Dr. Samura Kamara: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 02 January 2021:
My dear compatriots at home and abroad, a year has gone by, and as always, we are thankful to All Mighty God for keeping us going, throughout this unusually difficult and challenging year. We should be particularly grateful for His grace upon us regarding the deadly Corona Virus pandemic in view of how it has ravaged other parts of the world.
Even as I commend you for playing your part in mitigating its spread; even as I continue to urge you not to lower your guard in protecting yourselves and your loved ones against the disease; and even as I continue, in my humble way, to help in raising awareness and in combating the virus by speaking about it and by providing face masks and economic relief; I still believe that the responsibility is ours, as citizens, to stay the course of staving off this ruinous disease.
My sincere condolences go out to those who have lost loved ones and may the souls of the faithful departed rest in perfect peace.
In this regard, I want to seize this opportunity to express profound appreciation to the international community and development partners for their assistance in fighting and mitigating the impacts of the Virus.
My compatriots, about this same time last year, I had the privilege and honour to share with you my thoughts and concerns about where our beloved country was headed since the Bio-led Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP)- PAOPA- came to power under the mantra of “New Direction”.
The nation will certainly recall the profound apprehension and fears I expressed then: that in just 20 months after President Maada Bio came to power, precisely, on 18 April 2018, our beloved country (and I quote) “ … experienced an unprecedented abuse of power; unravelling of our judiciary; a dangerous co-option of our Parliament and of our security apparatus; a scornful curtailing of our civil liberties; a mindless poisoning of the investment environment; a deliberate entrenchment of tribal and regional politics; and a collapsed economy…” (end of quote).
One year has gone by since I made that statement and tonight, in my capacity, once again, as the 2018 Presidential candidate, and also now, flag bearer aspirant of the Great All People’s Congress (APC) party for the 2023 Presidential Elections, I want the nation to look back with me in order to prove whether or not the fears I expressed then were founded.
With these realities our people lived through in the year gone by, the obvious conclusion is that the fears and concerns I raised were indeed justified. The major factor responsible for the deplorable conditions and circumstances many of us experienced and lived through in 2019, which made me to express the concerns I raised, is President Bio’s determination from day one to govern this country on the basis of a cynical and dangerous ethno-regionalism, laced with a massive display of nepotism and cronyism.
Most disturbing in 2020, is the fact that the President has failed to realize that continuing this heavily skewed path in managing our country is destructive of national unity, development, democracy and sustainable peace. Rather, the President in 2020, took that same policy to a whole new level with the sole aim of further dividing the nation.
The fallout from that posture and its impact on the lives of our people have been most disastrous. President Bio’s administration is not listening; and there is little or no end in sight as we usher in and celebrate the New Year.
The pain and suffering endured by our people due to this misguided ethno-regional policy has been deep and widespread.
Today, I want to commiserate and promise to stand firm with the thousands of school children who could not pass their WASSCE and qualify for entry into universities and their parents who are still overburdened with a variety of high educational charges despite the New Direction’s so-called policy of “Free Quality Education”; with the thousands of civil servants kicked out of their jobs because they do not belong to the political party or tribe in power and so continue to languish with no means of survival; with the many doctors, nurses, and teachers in our various institutions whose conditions of service still remain unbearable; and, last but not least, with the business community and overall citizenry unable to access even the local currency to sustain their lives and livelihoods only because the national economy has grounded to halt.
Speaking about the economy, it is important to put the records straight. This Bio administration never inherited, “a broken economy”. Incidentally, the GDP growth is still where the EBK administration left it in 2017, at 3.5%, after having recovered from an unprecedented decline to -20.5 in 2015, largely due to the effects of EBOLA and unexpected sharp fall in international commodity prices, from a positive growth rate of 20.5% in 2013 (the highest in the world) and 6.3% in 2016.
Comparatively, according to the Minister of Finance in his 2021 Budget Statement, the economy is expected to contract by 2.8% due to the adverse impact of the Corona Virus. And, unfortunately for the people of Sierra Leone, according to the Minister, the economy is expected to recover by a miserable 3.3% in 2021 and 3.9% in the period 2022 to 2023.
The question is: What if the adverse impact of the Corona virus was as deep-seated as that of the Ebola virus? What we have in the Bio administration is a textbook example of gross ineptitude and inexperience in the management of a nation’s economy.
The sudden and unexplained scarcity of our local currency in the economy, essentially the fault of the Governor of our Central Bank, and the inability of the commercial banks to give back to their customers amounts that are due them clearly manifest this characterization.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, I fully understand the current economic hardship that is ravaging our country. I have seen first-hand evidence during my trips around the country of the severe difficulty families encounter trying to put food on the table for their children. I met Madam Hawa Kallon from DARU, Kailahun district; she explained how she needs to help neighbours with their domestic work in order to get a plate of rice for her family because her husband is jobless.
Mr. Abu Kamara, a former civil servant working in one of the Ministries, was sacked by this government without pay because of his perceived tribe, party and region of origin, as such supporting his family is now impossible. It is now very clear that the promise of solving the bread and butter issues by this government within six months in office will never come, even though we have waited for almost three years now.
