Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 May 2019:
Last Friday, 17 May 2019, president Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone arrived in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on a one-day working visit, where he was greeted at the airport by the Ivorian president – Alassane Ouattara.
This followed president Bio’s snap visit last week to neighbouring Guinea for talks with the Guinean president Alpha Conde. It is understood that president Bio is having talks with regional heads of State regarding the ongoing political impasse between his government and the main opposition All People’s Congress party (APC).
The opposition APC is refusing to engage with the government, after accusing the ruling SLPP and the president of human rights abuses and unconstitutional behaviour both in and out of parliament; accusations the ruling party have denied.
President Bio has called for a national peace conference – dubbed Bintumani 3, involving political parties, religious leaders, civil society and stakeholders to discuss the growing political tension and help reconcile political differences. The opposition APC have threatend to boycott the conference.
But there are serious doubts about the relevance of a national peace conference, just twelve months after the president was elected.
Most of the concerns raised by the opposition APC appear to rest largely on the effectiveness of the judiciary in concluding petitions brought before the courts against its party’s parliamentarians, the sacking of opposition party supporters from public service, and dispute over the use of standing orders in parliament.
Also, the decision by the police to change the security staff of former president Ernest Bai Koroma who is also chairman and leader of the opposition APC – without consultation, has not gone down well with the APC.
This has further widened the gulf between the government and the APC, fuelling a deep sense of political unrest and tension in the country.
Regional leaders are hoping that through dialogue, both the government and the opposition APC can resolve their differences.
Concluding his visit to Abidjan last Friday, both leaders held a joint press conference, but making no reference to the current political tension in Sierra Leone.
According to a statement published by State House in Freetown, “president Alassane Ouattara commended president Bio for the progress he has made in recovering the country’s economy and consolidating democracy since he took up office last year”.
President Ouattara said that the visit by President Bio will strengthen the relationship between the two countries as well as develop avenues for further cooperation.
The two presidents are said to have acknowledged the need for both countries to diversify their economies, especially in the area of agriculture.
President Ouattara said that both countries will work on a joint commission to look at many areas of cooperation between the two countries. Air Côte d’Ivoire he said, will soon resume flights to Sierra Leone.
On trade, president Ouattara said that his country will be sending trade missions to Sierra Leone, which will include Ivorian private sector leaders to look at trade and investment opportunities.
During their talks, both presidents discussed various issues, including – national security and the threats of terrorism in the sub-region, the electricity project that will provide energy across the Mano River Union countries, the proposed single currency for ECOWAS countries, and the need for member states to make a strong statement supporting the proposal to promote economic integration in the sub-region.
Why can’t the SLPP and the APC resolve this impasse? Here comes the question again – WHO SHOULD BLINK FIRST?
To be honest, it is very unfair to not allowing President Bio to enjoy his rule. I feel very sad to see our President traveling all over the place to find mediation between the APC and his party. That is not right. Such situations have never happened before. Even the JUNTA government, though brutal as it was, was given the chance to rule. Are our POLITICIANS not ashamed of themselves to be part this unacceptable history?
Frankly speaking, the recent SECURITY DETAILS issue with former President Koroma just inflamed the situation further. It’s just like putting petrol on an already burning fire. Are people just sick in their thinking? The big question now is, when will the APC and the SLPP see EYE TO EYE. However, I am optimistic that both parties will resolve this problem as soon as possible. They have that capacity but, I don’t know why they are stubborn to solve this problem. There are very intelligent and inclusive people on both sides who could make the difference.
Finally, I ask all the MODERATES and INCLUSIVE POLITICIANS in both PARTIES to form a PROGRESSIVE RESISTANCE within their parties and take the country out of this mess. The EXTREMISTS must be sidelined. GOD BLESS SIERRA LEONE.
President Bio’s one day working visit to the Ivory Coast should come as no surprise to anyone who is a keen observer of the inner workings of this president since he began his maiden voyage in governance for a second time. Few presidents, within ECOWAS and Manor River Groupings, have embarked upon such visits within such a short period of time, following their inaugural festivities after winning a hotly contested presidential election. He has indeed visited all the countries in the region in short order, no less.
It should be crystal clear by now to even the political novice that the president is on a mission. Most president-elect will first wallow in their election victory by worrying about whom they will include in their cabinet, probably even thinking about the next election or venture abroad to showcase their victory to European countries or to the U.S. In most cases, looking for foreign aid, loans, handout or goodwill.
President Bio on the contrary, first order of business was undertaking some neighborly visits to initially acquaint him self as to how they are doing things that are helping their fellow citizens who elected them in the first place. The first order of business, you may say.
Then of course, the much maligned transitional program to see where things are. Then he embarked upon scrutinizing the local economy to see what immediate steps can be taken locally and implemented before any wild-wind world visits. Even the winning of a hotly contested election should provide any president the zeal and willingness or even pressure to do the right thing early on and work hard for the people that voted for him and those who didn’t. No cherry picking.
In my earlier piece, I mentioned the MCC-Millennium Challenge Corporation, an innovative and independent U.S foreign assistance agency that is helping lead the fight against global poverty, which has helped Ivory Coast, among others, in their quest to alleviate poverty in their country.
Maybe, president Bio’s visit to the Ivory Coast, a second time, was to learn a thing or two about how to go about winning this coveted MCC grant. Sierra Leone has dishearteningly failed twice in ten years. Consider these: Remember, president Bio created a short-term, five year (2018-2023) national goal, well, MCC offers Compacts that cover five year grant for selected countries that meet MCC’s eligibility criteria.
Secondly, MCC offers Concurrent Compacts for regional investments, which are grants that promote cross-border economic integration, and increase regional trade and collaboration. Hence, the Ivory Coast visit? Thirdly, MCC also offers Threshold programs, which are smaller grants focused on policy and institutional reforms in selected countries that come close to passing MCC’s eligibility criteria as well as show a firm commitment to improving their policy performance.
There you go, reasons for the Ivory Coast visit. I don’t know for sure, but this reasoning could not be far fetched. The International Monetary Fund(IMF) and The World Bank and other global financial institutions have recently revisited their self-removal and suspension from Sierra Leone’s economic development landscape because the signs are now glaringly obvious that the new president means business. These purposeful visits and cooperation within the region must continue. It is just imperative.
Nothing more than peace and understanding within the law – not pretending to do whats right as the constitution directs you.