Ebola – president Koroma throws in the towel and calls for divine intervention

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 December 2014

president koroma sworn-in for second termIt is the end of the year, and people – all over the world, are today reflecting on what they have done well, where they have gone wrong and how they can improve.

And as they look to the New Year with hope of a better future, the focus is on performance improvement and change, rather than simply calling upon divine intervention for salvation.

According to report from State House in Freetown, president Koroma yesterday called for seven days of national fasting and prayer, in response to the continuing exponential rise in the number of Ebola victims. He has had enough.

President Koroma said that Sierra Leoneans should start the New Year by committing the nation in prayers and fasting, so that “we can have the kind of divine direction and grace that is required.”

This has provoked critics into accusing the president of trying to sub-contract his leadership duties and responsibilities to the Power above.

Sierra Leone now, more than ever, needs a strong and capable leader, not one who is quick to abdicate or sub-contract his responsibilities.

Since the start of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone in March 2014, the people of Sierra Leone have been called upon, on several occasions by the president to observe a period of national prayer and fasting. But those prayers and fasting are yet to be answered affirmatively from ABOVE.

The numbers of people contracting the virus and dying from the disease in Sierra Leone keep rising, and have surpassed those of Liberia and Guinea, whose presidents prefer to personally lead the war against the virus from the front.

The number of doctors that have died of the virus in Sierra Leone says it all – eleven. And there is a lot more the president can do to tackle the Ebola crisis in the country.

The presidential edict banning the public celebration of one of the most important dates in the Christian calendar – Christmas, and in September – the temporary cancellation of Friday Muslim prayers in order to observe a nationwide lockdown, brought displeasure from the country’s religious leaders and communities.

Yesterday, president Koroma met with representatives of the Inter-Religious Council at State House.  He told them that more efforts should be put in prayers in churches and mosques across the country to end the Ebola crisis.

“We must stay engaged and deploy more resources until we reach zero new cases,” said the president, whose government has been accused of incompetence and corruption.

As the current Ebola curfew in the capital Freetown reaches its peak, with the curtailing of church attendance tonight – marking the end of 2014 and the bringing of the New Year, questions are already being asked about the effectiveness and success of the restrictions, which started on the 17th December.

Ebola lockdown2So far, it seems there has been no increase in the number of confirmed new cases discovered by the house to house search for Ebola sick people.

Before the start of the curfew, the average daily number of confirmed new cases was about 50. This trend has continued throughout the last ten days, with no positive impact from the door to door military style operation.

It is difficult to think of any of the country’s former heads of state, who had relied so much on divine intervention to improve the well being of the people of Sierra Leone, rather than providing strong and effective leadership, as well as implement sound policies.

Since elected to office in 2007, president Koroma has continuously shown his dogged and steadfast belief in the notion that, in the absence of sound government policies, the suffering of the people can only be addressed by some kind of divine intervention.

Although Sierra Leone’s GDP had been growing prior to Ebola – driven almost exclusively by iron ore mining, poverty, lawlessness, serious crime and long term unemployment remain intolerably high, prompting president Koroma on several occasions throughout 2010 – 2013, to declare days of national prayer and fasting for divine intervention.

Is ANYONE up there listening to the president?

The truth is, monies meant for development and improvement of the country’s health infrastructure, have mostly gone into the pockets of ministers and public officials.

Then came 2014. Ebola arrived in Sierra Leone with a vengeance, having visited the shores of neighbouring Guinea and Liberia with dire consequences.

Whilst president Koroma and his ministers were pussyfooting around the question of whether Ebola was real or not, the virus was very busy embedding itself in poor communities across the country, leaving thousands dead.

This prompted the wife of the president to issue a video recording, in which she called for divine intervention to cleanse the land and forgive the sins of the people.

But Ebola proved its pagan credentials and refused to be defeated. The number of new cases kept rising, along with a growing list of doctors and nurses killed by the virus.

Does ANYONE up there really care about the pronouncements, edicts and calls for divine intervention from those occupying State House?

Or is the ONE up above simply saying: “Stop calling me each time you have a problem. I created you with a brain Mr. President – use it?”

Did someone once say that there is a vast difference between selling insurance on the streets of Freetown and successfully running a country of six million people?

Best wishes for 2015 to all the readers of the Sierra Leone Telegraph. God bless.

4 Comments

  1. This is all nonsense. You know it’s a free world. Nobody is going to arrest you if you don’t want to follow the president’s advice of praying and fasting.

    You people are complaining about the nation’s problems as if it was this president that created them. Put yourself in the president’s position for a moment. You come to power in 2007 and say OK let’s go to work. Where do we start?

