Why Samura Kamara is unfit to be president of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 March 2018:

Let us turn the clock back to May 2015. The campaign bells are silent, and the town criers have all gone home. Now it’s time for reality check and search for an answer, as to why Sierra Leone’s foreign minister Samura Kamara, failed to convince the Board of the African Development Bank that he is the best man for the presidency of Africa’s top financial institution.

There were eight candidates, and it is understood Samura was the first to be eliminated from the first round short listing process, which saw the Nigerian economist Akinwumi Adesina unanimously confirmed by all the board members as the best candidate for one of the most important jobs on the continent.

Political analysts believe that Samura’s defeat was expected, after embarking on a naked and self – gratuitous international and domestic campaign – soliciting support for his job application.

And many would say that such blatant attempt to publicly influence the decision making process of the ADB was not only counterproductive, but raised serious questions about Samura’s modus operandi and calibre of professionalism.

In short, Samura has done himself no favours, nor has his campaign team understood how institutions like the ADB which are very well governed, operate.

The success of the ADB, serving as Africa’s jewel in the crown has not been accomplished through misplaced loyalties, nepotism, or political patronage. Take a look at the bank’s philosophy and values that drive its mission and you will see why it has succeeded as Africa’s premier bank.

Those values and philosophy, also explain why the likes of Samura Kamara would find it very difficult to be trusted with the leadership of such an institution.

Critics would say that by Sierra Leone’s standards, Samura’s performance as finance minister was at best very mediocre.

First, as Finance Minister of the 1992 military junta, whose fiduciary governance and stewardship has been strongly questioned.

And then, secondly, in 2005 Kamara was appointed financial secretary in the ministry of finance of the Tejan Kabba SLPP government, which was also accused of presiding over massive corruption and poor management of public finance.

Following the defeat of the SLPP government at the polls in 2007, Samura Kamara was appointed as Governor of the Central Bank of Sierra Leone, after a short assignment with the International Monetary Fund in New York.

And in 2009, Samura was brought into the Koroma government as finance minister, after the sacking of the incumbent minister David Carew, so as to steady a sinking ship.

By all accounts, Samura not only failed to steady the ship and bring sanity to the country’s financial management, but also failed to control spiralling public spending. Inflation was running out of control, as unemployment grew.

GDP fell from 7% to 5% under Samura’s watch. Between 2009 and 2010 Sierra Leone’s economy was heading for the rocks, and Samura was clueless. The government was running out of cash and banks liquidity was falling.

Public sector workers and private contractors were not getting paid. There was no money in the government’s coffers. Prices of basic necessities and interest rates were spiralling out of control.

A bag of rice selling a year earlier at seventy thousand Leones, was being sold at over two hundred thousand Leones. The Koroma government’s economic policy – managed by finance minister Samura was in tatters.

Perhaps Samura’s biggest failure as finance minister was the disorderly manner with which he introduced and implemented the unpopular Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 2010, following its enactment into law in 2009.

After months of confusion and paralysis, caused by the poorly introduced GST, overall tax revenue declined significantly. This further worsened the government’s inability to implement its Agenda for Change that had promised so much, yet delivering very little.

Relationship between finance minister Samura and the British Department for International Development (DFID) – sponsors of the development of the country’s National Revenue Authority (NRA) hit rock bottom.

A confidential report questioned Samura’s stewardship of the NRA in particular, and the country’s economy in general. The minister’s relationship with the senior management of the NRA was less than cordial, as DFID threatened to withhold funding until key performance measures were met and the minister’s stranglehold of the NRA loosened.

Local businesses in Sierra Leone suffered massive cash flow difficulties, as cost of borrowing went up and the economy went into free fall. Thanks to the injection of over $100 million dollars into resuscitating the country’s ailing iron ore mines by African Minerals, a lifeline was thrown to minister Samura.

By the end of 2011, Sierra Leone’s economy was haemorrhaging and something had to be done to avoid bankruptcy.

The sudden revival of iron ore production and exporting, led to a rise in the country’s GDP from 6% to 13%, which the Koroma government is up till today celebrating as one of the fastest economic growth in the world. But this economic miracle – not surprisingly, has never again been repeated.

With the exception of the surge in iron ore exports in 2011, other sectors of the economy were lagging behind, yet Samura remained clueless. The economy was slowing down and heading for another recession, despite the rest of the world coming out of a recession.

In a televised BBC interview, Samura – a big fan of former British Prime Minister Blair, told the reporter he would welcome the return of the British to run the affairs of the country. He felt that Sierra Leoneans were incapable of running the country.

Although many in Sierra Leone were sympathetic with those sentiments, minister Samura had unwittingly made a rod for his own back. His removal from the ministry of finance was inevitable.

In 2012, he was sacked by president Koroma and transferred to head the foreign ministry, a department many in Sierra Leone regard as nothing but a drain in the country’s meagre resources, with little or no return to the tax payer.

If there is one lesson to be learnt from the failure of minister Samura’s quest for the presidency of the African Development Bank, it is that whilst Samura may be regarded as a giant by his fans, in the wider scheme of things in Sierra Leone politics, on the African continent – clearly he is a midget that is trying to box above his weight.

And this says a lot about sycophancy in Sierra Leone, where mediocrity, mythology and hocus pocus define standards in public life.

The reality is that it is no accident Samura Kamara failed to clinch the presidency of the ADB. Quite frankly, his record in the ministry of finance was nothing to write home about.

He was given the opportunity to transform the lives of 6 million people in a country with a GDP of about $3 billion by successive governments, but he blew it. He failed miserably.

Hence, his bid for the presidency of Africa’s premier bank, with a capital investment running into hundreds of billions of dollars, was always going to be a stretch too far for the minister.

So, now that this episode is behind us, it is time for president Koroma to make a decision.

Samura Kamara’s interest in the presidency of the ADB is a clear manifestation of the fact that he no longer has the desire or the appetite to continue to lead the country’s foreign ministry.

This is a matter now of national importance, which, assuming president Koroma is honest and has the good of the nation at heart, must consider rather than leave to fester, as morale across the diplomatic service is at its lowest ebb.

The lack of a capable, committed and strong leadership at the ministry of foreign affairs is damaging the very little positive image the country has abroad.

Sierra Leone does not need flaky ministers that are constantly looking over their shoulders for greener pastures, rather than focusing on how best to uplift their compatriots from abject poverty.

The minister must now do the decent thing – tender his resignation, or should be asked by  the president to go and pursue his career aspirations elsewhere.

Now, that was May 2015. This is the eve of polling in Sierra Leone, and by the twist of fate or should we say president Koroma’s dictatorial flair, Samura is once again competing for another top job. This time he says he wants to be the president of Sierra Leone.

The question that Sierra Leoneans need to reflect upon at the polling booth tomorrow is this: If Samura was not good enough to be appointed to run the African Development Bank, why should he be good enough to run Sierra Leone, with a population of 7 million people?

Don’t waste your vote. Think wisely. Vote wisely.

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