Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 March 2018:
Election in Sierra Leone is in three days and counting. Most of the parties and their presidential candidates are hard at work on the campaign trail, some hustling for votes, and as evidence suggest in the case of the ruling APC – paying cash and handing out alcohol to the youths for votes.
But last Tuesday, 27 February 2018, the presidential candidate for the National Grand Coalition (NGC) party, the man tipped to win the presidential election – Dr Kandeh Yumkella, was at the country’s national sports stadium where he spoke to tens of thousands of people.
He spoke about the deplorable economic and social conditions that the people of Sierra Leone have been subjected to, and his plans for much needed change which could bring prosperity, economic growth and better standards of governance in the country.
Determined to win the elections, Yumkella told the people of Sierra Leone that: “Standing on the threshold of the 2018 Presidential and General Elections, my Vision for Sierra Leone is of an optimistic, self-confident and prosperous nation with a strong and thriving democratic society in which mutual trust and economic opportunities exist for all, irrespective of their background.
“I promise to build a Sierra Leone that works and gives each and every one of us the opportunity to improve our lives. A Sierra Leone that works for us and our families, not just for the rich and powerful.
“I will be the President for all Sierra Leoneans. Whatever your region, your tribe, your gender, your status, or your religion, I will serve you all. I will champion your cause with the help of the Almighty God, and every day I wake up as President, my first and only consideration will be what is best for the country we all love and what will improve the lives of all our people.
“I have an unshakeable faith that our country, the former “Athens of West Africa”, under my leadership, has a bright future, a future that will be secured by the enterprise, creativity, and hard work of the people Sierra Leone. Together we can make this happen.”
So, what else did he say? This is his speech:
My Fellow Sierra Leoneans: For the National Grand Coalition (NGC), today marks the end of the officially declared period of campaigning throughout the country and come the 7 March you the people will have the unique opportunity to take your country back by voting to change the political landscape and destiny of our country after ten terrible/painful years of the corrupt and uncaring Ernest Koroma-led APC Government.
I feel gratified and ready by the rare and invaluable opportunity this campaign period offered me personally to meet my people, you our real Sierra Leoneans in every corner of our country. It was hard and tiring but worthwhile in all the way.
On behalf of my Vice-Presidential Running-mate Andrew Keili, I wish to register my profound gratitude first to the indefatigable teams that accompanied and rallied with us everywhere; and second, my appreciation goes to all the people who, out of their sheer belief and trust in the National Grand Coalition, came out in incredibly large numbers to welcome and host us.
To them I say thank you for making the NGC the only Political Party of note that rallied in every corner of our country without, unlike others, a single incident of violence against other contending parties.
We will continue to show the way and lead the peace for others to follow because: “We Wei want Peace, Na We Borku.”
Prior to the launch of the official campaign, I had also had the opportunity to meet many of you individually or in your respective communities during which I tried to raise awareness about the prevailing socio-economic and political situation in our country and to explain to you why I am running for President of our great country.
The commitment I want to make to you, my Fellow Countrymen, has been carefully consigned in the NGC Manifesto for the 2018 Elections which I had the privilege to officially roll out for the first time in Port Loko some three weeks ago.
As I have told you throughout the entire campaign, my message in the Manifesto is simple: If you elect me to be your next President, there are several things I plan to do to ensure that your needs are met day in day out all over the country.
In the Manifesto, I have called on all of you to support me and the National Grand Coalition Party so that together, we can build a country where, if you show up, step up, and work hard, you will have your fair share of its wealth, and be fairly rewarded for your hard work.
Although the message is clear enough, I am keenly aware that not everybody has heard my message of Hope, Opportunity and Transformation the NGC is offering this country by ushering in the Change our people are yearning for in the face of ten years of APC misrule.
So, today as we round off our official campaign and on the eve of the elections of 7 March 2018, I want to seize this occasion to refresh your memory by just highlighting aspects of the Manifesto as an indication of some of the major issues the NGC is committed to tackle in the next five years if you elect me as your next President.
1. Reviving a Broken Economy
Economic development is on the minds of all Sierra Leoneans today. Our nation’s economy is steadily collapsing, with millions unable to afford one square meal a day.
Under the Ernest Koroma-led APC Government, economic prosperity has been neglected to such an extent that even the Government’s so-called Agenda for Prosperity and its precursor, the Agenda for Change, have only succeeded in working for the privileged few while the vast majority of our people continue to suffer in poverty. If you elect me as your next President, I plan to Change all that.
My priority as your next President is to rescue and salvage the country’s economy which has collapsed under Ernest Koroma’s APC Government, move speedily to alleviate the suffering of people and put the country on the path to national sustainable development.
2.Trade & Industry
In the 1980s, Sierra Leone had the Forest Industry Corporation (FIC) in Kenema and SELETI in the South. While the FIC used to export the finished products of timber, SELETI exported the timbers unprocessed. With the outbreak of the 11-Year Civil War which ended in 2002, the FIC and SELETI ceased and never resumed their operations.
I plan to Change all that, if you elect me as your next President.
Under the NGC Strategy of ‘One District One Factory’ Initiative, the Kenema Forest Industries Corporation shall be speedily revived to create decent and productive jobs, especially for the youth of the District while the initiative will be replicated in centres around prominent products or services in each of the existing of 16 Districts of the country to anchor economic development in those districts.
Sierra Leone is endowed with abundant natural resources such as diamonds, iron ore, bauxite and rutile, complemented by the export of smaller quantities of gold and zircon.
But there are enormous challenges that need to be urgently addressed if the country is to benefit from its natural resources endowment. The report ‘Losing Out – Sierra Leone’s Massive Revenue Losses From Tax Incentives’ illustrates that Sierra Leone has granted significant tax exemptions to large mining companies operating in the country.
Tax exemptions granted in 2011 by the Ernest Koroma-led APC government almost matched the total domestic government revenue collected, and was significantly higher than total development aid to Sierra Leone while the consequence of the GST, customs and corporate tax exemptions granted is that Sierra Leone is losing approximately US$ 240 million annually in potential government revenues in future years. If you elect me as your next President, I plan to change all that.
I shall ensure full transparency in the Mining Sector by complying with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) standards, make all contracts public, and provide updated and validated information on tax and other contributions from the mining sector to the government; and compel Mining Companies to report comprehensively on all benefits paid to local stakeholders and build up the capacity of Local Councils to monitor and evaluate funds spent by mining companies at the local level
Education is critical in building a cohesive and prosperous Sierra Leone. Our children, and young people, must be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and aptitudes that would enable them compete with the best in the world.
Every country that has made rapid, and significant progress has placed education at the heart of its development. But today the education sector in Sierra Leone is in a sorry state. If you elect me as your next President, I plan to immediately Change that.
I shall declare, within the first 100 days of my Administration, a National Education Emergency. The aim is to shift the structure and content of the nation’s education system from merely passing examinations to building character, nurturing values, and raising literate, confident, and engaged citizens who can think critically.
Adult Literacy will be a key component of my Education Strategy, as a first step towards allowing all Sierra Leoneans to meaningfully participate in the on-going national dialogue.
We will ensure that university students have access to a revolving fund from which they can pay their fees and pay back to the state after they are employed. All qualified teachers will be guaranteed a PIN Code and teachers’ salaries will be linked to a cost of living index, so that they too can live decent lives.
- Basic Social Services
The provision of basic services in the country, especially in the capital city, Freetown, has become a serious problem. The capital’s main source of water supply, Guma Valley, has almost dried up after decades of under-investment and neglect.
If you elect me as your next President, I plan to Change all that.
My Administration shall shift Government focus from implementer to policy making and facilitation; create a National Water Resources Board with responsibility for water resources management; establishment a regime for regulating water supply and sewerage services which effectively balances economic, financial, and social objectives; and enact a new Water Law which creates a legislative framework for all those involved in the sector—public and private, present and future—and supersedes outdated water-related legislation.
- Sustainable Infrastructure Development
When a democratically elected government of one of the poorest countries in the world spends over $500 million on infrastructure projects in ten years, leaving millions of people without adequate supply of clean drinking water, electricity and healthcare, the world has to wonder what and whose agenda Ernest Koroma’s APC government pursued whilst in office.
The obsession with spending hundreds of millions of dollars on poorly designed road construction projects, is not the solution to tackling widespread poverty.
I plan to change that because my Administration does not want to be remembered for a road we build today, but for a more visionary transportation system for our future. Elect me as your next President and I will Change all that.
I shall propose the rehabilitation of the old Freetown/Pendembu railway to be built, within the first five years of my Administration, in order to again facilitate the haulage of goods and other bulk commodities as well as the transportation of people.
The railway will be expanded to the north of Sierra Leone (Kambia, Port Loko, Koinadugu, Tonkolili) to create more economic opportunities and to create link with neighbouring countries.
For the economic sense it makes and in solidarity with the people of Port Loko District I shall, if you elect me as your next President, embark on sustainable modernisation of the Lungi International Airport and its linkage to the capital city using the latest sea, land and air means of transport technologies available with a view to eventually transforming it into an aviation hub for West Africa particularly the countries of the Mano River Union.
