Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 October 2021:
By all indications now, it is fast becoming obvious that based on their poor management of Sierra Leone’s economy and the financial hardship most people in the country are facing, the ruling SLPP are set to lose the 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections.
And the president’s increasingly poor record in fighting corruption, is making it less likely for his party to win a second term in office.
The Bio-led government’s flagship Free Quality Education has turned out not to be free afterall, despite hundreds of millions of dollars poured into the government’s coffers by the international community to fund the programme. Where is all that money gone?
Parents are complaining of paying far more now than they used to under the previous government. For example – although school fees are free in most primary and secondary schools, with school buses heavily subsidised by the government, many parents are finding it hard to pay the additional costs of transport for their children after recent increase in fuel prices.
The high costs of school uniforms and books for parents, also raise questions about the government’s so called Free Quality Education programme.
Hundreds of thousands of poor parents up and down the country are paying teachers or private tutors to help bridge the gap in teaching at schools. So how free is the government’s Free Education – let alone Quality Education programme?
President Bio is facing serious criticism from the public and media, and is accused of lying in his speech in the USA that parents in Sierra Leone are now saving $500 for each child, as a result of his government’s Free Quality Education.
Most parents are struggling to provide lunch for their children, though some schools are providing school meals. With inflation rising fast, the cost of basic food items is crippling for most families across the country, where over 70% of households are now classed as seriously malnourished.
The government’s record in tackling corruption is looking less impressive now than the president’s rhetoric, after he and his wife and several other senior government officials are accused of indulging in rampant corruption themselves.
A shipload of rice donated by China two years ago to feed poor school children, disappeared under president Bio’s watch upon arrival in Freetown.
The country’s economic growth remains weak, as key sectors of the economy such as mining, agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing and food-processing face serious lack of investments, driving unemployment levels – especially youth unemployment way beyond the 70% inherited by president Bio three years ago.
Abject poverty is once again on the increase, fueling deep social inequalities and divisions.
With most Sierra Leoneans relying on imported goods and foods, the astronomical collapse of the country’s currency – the Leone by over 20% since president Bio was elected in 2018, has worsened household poverty.
Hence, it is with this poor economic record and performance that president Bio and his ruling party will be entering the 2023 elections in their bid for a second term. President Bio is facing rejection by the electorate in 2023.
Writing in the newspapers, SLPP party grandee – Dr Sama Banya is warning his ruling SLPP party of dire consequences at the polls in 2023, if the party does not address the deep divisions that have opened-up since president Bio’s electoral victory in 2018, though many would argue that those cracks in party unity have been there since 2015 but have simply grown deeper.
This is what Dr Banya said in his article – “Puawui Calls For Party Unity”:
Sorie Fofana or Manjoroka as I still address him fondly, the Publisher of the mass circulation Global Times newspaper has been my personal friend and editor-in-chief of my former “Puawui” column. Sorie is known for his short but sharp comments in the Global Times newspaper. He is not known to waste words. Sorie has called attention to the peril facing the ruling SLPP under the caption “SLPP: UNITE OR PERISH.” The warning could not have been more-timely!
For quite some time now rival supporters of different prospective candidates have developed the culture of provocative language to attack the candidates of their opponents.
Many of us have been amazed at the invective especially on social media. They are not satisfied with bringing out those qualities in their subjects for which to canvass our support, but have quite often used the type of vocabulary that is more associated with our friends on the other side of the political divide.
That reminds me of the frequently used statement, “With friends like these, who needs enemies? That is just one of the new but detestable habits in our SLPP, hitherto fondly referred to as the Kombra Party. It also reminds me of the turbulent time when a young man named Julius Maada Bio dared to aspire for the position of flag bearer within the SLPP. Today he is President of Sierra Leone and Leader of the SLPP.
But Sorie Fofana has not put his finger on the greater danger which has the propensity to tear us apart. The rumors of moves to disenfranchise supporters of other aspirants from being voted for as delegates or worse as legitimate contestants, is to my mind, thoroughly reprehensible.
Already rumors are rife of whole groups beginning to lose interest, and through apathy to lose just stay away. All of this and much more have become a source of worry to those of us who have lived long enough and who recall with sadness, the events preceding the 1967 Parliamentary elections.
My appeal is to President Julius Maada Bio as the Leader of the party to take the bull by the horns and restore order and discipline and to insist that there is respect for the party constitution. The alternative to this is again to use his position to invoke the “family formulae” which worked satisfactorily as far back as 1955. He cannot wash his hands off because he with his Deputy Leader, the Vice President could now bring the various factions together.
Otherwise, although Maada Bio will carry 2023, it wouldn’t be with the landslide majority that we hope. Whatever happens we must not go to Bo City in December as a divided group.