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.
The travelling President? Sierra Leone, or more appropriately, Freetown based newspapers and even some errant, so called online tablets, outside the country, consciously or self-serving, display blaring headlines about president Bio’s incessant travels: “President Bio in Beijing, China, president Bio in London, UK, president Bio in Washington, D C, United States, president Bio in Nairobi, Kenya, president Bio in Kigali, Rwanda. President Bio in Kampala, Ugandayou got the idea.
Of course, this is just an abbreviated list of the footprint in terms of international or foreign travels the president has undertaking since coming to power in November 2018. The president is on a junket (travel), his distractors would say or are quick to point out. While as the that president is on a mission according to the supporters of the government.
A mission to change the narrative of the country that it is not proud of, or any country would be proud of, for that matter, such as the most corrupt in the world, low income country, high poverty rate, most illiterate citizenry, no electricity, and bad roads.
And the most disheartening of all, is the unpatriotic and selfish government officials, whose ultimate purpose of wanting to serve in government, in the first place, is to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor populace with reckless abandon. A now familiar jargon in Sierra Leone: ill-gotten wealth.
One sometimes, wonder aloud, where does all the foreign aid money goes that the country receives. How about the domestically generated income from taxes and fees and minerals. Nowhere, but in the pockets of corrupt government officials who enjoy lavish salaries, hugh mansions and luxurious automobiles that are clearly incompatible with their employment status and salary.
Indeed, these frequent travels have given heartburn to its 7.5 million citizens who worry that the president is not paying or giving enough attention to domestic issues that plague almost everyone, except, of course, those who are politically connected. Now and previous. And the domestic issues, for the most part, are debilitatingly deplorable and negative.
The rather frequent travels by the president has garnered tremendous interests and concerns within and outside the country, and within the diaspora community encompassing the entire globe. And Sierra Leoneans are everywhere, even in the remotest of places, like Alaska, Finland or Greenland. Iceland? I don’t know about that. It’s too cold, giving our own habitat. There must be a rational reason why a president travel.
When president Obama (President O) was in power, he made 52 international trips to 58 different countries, between January 20, 2009, to January 17, 2017. He served two four year terms, as mandated by the constitution. In my estimation, the president is on a mission and therefore has taken it upon himself to be the chief cheer leader, in an effort for Sierra Leone to become like Singapore or South Korea, two South Asian countries who were once like Sierra Leone.
It looks like the president is determined to achieve something before his term runs out. Much as he is trying to do what he can, it is left to all Sierra Leoneans irrespective of geo-political affiliation, ethnic identification or language to help the president achieve his mission to develop the country for all that reside in and outside of it.
What will they say about my children driving around Freetown in LAMBORGHINI VENENOS if I became President. Will they say it’s my hard earned CASH or through CORRUPTION? I will visit all the articles I have missed after the holidays. I really missed this platform but, will be back. GOD BLESS EVERYONE.
Sierra Leonean Journalists! President Bio left the country without informing the people where he’s going and the first question the journalist asked was: “Your Excellency, you left the country on vacation and there were rumours that you were sick.”
For God’s sake, even me that did not study journalism, could have done better by asking the president where was he? And why didn’t he inform the people of Sierra Leone before leaving.
Wow Patrick, for God sake have you seen the home of the former president in Makeni? Please let the kids enjoy themselves. what have their pictures got to do with anything? May God continue to protect this president and his family. He is working hard for all Sierra Leoneans and he deserves a break.
The children of the president vacationing in Dubai have a mother who is a professional woman living and working in the United States. She can afford to send her children on a luxurious vacation. Notwithstanding this, there is no law in Sierra Leone that states that children of public officials should not be treated to a luxurious vacation.
Many folks who enter politics in Africa have lived in Europe or America for years, made a fortune before deciding to return home. Why should the public frown on such people when they spend their hard earned money on their children?
Morality, morality morality my dear friend – not legality! Has Bio got any moral conscience? Certainly not. This is not about legality. This is about morality and empathy for your fellow man who are worse off.
I care less whether the mother of those two kids are multi-millionaires in the USA. What is the issue here is the lack of moral fortitude. But as the writer says, 2023 will surely tell. Mark my word, Bio is a one term president, by his own doing.
Very nice piece – balanced, and in current realities.
Koroma and Bio are two peas in the same pod. Heartless display of wealth. What a shame!
O African leaders! When are they going to change if at all? Don’t get me wrong, as the writer quite rightly says, no one should begrudge the president and his family for taking a holiday. But for God’s sake, here is a president that is elected to lead his people, the majority of whom are among the poorest in the world. Yes – by all means go on your holiday and take your family with you, but to rub it on the faces of the poor with those pictures is a disgrace.
Such expensive luxurious holiday is a sure sign of a leader and his family living above their means and must serve as prima facie evidence of corruption which must be investigated.
Since when did president Bio start amassing such wealth that he and his family can afford holiday on a yacht in Dubai? I remember seeing a photo of Bio posted a few years ago by APC showing him travelling on a London bus looking very humble. And now he has become so rich in one year to afford such luxury. The ACC will investigate when he leaves office.
Even if he can afford vacationing on a yacht in Dubai, why cant he wait until after leaving office before displaying such wealth, as mark of respect for the abject poverty that millions are experiencing in the mama Salone.
It is one thing to be critical of the president. Where did you learn that president Bio was vacationing in Dubai? Did you see any pictures of the president vacationing in Dubai? Or are you assuming that the president should be guilty for the assumed sins of his children?
Let’s for the sake of argument assume that the president vacationed in Dubai. Do you really think that a Dubai vacation is expensive and immoral? Do you also believe that a Dubai vacation is above president Bio’s earning capacity as president? Moreover, are you suggesting that public officials in Sierra Leone should live a dirt poor life simply because they are public officials?
It is laughable that Bio can spend time in expensive London and New York City and does not get criticized for that but that folks can go crazy once they hear the name Dubai. Dubai comes nowhere close to London and New York City in terms of cost of living.
Lastly, as for your vacuous threat of Bio being a one term president, I say keep dreaming. Underestimate Bio at your peril. Remember, he was not given nay chance to win the presidency.
Do you expect the children of the PRESIDENT to be in the slums while their father, the PRESIDENT is vacationing in a palace?
By the grace of God, those children living in the slums of Sierra Leone, will soon reach the age of 18; and by 2023, will be old enough to teach Bio and his corrupt SLPP a bloody lesson, at the polls they will never forget in a hurry. What arrogance.
We always knew Bio is fake, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, only waiting to get his grubby claws on to the nation’s coffers, to spend on his family, while the poor are languishing in abject poverty. God will surely, fight for those poor children, who have no choice, but live in the slums you speak about.
God will richly bless and preserve President Bio and his vision for our beloved Sierra Leone. All work and no play really makes Jack a dull dull boy. If President Bio’s kids are seen enjoying themselves, let them be and the good Lord will protect them. President Bio is still a dad for God’s sake.