ruling APC in advance of the 2012 elections has become violent. Opponents of the Vice President – Sam Sumana, who is a son of Kono district, are plotting to ensure that he does not represent the party as their presidential running mate next year.


And as a show of strength and power, anti - Sam Sumana forces drove to Kono, where they opened fire on local people thought to be his supporters.

But yesterday’s violence in the country’s second largest city – Bo, a stronghold of the main opposition SLPP party, which left several buildings destroyed – including the party offices of the ruling APC, has left the nation in a state of shock.

Reports from Bo say that the violence started after a convoy of over one hundred vehicles carrying SLPP party loyalists, including their 2012 presidential election candidate and senior party officials, were attacked.

There are conflicting reports as to who is responsible for starting the bloody violence in Bo, but the opposition SLPP are accusing the ruling APC party of an attempted assassination of their presidential candidate – Julius Maada Bio.

Julius maada Bio is reported to have sustained head injuries and was treated at a local hospital before being discharged. Although the police and the country’s military are now patrolling the streets of Bo, tension and fear of further outbreak of violence are high.

There are now calls for an independent Commission of Enquiry to investigate the causes of the outbreak of violence in Bo and Kono, and make recommendations as regards any criminal liability and court action.

In a press statement issued today, the government said:

"Government wishes it to be known that following the intervention of the security forces, the situation in Bo has returned to normal. However, government views the matter with grave concern as it goes beyond party politics and undermines the peace and security of the state which we have fought so hard to achieve.

"Against this background, his Excellency the president has directed that the disturbances in Bo should be immediately investigated by a group comprising the police, the political parties’ registration commission and representatives of civil society including the Sierra Leone association of journalists and campaign for good governance.

"The essence of the inclusion of these key stakeholders is to ensure credibility and transparency during and after the investigations. The group will submit a report as soon as possible.

His Excellency the president wishes to make it abundantly clear that whoever is found culpable regardless of party affiliation and status will face the full penalty of the law. Government continues to appeal to all citizens to remain calm and law abiding."

  But, the opposition SLPP is holding the government and its APC party fully responsible for the outbreak of violence in Bo.

This is what the executives of the party said in a statement issued today, referring to the bloody violence as an "attempted assassination of SLPP flagbearer - Julius Maada Bio".

"On Friday September 9, 2011, the SLPP Flag Bearer accompanied by Senior Party Officials and Stakeholders commenced his Thank-the-People tour to all districts. After a brief stop at Mile 91, Moyamba Junction and Taiama, the entourage arrived at Bo at about Mid-day.

"The crowd was so massive that it took over four hours to complete the four kilometre distance between the outskirts and the location of the offices of the All Peoples Congress (APC) and the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC).

"Barely after passing through cheering PMDC supporters at their office on the left, we saw on the right youths of the APC dressed in red by the road side and in close proximity to a group of armed police officers.

"Few minutes later, these APC youths started pelting stones deliberately targeted at Rtd. Brig. Maada Bio. As a consequence, they inflicted serious injury to his head and was immediately rushed to a private hospital for treatment.

"This incident caused widespread pandemonium in town. The police officers specifically assigned to provide protection for the entourage immediately disappeared suggestive of having fore knowledge of the incident. This completely left the Flag Bearer unprotected and vulnerable to assassination.

"The Police then started indiscriminate firing at the peaceful and jubilant crowd, resulting in one immediate death and twenty (20) seriously wounded. The Flag Bearer nevertheless proceeded with his meeting at the Coronation Field.

"The SLPP would like to bring to the attention of the public the following observation:

• Despite two official written requests, the Sierra Leone Police has refused to provide the SLPP Flag Bearer with armed security.

• The officers assigned to protect the entourage were unarmed general duty police personnel.

• The Sierra Leone Police allowed the APC to put on red ‘T’ shirts and deliberately stand on the road side raining insults and making provocative comments at the jubilating crowd whilst the SLPP procession was in progress.

• Immediately after the incident, the Police assigned to the entourage vanished and other police officers started firing live shots.

• The SLPP district executive and Bo district Members of Parliament had made earlier representations to the Police to inform them about plans of the APC to disrupt our procession. In essence the police knew about the plan in advance but did nothing to forestall it.

• The attack on Maada Bio and the SLPP was also intended to provide the Government with an excuse to prevent our planned nationwide “Thank-the-People” tour from continuing.

