Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 April 2015
Kandeh Yumkella (Photo) needs to invigorate his presidential bid if he is serious about winning the SLPP race for flagbearer and the presidency in 2018. So far, his campaign is yet to get off to a proper start.
This may suggest a cautious and deliberative approach on the one hand and indecisiveness on the other.
Alternatively, it may be the consequence of the real politic and negotiations within the SLPP.
However, since announcing his departure from the UN, we are yet to learn more about his campaign strategy and policy offerings.
Whatever the reason for the slow and intrepid start, the task of mobilising the majority of Sierra Leoneans behind an SLPP candidate is huge.
While I do not have any time for the sycophantic journalism peddled by the Awareness Times, the challenge of winning more than 37% of the electorate is a huge one.
This logic is predicated upon the fact that the politics of patronage upon which our political system is constructed, necessitates voting along regional and tribal lines, despite the inability of successive governments to meet the needs of their own constituencies.
The biggest task facing Yumkella is to persuade APC supporters that, their fundamental and basic human needs have not been met by the party they have supported.
He needs to convince that they are worse off, even though this is evident in their homes, villages and towns every day – through the wretchedness, hopelessness and arrested development caused by endemic poverty, disease, lack of education and widespread graft.
To achieve this monumental shift in mindset, Kandeh and his team need to begin to articulate now, what his broad vision is for all of Sierra Leone and what his priorities will be for the short, medium and long-term.
I can offer a few areas that may begin to inspire hope among Sierra Leoneans, as these issues affect all, regardless of their political allegiance. Yumkella’s draft manifesto must include, though not limited to the following:
1) Ensure that all Sierra Leoneans, especially our children under the age of 16, are provided with not less than three meals a day.
2) Ensure that all Sierra Leoneans have their dignity restored, so that none of our children are running around in their birthday suits and none of our women having to be involuntarily topless.
3) Ensure that most if not all our children under 16, have access to basic education during the first term of his presidency; and also ensure that all of those in education make significant improvement in their attainment – measured by a rise of at least 30% of pupils achieving at least a grade C – without having to pay, sleep with, or do any other favours for their teachers.
4) Ensure that the problem of homelessness is addressed by dealing with the shortage of affordable housing in Sierra Leone, through a mixture of rent controls, house building, new town development, review of land tenure arrangement in the provinces and repatriation of people back to provincial areas – and the latter does not have to be on ethnic lines.
5) Ensure that inflation of basic items is contained through the expansion of agribusiness, review of unnecessary government tariffs; and also ensure the free flow of goods into Sierra Leone by reducing the time taken to clear goods at the Ports from two to three weeks to three hours.
6) Ensure that the rule of law is enforced in Sierra Leone, and primarily by demonstrating that those who make the laws and enforce the laws are subject to the law. We have a lamentable situation where more than 90% of our police are either engaged in traffic duties or brutality, and at the expense of tax payers.
7) Ensure that electricity generation meets not just domestic consumption, but also that the needs of business are met within the first term of his presidency, so that business costs are significantly reduced and the security situation is improved.
8) Ensure that safe, clean water supply is accessible to all during the first term of his presidency. It is lamentable that in a country blessed with nine major rivers flowing from north east to south west, and a lake and record levels of rainfall globally and access to the Atlantic ocean – access to safe, secure water supply is the preserve of a few.
9) Ensure that bureaucracy, red-tape, bribery, indiscipline and unprofessionalism associated with Sierra Leone’s public services are eradicated – by introducing a performance culture where failure to meet clearly defined performance measures – including punctuality, absence, customer care and productivity, will result in significant reduction in staffing of over-bloated bureaucracies.
10) Ensure that our civil society and civic institutions are built and strengthened in order to secure our democratic gains from future tyrants. This requires a clear separation of powers of all branches of state, press regulation to weed out sycophantic and bought elements, promoting the rule of law and the development of other forms of participatory democracy and ridding Sierra Leone of the politics of “aka”, “strongmen” and “wrah wray boys”.
Yumkella may have removed all doubts as to his political intention to provide good leadership for Sierra Leone, but he now needs to be clear as to the reasons why people should vote for him in 2018 and not Bio, John Sisay, or any other candidate; and why Sierra Leoneans based in the diaspora must support his campaign.
All eyes and ears are now on Kandeh Yumkella to step up now, rather than later.