Why I truly believe Kandeh Yumkella is the right choice for Sierra Leone

Columba Blango – Chairman of KKY Movement UK

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 July 2015

kandeh Yumkella in London7The Ebola Crisis has brought home to many people a sad truth that they had been trying to avoid. And after the high hopes of the first few post-civil war years, Sierra Leone is still broken. (Photo: Columba Blango).

Despite all the bold claims of a miracle recovery over the last eight years, when we needed them most, our Government simply failed to deliver.

Corruption has eaten away at the heart of the state. Instead of a higher calling it seems at times as though public service is becoming little more than a get rich quick scheme for the powerful and the ambitious.

Despite billions of Leones in foreign aid having poured into the country, especially into the much vaunted free healthcare system, our public services still can’t seem to provide for even the most basic needs – from medicine, to beds, and even rubber gloves.

But things do not have to be like this. There is an alternative. Sierra Leone can and has produced real leaders, leaders who are committed to public service, to honesty and accountability.

One such leader stands out above the others, a leader who has made a global reputation at the highest reaches of international government – fighting to transform the lives of ordinary people across the planet. That leader is Kandeh K. Yumkella.

Dr Kandeh Kumkella -AAI 2013In 20 years on the world stage, Yumkella has built a reputation for hard work, honesty and competence that has made him the highest ranking African in international diplomacy as Under Secretary General of the United Nations.

He has led the UN’s multi-million dollar body, promoting industrialization in developing countries, UNIDO – eventually becoming the global champion for energy access for the world’s poor as Chairman of the Sustainable Energy for All Campaign.

When he announced earlier this year that he was resigning his position at UN to return home to Sierra Leone, there was an all too rare moment of optimism that he would now bring his much needed style of leadership to tackling our nation’s pressing problems.

Indeed, such is the anticipation that even before he has returned, excited volunteers have flocked to his cause – and have already set up a campaign to draft him as the SLPP flagbearer in the 2018 Presidential elections.

Sierra Leone is a donor driven country. The international community wants a partner in Freetown it can trust, someone it knows has the ability and commitment to deliver on their promises.

That is one of the reasons why Dr Yumkella is such a compelling candidate for President.

However, he is not just a globally respected advocate for social justice, at ease rubbing shoulders and negotiating with some of the most powerful leaders on Earth – he is also a son of the soil, who has never lost touch with his roots in Salone, with a life story that reflects the diverse face of modern Sierra Leone.

Born in Kambia District, in the North of the country, he is the son of a local Paramount Chief who was a founder member of the SLPP, he was raised in the South, going to school in Bo, and is married to a Southerner.

As a teenage student he led demonstrations against dictatorship.

In his 30’s he was asked to help kickstart the worn-torn economy as Trade & Industry Minister, where his fresh approach and calm leadership saw him headhunted by the UN for a job advising on economic transformation.

kandeh yumkella and koroma1Today, his distinctive style of hands-on leadership continues to mark Yumkella out. as a different kind of leader – one who is humble enough to listen to people, not just lecture them – but has the vision and charisma that make people believe in him and want to follow. (Photo: Dr. Yumkella lending some advice to president Koroma). 

He is due to return home to Sierra Leone in the next month, and is expected to embark on a whirlwind nationwide tour to listen to what ordinary Sierra Leoneans are saying about the country’s future and the role they want him to play.

With the myth of the Sierra Leone miracle so cruelly exposed by the failure to tackle Ebola, and having spent more time on political feuds in recent months than planning the recovery, there are few in either Sierra Leone or the international community who believe neither APC nor anyone else in the SLPP has the capacity to lead the nation’s recovery apart from Kandeh Yumkella.

Sierra Leone needs an altogether different style of leadership.

Next few years will not be easy for our country. When we choose a new President in 2018, they will need exceptional qualities to create confidence that we are back on the right course.

We will need a leader who is a unifier; one who can help heal our nation’s wounds not deepen them; someone with the moral authority to tackle corruption, and a proven track record of managing change; someone who understands how world leaders think and who they can instinctively trust; someone who can lead the post-Ebola recovery and be the face of a modern, forward-looking Sierra Leone – I for one have little doubt that that leader is Dr Kandeh K Yumkella.

For those doubters who think that people like me and several others all around the world that believe in Kandeh Yumkella’s ability to lead and change Sierra Leone are mistaken, I say this:

Why not give him a chance to prove to Sierra Leone that he can transform our nation for the better?