"We have received intelligence reports from credible sources that plans to assassinate Maada Bio have already been hatched. The stone throwing was just a precursor which was expected to create the resultant chaotic atmosphere for executing their diabolic assassination plan. We have further received intelligence reports regarding similar planned attacks against the Flag Bearer’s entourage in Kono.

"The public will recall that since the election of Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio as SLPP Flag Bearer, the APC has embarked on a sustained campaign against his persona.

"Realising the public has not bought into the calumny campaign but is demonstrating massive support for the SLPP; the APC has grown even more desperate and panicky and has resorted to violence.

"The public will also like to recall that this incident occurred six days after the misuse of police personnel in Kono by the Minister of Internal Affairs and the beating of journalists after the match between Leone Stars and the Pharoahs of Egypt and Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Mead by Presidential bodyguards.

"Sadly enough, nothing concrete has been done beyond the usual verbal condemnations.

"After series of incidents including the attacks on SLPP Headquarters and district offices, attacks of SLPP members at Gendema, the SLPP now has ample evidence that the APC plans to use not only state resources but also state security as instruments for perpetuating violence as a prelude to rigging the 2012 elections.

"The SLPP strongly condemns the barbaric acts of the APC and considers it as a recipe for undermining the peace and security of the State.

"In light of all these ugly developments, the SLPP would like to re-echo our earlier calls upon the international community, as the moral guarantors of our hard earned peace, the Political Parties Registration Commission and the Civil Society to step in and ensure that the 2012 elections, and all the processes leading to it, are violence-free.

"The SLPP would like to express heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and sympathy to those who sustained injuries during the procession.

The SLPP would also like to assure its membership that the Thank-the-People tour to the other districts shall continue as planned. No amount of threat and intimidation shall deter the SLPP."

With both parties now blaming each other for the outbreak of violence in Bo, there are reports from the country’s capital - Freetown, of widespread fear of politically motivated violence spreading across the country.

Elections in Sierra Leone are just twelve months away. And should recent violence in Kono between senior members of the ruling APC, the beating of journalists by the presidential guards in Freetown, and yesterday’s mayhem in Bo, be allowed to define the future of Sierra Leone’s fragile peace, then the prognosis cannot be good.

It is for this reason and this reason alone that those presidential guards responsible for the beating of journalists must be brought to justice.

While the president’s decision to appoint a commission of enquiry to investigate the violence in Bo must be welcomed, the people of Sierra Leone are also expecting a thorough investigation of the gun battle that took place in Kono.

No stones should be left unturned. There is far too much at stake. Those responsible for orchestrating and perpetrating violence and anarchy in Sierra Leone, must be held to account and punished according to Law.

President Koroma must take full responsibility for whatever is happening in the country - under his watch. This is why he must bring impunity and lawlessness to an end. 

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Sierra Leone’s Free Health Care programme under the spotlight

9 September 2011

The recent publication of Amnesty International’s scathing report into the management and delivery of Sierra Leone’s Free Health Care programme has sparked widespread debate. The report mentions corruption, poor planning and bad management for the current demise of the programme.

Women and poor families are bearing the brunt of paying the sometimes unaffordable cost of accessing health care that is supposed to be free at point of access; drugs that are supposed to be dispensed free of charge at government clinics and hospitals are instead being sold at private pharmacies.

It is believed that unscrupulous government officials are responsible for bleeding the programme of the necessary supplies of drugs and equipment.

Hundreds of thousands of pregnant women and children under five continue to die unnecessarily, while corrupt officials are getting richer.

British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone - Ian Hughes' latest blog adds to the debate about the free health care programme launched in 2010 by president Koroma, to tackle the country’s obscene levels of maternal and childhood mortality. This is what he had to say:

"It’s over a year now since Sierra Leone launched its Free Health Care Initiative. In that time the project has provided substantive improvements in the delivery of health care services for women and young children across the country – reducing worry, easing pain and saving lives.

This has not been easy and we all recognise that there is still much to do. The UK’s DFID is delighted to have helped deliver the improvement thus far and is committed to doing even more in future.

There have been significant changes to health care service provision, from urban centres to distant rural areas.

For women and young children medical consultations, supplies and treatment are free for the first time, allowing many more people to access the basic but essential health care that is a Universal Human Right.

