Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 November 2017
There have been several reports by pro-government media in Sierra Leone, attempting to diminish and at worse write-off the contributions made by Dr. Kandeh Yumkella whilst he was working as Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to the development of Sierra Leone.
But a senior UN official who wants to remain anonymous, has told the Sierra Leone Telegraph that; “during Dr Yumkella’s time at UNIDO, Sierra Leone benefitted in hundreds of millions of dollars provided by the UN to promote economic and business development”.
“No one can or should deny that, as our records show. Not even president Koroma can deny this fact,” said the UN official. (Photo: President Koroma – during his visit to UNIDO, discussing Sierra Leone’s development with Yumkella).
Elections in Sierra Leone are due in March 2018, and Dr. Yumkella is the presidential candidate for the newly formed National Grand Coalition (NGC) party, which has started to make massive inroads in gaining popular support across the country.
The NGC is expected by many in and out of Sierra Leone to defeat the ruling APC in 2018.
It is therefore not surprising, that the ruling APC and opposition SLPP are now desperately using negative propaganda – and in some instances, damn right lies, to tarnish the image and credibility of Dr. Yumkella ahead of those elections.
But one man has decided to speak out. He is Joseph Koroma – a former head of UNIDO in Sierra Leone, when Dr Yumkella was Director-General of UNIDO based in Vienna. This is what Koroma said:
I have closely followed the debate about the Gbankasoka Hydro project in Port Loko. There are two parts to the controversy. First is whether or not Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, when he was Director-General of UNIDO, was instrumental in bringing the project to Sierra Leone. The second is whether or not the project was funded and built by the Chinese Government and not UNIDO.
I can authoritatively confirm the first claim that indeed Dr. Kandeh Yumkella was very much instrumental in both sourcing and resourcing the Gbankasoka Hydro project in Port Loko. And not only Gbankasoka, but also other hydro projects in Charlotte, Makali and Binkolo.
I can confirm Dr. Yumkella’s role in the hydro projects on the basis that I coordinated the exploratory phase of the three projects in my capacity then as UNIDO Head of Operations and later Country Representative responsible for the Mano River Union countries – Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea-Conakry.
The Bangladeshi UNIDO Engineer, Rana Pratap Singh, and I travelled the length and breadth of the Small and Great Scarcies Rivers in search of hydro sites. Equally for Charlotte, Makali and Binkolo.
The objective of identifying a hydro potential site in Binkolo was to provide a source of power for the UNIDO funded Agro-processing Growth Centre in Binkolo, which is operational to date and for which I was UNIDO Project Officer.
The UNIDO Hydro Project Engineer for Gbankasoka and I, worked closely with the then General Manager of National Power Authority (NPA) – Zubairu Kaloko, and other senior staff members, including Timbo and Dennis, whilst for Charlotte the UNIDO team worked closely with the Energy Minister – Hafsatu Kabba.
There are more details I can provide to shoot down those who deny the instrumental role played by Dr. Yumkella. But let me address the second part of the debate about whether the project was funded by China and not UNIDO.
Dr. Yumkella during his numerous trips to China negotiated the project idea proforma with the Chinese government. The Chinese government accepted in principle to fund and implement the project on one condition – that UNIDO itself made a counterpart contribution in cash or kind to the project.
So, all of the personnel costs of the exploratory team of UNIDO Engineers and Field Office Staff, including myself were approved by Dr. Yumkella and borne by UNIDO, without which the Chinese Government could never have funded and implemented the Gbankasoka project.
The delay in implementing the project had nothing to do with Dr. Yumkella or UNIDO, but rather with the internal processes of identification of the company, listed and approved by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MofCom) to undertake the project.
The first Chinese company given the contract to build the hydro was disqualified and it took a long time to select another.
It is clear from these first-hand details that yes indeed the Gbankasoka Hydro project was the initiative of Dr. Yumkella. And yes indeed funding was provided by both UNIDO and the Chinese Government, and that the UNIDO’s counterpart contribution was a ‘condition sine qua non’ for the project.
Let me conclude by asking a simple question addressed to those who accept that yes Dr. Yumkella had some involvement, but the resources were UNIDO’s and not his personal funds. How many distinguished Sierra Leoneans including myself that worked for years for the United Nations and other international organizations can boast of using their influence and not their personal resources to bring the kind of projects Dr. Yumkella brought to our native Sierra Leone; from the Gbankasoka Hydro project, nationwide Agro-processing Centres (Binkolo, Kambia, Koidu, Bo, Pujehun, Kpandebu), 10 MW hydro project in Moyamba, Barefoot Solar Engineers, Standards Bureau, Marine Training School, to the establishment of the first UNIDO Office in Sierra Leone to cover the Mano River Union countries?
Last but not least, President Ernest Koroma’s first international travel as President in 2007 was on an invitation from Dr. Kandeh Yumkella as Director-General of UNIDO to pay an official visit to UNIDO Headquarters in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: President Koroma discussing UNIDO support for development in Sierra Leone with Yumkella, during his visit to UNIDO in Vienna).
I personally coordinated that visit here in Freetown, in my capacity then as UNIDO Country Representative.
Here are some examples of Yumkella’s contribution to Sierra Leone’s development: