President Bio addresses the nation on its 61st independence anniversary amid rising economic hardship

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 April 2022:

As the people of Sierra Leone reflect on 61 years of independence from Great Britain, rather than celebrate because of the harsh economic and financial difficulties gripping the nation, President Julius Maada Bio this morning delivered an address to the people, telling them that the economic hardship being felt in Sierra Leone is the result of the Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine, global economic downturn and supply chain difficulties.

He said that his government has put measures in place to help cushion the pain that the people of Sierra Leone are experiencing, such as the Quick Action Economic Recovery, and Social Safety Net Programmes, which are largely funded by the World Bank and the IMF, costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

In what sounded like an election campaign speech, throughout his address, President Bio repeatedly told the people of Sierra Leone that he has done in four years what no other government has ever achieved. Presidential and general elections are due in Sierra Leone next year.

But critics and political opponents are accusing President Bio and his ministers of incompetence at best and corrupt at worse.

When President Bio took office in 2018 – long before the Covid 19 pandemic and war in Ukraine, he promised  to cut government spending and diversify the economy, so as to expand taxation base and create much needed jobs for the millions of unemployed in the country.

And, sounding more like the former President Koroma taking a swipe at critics, this is what he said:  “Fellow citizens, we are a tough and optimistic people. In spite of the distractions of a few people, who have made talking bad things about their country a political hobby, we are making great progress on all fronts. Let us focus on staying together to continue building a more resilient and progressive nation.”

Today as the people of Sierra Leone reflect on 61 years of independence, they will be asking themselves where President Bio has gone wrong after four years in office, as unemployment – especially youth unemployment which stands at over 80% keeps rising; prices of basic foods and other consumer items are rising fast; much of Freetown – the capital city has been without regular electricity supply for the past few months; access to clean drinking water remains a  big challenge for far too many in the country; and the change promised by the President is yet to materialise.

But this is what President Bio said this morning in his nationwide broadcast, as he and his wife Mrs Fatima Bio prepare to honour and celebrate with guests at State House today:

Fellow citizens: Asalamualaikum warahamatu-ilahi ta Allah wa barakatuhu. May this Holy month of Ramadan strengthen our taqwa. May Allah subhanahu wattahallah bestow on us peace, abundance, and blessings.

Our country, like all countries around the world, has continued to wrestle with the immense global economic crises and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted and everything around the world is now more expensive in every country. Food, fuel, and other goods are now more expensive in United States, United Kingdom, France, China, Australia, India, Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, and even in Sierra Leone than they were just a few months ago. But Allah subhanahu wattahallah has continued to be merciful to our great nation.

My government has taken immediate steps to soften the impact of these hard economic times. Our quick action economic recovery programme and other subsidies and tax incentives have kept essential goods in the market.

Government has also undertaken social safety net programmes to help out the hardest hit and most vulnerable of our citizens. Multilateral partners have praised my government’s actions in successfully battling waves of COVID-19.

In the last two years, our response to the pandemic has been praised by the World Health Organisation and the Centre for Disease Control.

We have also managed the economy responsibly and supported private sector growth. We have also kept our investments in human capital, infrastructure, energy, while protecting and promoting rights and good governance.

We have built and rehabilitated more school infrastructure, committed more money to supporting education, extended universal access to free quality education to all children, provided free learning and teaching materials, revamped vocational education, and fundamentally changed education in just four years. This is more than any Government has ever done in four years.

In just four years, we have hired and trained more nurses and doctors, reduced maternal and child mortality, minimised the common disease burdens, built and rehabilitated more hospitals and community health care centres, expanded private sector investment, regularised the delivery of low-cost drugs, introduced an effective national ambulance service, initiated innovative health-provider services, and gained the confidence of our partners with their investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in that sector. This is more than any Government has ever done in four years.

In four years, we have increased agricultural productivity, introduced more mechanisation in all sixteen districts, provided more input support for farmers, established more new cash crop fields, and expanded agricultural value-chains. This is more than any Government has ever done in four years.

We have built more roads and bridges, including rural roads and bridges, major international highways to Liberia, a highway to Moyamba, the Mabang bridge, and the Magbele bridge. We are working on new highways in the Kono and Kailahun districts.

With regard to public infrastructure, we are building a $270M airport terminal, rehabilitating the national stadium for about $40M, building an ultra-modern foreign service academy, erecting several modern NASSIT regional offices, and all but completed the ACC and NATCOM headquarter buildings.

We have turned sod for several infrastructural projects, including the Kono University. Two days ago, I commissioned an imposing Myohaung Officers’ mess and a 104- bedroom single officers’ quarters. Yesterday, I commissioned the massive 30-acre APP-SL petroleum storage tank farm that expands the storage capacity and hence assures the availability of fuel in the Sierra Leone market.

When we talk about infrastructure, we talk about purposeful infrastructure that assures the resilience of this nation.

In just four years, we have expanded energy access and provided electricity to more towns and villages in Sierra Leone than any government has ever done. Masiaka, Foredugu, Mambolo, Mange, and Rokupr in the north; Moyamba Junction, Taiama, Sumbuya, Koribondo, and Sulima in the south; and, Gorahun, Boajibu, Jojoima, Mobai, and Manowa Town in the East can now boast of electricity for the first time.

Bo and Kenema now have regular supply of electricity and work is ongoing on all districts headquarter towns. My government is working assiduously on more energy generation capacity for the Western Area and have invested more in refurbishing transmission and distribution assets and lines right across this nation. This is more than any Government has ever done in four years.

We have expanded access to potable water across the country with brand new investments in water infrastructure and assets in all district headquarter towns and other towns and villages across the country. On Saturday, I visited Guma Valley, and yesterday I commissioned 15 brand new water bowsers to support the distribution of water in under-served communities in Freetown. This is in addition to the 20 bowsers my government purchased just two years ago.

UNICEF and WHO assert that my government has increased access to potable water by 24% in the rural areas and 6% in the Western Area. This is more than any Government has ever done in four years.

In sectors such as fisheries, mining, tourism, the downstream petroleum sector, the environment, and more, my government’s performance over these four years has been highly commended by independent international organisations.

In just four years, my government has either passed or is working on more laws and policies for the protection of girls, especially from sexual offences, and, the promotion of gender empowerment and  equality laws, disability rights and empowerment, mental healthcare and more.

In just four years, we have passed the Millennium Challenge Corporation scorecard every year excelling in the areas of control of corruption and ruling justly. We have abolished the death penalty, repealed seditious libel laws, actively advocated for investments in an independent media industry, and joined the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance.

No journalist is in prison for the practice of journalism, and we have continually reduced prison populations. We have invested in and registered remarkable improvements in access to justice, disaster management, public safety, and the correctional system. This is more than any Government has ever done in four years.

Fellow citizens, we are a tough and optimistic people. In spite of the distractions of a few people, who have made talking bad things about their country a political hobby, we are making great progress on all fronts. Let us focus on staying together to continue building a more resilient and progressive nation.

We have now earned the respect of nations all over Africa and the world. International cooperation and support are at an all-time high. We will keep doing more. Three days ago, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia allocated the highest numbers of pilgrims to Sierra Leone — 500 more than at any time in the nation’s history.

Fellow citizens, in this holy month of peace and benevolence, let us continue to love our fellow-countrymen and women and understand that our purpose as a nation is bigger than our personal ambitions. Fellow citizens, Ramadan Kareem and Happy Independence Day.

6 Comments

  1. Thank you Mr Santkie Sorie for your complement.It goes without saying some of us on this noble forum are not wedded to any political doctrines or political dogmas that serve no purposes or allow ourselves to fall victims of party political propagandists that are only interested in protecting our new African slave masters that are benefiting or taking advantage of our sense of tolerance even if we have to go with out the benefits of what it means to have a government of the people by the people for the people .Maybe they know something that we are not aware of .But one thing we can all agree on , our country is still struggling to finds it feet sixty one years after our so-called independence .You just have to arrived at Lungi international airport, where hardup airport employees have turned to army of beggars to realised what awaits you to the other side of the river to the Freetown metropolis.

