President Bio appoints Minister for Western Area amid calls for reduced government spending

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 May 2021:

There have been confusion and consternation in Freetown since the appointment in a cabinet reshuffle couple of weeks ago, of a Minister for the Western Region of Sierra Leone, the capital Freetown.

Although the proposal for the creation of a separate ministry with responsibility for the administration of the political, economic, social, and political affairs of the capital of Freetown was first mentioned over a year ago by the vice president at a conference in Freetown, few ever dreamt of the president taking it seriously given the cost and conflicting nature of such a ministry over and above the ministry of local government and Mayor of Freetown.

Many were also expecting president Bio to take such a proposal to parliament for discussion and ratification by implementation.

In a snap cabinet reshuffle announced two weeks ago, president Bio appointed Mrs Nabeela Tunis (Photo) who was sacked as foreign affairs minister to take over as minister for the Western Region, with little or no brief as to her job description and authority.

What is certain though is that Nabeela Tunis will have a cabinet minister rank and status, which puts her above other regional ministers serving the government.

Although critics say that this appointment was hastily made by the president to compensate Nabeela for her sacking as foreign minister, questions are being asked as to what exactly her job is going to be.

Two days ago, Nabeela spoke to local media, A-Z News about her new job and why she has been appointed by the president as Minister for the Western Region.

She said that there has been a leadership vacuum in the Western Region and the President in his wisdom appointed her to fill that vacuum.

Nabeela also told A-Z that the Western Region has two districts but people cannot see the impact of what government is doing in terms of the effective coordination of the work of ministries, departments and agencies in the capital.

But what is even more stupefying is that according to her she has been appointed because president Bio himself wants to get closer to the people of the Region and understand their needs, which explains why she has been appointed with a cabinet rank and status.

She said that the main motive of  creating the Ministry of Western Region  is for the president to have an in-depth understanding of the Region when it comes to decision making at cabinet level. She said if for example the government wants to do some development within the Region or government wants to move people from Western Urban to the Rural, there should be somebody who will bring the two districts together for proper coordination.

She gave an example of the current difficulties facing the president in managing the ministries, saying that the government had an issue at No. 2 Guma Dam involving three ministries. The ministry of water resources wanted an extension of the dam, the ministry of environment had its own contrary view on it regarding the safety of people, and the ministry of lands had its own interest.  She added that though there was no malice among the three ministers, but each was simply focused on pushing their own agenda.

She said there was nobody at cabinet level who can look at what is good for the Region and also coordinate the ministries in terms of critical and controversial decision making for the good of the Western Region.

Madam Nabeela Tunis assured that she is better placed to play a coordinating role between ministries so that government can start looking at things from the people’s perspectives in terms of development, and that issues relevant to the needs of the Western Region will be discussed at cabinet level.

But critics of the government say that the appointment of a minister for the Western Region makes no sense. They say that it brings this role into direct conflict with that of the Mayor of Freetown, and raises the possibility of direct conflict between the Mayor who is elected by the people and a government official who is not.

The also say that this ministerial appointment is another example of grotesque profligacy by a government claiming to be serious about sound public finance management.

4 Comments

  1. Sierra Leone has 35 cabinet minister, with a population of 7 million.
    The United Kingdom has 23 cabinet ministers with a population of 80 million.

  2. I must admit that I got this one wrong, that I did not see it coming – Mrs Nabeela Tunis’s almost instantaneous reinstatement to full cabinet post and status just a week or so after being ditched as Foreign Minister! Wow! She has risen just as suddenly as I believed she had fallen. And there I was – poor me – just the other day wracking my brain for an explanation as to what I saw then as her very puzzling ministerial demise. Indeed, there I was, torn between two conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I felt elated that a cog within Bio’s useless administrative machinery had been broken and hoping the entire machinery was about to grind to a complete and permanent halt. On the other hand, I was overwhelmed by commiseration for a fellow countrywoman who I thought had been unjustly treated. So much so that I ended up callin her by her first name to express my affection, sympathy and support in her time of need.

    The second emotion, I now see very clearly, was a wasted effort through and through on my part. Indeed with the benefit of hindsight, it can be argued that Mrs Tunis was no victim whatsoever. She must have known full well while reading from her Handing-Over Notes that there was another job, tailor-made, waiting for her. Certainly not as prestigious and sexy as the one she was leaving, but a cabinet job none the less, and perhaps with no loss in terms of what at bottom really matters – perks and remunerations. And this perhaps explains why she did not mention, not even obliquely, the President’s name when apportioning blame as to who might have undermined her tenure as Foreign Minister. As it happened, some unnamed insurbodinate and spiteful ambassador/ambassadors was/were at fault. Mrs Tunis was simply engaged in shadow boxing with an imaginary foe – the enemy was a figment of her imagination: perhaps in the final analysis, a ploy meant to distract the President’s critics as he prepares to shock them with the sudden announcement of her reinstatement.

    The question then is this: will Mrs Tunis be her own woman while performing her new role? I am afraid she will not be. Just as the newly appointed Finance Minister, Mr Dennis Vandi, was seen recently ceding all initiative and independence to the President and Party, Mrs Tunis will be no more than an echo chamber, parroting and implementing scrupulously Bio’s diktats in his so-called aim and desire to understand and reached out to the people of our capital city and its environs. How I wish Mrs Tunis was a woman of initiative and imagination, in the mould of the midwife Regina and the indomitable Mayor Yvonne; two strong and independent-minded women who by merit and not by political patronage, have been giving their all in improving the lives of others; women who act not for self but for the poor and the deprived in the communities they serve. Let us hope that Mrs Tunis will somehow re-emerge as the Nabeela I sympathised with, and will find the freedom and strength to join hands with Yvonne and make Freetown, and the Western Area more widely, a better place for all who live there.

  3. Gentlemen – consider it not an ominous thing when almost at the finish line, an old turtle falls asleep and the young impalas end up winning the coveted prize.(lol) This old soldier is not only delusional but also fast asleep. The dummy in charge of the SLPP’s New Direction government is in need of guidance to awaken him out of his ignorance and deepest slumber. He should now be nicknamed by our people, “Mr Hire and Fire.” I mean seriously, what the hell is all this? One minute he hires someone and the next he fires them, only to brood, sigh cry and sulk over it for a moment, change his mind and rehires them again with lots of hugs and kisses.(lol)

    Think for a minute, and deeply reflect on this: In these hard Covid times when nations are reducing the size of their bloated governments this inept President is practicing exactly the opposite by creating unnecessary Cabinet level, highly paid ministerial positions? A minster for the Western Area? My Goodness! Who exactly is the dummy here – the old soldier or the poor people of Sierra Leone? Again, it seems clear to me this is another ploy, another spurious, dubious calculated strategy by the tribalistic SLPP machinery to create obstacles and roadblocks for the Mayor and render her totally ineffective in her duties.

    The Take Over of Freetown Mr President by the SLPP will never ever become a reality in Sierra Leone. We voted for the Mayor and we will not allow you or any square peg in a round hole to distract her from the good works she has been
    doing.

  4. Once again Bio has proved himself to be a master political chess player, who studies his oppoents carefully, before he makes his calculated moves. Or how else can you sack a minister for incompetence with the stroke of your pen by your left hand, only a week later redeem them and reward them with an appoint to a new ministry that has never been tried and tested. Clearly Mrs Tunis wasn’t getting the support she needed to make a jot of difference in the foreign ministry. Now whether it was because of incompetence, lack of support, back stabbing, or all of the above, her services to the foreign ministry has left much to be desired. If she made any contribution or changes, the way our country was seen from the window of the outside world was negligible. Maybe our reputation in terms of abusing human rights and hauling journalists in front of the courts, was not the best postcard to send to the outside world that you are welcome to visit as your holiday destination.

    Or saying Sierra Leone is dealing with terrorism, by labelling your political opponents as terrorist. Appointing Mrs Nabeela Tunis as a crisis management minister, a role which by the way was dreamt up and written at the back of cigarette paper by the ever loyal vice President, only to be taken up and adopted by Bio as one of the best ideas contributed by his vice president Juldeh Jalloh, not only undermines the tenets of our democracy, but it bears all the hallmarks of getting one over the elected Mayor of Freetown, Mrs Aki Sawyerr. Since the idea was dreamt up by our hapless vice President, people never took notice until now. But we know when Bio ask Juldeh Jalloh to jump, all he will ask his boss is how high sir. The questions for Bio and the people that dreamt up this redundant idea, is what makes you think Mrs Tunis will succeed in building up this ministry for the western region from the drawing board or bottom up, and make it a success after failing to make any impact on the existing Foreign Ministry.

    If we want to understand Bio, you have to understand his motive for doing this reckless act. Not sounding too sexist in the age of the Me too movement, I think Bio is pitting two women against each other. Soon we will see Mrs Tunis running into a fracas with our competent Mayor of Freetown. And knowing the cowed press barons who always support Bio, will come on Mrs Tunis’ side to demonise and lampoon our pupular elected Mayor. Forget the idea of Mrs Tunis acting as a fire fighter, putting out fires in ministries, this is a deception to undermine the power of the elected Mayor of Freetown Mrs Aki Sawyerr. Bio said this appointment will make him understand the issues of the western region. What an admission of failure. It took you three years to realise this. So much for a president that says he understands the issues that are affecting the country. If you don’t know the issues in your neck of the woods, what chances are there for communities living in Pujehun, Sherbro Islands, Kenema, Bo, or in rural towns and villages in the North.

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