Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 January 2016
For the first time in the history of post independence Sierra Leone, the head of state has delivered what can only be described as the shortest and most lacklustre of New Year’s address to the nation – four hundred and ninety-six words to be precise.
What has happened to president Koroma? Has he run out of his usual propaganda stunts? Is he losing his appetite for verbosity, or has he suddenly realised that brevity makes for better communication?
Supporters looking forward to the president’s usual dozen or more pages of New Year’s drivel, would be more than disappointed to see this year’s message reduced by ‘His Excellency’ to a mere half a page essay, on how Sierra Leone won the Ebola war.
The Ebola crisis is over Mr. President, and its time for you to lead from the front with action – if you can.
Citizens now need to know where the jobs are that you promised in the last eight years of being in power, so they can put food on the table, pay for medicines, clothe their families, provide safe clean drinking water, and go about their lawful business without the violation of their human rights by those in power.
Most of the president’s twaddle is nothing, but repeats from previous statements on the Ebola crisis.
There is nothing new and promising from the president for 2016 – not even a message of HOPE for the poverty stricken people of Sierra Leone.
Political analysts hoping that president Koroma would shed light on last week’s decision to shuffle his cabinet and get rid of a couple of dead weights too, are disappointed at the president’s New Year’s chinwag.
But for those ministers that are today facing serious uncertainties about their future, not sure where the president’s axe is going to fall next time another coconut falls on his head, yesterday’s speech only serves to prolong the agony of waiting.
And for the millions of Sierra Leoneans that are today anxious about the fate and poor health of opposition politician Mr. Alie Kabba, who is spending the New Year behind bars in Pademba Road prison, after his arrest on a trumped up charge of bigamy, there was no word from the president who ‘signed’ his warrant of arrest and threw him in jail.
Alie Kabba (Photo: Alie Kabba under arrest) has done nothing wrong to deserve being locked up in solitary confinement in prison, other than criticise the government’s record in office.
No one in Sierra Leone should be sent to jail for alleged bigamy. He was charged to court, and the magistrate decided to adjourn the case. He is innocent until proven guilty, and must remain a free man whiles awaiting the court’s decision about his innocence or otherwise.
So why take away his civil liberty, if not for the sheer sake of vindictiveness, impunity and revenge by those in power?
But we must remember that, tomorrow’s rebels are usually created today. So let us stop destroying the lives of those with whom we disagree.
We can have our political debates and agree to disagree. But let us not use the powers granted us through the ballot box to suppress and oppress our political opponents.
It is wrong and dangerous, and does not auger well for sustaining the peace in Sierra Leone, after ten years of brutal civil war.
Alie Kabba’s incarceration is nothing other than the abuse of power by those elected to protect the rights of their fellow citizens.
And this has cast another indelible stain on the poor governance record of the Koroma government. One that will be remembered by all those who believe in the protection of civil liberty and the rule of law in Sierra Leone.
President Koroma’s 2016 New Year’s message to the people of Sierra Leone, will be remembered also for its several omissions, such as the words: ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ – the president’s failed programme for improving the lives of Sierra Leoneans; ‘zero tolerance for corruption and Attitudinal Change’ – the president’s failed mantra and rhetoric that brought him to office in 2007.
What has happened to our president?
One thing is clear though, as we look to the start of the New Year, president Koroma is yet to make good on his promise of further announcement of changes to his moribund cabinet.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph has reliably learnt from ruling APC party sources that there was mutiny in the party, after president Koroma’s surprised announcement of changes to his cabinet last week.
Many senior ministers who are also grand patrons of the APC party, are said to have been annoyed at the president’s unilateral decision to sack the attorney general without consultation.
It is understood that apart from his vice president Foh and party secretary general Yassaneh, ministers were kept in the dark about the ministerial changes, which shocked many in the party and the government.
With president Koroma promising more ministerial changes soon, 2016 is set to throw up many more surprises from State House.
But will these changes bring an end to poverty, corruption, impunity, abuse of human rights and the curtailing of civil liberty in Sierra Leone?
Is president Koroma’s New Year’s message to the people of Sierra Leone something to write home about? This is what he said:
“The New Year is a moment for moving forward with hope, faith and fortitude. But even as we move forward, we must not forget that our nation was severely tested in the past 18 months by a vicious enemy. The test brought about great tragedy in our nation, but it also showed the best in many Sierra Leoneans.
“It showed the best in many of our doctors, nurses and other workers, it showed the best in many of our security agencies, and it showed the best amongst many chiefs and thousands of youths, market women, musicians and ordinary citizens in every district and region of our beloved country.
“Let our New Year resolution be to move on with the best in us, let us carry on with the better actions that allowed our country to defeat an Ebola virus which ferocity was unlike any the world had seen before.
“The better actions are the new habits of hygiene and sanitation we inculcated, the new attention to details that we ensured in our labs and treatment centers, and the newer commitments to Sierra Leoneans leading the way and comprising over 90% of the people at the frontlines and command centers of the fight against Ebola.
“We must build upon this greater confidence in ourselves, we must face the future with belief that we can overcome our limitations and build a future that entrenches our best values and actions.
“My Government’s Post Ebola Recovery Plan draws from this belief that we are capable of achieving the goals we have set forth for ourselves.
“My New Year resolution is to continue to work tirelessly to achieve these goals, to ensure the implementation of our plans we have designed for the priority sectors of health, education, social protection, including Ebola survivors, the private sector, energy and water.
“We salute our international partners for their continued support to our country, but it belongs to us to utilize that support to build a more resilient society.
“That is why all of us must make resolutions that should bring out the good in us for our country, our community and our families. The threats of future outbreak is still with us, but if we resolve to continue to bring out the best in us, we can stop any future outbreak in its tracks.
“The globalized world has great threats, from extreme weather events to terrorism and diseases that are no respecters of boundaries.
“But we can prevent the threats from overwhelming us by utilizing our better actions to grab the great opportunities that beckon to all of us.
“The good in us is greater than some of the ugly events that we face. Let us utilize the good in us to build a better country.
“Happy New Year and God Bless Sierra Leone.”