    If those employees at the Airport is the face of Sierra Leone to the outside world , it goes without saying our country is in dare need of calibration or a total rebooting of our country and the way we do things .A tiny country like Sierra leone , geographically located in the West African coast line not in the middle of the Sahara desert , and a rainforest that stretches from the Freetown peninsula right up to the mountains of wara wara , to the Northern part of Sierra Leone , then to the south the Gola forest that is shared between Liberia and Sierra Leone .with abundance human and natural resources, and yet we are always languishing at the bottom rug of human development index .

    And to add insult to injury a government that rely on foreign aid which makes up %60 percent of it’s budgetory needs ,you got to ask yourself where did we go wrong as a county ?Majority of people believe tribalism is a major contributorory factor to our country’s ills.Tribalism breeds corruption, divisions ,nepotism, maladministation , and above all else suspicion of the other that doesn’t look or speak the same way .There is no real tribalism in Sierra leone .We have what I called artificial tribalism, or monkey eat monkey tribalism promoted by politicians that have no interest in developing our country.Sierra leone is known throughout the world as one of few countries where Muslims celebrate Christmas with their fellow Christian brethren and Christians celebrating Eid with their fellow Muslim brothers .So if we have rooms in our hearts to tolerate each other religiously, so what is the problem between the Fulani and Temene , or Mende man and Krio person or limba man ?The answer lies with our corrupt politicians. In some countries in the middle east and Nigeria and other religious hot spots around the world where religious beliefs in some places is a life and death issues we don’t have such problems in Sierra leone .Which makes me to conclude the tribal divisions we see between supporters of the APC and SLPP parties are politically motivated and propagated by corrupt politicians that have benefited from it all .We Sierra Leoneans are capable of over coming our divisions for the good of all.If only our political slave masters will let us for the good of our country.

  2. Abraham Amadu Jalloh, your piece captured everything – we are not independent but dependent, even worse than the colonial era. Both APC and SLPP do not understand what it means to be independent – they need a lecture from you, free of charge, if I may ask for your indulgence. For more than half a century these two parties have mostly succeeded in robbing us of our dignity and national pride. We’re still controlled by foreigners, including our former ( I dare say former) colonial masters, the British.

    Our dependence is synonymous with not even being able to conduct our own domestic and foreign policies. When Bio is told, for example, to ban the death penalty he does it without consulting the populace in a referendum; when he is told to ban some of our cultural practices, he runs with his head to do it. The man has no backbone, especially if a few dollars are dangled in front of him. The memory of him nearly selling part of our land (Black Johnson Beach) to the Chinese is still fresh. On that occasion one wonders where the paper brigadier’s head was located. Earnest Koroma was not much different.

    If we as a people do not find it in ourselves to remove SLPP and APC from power, or at least loosen the grip they have over us, we shall go nowhere for the next sixty one years, by which time most of us in our twenties and thirties will be down under, let alone those that are in their forties and fifties. Therefore we must fight in whatever way we can to save succeeding generations from the current mystery in our nation. Bio and Earnest too will be dead by then. By the looks of things 2023 does hold some promise of the entire political system being shaken to its core because of the coalition emerging of various political parties. We await the high stakes horse trading that’s in the horizon.

  3. What a speech! What a way to celebrate our 61st anniversary as an independent and sovereign nation! Our Dear Leader having set His own homework has gone on to mark it Himself, obviously awarding Himself, the narcissist that He is, full marks on all points. As a case of self-congratulation in political governance, the Dear Leader’s speech can hardly be bettered, if at all.

    Are we expected to swallow all that He has said hook, line and sinker? Most certainly. At least from His perspective and that of His army of committed adulators. As for those who out of simple and natural curiosity might be tempted to partake of the seemingly steaming, aromatic and savoury independence speech-dish being served so copiously, I would sound this note of caution all the same. All that appears aromatic and appetising is not necessarily delicious, swallowable and digestible in fact. Robust olfactory receptor cells, hardy gustatory buds and cast-iron stomach linings are essential to fend off the malodorous, tasteless and stomach-turning gunk concocted and proposed as an element of fine dining by our Master Chef of a President.

    Curiosity as it is often said killed the cat. The intoxicating Presidential speech-meal on offer has all the marks of a contagion. Covid-19 comes readily to mind. So, fellow countrymen and women, be alert. Be prudent. Above all, stay safe. Our 61st independence anniversary is a sobering moment, not one of drunken celebration. We should be focusing entirely on our past and present missteps as a failed state and on working out ways to address them. Singing about fictitious achievements is simply a distraction. We do not need it. More importantly, we cannot afford it.

  4. Stats on the inflation rate, unemployment rate, economic growth rate and intetest rates which are the performance metrics to make a judgement call upon any economy and by extension any Government are once again missing on another “Dependence” speech punctuated by rhetoric and untruths.

    The litany of fuzzy, nebulous and intangible achievements being claimed by the President are neither not being felt or seen by majority of Sierra Leoneans nor are they being reflected in recent credible UN socio-economic indices such as the Human Development Index and the World Happiness Index. We are more or less stuck in the last ten of such indices year in and year out. Our next-door neighbours Guinea and Liberia who have their own fair share of political instability and also expereinced the lingering effects of Ebola, COVID and recent geo-political tensions and fallouts are even better off. We keep propping them at the foot of the table that is being populated in the main by sub-saharan Africa.

    Excuses, excuses and excuses !

    It is fair to say that former Sierra Leone President and soldierJoseph Saidu Momoh, who was hand-picked to succeed long-serving despot Siaka Stevens, is perhaps one of the most honest Sierra Leonean, living or dead. He was humble enough to raise his hand up, went to the airwaves and owned up to the fact that he was an abject failure. He could, however, not go further and do the logical and decent thing by resigning from power instead waited to be illegally chased out of power.

  5. Happy Independence Day to our beautiful Mama Salone. May the almighty continue to bless our President with Wisdom and Understanding.
    Ramadan Kareem to all our citizens.

  6. I don’t want to sound like a kill joy on this important day of our country ‘s calendar, but ” HAPPY DEPENDENCE DAY ” to my fellow compatriots Sierra Leoneans .So if we dig little bit deep to find out the meaning of independence , according to the dictionary :”Independence is the state of being FREE OF CONTROL of some other person , country or entity.”It goes further to emphasise the point about independence as the state or quality of being independent:freedom from dependence: exemption from reliance on, or control by others :self -subsistance or maintenance:direction of one’s own affairs with out interference”.Now one has to be clearly deluded , a hole in the brain , or an apologist of the one directionless government of Bio that every year sounded like a broken recorder to finally come to the conclusion that Sierra Leoene after 61 years of dependency is now in position both politically, and economically to break away from the mode of merry-go-round of dependency to our former colonial powers , and indeed international western financial institutions like the ADB , IMF ,the World bank and the European Union , the United States government, Canada , China , Japan , South Korea , Turkey , and the Nordic countries, to truly say we have achieved true indepence we were promised all those years ago on April 27th 1961 .

    Bio today is casting patriotic Sierra Leoen , no doubt hat share his same vision of how he country should be seen in the digital age , but for unfathomable reasons have failed us , with his narrow mindedness and toxi divide and rule polices , that have morally, politically and economically bankrupts our country .Yes we are optimistic people , but what the president failed to mention in his independence speech is our unlimited sense of tolerance, that few African countries or indeed the world over enjoys .If the Bear can be associated with Russia, the panda with China , the lion with United kingdom , the Egle with the United States , I suppose is difficult to tag Sierra leone .We can either adopted the MOUSE OR THE LAMB as our country’s symbol .Maybe the lamb fits our national character better .It is gentle ,never raise hell even if you are taking it to the slaughter house .No one knows this better than Bio .

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