Anthony Kamara, Jnr: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 March 2022:
Nations that face serious economic, political, and developmental challenges often fail to meet their citizens’ basic needs. In the case of fragile, resource endowed and mismanaged Sierra Leone, Hon. Kandeh Yumkella noted that for a vast majority of his compatriots, their lives remain poorer or worse even when governments change.
“No significant transformative change in the economy, social capital or wellbeing of our people has occurred in over three decades,” he said. Are our people forever condemned to live in a poverty trap, he asked rhetorically? “Life is hellish for the common person.”
In a keynote address titled “Let Us Forgive and Unite for Progress,” Yumkella cited the emerging global challenges requiring “new ideas, collaborative approaches and non-divisive politics.” He called on the nation to “come together to face the hard times ahead,” highlighting that “our common enemies are poverty, ignorance, and corruption, not people of other political parties.”
He was speaking at a star-studded dinner and dance held in Georgia and hosted by the North American Chapter of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) under the leadership of Alpha Omar Jabbie, who was recently elected as chair of the North America wing at the party’s convention in Philadelphia following the interim administration of Jenkins Bawoh.
The new North American leadership was formally sworn-in yesterday with an ambitious agenda ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2023. Representatives from other political parties graced the occasion.
NGC – a critical part of the “body politique” of Sierra Leone
In his retrospective review of the NGC party, he declared that the party continues to “stand firm and tall.” Yumkella noted that the emergence of the NGC as a party four years after its maiden national election is the coming together of Sierra Leoneans from different political persuasions and backgrounds.
“At the very core of our fundamental beliefs and values was the conviction that we need to unite as a nation to chart our way forward and transform our economic development prospects.” Unfortunately, at least for now, the unity he preaches seems a bit elusive. However, the eternal optimist he is allows him to have hope that progressive minds will come together to build a prosperous nation – one that benefits all without regard for region or tribe or party.
“NGC,” he underscored, is “that champion for the ordinary Sierra Leonean – that entity that can unify opposing political forces, mobilize the nation to pursue a common destiny. NGC is that voice urging everyone in government to serve the common person.”
On his call for a “new compact between the people of Sierra Leone and their elected leadership,” Yumkella focused his advocacy for a progressive centrist agenda – one that ends impunity by holding office holders to account for their service and actions, end the use of nepotism or tribalism and ensure that the rule of law applies to everyone.
Sierra Leone – Time for a coalition of progressives
Calling on Sierra Leoneans to take advantage of the current opportunity to unify the country “around a shared national purpose and the pursuit of a common destiny,” he admonished all to “resist the temptations of the divisive politics” that is currently eating into the fabric of the nation’s politics.
“We must learn to forgive each other and eschew violence,” he appealed. “We are not at war today, but a progressive agenda requires forgiveness and strategic alliances to transform our nation.” He challenged his compatriots to be defined by their desire for a prosperous, happy country rather than what divides them – a mantra that the NGC has lived by for the last four years.
“As a constructive opposition, the NGC does not just oppose for the sake of opposing. We also support the government when it is in our nation’s interest because when the government succeeds, we all succeed. When the government fails, it hurts every one of us,” he stressed.
The NGC has played an active role in establishing the Consortium of Progressive Political parties (CoPPP) – a group that comprises of the All Peoples Congress APC), the Coalition for Change (C4C), Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), Unity Party (UP) and eight other parties.
Dialogue and Collaboration
Through dialogue and collaboration, politicians of different stripes have realized that they should not allow party colors to cloud their responsibility to the people who elected them. For far too long, Sierra Leoneans have suffered in the hands of unscrupulous politicians and governments, whose sole interest lies in themselves and their pockets.
“I appreciated the kind gesture made by H.E. President Julius Maada Bio to meet with me in my village and to ask me to return to the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) a few weeks ago. Members of the CoPPP also visited with him in Samu Chiefdom, where he impressed upon them the importance of building a Sierra Leone where all citizens have a stake in the nation’s affairs.
Progressive Sierra Leoneans have noticed that Yumkella’s constructive opposition may be or is about to pay off as all sides have focused their efforts on him as they seek his support and expertise. In parliament, he is often criticized or working with and supporting measures proposed by the government. He has also been caricatured when he opposes measures by the ruling government.
“There are progressives in the NGC. There are progressives in the APC. He noted that there are “progressives in the SLPP, C4C, UP, and all the other political parties.” He calls for a progressive alliance to take Sierra Leone forward as he appeals to all to “reach deep into their souls and forgive each other.”
You can watch Dr Yumkella here speaking in Georgia: