Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 January 2016
Sierra Leone is vastly rich in natural resources, and its government is woefully incapable of exploiting this wealth creating potential, for the good of its population of six million.
Corruption, poor governance, and inept leadership are responsible for the abject poverty that the people of Sierra Leone are facing today.
But the communist tendency of those governing the ruling APC party, is a serious concern for those in the country that are committed to building a vibrant liberal democracy and a prosperous nation, based on honest personal enterprise, and an open and free market economy – not controlled by the Koroma family and their patrons.
Recent visit of senior members of the Chinese Communist Party to Sierra Leone raise serious questions about the true purpose of their meeting with president Koroma at State House, and with senior members of the ruling Communist APC party.
The fifteen high powered delegation from the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China was led by no less an individual, than the vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference – Mr. Wang Jairui.
So, why did they choose to visit Sierra Leone at a time, when the country is engaged in a hot debate about a campaign by ruling party extremists to extend the term limit of president Koroma in office, effectively returning the country to a one party communist dictatorship?
What did the Chinese discuss at State House with their comrades – senior ruling APC party members and president Koroma?
What advice did they give to president Koroma about his third term agenda?
Will the Chinese government honour the promise they made to president Koroma in 2013, to invest more than $10 billion in Sierra Leone in tourism, agriculture, electricity, fishing, and the construction of a new airport outside the capital Freetown?
Did the Chinese Communist Party promise to increase their supply of arms and ammunition to the country, and step up training of Sierra Leone security personnel, especially the presidential guard, in anticipation of any political instability that may ensue pre or post 2017/2018 elections?
Whatever the Chinese Communist Party discussed with their comrades at State House on the 19th and 20th January 2016, we may never know.
But one thing is clear. According to State House sources, news delivered by the Chinese Communist Party to their comrades in Freetown, made for uncomfortable listening by State House.
The much talked about construction of a new airport by the Chinese may not now go ahead as planned.
Sources say that the feasibility study conducted by the Chinese themselves, now shows that the project estimated to cost over $400 million is not sustainable.
The existing international airport at Lungi (Photo) may well be redeveloped by the Chinese at a fraction of the cost of a new airport, if an agreement can be reached with the Koroma government about the role of China in managing the airport.
According to the Chinese, there are far more important priorities that require urgent investments, such as healthcare, electricity, and access to clean water, instead of constructing a $400 million airport that is likely to yield very little added economic value for the country.
The rehabilitation of Sierra Leone’s economy which has seen a 25% drop in export revenue in the last two years because of the Ebola outbreak, is seen by the Chinese as a priority.
Further investments in developing Sierra Leone’s iron ore production, which the Chinese now controls, has been shelved by the Chinese, as global and China’s demand for iron ore remains weak.
The Chinese are believed to be considering taking over the struggling sugar cane ethanol production company – Addax, along with other ailing foreign companies in Sierra Leone, if they can get them at knockdown bargain prices.
But money is getting tighter for the Chinese, as the economy takes a free fall dive.
Economic growth in China is dropping fast, despite the huge slump in global oil prices.
And China’s industrial production has slowed down too, as the government refocus its economic growth strategy, currently driven by overseas demand for Chinese goods to domestic demand led growth.
Global prices for raw materials such as steel and iron ore have slumped in the last two years, and the uncertainty continues, as the Chinese economy slows down.
Billions of dollars of investments promised to the Koroma government by the Chinese in 2013, will not now materialise.
This makes for unpleasant reading for the Koroma government in Freetown, as expectations from the Chinese Communist Party’s visit to Sierra Leone are dashed.
According to State House Communication Unit in Freetown, the aim of the visit was to enhance bilateral relations between the two countries and their respective parliamentary institutions.
But the question that must be asked is, why would Sierra Leone – a small, poor African country that is trying to develop its liberal parliamentary democracy, based on pluralism and a free market economy, invest in enhancing bilateral political relations with the Chinese Communist party and their monolithic one party parliament?
Are president Koroma and his ruling APC being encouraged by the Chinese Communist Party to return Sierra Leone to a one party state by stealth?
A cursory look at the list of senior APC comrades who hosted their Chinese visitors at State House, makes for interesting reading: Vice president Victor Bockarie Foh, who is also ironically ‘serving’ as Sierra Leone’s ambassador to China; the speaker of Sierra Leone Houses of Parliament – Sheku BB Dumbuya; the secretary general of the ruling APC – Osman Foday Yansanneh; the deputy chairman and leader of the APC – Minkailu Mansaray; APC chairman for the western area – Allieu Pat-Sowe; and the APC national campaign coordinator for the 2012 elections – Leonard Balogun Koroma, who has made several visits to China in the last five years. This group is known as the APC gang of FIVE – Koroma’s most trusted and loyal comrades.
These APC politicians are unashamedly communist, and relish the nostalgia and possibility of returning Sierra Leone to the despotic and oppressive one party APC dominated parliament – a hybrid of the Chinese parliament, that ruled Sierra Leone for almost thirty years. (Photo above: Vice president Foh and the Chinese Premier in Beijing).
According to State House report in Freetown, “discussions with the Chinese were focused on relations between the two ruling parties, their respective legislative institutions, ways and experiences of governing the state, government affairs as well as issues of common interest.”
These are very worrying times indeed for many Sierra Leoneans that are committed to and are working very hard to maintain Sierra Leone’s liberal multi-party democracy.
And as the outspoken opposition political leader – Alie Kabba languish on bail, awaiting court trial for a charge his supporters say is politically motivated, there are concerns civil liberty and human rights in Sierra Leone are seriously being eroded.
Is the Chinese Communist Party interested in helping to strengthen Sierra Leone’s Westernised liberal, multi-party democracy?
Are they interested in seeing president Koroma trade authoritarianism for respect for civil liberty and human rights?