Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 December 2022:
Decades of poor governance, corruption and political instability have left the people of Sierra Leone wondering whether the abject poverty they suffer today will ever be a thing of the past, or remain a curse brought upon the nation by rogue, selfish, and inept political leaders for generations to come.
Sierra Leone has no business being poor. Endowed with natural resources – many of which are the envy of developed nations, whom since the country’s independence from Great Britain have not only exploited and capitalised from the country’s diamonds, gold, bauxite, iron ore, rutile, and forest reserves, but have also exploited the lack of good political leadership, poor governance and absence of an astute political class that is devoid of tribalism and myopia.
After sixty-one years of independence, Sierra Leone is still classed as one of the poorest nations in the world, with adult mortality well below the continent’s average, and child mortality even worse.
Whilst many, including the World Bank and the IMF have for the past decade or more, been calling for successive governments to seriously invest in the diversification of the country’s economy and the growth of export revenue earning SMEs that will create employment that lasts, hundreds of millions of dollars if not billions are being borrowed to spend on infrastructure projects with little regard for sound urban planning, industrial development and job creation that will lead to increased wealth for the people of Sierra Leone.
Large, expensive infrastructure projects such as a shining new airport the country does not need, and highways leading to nowhere, may not create permanent and sustainable jobs for the millions of unemployed in the country, but serve as lucrative gravy train for politicians to line their pockets with stolen public funds and contract kickbacks running into hundreds of millions of dollars, as successive Auditor General Reports have found.
Critics of the current government of Sierra Leone led by the former military junta leader – President Julius Maada Bio are accusing the president of working with his handpicked Auditor General to cook the books – the 2021 National Audit Report that is yet to be published, with the acquiescence of the country’s parliamentarians who are happy to look the other way in return for cash donation and political favours from the President.
President Bio, many believe, would not have won the 2018 presidential and general elections had it not been for the transparent publication of all Audit Reports by former President Koroma to his own detriment, which Maada Bio himself was able to exploit as his party’s campaign tool – showing colossal evidence of corruption in the Koroma government.
But it seems President Bio has learnt a lesson on how not to commit political suicide with elections less than six months away.
He and his Auditor General are accused of massaging and doctoring the 2021 Auditor General Report which like all previous Audit Reports, shows massive corruption by his government, running into hundreds of millions of dollars.
The people of Sierra Leone are calling for a change of government. But will this lead to better living standards and the much-needed industrial development?
Whilst many are calling for a change of government, few are really convinced about the alternative.
Writing not long before his death many years ago, this is what veteran journalist – Olu Gordon poignantly said, whilst reflecting on the state of the nation. What he said then, is very true today: