Alan Luke (NGC Diaspora Co-ordinator): Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 December 2023
Speaking at the national delegates conference of his party – the National Grand Coalition (NGC) in Freetown last week, the Parliamentary Leader of the NGC – Dr Kandeh Yumkella said that: “For too many Sierra Leoneans, governments change, but life doesn’t. Sierra Leone is a fragile, poor country at the low end of all development indicators. And we have been that way for too long.”
His statement is a recognition that APC and SLPP have failed Sierra Leoneans for over 61years. This situation will continue in perpetuity, if Sierra Leoneans do not elevate their political discourse above these two political entities.
The purpose of Yumkella’s statement was to crystallise in the mind of the average person, that NGC presents a viable alternative to decades of economic mismanagement under APC and SLPP.
Sierra Leoneans need to detox from both, especially in the unprecedented economic and geo-political context that we face today, which bring significant development challenges and are likely to continue to cause economic mayhem for the next two to three years.
Dr Yumkella does not suffer from the political myopia of APC and SLPP dinosaurs, who put their personal self-interests first. His focus in on the challenges which affect the average person, whose lives are blighted by these economic realities and whose hopes and dreams are never fulfilled.
For all the criticisms of detractors about Dr Yumkella’s failure to mention the SLPP in his speech, Dr Yumkella highlighted that the current inflation rate in Sierra Leone is 29% and that food price inflation was at 35%. He also pointed out that recent surveys indicated that 71% went without food in 2020 and that the IMF says that 57% of Sierra Leoneans were food insecure by 2020, up 10% since 2010.
Sierra Leoneans know that President Bio and the SLPP are in government and therefore are responsible for the current state of affairs in country.
Speaking also at the national conference, the newly elected National Chairman and Leader, Dennis Bright highlighted the market surveys of food and commodity prices undertaken since April 2018, as one of the achievements of the NGC in the past four years. These surveys tracked the price increase in food and other commodities, since the inception of the Bio-led government.
And using the NGC Hour programme as a public information platform, NGC has repeatedly highlighted the challenges that the vast majority of families on basic income or the minimum wage encounter on a daily basis, to put food on the table.
Dr Yumkella’s speech at last week’s conference also touched on the state of politics in Sierra Leone and he noted that NGC has introduced progressive centrist politics and the idea of constructive opposition.
He also pointed out that during his tenure in Parliament, he has fearlessly challenged the government on policies and issues, which he considered not to be in the nation’s interest; and that NGC has supported government measures where these are in the public interest, recognising that if government fails, it hurts everyone, and usually, it is the poorest in society who fare the worst.
Dr Yumkella acknowledged that the reality today is that Sierra Leone is very polarised, and that the country’s post-war democratic settlement is under threat. He emphasised the need for political cohesion and cautioned against taking peace for granted.
Similarly, in his address to the conference, Dennis Bright also said that NGC has introduced a different kind of politics in Sierra Leone, which is not based on regionalism, tribalism, violence or anything which has made the atmosphere in the country so poisonous, as it is currently. He went on to say that even when NGC criticises government, it does so in the interest of the government itself and the people, and that the NGC brand of politics is not based on hate and bitterness, but that it is based on love for the country and love for the people.
There was absolutely no disagreement between both Kandeh and Dennis on the key issues. The Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde characterisation of NGC is unfounded. Genuine NGC members were assured that there is no difference between Kandeh and Dennis and that both men, were walking foot-to-foot, as Dennis puts it, in pursuit of the party’s aims as we approach the General Elections in 2023.
NGC members are thrilled that our party has successfully completed its Lower-Level Election process and National Delegates Conference, a feat which the APC has not yet achieved.
Genuine NGC members do not recognise the characterisation of Dr Yumkella as the puppet of the Bio regime. They are heartened by the fact that following the conference, political pundits and the SLPP vuvuzelas have been found wanting. All their speculation that Dr Yumkella will cross-carpet and join the SLPP has not come to fruition.
If I were a genuine APC member, what would be foremost in my mind is my party’s ability to organise its Lower-Level Elections and National Delegates Conference, so that it is not timed out by 24 January 2023. Unfortunately for the APC which has always selected its candidates, instead of electing them, the party may not be fully aware of the challenges to successfully conclude the Lower-Level Election process. NGC’s Lower-Level Election process started in May 2022, and it took seven months to conclude. The APC has to wrap up this process in one month. All it takes is one person to petition a result at Ward level, and I am pretty certain that there would be many willing petitioners, because the current economic challenges are real.
NGC has successful concluded its convention, the second party to do so. It has elected nearly 10,000 executives across all tiers. NGC’s National Executive Committee was given the mandate to forge strategic alliances, consistent with our values and constitution. Who knows, APC members may just find a home under the NGC tent, if they are unable to conclude their Lower-Level Elections and Convention by the end of January 2023.
You can read Dr Yumkella’s full statement below:
Seven Years of a Progressive Centrist Agenda for Compassionate, Inclusive Governance (CIG)
My wife and I relocated to Sierra Leone in August, 2015 to formally launch my presidential campaign. In 2017 the process of creating a new party was initiated. Almost six years after the National Grand Coalition (NGC) was established, we are hosting our third national delegates conference. We successfully completed nationwide lower-level elections under a new revised party constitution. As a result 10,818 executives have been elected across the country for wards, constituencies, districts and regions. Tomorrow delegates will elect the national officers of the party.
The idea of a grand coalition of progressives made sense 10 years ago, and today in a deeply divided country, we are even more convinced of the relevance of strategic alliances and a new kind of politics that promotes compassion, inclusiveness, social justice and prosperity for all.
We are the National Grand Coalition Party. At the very core of our foundational beliefs and values was the conviction that we need to unite as a nation to chart our way forward and transform our economic developmental prospects.
Our strength is from both our diversity and the core values we share. NGC is now accepted as a critical part of the “body politique” of Salone. We all have to take this opportunity to unify our country around a shared national purpose and the pursuit of a common destiny. We must resist the temptations of the divisive politics of yesterday. Our common enemies are poverty, ignorance and corruption, and not people of other political parties.
Now is the time to come together, to think strategically, and to mobilize all talents and all perspectives for us to make a stand about which pathway we will pursue in 2023 and beyond.
We have introduced Sierra Leoneans to a progressive centrist politics and the idea of a constructive opposition. We don’t oppose for the sake of opposing. We don’t cry down that which needs building up. We have positioned ourselves on the side of the ordinary, long-suffering Sierra Leonean. We stand for what is right. We have also remained a centrist party within the hallowed walls of Parliament for five years. I salute my colleagues, Hon. Foday Mario-Kamara, Hon. Abdul Titus Kamara and Hon. Bai Sama Kamara for being the first NGC members of Parliament.
Our memberships both at home and abroad have put Salone Fos. You all fight for the ordinary Sierra Leonean. All of you in the UK&I, North America, Continental Europe, Australia, all across Africa and in all the five regions of Sierra Leone are united in fighting for what is right in our country. You are making a difference. NGC is making a difference.
United To Face The Hard Times Ahead
For too many Sierra Leoneans, governments change, but life doesn’t. Sierra Leone is a fragile, poor country at the low end of all development indicators. And we’ve been that way for too long.
When the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) first launched its Human Development Index 30 years ago, Sierra Leone was ranked fourth from the bottom out of 130 countries. In 2019, we were ranked 182 out of 189 countries, sixth from the bottom. The impacts of the ebola epidemic and the covid pandemic have exacerbated our low level of human development. No major transformative change in the economy, social capital or well being of our people has occurred in over three decades, for we are still among the poorest of the poor. Are our people forever condemned to live in a poverty trap?
Our current economic, political and development challenges are very serious. The fuel, food and finance crisis will continue to cause mayhem to economies around the world for the next two to three years at least.
Currently in our country, inflation is 29%, food price inflation is 35% and rising. We are in a deep economic crisis of stagflation. We have to come together as one people to plan for the emerging external shocks that might drive commodity, food and energy costs much higher than the world has ever seen?
These new emerging global challenges require new ideas and collaborative approaches, and not divisive politics. The NGC has to be that honest broker! That champion for the ordinary Sierra Leonean, that entity that can unify opposing political forces, and mobilize our people to pursue a common destiny. That voice urging everyone in government to serve the people. A new collaborative approach and a fresh start.