- Rebuilding Depressed & Disaster-prone Communities
I have had the great privilege and opportunity during this campaign to see for myself the numerous depressed and deprived communities within our inner cities especially the capital city, Freetown. I have visited sprawling ‘Shanty Towns’, such as Susan’s Bay, Kroo Bay, Bomeh, Crab Town, that litter the city’s landscape.
In addition to being deprived, these settlements are also prone to natural and man-made disasters such as boulders and floods. Over the years, these communities have been ‘left behind’ in development planning.
Residents and their needs have been poorly identified, leading to inadequate and sometimes inappropriate interventions (mostly when disasters occur) in the provision of social services and physical infrastructures. I plan to change that if you elect me as your next President.
In the first Five-Year Term of my Administration starting in 2018, I shall create a Special Fund to help shanty towns and other disaster-prone and depressed areas for investment in resettlement and cater for peculiar infrastructure deficits, social services deficit, and poor sanitation management including education and training within the communities; improved infrastructure in targeting health and sanitation; supporting local businesses and centres of culture and arts; and community policing and security.
- Achieving Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment
Achieving Gender Equity and Women’s Empowerment remains a challenge in our country with their status immersed in deep cultural discrimination by traditional customs and laws which must be overcome in order to achieve gender equality.
Many forms of discrimination against women still exist and women are generally less empowered than men. If you elect me as your next President, I plan to Change all that.
I shall increase the number of women in leadership and decision-making positions and enact a Bill that allows women to hold 30% of positions in elective office and appointment positions; create a Women’s Empowerment Fund (WEF) and provide funding for incubating women enterprises to catalyze employment, build business and management capacity among women, spur innovation in women enterprises and enable women all over the country to become active participants in socio-economic development.
- Empowering Youth
Youths (aged between 15 and 35 years) account for a third of the country’s population and over 60 % of them (2 million) are unemployed-one of the highest rates in West Africa. Rural youth who are mostly farmers face serious challenges ranging from lack of inputs, financing and technology, while urban youth, comprising Early School Leavers and illiterate youth mostly engaged in artisan and small-scale business activities, also face many challenges.
Most graduates are unemployed, untrained and lack the productive skills required in the job market with only 6% of youth having ever served apprenticeships.
As they can hardly find jobs more than three years after graduation, many of them resort to drug abuse. If you elect me as your next President, I shall Change all that.
In its first year of my Administration, I shall bring private sector actors and education administrators together to realign the curricula of schools and colleges to the needs of Sierra Leone and the global economy; establish a Youth Enterprises Fund (YEF) to provide funding and business development services for businesses owned by young entrepreneurs, especially start-ups; and develop Industrial Parks in all regions under the NGC’s “One District One Factory’ Initiative to target and encourage young people to start small businesses by providing them with access to workspaces, equipment and basic services, including electricity and water.
- Persons with Disability: Building a Fair & Inclusive Society
It is the responsibility of Government to ensure that social development and the rights of all Sierra Leoneans especially women and children are protected and promoted in general and that those socially marginalised, disadvantaged, less privileged including the aged, the disabled, whether as groups, individuals, family units and the needy in our communities are equitably and adequately supported.
In the case of Sierra Leone, steady economic decline coupled with rising international debt has severely limited Sierra Leone’s ability to provide basic social welfare programs to its citizens. If you elect me as your next President, I shall Change all that.
I shall seek to create a fair and inclusive society that will ensure that all citizens share in the country’s wealth and prosperity; amend the Disability Act to bring it into line with the UN Convention on Disability; staff and properly resource the National Council on Persons with Disability in partnership with civil society organisations; and ensure that the National Commission on Persons with Disability (NCPD) is decentralised to the regional level in order to coordinate the activities of the various federations.
- Enhancing Local Government & Decentralization
Sierra Leone is a Constitutional Parliamentary Republic with three spheres of government: Central Government, Local Councils and Chiefdom Councils. As there is no constitutional provision for Local Government, only the Local Government Act 2004 provides the main legal framework for Local Councils. It was under the Act that Local Council Government was reintroduced in the country in 2004 after a 30-year eclipse. However, since 2004, the implementation of the new governance structure has been fraught with challenges.
Devolution of responsibility to Local Councils is behind schedule, with responsibility for key services such as water and waste management and infrastructure like roads among the important areas remaining under the central government’s control. The Ernest Koroma-led APC government has only been able to devolve health (primary and secondary health facilities), education (primary and secondary education) and agriculture to the Councils.
A host of other functions like feeder roads, rural water, solid waste management, youth and sport activities are yet to be devolved and this is affecting the delivery of services at the local level. When you elect me as your next President, I plan to Change all that.
My Administration shall Strengthen the role of Traditional Authorities within the Local Government system; restore and protect the institution of the Chieftaincy; and provide monthly salaries for Chiefs; revise the Chieftaincy Act to include clearly defined obligations of Chiefs and a clear distinction between the roles of Chiefdoms and Local Councils; and establish and support a National House of Chiefs to codify and systematize Traditional Laws and Culture.
- Good Governance
A hallmark of the times we live in today under the APC-led Government is the alarming willingness of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) and the Opposition Sierra Leone Peoples’ Parties to bend rules to suit one purpose – gaining power or holding on to power at all costs.
The whole nation has been witness to perhaps the most glaring example of the complete disregard for the Constitution of our nation, with the removal, under spurious charges, of an elected Vice President with the sole aim of gaining complete and unquestioned control of the state apparatus. It took the ruling of the West African Regional Court of Justice – the ECOWAS Court, to declare that President Koroma’s sacking of the country’s Vice President in 2015, was illegal.
Another glaring example, has been the manipulation of the Constitutional Review Committee process, culminating in a betrayal of the whole process. The Government’s White Paper which rejected nearly 90% of the Commission’s Findings and Recommendations, showed that the Government of President Ernest Koroma is unserious and wasteful in the use of the resources outlaid for the massively participatory process nation-wide.
Also, in the past weeks, the failed last-minute attempts by APC leadership of President Ernest Koroma to shift constitutional goalposts to benefit APC candidates is further evidence of the dubious actions of his leadership. And in more recent weeks, we have seen a Government that has ignored constitutional requirements of dual citizenship for 10 years, until it seemed to do more harm to an opposition candidate than the ruling party.
My Fellow Sierra Leoneans
You can see clearly that our country is entering the March 2018 General Elections with many questions about the very Constitution that should ensure national cohesion and strength. Given the latest moves to declare as invalid my bid as Presidential Candidate of the NGC, it is obvious that our country is in the early stages of the road that countries such as Ivory Coast took, and their consequences.
If you elect me as your next President, I shall Change all that. Under my Administration, I shall reset and reshape the relationship between leaders and the led in our society and one of the first acts of my Government, if elected by you the people, shall be to re-issue a White Paper and have a Bill tabled in Parliament on the adoption of the Recommendations of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) as a way of giving effect to the wishes of the people of this nation.
- Corruption & State Accountability
Sierra Leone, well-endowed with natural capital, has been brought to its knees under the Ernest Koroma-led APC government and is today reduced to borrowing and begging from foreign creditors and donors to finance even its most basic development needs. This has been largely due to state sponsored corruption.
The monopoly of prosecutorial authority by the Attorney-General, who is hired and fired by the President, has been one of the key factors that stand in the way of using law enforcement and prosecution as a credible tool in the fight against corruption. Such institutional bottle-necks impede the fight against corruption. When you elect me as your next President, I plan to Change all that.
I shall correct this anomaly by establishing, by an Act of Parliament, an Office of the Special Prosecutor, who will be independent of the Executive, to investigate and prosecute certain categories of cases and allegations of corruption and other criminal wrongdoing, including those involving alleged violations of the Public Procurement Act and cases implicating political office holders and politicians such as Ministers and Parliamentarians.
And in conformity with the Citizens Manifesto in the area of Assets Declaration:
I plan to implement an effective Assets Declaration Regime that shall require the President to forward, within 14 days, a list of appointments, made in pursuant of the relevant chapter of the Constitution, to the Auditor General; effective monitoring of Asset Declaration, by amending the law to require the Auditor General to publish periodically the list of all persons appointed under the same relevant section of the Constitution, who have declared or defaulted; amend the law relating to asset declaration to provide for sanctions which may include forfeiture of appointment; and Parliament to be called upon to amend the law to provide for public disclosure of Asset Declarations.
- Strengthening Press Freedom & Access to Information
Sierra Leone’s Constitution guarantees freedoms of speech and the press, although these rights are sometimes restricted in practice. Under the colonial-era Public Order Act of 1965, criminal defamation is punishable by prison terms of three to seven years, while the separate crime of publishing false news is punishable by up to two years in prison.
The 2013 Right to Access Information Act includes penalties for government agencies that fail to comply with its provisions on information requests. Media in Sierra Leone are regulated by the IMC, whose members are appointed by the president on the advice of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) and subject to the approval of Parliament, according to the Independent Media Commission Act of 2000 as amended in 2006 and 2007. If you elect me as your President, I shall Change all that.
My Administration shall repeal Part 5 of the Public Order Act and all other laws that hinder press freedom in Sierra Leone and provide financial support to the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ).
- Security Services
The people of Sierra Leone have become highly concerned about their security due to the increasing levels of crime and lawlessness under the APC-led government which has woefully failed to provide security for the country and its citizens.
The existing laws are largely not enforced, and when they are, they are done selectively, often with interference from the Executive. The Army, Navy and Air Force are poorly resourced with inadequate trained and qualified manpower whilst the National Fire Force is even more grossly incapacitated and only covers are few urban areas. The immigration service has severe management problems and needs to improve on its professionalism. When you elect me as your next President, I plan to change all that.
My Administration shall deepen reforms in the Security Sector and improve collaboration in enhancing the Security Forces to detect, deter and disrupt threats to our people and the country’s sovereignty.
Specifically, the military shall be utilized to engage in productive pursuits such as agriculture and engineering; OSD wing of the Police trained to ensure that they execute their functions based on professional standards with focus on respect for Human Rights and fair treatment of people; establish and build a functional Fire Force service in all District Headquarter towns; and set up an integrated immigration network system linking all border posts with the Immigration Headquarters in Freetown to facilitate data processing and storage.
Friends & Countrymen: We are on the eve of General Elections, the kind we have never witnessed in the history of our country and that presupposes there would be very serious issues I needed to talk to you about, such as, not forgetting we are carefully watching their unbridled determination to massively rig the March 2018 elections; the attendant unleashing of violence on our supporters, as well as their fraudulent and illegal attempt to use the justice system to disenfranchise a particular candidate, whom they believe will give them hell and a run for their money.
I have deliberately decided not to do so; rather to leave them to stew in their own juice. Instead, I have chosen to give a broad view of what your party, our party, the National Grand Coalition, has in store for the people of Sierra Leone towards alleviating the present condition of suffering and misery.
As your Presidential Candidate, I want to take this opportunity once again to thank the entire membership of the National Grand Coalition as well as sympathisers gathered here today to mark the end of official campaigning.
But don’t let down your guard; the struggle is not over yet as there are many dark forces that want to overturn the gains made in so short a time. They can no longer ignore us; they no longer sleep because we are watching. ‘We Wei Dey Suffer Na We Borku’.
I am totally able and ready by what I see here and I am highly convinced that together, we can CHANGE Sierra Leone from business as usual to a country that innovates and competes with other emerging economies.
But to do that, we must educate our people to world standards, invest in Infrastructure, provide access to clean Water and Healthcare systems; we must invest in creating the conditions and environment that will encourage Industry and Business to grow and create Jobs and Wealth for our people, and above all, we must seriously tackle Corruption, Lawlessness and Impunity.
Undoubtedly, there are many challenges, but Sierra Leone is a nation of only 7 million people and is blessed with an abundance of resources. These have been mismanaged by the Ernest Koroma-led APC government. Unlike them, the Vision I bring to the leadership of Sierra Leone is a genuine commitment and message of Hope, Opportunity and Transformation.
Our current national problems under the Ernest Koroma-led APC government are an inter-connected network of problems which include mass poverty arising from lack of economic and social development; corruption, mismanagement, lack of effective leadership, undue reliance on foreign aid/investors as well as paucity of ideas and over-dependence on discredited international survival plans.
If you elect me as your next President, I plan to challenge and change the backward system that has made it possible for the current crop of leaders and their sycophantic followers to continue steal our national wealth with impunity.
I therefore call on all Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad, young and old, men and women, to share a sense of responsibility for what the nation becomes going forward.
Standing on the threshold of the 2018 Presidential and General Elections, my Vision for Sierra Leone is of an optimistic, self-confident and prosperous nation with a strong and thriving democratic society, in which mutual trust and economic opportunities exist for all, irrespective of their background.
I promise to build a Sierra Leone that works and gives each and every one of us the opportunity to improve our lives – a Sierra Leone that works for us and our families, not just for the rich and powerful. I will be the President for all Sierra Leoneans.
Whatever your region, your tribe, your gender, your status, or your religion, I will serve you all. I will champion your cause with the help of the Almighty God, and every day I wake up as President, my first and only consideration will be, what is best for the country we all love and what will improve the lives of all our people.
I have an unshakeable faith that our country, the former “Athens of West Africa”, under my leadership, has a bright future, a future that will be secured by the enterprise, creativity, and hard work of the people Sierra Leone. Together we can make this happen
I thank you All. We Stand United. United We Stand.