The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 August 2014
As the number of Ebola cases rose sharply in Sierra Leone in the last few weeks, so too had Miatta’s position became untenable.
It was not a matter of whether she was going to be replaced, but when. And it seems today’s meeting at State House, between president Koroma and the Director of the American Centre for Disease Control – Tom Frieden, would have pointed the mind of president Koroma to seriously consider the minister’s position.
Both president Koroma and Mr. Frieden discussed the Ebola crisis, and came to the conclusion that leadership for managing the crisis must come from the Ebola Emergency Operations Centre in Freetown, which according to today’s announcement by the president will now be co-ordinated by Steven Gaojia.
Ms Miatta Kargbo has been recalled to the Strategy and Policy Unit at State House, where she previously served as presidential adviser, before her appointment as minister of health, which many policy analysts believe to have been a flawed decision by the president.
Hence, few expected her to successfully lead one of the most challenging ministries in the country, that has seen the backs of at least three underperforming ministers, since president Koroma took office in 2007.
But many critics of Ms Kargbo would argue that she was her own worst enemy, and became her own undoing.
Her infamous rant in parliament, blaming those suffering from Ebola for their own demise, was regarded as one step too far, as the nation became gripped by fear and denial about the existence of the disease.
many critics also say that her frivolous, off the cuff and ill-informed comments about the virus, helped fuel the ignorance of millions of Sierra Leoneans – especially in Freetown, who had refused to accept that the virus was real.
Miatta kargbo will also be remembered for what was described by doctors, who went on strike last year for better working conditions, as her disrespectful and condescending attitude in dealing with the dispute.
It is this lack of tact and inability to build consensus, that perhaps made it impossible for her to provide the required leadership and direction in the fight against the deadly Ebola.
The announcement from State House this evening was clear. It simply said: “The general public is hereby informed that in order to create a conducive environment for more efficient and effective handling of the ebola outbreak in the country, it has become necessary for changes to be made in the political leadership of the ministry of health and sanitation.”
“It has therefore pleased his Excellency the president Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma to announce the following appointments, subject to the approval of parliament:
“Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah – minister of health and sanitation; Ms. Madina Rahman – deputy minister of health and sanitation”.
“Ms Miatta Kargbo has been recalled to State House to serve in the strategy and policy unit until further notice.”
But it is highly unlikely, after such demotion from high office, that Miatta will accept her new role – though uncertain what that is, at the strategy and policy unit.
The damage done to her reputation and image by the recent unrelenting media criticisms, as one who is incapable of managing a public service at strategic level is unfortunate.
And many tonight will be blaming the president, for prolonging her agony by keeping her in post for so long.
Earlier today at State House, during his meeting with the Director of CDC, who is on visit to Sierra Leone, president Koroma stated that he had consulted the UN Resident Coordinator, WHO, DFID and other donor partners that are stakeholders in the EOC, and had decided to review the structure of the EOC.
The results of that review became obvious this evening, with the announcement of changes at the ministry of health and across the Ebola crisis management structure.
In addition to sacking the health minister, president Koroma has also made the following changes.
“1. In the case of the interministerial committee, in addition to the relevant ministers, its membership will include the United Nations resident coordinator, the chief medical officer and the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative.
“2. The reconstituted Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) will be co-chaired by the WHO representative and the chief medical officer. His Excellency the president has graciously appointed Mr. Stephen Gaojia as operations coordinator in the EOC.
“3. The Presidential Task Force will retain its present composition.”
President Koroma’s meeting today, with the Director of the US Centre for Disease Control was significant in many ways.
The president took the opportunity once again to strongly register his frustration, regarding the slow response of the international community in helping to tackle the virus.
He told Dr. Frieden: “As a country we have substantially reduced the initial challenges of fear, denial, ignorance and misinformation. What we are confronted with now is addressing the fight against Ebola in terms of treatment centers, training of contact tracers and surveillance officers, social mobilization, logistics and equipment that are required.”
In response, Dr Tom Frieden said: “I will do everything in my power to make sure the entire world has that same level of priority to supporting the response here. I will be speaking with a variety of people from the global and in US on my return.
“But I really have to emphasize for Sierra Leone that the fastest thing will always be the thing that is at hand, and whatever can be done now should be done. I am certain many more resources will come.”
Today, as the minister of health Miatta Kargbo leaves office, she will be handing over to Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah, whose leadership skill is unknown and untested, but from whom much is now expected, as the number of new Ebola cases recorded yesterday stood at an amazing 20.
Dr. Fofanah is a Sierra Leonean trained medical doctor, who also lectured at the country’s medical school, and has a wealth of experience and knowledge in the medical field.
Over 400 people have now died of the virus in Sierra Leone, which is showing no sign of relenting.
A change of minister may not be the antidote for Ebola, but for the many sufferers and those that have died knowing they were being blamed for their demise, tonight’s news from State House will be welcomed.
Has president Koroma gone far enough in changing the way this deadly virus is being managed by his government?
Was Miatta Kargbo sacked today because her ministry published the under-reporting of donations received to date by State House, which from the ministry’s website shows that billions of Leones have not been accounted for?