John Pa Baimba Sesay
12 January 2013
The Agenda for Prosperity is explicit in terms of government’s readiness to deepen democratic rights and the rule of law. Generally, prosperity and stability can be a far cry, in any country that is neither democratic nor peaceful.
Prior to 2007, Sierra Leone had a number of challenges in terms of effectively handling and promoting democracy.
Ensuring a total overhaul of the country’s democratic and governance system was as challenging as being able to make those institutional reforms, function effectively.
There was some absence of readiness on the part of the political class to ensure things move in the right direction. This was the legacy that President Koroma inherited.
President Ernest Koroma and his government have put a lot of emphasis on the need to deepening the country’s governance, based on the rule of law, freedom of expression, political tolerance, free and fair elections, and the protection of individual and vulnerable groups.
With practical steps taken by the government to ensure a complete transformation of the country’s political landscape in the last five years, one may argue that we are today amongst those countries that could be referred to as the envy of the continent.
No doubt, there still remains a number of challenges, such as; awareness and acceptance of the basic principles that guide the proper functioning of a democratic process; addressing youth unemployment, which could threaten peace and stability; and enforcing discipline and due regard for law and order.
There is the will and readiness for practical actions, aimed at addressing these challenges. However the role of state institutions – the police and the judiciary in this drive could not be overstated.
The role of other sectors, such as civil society groups, the media and political parties, in the socio-economic and democratic growth of our country is critical.
Strengthening the justice system and promoting fairness in society, are important in the democratization process.
And so is the need to scale up the prominence of women in state governance and encouraging collaboration with the opposition, development partners, and civil society in resolving problems through dialogue.
Added to this, is the need to encourage a regionally representative government, as we have seen in the appointments of people into positions of trust by this government.
So, given the strongest of political readiness on the part of government, it behooves all, especially the opposition, to see the need to come to terms with the need to support the country’s call for development and in deepening our democracy.
It is the gateway to the country, and the first and lasting impression visitors get about the country, starts from what they see and experience at the airport.
The recent signing of a contract between China and Sierra Leone, for the construction of a new airport in the Port Loko district is laudable.
But the refurbishment of the Lungi Airport is a task that this government can pursue in order to demonstrate how serious we are as a country, in rebranding our image – both within and outwith.
When President Koroma assumed office in 2007, he met an air travelling system that was in a bad shape, as the airport was in a declining state with sub-standard facilities.
With our rebranding efforts as a country, rehabilitating the airport to meet international standards has become an overriding priority. The overlaying and widening of the runway and relocation of ground lighting system, have been completed.
The ground lighting system is now fully functional, water supply improved, electricity supply increased to about 60%, and X-ray equipment installed.
The President carried out an inspection tour of the airport upon arrival at the airport, from his first official visit to Germany last Friday.