Okada and Kekeh riders, Sweissy and Belgium Sellers, from Dove Court, Abacha, Kroo Town Road to Lumley Petty Traders, carpenters, domestic workers and farmers, I am with you through this tough times. Certainly these stories of joblessness, starvation, hardship, tribal and regional sackings, which we’ve never experienced in our 60 years history, are caused by the Bio government’s ill-informed policies of dividing the country and stifling the economy.
Corona virus cannot be used as a scapegoat for such economic incompetence and regional divide. Managing an economy such as ours should not be based on some flimsy rhetoric of propaganda, populism and lies made to appease political party loyalists or to turn one region against another. It should be on a sound understanding of how the economic fundamentals work, and how they should be applied and sequenced toward the path to economic transformation.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans You will recall that during the 2018 presidential debate I questioned the sincerity and competence of those who were painting a picture of Sierra Leone from thin air that have very little understanding of how the economy and general development works.
Today, you will agree with me that the current economic dispensation does not match that UTOPIAN vision of Sierra Leone they painted because the promise of better must be based on a record of delivery. It is unprecedented for the Central Bank Governor to tell this nation that “wae money nor dae ee nor dae”.
My Compatriots, as if the pain and suffering on our people was not enough, President Bio’s deliberate policy of exclusive governance based on ethno-regionalism reached its apogee in the past year as he has used it to continue to roll over the largest Opposition Party in the country with the insidious aim of wiping it off the political map of Sierra Leone and send it into oblivion.
The infamous GTT Report and the choreographed Commissions of Inquiry (CoI) Reports and White Paper were meant to do just that. The result is that today, members of the Opposition APC are being hounded everywhere; banned from travelling abroad and their bank accounts frozen. Worse still, others have been falsely accused, refused bail and unjustly held in prison while the human rights of others have been systematically violated.
And here I want to highlight the ongoing trials and tribulation of Retired Major Palo Conteh and the gross violations of the human rights of Dr. Sylvia Blyden, and several other junior, senior and prominent members of the APC, including Herbert George Williams. Abubakarr Daramy and Koita. Even our former Head of State and Chairman and Leader of the Party, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, has not been spared from such blatant harassment. I salute their courage and fortitude in speaking truth to power.
Today, I want to seize this opportunity again to call on President Bio and his government to free Retired Major Palo Conteh and the many other innocent members of the Opposition APC party currently languishing unjustly in police custody. The entire nation is also appalled by the wanton extra-judicial massacres of several of innocent citizens at the Pademba Road Correctional Center, as well as in Makeni, Tombo, Mile 91, Tonko Limba and Lunsar, and is demanding justice. May their souls rest in perfect peace.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, as the 2019 Audit report currently undergoes popular scrutiny, I must state that its findings clearly reveal the blatant and deliberate disregard for transparency and accountability by the Bio administration in the management of public funds despite the very visible underpinning public financial management laws, rules, processes and procedures.
Similarly, the current attempt, also by the Bio government to introduce a non-partisan system of local government is a deliberate distraction from the hard priorities for improving the lives and livelihoods of the citizens. Clearly, a non-partisan local governance contributes absolutely nothing to national development. It is a ploy to undermine and irreparably derail our hard-earned democracy, putting political exigencies above development priorities.
This senseless political ambition must be resisted by all citizens irrespective of tribe, region or party. It is nothing order than an aim to recentralize power and authority towards re-establishing another one party system of government. Its medium to long-term impacts on our political system are extremely costly and disastrous to building a better future for our country.
Equally, I strongly condemn the conduct of the so-called mid-term census, which is unconstitutional. I congratulate those opposition leaders and citizens who have already firmly rejected both the mid-term census and the imposed decentralization policy.
My Compatriots, today, I am cautiously optimistic that all is not lost and that our beloved nation will not be pushed to the brink. The power of the people will prevail in one way or the other because in 2023, they will have the opportunity to change course and decide once more which direction they want their country to take.
As a party, we should find time to reflect upon the needless obstacles thrown on our path, the harassment, the unlawful arrests and detentions we have had to endure. We should reflect upon the unprovoked massacre of innocent citizens. Without doubt, these sad realities would serve as a reminder to everyone to take national elections seriously and to think twice before casting your votes. But it is also imperative for all of us in the APC to put aside our individual differences, close ranks and confront this disastrous epidemic of political and economic incompetence and recklessness.
Sierra Leone doesn’t deserve such setback; our people are crying for us to step forward and to ensure the removal, through the BALLOT BOX, of this SLPP government of mis-directors from power. This is a responsibility we must not shy away from.
It is a challenge we must take on with every fibre of our nerves to save our nation from greater perils. This is both important and urgent given the lack of an adaptive leadership and systems thinking in managing our nation and in mitigating the general hardship we have witnessed in the last three years.
May the New Year bring amongst us the unity and consolidation the nation is yearning for. Stay safe and protect yourselves, your families and your communities from the ravaging Corona Virus Pandemic
Happy New Year and God bless us all.
Since Dr Samura Kamara delivered this message yesterday, president Bio has pardoned Palo Conteh who is now a free man.
About the author
Dr. Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara is an opposition APC Standard Bearer Aspirant for the 2023 Presidential Elections. He contested the 2018 Presidential election and lost to Julius Maada Bio by a narrow three-percent margin.