With prices constantly on the rise, is it any surprise that recent surveys indicated that 71% of Sierra Leoneans went without food at least once in 2020. The IMF says 57% of Sierra Leoneans were food insecure in 2020, up by 10% since 2010.
Almost 4% of our compatriots face acute malnutrition. An IMF report states: “With a high risk of debt distress, Sierra Leone requires enhanced revenue mobilization, prudent expenditure management, and continued external grant support.”
All these indicators were before COVID and before the Ukrainian-Russia war. So it means that, at this moment in our history, life is hellish for the common man. We need to come together to save our beautiful Salone.
We must continue to call for a new Compact between the people of Sierra Leone and their elected leadership.
On the government side, we should focus on five pillars. First, health and education.
Second, making our democracy work for the people. Third, expanding our economy to provide more jobs, especially for the most marginalized, women, youth, and people with disabilities among them. Fourth, strengthening peace and national cohesion by restoring social justice, the rule of law, and human security. And fifth, by focusing on enablers such as public sector reform, climate change and environment, affordable energy, land reform, and so on.
We must end impunity by holding office-bearers to account for their service and actions; respect the rule of law; end the use of nepotism or tribalism to jump the queue, bypass the rules, or undermine the rule of law.
More importantly, a progressive agenda must include, inter alia: ensuring the diasporas can register and vote in their countries of residence. Thanks to our progressive agenda, the 30% quota for women in governance is now law of the land; our election dates are now fixed and predictable.
Urgency for Political Cohesion
The reality today is that we live in a polarized country that leaves many of us feeling uneasy. Our democracy is under threat because we are deeply divided with hate speeches, “do-me-ah-do-you” and “mammy cuss” fast becoming the new normal. In this milieu, we the NGC must reach out to other political parties to promote strategic alliances for peace and change. As NGC, we have taken a constructive approach to our opposition.
I have often been criticized in parliament for supporting government measures. But when the government succeeds, we all succeed. When the government fails, it hurts every one of us. The records will also show that I have fearlessly challenged the government on policies and issues I consider not to be in the public interest, Further, progressive ideas I included in my omnibus bill (which was not gazetted) two years ago have found their way in government bills on gender empowerment and the new electoral act.
Don’t take Peace for Granted
Above all, we must learn to forgive each other and eschew violence. In our lifetime, we had President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah’s example of forgiving the seemingly unforgivable, suing for peace, all in the name of national unity. We’re not at war today, but a progressive agenda requires forgiveness and strategic alliances to transform our nation.
Let us define ourselves not by what we are against but what we are for-a prosperous, happy, united Sierra Leone that stands tall and proud among the family of nations.
Through dialogue and collaboration, many more of us politicians have realized that we don’t have to let different party colors make us enemies.
There is more common ground to unite us Sierra Leoneans than to divide us. In Sierra Leone, we’ve had over two decades of peace, but we must continue to want that peace. We must continue to work for it. Let us not be complacent. If you look around the world you will not take peace for granted. For example, Ethiopia went back into civil war after decades of sustained growth and development.
In the past two years, three military coups have taken place within the ECOWAS and a fourth one was averted. We have to come together to define the Sierra Leone we want. We don’t have to be trapped by our past. Let us leave our politics of ethnoregional rivalries and hatred behind us. Let us make a break with the politics of “do me-ah-do-you”. An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.
We need a new progressive alliance to take Sierra Leone forward. Let us reach deep for our better selves and forgive each other.
So, in conclusion, you joined NGC for the right reasons. You were right to join the NGC. Again, I say thank you for the support you have provided the party. We are grateful to you.
So I ask all of us NGCians to work together as a team, respect and support each, and be the change we want to see. But ending our 60 years of disappointment starts with every one of us in this convention. We have a shared mission to eliminate hunger, disease, homelessness, insecurity, illiteracy, joblessness, division, and conflict in our beloved Sierra Leone.
We share a mission with many others who aren’t NGC members but share the same values, ideals, vision, and principles that we in NGC hold dear. Our task now is to build the strategic alliance to determine our fate as Sierra Leoneans and the future of our children, grandchildren, and unborn generations. United We Stand! We Stand United. You touch wan, you touch we all! Thank you.