Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 April 2021:
President Julius Maada Bio yesterday commemorated Sierra Leone’s 60th Independence Anniversary, not with his fellow seven million citizens of Sierra Leone – many of whom had to stay indoors unable to come out into the streets, due to heavily armed security forces patrolling the capital, but with his four cronies – Heads of State from the sub-region, with whom he said he shares common interests, in terms of threats they face in the sub-region.
The president decorated his fellow West African leaders with expensive, mouth-watering 24 Carat gold-plated collar chains and breast jewels, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars at a lavish award ceremony held at State House to commemorate the country’s 60 years of independence from British rule.
Critics say that rather than spending the millions of dollars it had cost the government to stage yesterday’s ill-afford, palacious back-patting dinner and golden awards lavished on his visitors, aimed at bribing his fellow regional leaders in anticipation of influencing the forthcoming 2023 general elections, such funds should have been spent on propping up the country’s ailing health sector where poor hardworking cleaners have gone for over a year without pay.
President Bio has recenlty faced a barrage of allegations and accusations of rampant corruption and sleeze, involving public funds, running into tens of millions of dollars since coming to office in 2018.
Sierra Leone is classed as one of the poorest nations in the world, with average adult mortality rate at just 50 years. The country is heavily depedent on international aid and donor funds.
Receiving their golden chain insignia and breast jewels, were President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana, who is also Chairman of ECOWAS; Alpha Conde of Guinea; President George Manneh Weah of Liberia; President Adama Barrow of The Gambia; Nuno Gomes Nabiam, the Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau; and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Your presence here, even as the world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, is a demonstration of profound solidarity. For that and more you have consistently demonstrated, we are immensely grateful for your kindness,” president Bio told his regional friends, adding that countries in the sub-region are tied together by geography, a common history, shared values, shared interests and a common future.
“We face similar peace and security threats, and we must stay collectively vigilant in protecting our common homestead. We share other common threats – climate change and fragile ecosystems threaten biodiversity and food security in the sub-region. A burgeoning youth population is a threat insofar as irregular migration, crime, drug trafficking, and threats of a restive and marginalised population are concerned,” he said.
President Bio said that Sierra Leone regards a growing youth population as an opportunity, hence his government’s investment in human capital development – quality education and skills development, quality healthcare services, and food security, adding that Sierra Leone identifies with the inclusive and sustainable development focus of ECOWAS’ Vision 2050.
After receiving their golden chains and jewels, responding on behalf of his fellow regional leaders, President Akufo-Addo expressed appreciation to the government and people of Sierra Leone for the generosity shown to them by president Bio, saying that they are indeed honoured to grace the country’s 60th Independence Anniversary.
Akufo-Addo (Photo: Speaking above) said that in the face of human challenges, no West African country has shown resilience like Sierra Leone, in terms of overcoming the civil war, dealing with Ebola, mudslide and managing the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
“On this 60th Independence Anniversary of Sierra Leone, I wish all of you can come together to build a new Sierra Leone,” he urged – conscious of the deep political and tribal divisions in the country, as he called on the people of Sierra Leone to work hard toward peace, progress and development of the country.
Did president Bio hear that call for unity from the Ghanain President? If so, will he act accordingly and promptly in order to build and promote national cohesion?