9 Comments

  1. My understanding of how the UN works is that an emploee of UNIDO can only respond to requests from governments for assistance. Yumkella cannot just come to Sierra Leone and start projects because he is from Sierra Leone. If he had done that he would have been sacked for nepotism and perhaps corruption, and quite rightly so.

    All the good work that he did here in our towns and villages were commissioned by president Koroma himself.

    If those projects are not benefiting our people, then it is not the fault of Yumkella. It is up to our government here to ensure that all funded projects are managed properly and that outcomes are achieved, and benefits realised.

    So we should not hold Kandeh accountable for lack of electricity here in Sierra Leone. He did not cause the electricity problems here, the government did. If anything we saw all the projects that Kandeh came here and established with the government. Where are those projects today? Let us ask our government.

    I have been very doubtful previously about Yumkella’s leadership qualities for governing Sierra Leone. But now that he is explaining about his vision and how he can change this ugly system here in Salone, I am beginning to like him.

    His positive and can do mentality is what we need right now to take this country out of the morass of depravity and deprivation we are suffering.

    Maada Bio and the other SLPP candidates for the leadership should let him take the mantle of leadership, simply because from competency and ability to get the job done, he is the best of the lot. But Kandeh must also ensure that each of the candidates and their inherent strengths are utilised in his government as a team.

    I think we should all give him a chance and let him put together a good team that will rebuild this country. We are fed up of being ruled by half-baked dimwits. Some of our minister here can hardly read and write. So sad.

    If he keep this up and he stands for election under any political party I will vote for him. Sometimes it is better the new girlfriend you dont know rather than the old one you know so much about.

    APC have disappointed those of us who never thought we would vote APC in 2007. SLPP are fighting each other. So perhaps Yumkella should also think about forming a new party to contest in 2018, if Maada Bio and others are getting in his way.

    • Hello Jarret and thank you for your reply to my questions about Dr. Yumkella’s contributions to Sierra Leone. I would like to make it clear to all Dr. Yumkella’s supporters that I did not ask these questions because I have a skin in the game; I did so because that is the way I am use to in the U.S. where we have a spirited debate about everything, from academia, to politics, to the economy, and technology.

      I love and appreciate your passion about the Dr., but it is not good enough for you to just say “All the good work that he did here in our towns and villages were commissioned by president Koroma himself.” If that is accurate, can you name one or two villages or towns, dates and times when these projects were launched by president Koroma? That is all I am asking!!

      I know you are thinking, who is he to ask me these specific questions. It is a matter of verification and that is what democracy is all about, answering difficult questions from people who love you, and those who do not love you.

      Sierra Leone has been without power since 1987. Power failure, or the absence of it is by no means caused by Dr. Yumkella. But if he is in a position to help, don’t you think he should?

      I could care less about Maada Bio, because I know he does not have the characteristics to be a leader.

      Finally I will not support your suggestion that Dr. Yumkella should form another party. If anything, the present situation must be his first challenge, which is to bring his party (SLPP) together. If he succeeds in doing that, then you know he has what it takes to unite the country. Don’t you agree?

  2. Do you really understand how salone is governed? Kandeh Yumkella is not an elected or public servant employed by the people of salone to uplift them from abject poverty and darkness. Get your facts right please.

    The last time I checked it was ernest koroma and his band of crooks that have been elected and are paid to improve the miserable lives of our people. But what have they achieved? Zero except allowing ebola, cholera, malaria, poor sanitation and poverty to kill tens of thousands of saloneans in the last eight years they have been in power.

    So why are you holding kandeh a UN official responsible for the failures and crass stupidity and thievery of the koroma regime?

    Do you know how many millions of dollars koroma and his corrupt cronies have stolen from funds meant to provide electricity in salone?

    Going as far back as the world bank funded contract with the Nigerian Income Electrix corruption scandal involving Haja Afsatu kabbah who was then minister of energy and has now been appointed ambassador to Nigeria, and the list goes on, including the oil importation racket that is going on today involving the president and National Petroleum (NP) Ltd.

    People are not stupid. President koroma is a major share holder in NP and owns a few petrol stations himself through which the price of petrol is being controlled in the country, and the fat profits goes into his bank account.

    All this government has done is siphon off millions of dollars of funds meant to improve electricity and water access for our people.

    Yes kandeh has provided not only advice to koroma about how to develop salone but has levered millions of dollars through UNIDO to fund industrial development- especially women enterprises and small scale hydro-electricity projects in your backyard.

    So go and ask your president koroma if you think this is a lie. Go on go hold your government to account like you should as a good citizen.