The figures tell the story. In its first year the project provided 3 million medical consultations for children less than 5 years of age, compared to 1 million the year before. Of these, 1 million were treated for malaria, the leading cause of death in young children.

The number of women delivering babies in a health facility trebled, and the fatality rate fell an impressive 60%.

And there has been a 140% increase in the uptake of family planning, the most cost effective way of preventing maternal deaths.

Lives have changed as a result: Sierra Leone is no longer the most dangerous place in the world to be a mother. And the significant investment in the country’s young and vulnerable has given them the opportunity to live healthier and longer lives and become the next generation of leaders.

Partners are working with the Ministry to build on lessons learned. DFID has signed an MOU with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and other partners to improve transparency and accountability so that there is better and more effective distribution and management of resources such as drugs and medical supplies.

Sierra Leone’s success overcoming huge challenges to deliver free health care for its most vulnerable will renew citizens’ confidence that their country is changing for the better. And the UK’s contribution underlines the strength of our two countries’ long standing relationship.

It is important that we all recognise that challenges remain. But these are not insurmountable and the next 4 years will see an expansion of DFID support to the health sector, helping to free even more mothers and children from the scourge of preventable diseases like malaria and protecting them from problems and even death in childbirth.

A happier, healthier, longer life is what all Sierra Leoneans deserve. The UK is proud to be helping to deliver just that."

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Wife of President Koroma raises the profile of Sierra Leone’s health care needs at UN High-level Meeting

Dennis Kabatto

9 September 2011

Photo: Sia Koroma sitting second from left

  Sierra Leone’s First Lady - Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma, accompanied by the Minister of Health and Sanitation - Mrs Zainab Bangura, has concluded a two-day high level meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York.

The meeting which was attended by First Ladies, health and finance ministers and parliamentarians from 12 developing countries, discussed the importance of 'a secure and reliable supply of contraceptives'.

Delegates from Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Haiti, Burkina Faso, Laos, Mali, Madagascar, Mongolia, Niger, Mozambique and Nicaragua, shared and exchanged best practice and challenges in the field of sexual and reproductive health commodity security.

UNFPA officials say the main goals of the two day high-level meeting which took place in New York on 7-8 September, was to find ways to bridge the gap in essential supplies, so as to save the lives and health of millions of women in developing countries.

In his opening remarks, UNFPA Executive Director - Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin said "as of October 31, the world will have 7 billion people, of which 1.8 billion are young people, and 90 per cent of them live in developing countries. That implies that 1 billion young women are actively seeking the information and service we are talking about here".

Launched in 2007 by UNFPA, The 12 priority countries are part of the Global Program to Enhance Reproductive health Commodity Security, which is providing a framework for assisting countries in planning for their own needs.

UNFPA officials say with more than $300 million mobilized so far, the initiative has helped many of the neediest countries improve their supplies. It has also encouraged governments to view commodity security as essential to their efforts to improve the reproductive health of their populations.

"Collectively, we are changing the face of maternal and child mortality in Sierra Leone," said the First Lady of Sierra Leone, Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma, during the opening session at the UN Millennium Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.

"The high maternal mortality rate in Sierra Leone is partly due to the weak reproductive health commodity security system, including the non-availability of reproductive health commodities, lack of storage facilities, weak distribution systems for commodities and a weak logistics management system."

She noted that support through the global program has "increased the uptake of family planning and other reproductive health programs, such as fistula activities and the screening of patients for breast cancer."

UNFPA assessment shows dramatic increases in the use of modern methods of contraception are widely reported by countries participating in the global program.

In Niger, for instance, the contraceptive prevalence rate increased from 5 per cent in 2006 to 21 per cent in 2010. In Madagascar, it rose by 11 percentage points from 2004 to 2009, when it reached 29.2 per cent.

Officials also say that supplies are reaching more people in the right place at the right time. In Burkina Faso, the number of health clinics reporting no shortfalls or stock-outs increased from 29 per cent in 2009 to 81 per cent in 2010.

The two day high level meeting coincided with the release of a new report by Amnesty International on Wednesday, September 7th, which says despite a nationwide free healthcare initiative launched last year, pregnant women in Sierra Leone are being denied medical care and forced to pay for medicines.

In April 2010, Sierra Leone launched a $90 million free healthcare program that eliminates fees for pregnant and breastfeeding women at government-run health centres.

During her address, Mrs Koroma said that her role as First Lady "is to compliment the work of the President and the government of Sierra Leone. In the area of Healthcare, my office has developed the Women’s Initiative for Safer Health (WISH). The WISH project is designed to improve Women’s reproductive health outcomes as many women are not empowered in making the right decision concerning their health mainly due to cultural roles and norms, poverty, lack of information and education".

Mrs Koroma expressed her gratitude to the Government of Israel who she said was encouraged by the efforts and commitment of her office donated four dialysis machines to the government of Sierra Leone and also offered to train five Sierra Leoneans including; 2 Physicians, 2 Nurses, and 1 Engineer who will manage the nation's first renal unit.

She also thanked Mrs. Patience Goodluck Jonathan, First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for donating two extra dialysis machines to Sierra Leone.

Her description of healthcare delivery in Sierra Leone is nothing short of spectacular. "In less than two years, Sierra Leone has seen a 214 percent increase in the number of children under five getting care in health facilities, a 61 percent decrease in mortality rates in difficult pregnancy cases at health clinics, and an 85 percent drop in malaria fatality for children treated in hospitals. This is the encouraging news that I want to share with you – that we are making gradual progress," she said.

Critics of the government’s free health care programme are calling for improved access that is truly free at point of use, as far too many people are still being charged for the service, if Sierra Leone is to meet the UN millennium development goals in 2015.

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President Koroma wants comprehensive reform of state security sector

8 September 2011

Photo: President Koroma and his vice-president Sumana

  The recent outbreak of violence in Koidu, the eastern province of Sierra Leone, not least orchestrated and perpetrated by senior members of the ruling APC Party against each other, has sent shivers across the country.

There are worrying signs of a return to full-scale politically motivated violence.

Reports say that last week's shooting skirmishes by the security force was prompted by a fierce power struggle within the ruling Party, as key players of president Koroma’s government jockey for the position of presidential running mate in the coming 2012 elections.

Internal forces opposed to the incumbent – vice president Sama Sumana, are said to be plotting against his chances of serving as Koroma’s running mate next year. But what was just weeks ago believed by many to be 'a quiet State House coup', has now taken a violent turn for the worse.

Security personnel loyal to the minister of internal affairs have decided to take sides, in what could become a very dangerous and ugly state security problem, if not tackled immediately.

Also last week, there were troubling reports of police brutality against a group of journalists covering a football match in Freetown, with at least one of those reporters requiring serious medical attention in hospital.

  These developments are most likely to polarise the task ahead, for a comprehensive review of the country’s security in advance of the 2012 general elections, which was last Monday, 5th September 2011, officially launched by president Koroma in Freetown.

Launching the review, president Koroma said that his government strongly believes in the existence of a well funded, professionally trained and efficient security sector in the country.

The British government department for international development – DFID, has since the end of the country’s ten year war, borne most of the cost of developing and delivering Sierra Leone’s security sector, which the international community now expects Koroma’s government to shoulder.

The president called on the creation of an enabling environment for the security sector to assist in achieving his 'agenda for change'.

"Creating this enabling environment urge us to continuously review our security sector programmes. Our security sector review programme enables Sierra Leone to build up security for development", says the president.

But there are fundamental challenges ahead, which president Koroma himself said needs to be addressed in order to reform the country’s security sector.

According to State House report, the president acknowledges "emerging challenges within the changing times and new threats", which he said requires "new policies and strategies".

The president said that the periodic review of state security has been useful in maintaining the preparedness of the country’s security sector, especially as "we come closer to the 2012 elections so that the forces will be able to provide security".

The Secretary to the President - Mr. Emmanuel Osho-Coker said that it is government’s core responsibility to address, improve and evaluate the preparedness of the security sector, and reiterated that the review process is being organized through workshops involving ministries, departments and agencies across the country.

The country’s Inspector General of Police - Francis Munu, said that the review of the sector is a step in the right direction for the development of the country. But he did not comment on the call by the president for an inquiry into alleged police brutality against journalists, nor did he speak about the shootings by armed police officers in Koidu. 

"Life has become more complex, more vulnerable, more demanding, and more stressful and criminals no longer have respect for international boundaries", says the Inspector.

