Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 August 2023:
There is deep anger across many parts of Sierra Leone as President Bio hires a US advertising and publicity agency to help clean up his government’s poor image abroad.
The deal which critics say would cost millions of dollars will involve publishing government propaganda materials and attacks against the opposition and critics of the President.
As the country’s economy continues to drift downwards and the government struggles to pay for key public services such as healthcare, education, provision of clean water and electricity, critics say that the President is showing his total lack of compassion for the poor people of Sierra Leone.
Writing on social media this week, one of the country’s top lawyers – Barrister Basita Michael, said that this money could have been best spent on alleviating rising poverty.
“At a time when citizens are grappling with extreme poverty and dire living conditions, the recent decision to hire a PR firm stands as a bewildering choice. odwyerpr, an online and print news and information publisher covering the public relations and marketing communications, reported yesterday that Mercury Public Affairs is on the brink of signing a contract with SierraLeone, offering services such as public relations, government relations, and media outreach. This news left many citizens scratching their heads and raises questions about misplaced priorities.
“It’s important to acknowledge that Sierra Leone is facing a myriad of challenges, most notably the deeply entrenched poverty that continues to afflict its population. Reports of economic struggles, lack of access to basic services, and the absence of essential infrastructure have painted a grim picture of the everyday lives of Sierra Leoneans.
“Against this backdrop, the allocation of funds to secure the services of a PR firm seems like an outright misallocation of resources.
“The State Dept ‘s concerns about the recent election irregularities further underscore the need for the Sierra Leonean government to rethink its priorities. Rather than diverting funds toward a high-priced PR firm, the focus should be on promoting transparency and accountability.
“The call for publishing disaggregated election results and allowing an independent audit should not be taken lightly. These steps would demonstrate a commitment to democratic values and also encourage trust and credibility among both citizens and international partners.
“It’s baffling that in the face of pressing poverty and the urgent need for development, the government has opted to invest in image management instead of addressing the core issues that plague the nation.
“While PR efforts might polish the government’s reputation in the short term, they cannot substitute for genuine efforts to uplift the lives of Sierra Leoneans. Basic necessities like healthcare, education, and clean water should be the government’s utmost concern.
“We roundly condemn the decision to hire a PR firm and urge the Sierra Leonean government to reconsider. Instead of investing in superficial solutions, it should channel our resources and efforts toward eradicating poverty, fostering transparency, and building a brighter future for all Sierra Leoneans.
“It’s high time for a shift in priorities—one that reflects the true needs and aspirations of the people who deserve a life of dignity and opportunity,” Basita wrote.