Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 July 2019:
Sierra Leone’s president Julius Maada Bio and his family yesterday arrived in Freetown to a tumultuous welcome by his ruling party supporters, after almost ten days absence from the country, which prompted wild speculations about his whereabouts and wellbeing.
The president was met on arrival at the Murray Town sea coach dock by a throng of supporters and party loyalists, who formed a long vehicle convoy to accompany the president and his family to their residence at State Lodge, as traffic in the central district of Freetown grounded to a halt.
To prove he was indeed well and hearty, the president stopped his car and came out to wave to the chanting crowd.
Arriving at Lungi International Airport where he was interviewed about his disappearance by an AYV News reporter, this is what president Bio said:
Reporter: Your Excellency, you left the country on vacation and there were rumours that you were sick. And also rumours going around that you were dead. Did you hear these rumours? What did you make up of this fake news?
President Bio: Fake news have become part of us. But I pray for those who declared me dead. May God make them live longer to see me prosper. I pray for them to be in good health, because it is for them I am working for, to see every Sierra Leonean smile. But I don’t know where that news came from that I was sick or dead. But you’ve seen me; and when God is ready for me he will call me at his own time and I will answer to his will.
Reporter: Even though you went on vacation you took time to go to Kenya and discussed some things to do with tourism. You didn’t rest, even though you went to have some rest. Whole heartedly, you didn’t concentrate on your work at all?
President Bio: Just as I have detected it, Sierra Leone we are far behind. So even when you are on leave, you are really not on leave. You always have to find a way to ensure that good things come to the country. In that venture, I used the opportunity when I was in Kenya to meet with the president to see how we can improve tourism in this country, because tourism is one sector that made Kenya one of the leading economies in the East and Central Africa. And there are lots of things they have done very well, especially the wild life preservation which is something we need; and he assured me that anything we want to do he is in readiness to support us, so we can have the same facilities here.
Reporter: Finally as you have returned, what is your message to Sierra Leone people?
President Bio: I am back to fulfil my duties to the people of Sierra Leone. That is why they elected me. I don’t have any other thing and I pray to God for those who declared me dead. They have seen me alive and I am praying for them to live long so they will all see the progress inside Sierra Leone.
I believe Sierra Leone will be a better place if we all work hard. Sierra Leone is a small country. It takes a lot of energy, time and planning for us to make Sierra Leone a better country; and gradually we have changed the image and the narrative; and with time we will see the improvements.
But the president’s holidaying abroad has caused yet more controversy, after photos were published yesterday by his children on their Facebook page, showing the president’s children in luxurious yacht in Dubai, which critics say demonstrate a clear lack of sensitivity for the plight of millions of poverty stricken families and children in Sierra Leone, who are struggling to find food to eat and somewhere they can call home.
Child poverty in Sierra Leone is one of the worst in the World.
Over 60% of all children aged 5 years old in Sierra Leone are suffering from serious malnutrition; and over 30% of new-born would die before their 5th birthday.
No one must begrudge the president and his family enjoying a well earned break from work. But when in opposition, if it was acceptable to question and condemn former president Koroma’s naked display of opulence and insensitivity to the plight of suffering Sierra Leoneans, then surely it must be even more appalling today, to see those condemning the former president doing the same now – if not worse.
The people of Sierra Leone voted president Koroma and his APC from power, because of their lack of sensitivity towards the suffering masses. President Bio was elected because he ran a campaign promising to change the political culture of Sierra Leone.
Hopefully, president Bio can remind and advise himself of this promise, as he embarks on that journey to transform Sierra Leone. If not, 2023 elections will be a very difficult battle for president Bio to win, especially as the opposition APC are now embarking on a root and branch reform and restructuring of their party.