The country’s Chief of the Armed Forces and Defence - Brigadier Yira Koroma, called on the government to further raise the morale of the army. He said that army personnel need to demonstrate a better attitude to fully enable them participates in national security programmes.

It is not certain whether the outcome of the review will lead to any major changes or reform of the state security sector, whose professionalism many in the country are now questioning.

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Congo: The Electoral Process Seen from the East

The International Crisis Group Africa Briefing N°80

5 September 2011


Voter registration that began across the Congo in April 2011 concluded on 17 July, on time even in troubled regions such as the Kivu provinces and the Ituri district, and produced a nearly 6.3 million increase in the electorate, 24.5 per cent over the 2006 exercise.

If it went relatively well, it was mainly because the voter’s card also serves as an identity card, so is as useful to militiamen as to ordinary citizens. Neither civil society nor political parties fundamentally challenged the operation at the local level, but this is not synonymous with satisfaction.

The surprising results the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced and lack of dialogue and verification by the voters themselves feed latent but widespread suspicions in the opposition and civil society.

To ensure credible elections, it is necessary to improve transparency, respect the electoral law and establish a forum for dialogue between INEC, the parties and civil society.

Ituri and North and South Kivu form a key region for two reasons: they are the sole part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) still harbouring armed groups, and they provided an important reservoir of votes for the ruling party in the 2006 elections.

With Katanga and Maniema, it was the East – Orientale (including Ituri) and the Kivus – that elected Joseph Kabila and his People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), giving it more than 90 per cent support.

However, the political landscape has changed in this region: an opposition party has emerged – the Congolese Union for the Nation (UNC) led by Vital Kamerhe, the former chair of the National Assembly – and the popularity of the government is falling due to persistent insecurity.

In an area that is electorally and militarily strategic, the campaign has just begun, in an atmosphere of relative political freedom that does not exclude, however, some restrictions and intimidation.

Access to the media remains unbalanced, and there is pressure on the opposition, especially the UNC, because it is very active in this region.

Nevertheless, due to the asymmetry of political forces, local politicians regard the presidential election as already decided in the East and the main stakes to be the legislative and provincial elections.

The electoral process in the East has generated suspicion on a national scale that risks developing into a crisis of confidence in the whole electoral process. Based on Crisis Group’s regional observations, the following measures should be taken across the country:

• the international community should observe the entire electoral process in detail, particularly in rural areas;

• political parties and civil society should prepare now for observing the voting, and the former should be allowed to campaign freely;

• INEC should scrupulously respect the electoral code, especially regarding accreditation of observers, and should establish a formal platform for dialogue with political parties and civil society at both national and provincial level;

• INEC should establish transparent and widely publicised procedures for receiving grievances from civil society and the political parties regarding the approaching elections;

• INEC should publish the voters list and the breakdown of registration by district and territory in 2006 and 2011 and publicly explain its methodology for finalising the voters roll;

• INEC should establish a standardised procedure for challenging the results and publish those results by each voting station;

• the High Council for Media should quickly become operational;

• all stakeholders in the electoral process should accept the code of conduct introduced by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN; and the UN mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) should encourage a more sustained respect for political freedom and dialogue between INEC, the political parties and civil society at national and provincial level, since dialogue is the key element in building trust;

• MONUSCO should continue to deploy its troops in the areas where the armed groups are active;

• MONUSCO and the international community should increase their crowd management training program for the Congolese police;

• MONUSCO should increase its logistical support for the timely distribution of electoral material; and

• the presidential majority and the opposition should, for the contingency that postponement of the elections cannot be avoided, negotiate an agreement that sets a new deadline for the elections and provides that government would limit itself to routine business until they are held.
Having already analysed the main challenges of the electoral process nationally in the report Congo: The Electoral Dilemma, Crisis Group in this briefing examines voter registration and the beginning of the campaign on the ground in the East, putting the preparations for elections in late 2011 in their local context and highlighting the electoral stakes in a region that remains fundamental for durable stability in the country.


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"Ghana’s economy has recovered strongly since 2009" – says IMF

5 September 2011

A team of advisers from the IMF last week concluded their week long review of Ghana’s current economic policy performance and challenges for 2012. The team, which was led by Christina Daseking, said after the review that "Ghana’s economy has recovered strongly since the start of the IMF-supported program in 2009".