    By the way, you dont have to support kandeh. Just be true to yourself man.

    • Tell Him. These are the very elements in our midst that do not understand the real issues affecting himself and the rest of the country today. They are the hypocrites of this country, just supporting the president and the party through sentiments – ranging from tribal, regional and political lines instead of supporting the progress of the country.

      Sierra Leone is at cross-roads and as such, we do not need the type of rulership that we are currently experiencing under the Koroma political administration. You are a Sierra Leonean and do have the right to enjoy your God-given natural resources. But greedily, these politicians that you are praising, are the very people that have dragged this country to its present bad economic situation.

      Do not be bothered with the political nuances sent out by sycophants who are grudgingly eating the country’s national economic fabric of this country.

  3. I would love to see the development projects of all aspiring to be in leadership in Sierra Leone. The prevailing myth is that you have to be on the ground to be suitable for leadership, so let everyone show what they’ve done for Sierra Leone.

  4. Hello Supporters of Dr. Yumkella, I want to join you, if you can point to one development program/project that Dr. Yumkella brought to any region of Sierra Leone, that has benefitted or continues to benefit the people of Sierra Leone?

    I strongly believe, I do not know about you, that Dr. Yumkella having been chairman, energy access and sustainable energy for underdeveloped countries, should have helped with the persistent energy problems in Sierra Leone.

    If he cannot help when he had the opportunity, what makes you think he can help after taking over a bankrupt, and abused country? Thank you.

  5. Dr Columba Blango’s article on Dr Kandeh Yumkella has more questions than answers on the type of leader Sierra Leone desperately needs. For example we need a leader that will take us out of donor dependency.

    Sierra Leone is not a poor country. There are people on the wings ready to prove this! Back on Columba’s narrative: In Kandeh’s TWENTY YEARS service on the world STAGE as an energy ‘guru’ Sierra Leone still belong in the rock-bottom set of the Human Development Index and Freetown won the unenviable title of the darkest capital of the world. Perhaps a Sierra Leonean ‘energy pygmy’ could have done better.

    Dr Blango could you tell the nation why Kandeh left the Ministry of Trade and Industry? Is it due to false patriotism?

    The article, presented a photo where it is alleged that Kandeh was ‘lending some advice to President Koroma’. What was this advice, if I may ask. Was he ‘cunning-rabbiting’ the President so that he will fail and he Kandeh will take over?

    I want readers to know that Godwin is not against Dr Kandeh Yumkella. But I think all aspirants will be thoroughly scrutinised this time under ZERO SYCOPHANCY!

    Some of us will be helpful tomorrow, as we know the SLPP narrative from ‘Sierra Leone Provincial Party to Sierra Leone Peoples Party.

    In closing, all aspirants must know that ‘the higher a monkey climbs the more it exposes its little bum to awaiting devastating mongrels.’

  6. It’s interesting that the anti-intellectual movement against Dr. Kandeh has already started. As he said in his speech while in the UK, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Will the people continue to allow idiots to rule them, Hell No!

    Since the latest complaint against Dr. Kandeh is that he’s an elitist academic, he should just simplify his talks. He can offer a pictorial display of how those on the ground live compared to the common man.

    It would be good for him to show side by side pictures of where Ernest Koroma recently received his annual check up compared to the medical facility available to Dr. Khan as he languished with Ebola.

    Koroma with his non-elite, non-academic, and local thinking did not have the foresight, resources, or global connections to save the county’s only virologist.

    Then he should show the people around the country the schools Koroma’s children have attended compared to the ones available for their own.

    Next he should show the people the world class accommodations Koroma and company enjoy as they globetrot and then show pictures of the very best hotels in Sierra Leone.

    After that he can show a picture of just a basic store abroad compared to the open markets from which they have to squeeze out a living.

    Why is it that Koroma has global vision for how he and his family lives, but only a local mentality for his people?

    Why is it elitist for a man to want more and better for 6 million people versus a few dozen?

    Where has the local thinking taken the people? Had there been someone in leadership with international expertise, the Ebola crisis may have never hit Sierra Leone.

    This administration had to look to the international community for guidance which just shows the importance of global experience.

    Even if Ebola had still reached Sierra Leone, quite possibly the people would not still be dealing with this deadly disease.

    All Dr. Kandeh has to do is tell the people if they feel they are better off now, then they should not even consider him for leadership. If in the last eight years they have seen tangible that have improved their lives, then he doesn’t deserve their votes.

    But if their suffering has increased and they have seen even more hardships, they have to look at Kandeh as their best option.

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