Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 June 2016
On Friday, 10th June 2016, Dr Kandeh Yumkella addressed over a thousand people at the University of Makeni. The aspiring presidential flagbearer of Sierra Leone’s main opposition party – the SLPP, spoke on the theme “Developing Our World – the Post 2015 Agenda”.
In his opening remarks, Dr Yumkella thanked the university authorities for the invitation and opportunity accorded him, to speak about the developmental challenges facing countries like Sierra Leone, and his own vision and plans for addressing these challenges.
Yumkella set out the socio-economic development challenges facing Sierra Leone, which he said will form the basis of his 2018 election manifesto commitment, to deliver “Hope, Opportunity and Transformation for the people of Sierra Leone”, if he succeeds in winning the SLPP flagbearship election in the next few months and becomes the president of Sierra Leone in 2018.
Speaking to academics, leaders of faith communities and students, Dr. Yumkella recalled his personal contribution to the university in his capacity as the then Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), after receiving an email from an ‘unknown’ sender who happened to be Bishop Biguzzi.
Bishop Biguzzi was organising a fundraising dinner in Italy, aimed at attracting funding from donors and investors to help build the University of Makeni. Yumkella said that he was excited to offer his support, in recognition of the education opportunity he had received through the Catholic Mission in Sierra Leone.
He paid a particular tribute to Catholic missionaries at Christ the King College (C.K.C) in Bo where he attained his secondary education, which shaped him for a journey towards excellence and success, and the exemplary contribution he has made to both national and global industrial innovation.
Dr Yumkella spoke about the need for institutional development in Sierra Leone. He stated that effective institutions and governance are critical to the development of a prosperous society, as well as the development and nurturing of the mind-set of the country’s youths and future leaders.
“The current government’s much talked about ‘Attitudinal and Behavioural Change’ programme has dismally failed to achieve the attitudinal change envisaged, precisely because it did not address head on, the lack of effective institutions and governance in our polity.” He challenged the idea that things are done differently in Sierra Leone.
He pointed out that; “Our failure to demand a high standard of quality of service when we interface with governmental institutions, has resulted in the destruction of those institutions since we gained our independence.”
“Today, for example, this is manifested in the worsening water crisis in the capital, the ineffective response by the Ministry of Health to the Ebola crisis, and the consistently falling standards in our education systems, in a country once renowned as the Athens of Africa, now ranked at the bottom in terms of educational quality and achievement, “ Yumkella told the audience.
He emphasized the need for citizens to challenge their elected representatives about their plans to develop Sierra Leone, and to do so in a sustained way, in view of the reversal of the economic gains achieved in 2010.
“By challenging our political leaders, we raise our perceptions of ourselves and our expectations of our leaders, rather than remaining in awe of them and dependent on them.”
Dr Yumkella noted that his vision for Sierra Leone is to eradicate extreme poverty as a necessary first step. “This means that all Sierra Leoneans should have incomes above $1.25 a day.”
“Doing this necessitates building our economy in a sustainable way. And achieving this requires effective institutional and governance arrangements that address the problem of endemic corruption and impunity.
“As Sierra Leone is hugely dependent on aid from donor countries and agencies, effective institutional and governance arrangements are critical to accessing funding and finance through loans and aid, as these agencies and countries seek to ensure that every penny provided is used for the intended purpose of achieving those Sustainable Development Goals that are relevant to our country.
“The current government has eroded confidence among donor countries and agencies, as it had demonstrated an unwillingness to address the failure of institutional and governance frameworks. And therefore, we are not able to leverage the funding required to address our developmental challenges.
“A second focus is to ensure that we tap into the industriousness and innovation of women, by ensuring that they have access to productive assets and capital, including land, equipment and tools, which could help them to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
“To do this, it is necessary to reduce their vulnerability to sexual and other violent abuses, and address lack of access to justice. Achieving universal primary education for women, the promotion of gender equality, and the empowerment of women are measures that are also necessary to achieve this aim.
“The need to reduce child mortality and post-natal deaths is critical. Strengthening our maternal and child health facilities is crucial. The current government has presided over the worst record in the world for maternal mortality deaths in the last five years.”
Dr. Yumkella also highlighted the need to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria, as this is important in delivering sustainable development for all Sierra Leoneans.
“Contrary to the assertion by APC supporters that “President Koroma di woke”, Sierra Leone is consistently failing to achieve these sustainable development goals, and the government has no tangible plan or willingness to address them.
“Much of the government’s approach is cosmetic – merely papering over the cracks, while it presides over widespread corruption and theft of public funds.
“As we go into the National Convention to nominate a candidate to represent the SLPP at the next presidential election, Julius Maada Bio and those within the SLPP who argue that now it is “their turn”, offer no plan to develop the country in a sustainable way; and have no capacity to deliver such a plan, because they lack the commitment to put in place the necessary institutional and governance arrangements required to achieve these sustainable development goals.”
Dr Yumkella said that he has engaged with local communities across the length and breadth of the country, assessing the needs of each community.
He also said that he has met with key stakeholders of the SLPP, assuring them of his commitment to build an inclusive party that is capable of winning the next presidential election; a party that will deliver “Hope, Opportunity and Transformation” across Sierra Leone.