President John Atta-Mills

  The IMF team had discussions with the country’s President - John Evans Atta-Mills, Finance Minister - Kwabena Duffuor, Central Bank Governor - Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, and other senior officials, as well as representatives from civil society and the private sector.

Ghana’s entry into the global oil production league has sparked a lot of interests in the country’s economic performance, especially within Sub-sahara Africa.

How Ghana manages its oil wealth to grow the economy, reduce its debt, tackle inflation and combat poverty, must be at the centre of Atta-Mills’ government strategy aimed at  improving the country’s global competiveness.


The IMF head of mission to Ghana - Ms. Daseking, told reporters last week, that: "Ghana’s economic growth is expected to exceed 13 percent this year, boosted by the start of oil production as well as strong activity in other sectors of the economy".

If achieved, this forecast growth would be more than double the average projected growth rate for the sub-region.

  The government it seems is doing well in the implementation of its monetary policy. "Inflation is now firmly in single digits, and the cedi has remained broadly stable against the dollar, underpinned by an improved external position" – says the IMF.

"A preliminary assessment of fiscal performance during the first half of the year shows strong improvements in tax revenues over the same period in 2010. It suggests that full-year fiscal targets are achievable with continued control over expenditures" – Ms. Daseking told reporters in Accra.

There are very few countries in the sub-region, if any,  that are able to boast of making any great impact in tackling government borrowing. But the government of Atta-Mills is leading the way as to how it can be done. According to the IMF; "The government has also cleared a sizeable part of its previous arrears, which had contributed to high non-performing loans in the banking sector."

But they had this advice for the government, not to be complacent; "To avoid a re-emergence of arrears, it will be important to continue strengthening public expenditure management systems; ensure that energy and other regulated prices are set at cost-recovery levels; and keep the overall spending envelope at a sustainable level."

Would the Ghanaian government heed this cautionary note?

The IMF believes that; "Prospects of a major scaling up of infrastructure investment will place an even higher premium on expenditure restraint in other areas. A large financing package has been secured on non-concessional terms, and it is important to assess carefully the costs and benefits of the financial arrangement and underlying projects."

In that regard, the IMF staff is said to have "offered to work closely with the government on assessing the projects’ impact on macroeconomic stability and the sustainability of public debt. This assessment will also hinge on the government’s policy commitments in other areas, both in the 2012 budget and the medium term".

Speaking about the role of the Bank of Ghana in achieving monetary stability, the IMF says that they have "encouraged the Bank to further build up its foreign reserve buffer, while carefully managing the impact on domestic liquidity and allowing some adjustments in the exchange rate in response to market forces".

But a major concern of the IMF team in Ghana is to ensure that the Bank 'maintains low inflation in the context of sizeable foreign currency inflows'.

Yet,  the IMF looks into Ghana’s future with some optimism. It says that; "Going forward, close coordination between fiscal and monetary policy will remain important to avoid a re-emergence of high inflation and an associated erosion of real incomes, which particularly harms the poor."

The fifth review of Ghana’s IMF-supported program under the Extended Credit Facility, will take place next year.

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Give AIDS the Red Card initiative launched at All-Africa Games in Mozambique

4 September 2011


The Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Michel Sidibé and Mozambique’s Minister of Youth and Sports Pedrito Caetano, launched the UNAIDS Give AIDS the Red Card initiative yesterday, Friday, 2 August, 2011, at the Joaquim Chissano International Conference Centre in Maputo.

The announcement was made on the eve of the 10th All-Africa Games, the continent’s largest multi-sports tournament, under the patronage of Dr. Aires Aly Bonifácio, Prime Minister of Mozambique.

"Reducing the numbers of new HIV infections is nowhere more imperative or urgent than in Africa," said Mr Sidibé.

"The All-Africa Games are a great occasion to raise wide awareness about intensifying efforts to reach UNAIDS’ vision of Zero new infections, Zero discrimination, and Zero AIDS-related deaths."

"Sport brings people together and is especially popular among young people. I urge all the participants and fans across Africa watching the All-Africa Games to learn the facts about HIV prevention and give AIDS the Red Card," said Mr Caetano.

Among prominent personalities expected to attend the launch are former Mozambican President Joaquim Alberto Chissano, Graça Machel, wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, and leading athletes.