    You look and everything is in drastic need of attention. Your budget is $500 million or less a year.

    On top of that, the entire country is very very corrupt. Not just the politicians – the entire NATION is corrupt. Finding an honest person in Sierra Leone is like finding a million dollar on the street.

    You have to prioritize. Start with the sectors that will also lift other sectors. That is exactly what Koroma was doing.

    Can you deny that development was taking place under his watch? People in the opposition parties are just as corrupt as the ones in this APC party.

    If you want to be honest, you have to be impartial, otherwise you will always be disillusioned.

    Did his government make mistakes? Yes. Did he get many things right, absolutely?

    The nation’s issues run deeper than the president, and when he is gone many of these issues will remain until all of us decide to modify our thinking.

    Name one president prior, that worked on development more than Koroma. I’m not making excuses for this president – but fair is fair.

    I believe he had a good plan, and when fully implemented, will grow the economy and allow whatever government in place to have a bigger budget and invest in other sectors.

    SO GIVE THE MAN A BREAK. HE IS WORKING. I live in the U.S. I went to Sierra Leone in 2005 and also in 2012. I witnessed a huge difference between 2005 and 2012.

    Ebola is just delaying the progress. What I saw encouraged me to consider starting a business in my home country. As the development continues, there are many people like me, ready to go do our part.

  2. Mr. Warritay, we in Salone do not elect presidents to act as our spiritual leaders or grand Ayatollahs, who can tell us when to fast and when to pray, no matter our circumstances.

    It is the duty of our religious leaders – christians and muslims, to act as the custodians of our religious conscience. So please save us the political platitudes.

    President Koroma is a paid employee of the state and was elected to office because he claimed to be the best candidate whose policies can eradicate poverty and transform Sierra Leone.

    So far he has done a very poor job in achieving his job description. Because of his failure to invest in education, health and poverty eradication, we are today struggling to deal with a major public health disaster.

    President Koroma and his government have disappointed us and he is now telling us we must pray and fast. We the people of Sierra Leone, both muslims and christians have been fasting and praying everyday since the beginning of time for God to help us, and thankfully God has done so in diverse ways, for those of us who err on the side of justice and Godliness.

    Since independence, we the people of Sierra Leone have had very little faith in our politicians.

    All we have is our faith in God, who is helping us to survive the tyranny, depravity and hubris of our leaders, who fornicate, destabilise their own family lives and steal from the poor.

    You know what Mr warritay, many Sierra Leoneans feel very uncomfortable when our politicians start behaving like Ayatollahs and start doing God, instead of leaving that task to the muslim and christian clerics.

    Politics and religion must never become bedfellows, which is why I detest groups like Boko Haram and the Talliban. They all use religion to twist the minds of the people, just like president Koroma is trying to do to us now.

    Religion belongs to our personal space as citizens of Sierra Leone, whereas politics belongs to our public space. It is important that the two are kept separate, otherwise our leaders will expect us to treat them with reverence, a honour they do not deserve.

    Furthermore, to treat politicians with reverence is dangerous and could make it very difficult for a population that is full of illiterates to hold them to account.

    If president Koroma is as religious and pious as he thinks, then that is his personal outlook, and for his own personal salvation by God. But he must not interfere in my personal religious space.

    I and millions of citizens in Sierra Leone pray everyday to God for the eradication of Ebola, because our president and paid servant has failed to protect us from harm.

    I really do not want him now to use psychology on us poor citizens by telling us that some satanic evil is responsible for inflicting Ebola on us. With the right strategy and support, coordinated by a sensible leader and team, we can bring ebola to an end.

    If president Koroma had invested in the country’s healthcare system, increase the number of Sierra Leonean doctors, nurses, hospitals and community health centres, as well as give us access to clean water and electricity 24/7, our chances of eradicating ebola today could have been much better.

    As much as I strongly believe in God and I do pray everyday by the way, I do not believe, fasting is going to eradicate ebola. Most people in Sierra Leone are already malnourished, and some are going without food most days of the week.

    Calling for fasting at this time is seriously irresponsible and could prove fatal for many. Does president thinks that we are in the dark ages?

    Yes Sierra Leone is literally in total darkness – illiteracy and no electricity, but most people know that efforts in combating ebola is seriously hampered by corruption and stupidity on the part of our leaders.

    Just take a look at the man who is heading the national ebola control centre. He is a former soldier who absconded from the country’s army for a good life in London, at a time he was most needed to help defend the country from the rebels. Instead of being arrested and court martialed, he has been rewarded with ministerial post and now head of ebola campaign. And we are surprised God has left Salone?

    And as I said earlier, we Sierra Leoneans pray every day for salvation from corrupt leaders in our country who are responsible for the poverty and death we are suffering today.

    So how can these very politicians become our Ayatollahs, telling us when to fast and when to pray. They are the cause of our problems. God knows it and we the people know it.

    So Mr. Warritay until we stop being hypocrites in salone, more people are going to die, no matter how much we pray and fast. We know our leaders are up to no good and we still glorify them.

    Politicians must keep away from our religious space. If they cannot do the job for which we are paying them, then they must resign instead of ordering us to beg God for help.

    We feel insulted by depraved politicians who cannot be honest and sincere in their personal lives interfering in our faith in God, which is all we have.

  3. Such a powerful and thoughtful piece, Sierra Leone Telegraph. Since I have heard the announcement of this call to fast, I could not help but think of the irony of asking a starving people to fast. It is a slap in the face to a suffering and patient people.

    A people who are already at serious risk of malnutrition and starvation due to quarantines, closed markets, and the debilitation of subsistence and regional agriculture the scourge of EVD has wrought. It is a mockery to ask them to fast.

    What will President Koroma and his privileged ministers give up to aid the fight against Ebola?

    The World Food Programme has mobilized massive food aid to the rural population, supplemented by valiant efforts from the diaspora to raise funds and bring relief to compatriots back home; a colleague of mine led an initiative at our institution to raise thousands of dollars to purchase rice and dried fish for his home chiefdom in the district of Kailahun.

    This aid has just been delivered in an effort, among many others, to help stave off starvation, and now the president is asking for a fast? That makes no sense to me but perhaps I don’t understand.

    People must eat and stay healthy in such times when pestilence stalks the land.

    Thank you for the wonderful coverage of the EVD crisis. I have followed it throughout. Here’s to healing, recovery, and a Salone that is EVD-free in 2015! God bless.

  4. Dear Editor,

    It is easy and perhaps justified for all of us to take a swipe at the president given the frustrations we experience with the relentlessness of the EVD. Yet we need to approach the days ahead in a more constructive manner.

    First, I would like the media either through IMC or SLAJ or through the SL Guild of Editors to come together and proffer options that the Government may wish to employ to further contain the epidemic.

    Over the years there has been no attempt to create “Think Tanks” or even “Policy Research Pools” that can work outside or alongside Government to strengthen the various ideas that others may have.

    And when such have been attempted by pools of professionals rarely has there been a willingness of those in authority to accept sound advice.

    So, my challenge to my professional colleagues is to start the process of the collective thinking and ideas development, that supports what we have described variously as “inept leadership and ineffective Government.”

    Second, we do need to hold leadership and those in authority to account. The necessary investigative journalist teams should begin more serious work to actually provide proof of all these allegations of mismanagement of Sierra Leone’s Ebola Resources.

    Why are we so quiet, after being threatened into silence by MP Bernadette Lahai. The voice of truth is a necessary element even in a State of Public Health Emergency.

    Lastly, I am convinced that together we will end the epidemic in Sierra Leone this year, more likely around June or July. Once we have taken care of the EVD and begin the slow and difficult process of picking up the pieces, we need to start a discussion on how, together, we work towards a New Sierra Leone. One that is willing to ask the questions – “What type of a Sierra Leone do we want?”

    How do we demand and force a collective move away from corruption, starting from that which is experienced at the bottom, with the ordinary servant at home, the messenger in Government, yours and my family members in Civil Service, magnates of business, religious leaders, politicians and ultimately our state leadership.

    We will need to ask ourselves whether our economy is best dependent on a reliance on our mineral resources or is it time to look inwards and put young people to work through the nation through work programmes directed at agriculture and a depopulation and re-organisation programme of Freetown our capital?

    May we begin to ask ourselves real questions of governance, that move beyond red, green and orange and find ways in which we reduce suspicion and ethnic division?

    Can we depend less on the strength we find hidden in the cloaks of secret societies and the alliances created therein?

    Can we discuss the relevance of traditional systems of governance that are linked side by side with Local Government development?

    Perhaps one of the reasons the “forces above” above are not answering, is because what we declare with our mouths we deny with our actions. We say we are Christians but secretly sacrifice animals to strange deities; we say we are Muslims with outward fasting but are involved in acts and practices that make a farce of our religion and pious ways.

    We flood our mosques on Fridays and Churches on Sundays but undermine each other, as evidenced through the market woman, the white collared employee and the manager.

    The president should ask for divine intervention and I congratulate him for calling on us to do so. But then God answering our prayers and pleas is going to depend on our beginning the difficult road of changing our ways and starting anew.

    Batilloi Warritay

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