The UNAIDS Give AIDS the Red Card campaign was introduced at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa with the support of 28 team captains. Captains of six teams at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany also endorsed the initiative.

At the Maputo event, the first Africa-wide launch of the initiative, the heads of national delegations to the Games, including presidents of National Olympic Committees and Ministers of Sport from 47 participating countries, are signing a pledge to support the Give AIDS the Red Card campaign for Zero new infections, Zero discrimination, and Zero AIDS-related deaths.

The campaign aims to raise awareness and mobilize action to strengthen the response to HIV and accelerate progress across Africa.

"By signing the pledge, each delegation is agreeing to set up a national plan of action on the UNAIDS Give AIDS the Red Card in consultation with UNAIDS offices and national AIDS councils upon return in their respective countries," said Dr. Djibril Diallo, Senior Adviser to the UNAIDS Executive Director.

"The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon will be the next platform for pan-African mobilization of the initiative," he added.

Mozambicans are welcoming 5,000 athletes who will compete in 23 sports during the Games, including: athletics (track and field events), badminton, basketball, boxing, canoeing, chess, cycling, football, gymnastics, handball, judo, karate, netball, rowing, sailing, shooting, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, triathlon, volleyball and weightlifting.

Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region most affected by HIV, with an estimated 22.5 million people living with the virus in the region representing 68% of the global total. However significant progress is being made in the region.

In 22 countries, the HIV incidence rate declined by more than 25% between 2001 and 2009.

World leaders meeting in New York at the 2011 UN High-Level Meeting on AIDS agreed on far-reaching targets to halve new infections through sexual transmission and drug use, eliminate new HIV infections among children, and reduce TB-related AIDS deaths by half—all by 2015.

The Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS also urged countries to embrace treatment for prevention, put 15 million people on treatment and reinforced the call for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2015.

UNAIDS - the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, is an innovative United Nations partnership that leads and inspires the world in achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

Learn more at:

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"I am a peaceful man" says President Koroma

3 September 2011


President Koroma has for the fourth year in office joined a cross section of the Muslim community in Sierra Leone for the Eid prayer, which took place last Tuesday, marking the end of Ramadan.

Although a devout Christian, the President as with the majority of Sierra Leoneans not only acknowledges the country’s secularism, but celebrates its inter-religious friendships and harmony.

The President was in Port Loko last Tuesday, where he joined hundreds of local people in prayer and celebration of the end of twenty-nine days of fasting. According to report from State House, President Koroma took the opportunity after the Eid prayers to tell the nation that he is a man of peace.

This affirmation came in response to widespread condemnation, following the recent and on-going verbal attack by government ministers against the opposition SLPP, for electing former military strongman – Julius Maada Bio as their presidential candidate for the 2012 elections.

"I am not a born again peacemaker. I am not a born again democrat, and I am a peaceful man. I have been peaceful throughout my life and will remain a man of peace," the President told his crowd of supporters in Port Loko.

The President is said to have received warm and thunderous cheers and jubilations from the congeration and onlookers, as they celebrated the end of Ramadan.


Koroma told the congregation that; "coming to Port Loko is not by mistake. I have been to Port Loko before becoming President, and since the days of the late S.I. Koroma", as he acknowledged the appreciation shown by the community for his delivery on promises made during the 2007 presidential campaign. But he cautioned the people of Port Loko to remain peaceful.

The district Chief Imam - Alhaji Hassan Sankoh thanked Allah for blessing the congregation during the holy month of Ramadan, and for President Koroma joining the Muslim community of Port Loko in prayer.

"President Koroma’s blessing has touched the district and the people of Sierra Leone," says the Imam, who also expressed his gratitude for the President’s decision to reappoint Alhaji Ibrahim Kemoh Sesay as Special Adviser to the President.

The Minister of Political and Public Affairs - Alhaji Alpha Kanu, delivered a citation from the Holy Quran.


But what may have come as a surprise to many, was Alpha Kanu’s suggestion to the congregation that; 'whenever a congregation assembles, an Imam should be chosen from among them to lead, which was why President Koroma addressed the Muslim community of Port Loko district'.

President Koroma later had an informal launch with the Muslim community at the Port Loko District Council auditorium.


Also present to celebrate Eid in Port Loko, were the Special Adviser to the President - Alhaji Ibrahim Kemoh Sesay, dignitaries of the Port Loko district council, and members of parliament.

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