Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 April 2023:
With soaring food prices and the continuous rise in prices of other essential items in Sierra Leone, which the government blames on the war in Ukraine, many Sierra Leoneans are holding the Bio-led government responsible for the economic downturn the country has experienced in the last five years since Maada Bio took over as president.
Also, the general feeling of insecurity, rising lawlessness and erosion of civil liberty and human rights have left many Sierra Leoneans calling for a change of government.
Writing on Twitter, popular commentator Sheka Forna said this about President Bio’s first term in office: “From killings to a cost-of-living crisis, a sinking Leone to rising fuel costs, a shrinking economy to growing debt. Looking back, the only thing you should be content with is your Air Miles account. As you stumble towards the finish line your scorecard says, ‘could do better’.”
But President Bio is sounding positive about his chances of winning the presidential race in June. This is what he said about his first term in office, which could determine whether he gets the red card or a green card from voters:
“It’s been 5 years since we answered the noble call to service and chose the path less travelled by committing to build the next generation instead of focusing on the next election.
“Today, I look back with contentment amidst the 3-years of global economic upheaval brought about by the twin shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia war. Despite all this, our Administration has made significant developmental strides to improve the quality of life of Sierra Leoneans.
“As we move towards the halfway line, I look forward with enthusiasm and a greater resolve, knowing that what lies ahead for our great nation is greater than the challenges of yesterday.
“We remain fired up and ready to transition from the New Direction to staying in the Right Direction for the sustainability of our economic development efforts in #SierraLeone.”
There is now a change of emphasis as the president puts it – from a “New Direction” agenda to “Right Direction”, after critics lampooned his five years of New Direction as a failed and corrupt enterprise that needs a change of direction.
But will this promise of a change of Direction improve the president’s chances of winning the elections on June 24th?
“Today, I look back with contentment amidst the 3-years of global economic upheaval brought about by the twin shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia war. Despite all this, our Administration has made significant developmental strides to improve the quality of life of Sierra Leoneans,” President Bio.
No one mentioned the 30th March 2023 World Bank’s economic outlook for Sierra Leone. The economic cesspool we are in is not just due to global shocks, according to the latest World Bank Report. Policy slippages, lack of fiscal discipline, monetary policy ineffectiveness and the folly of redominating the Leone by the infamous experimenting Professor Kallon have all been flagged up by the World Bank as causative elements. Externalities causing economic shocks in countries is not a precedent.
There have been previous external shocks over the years – namely 1970s energy crisis, 80s world recession (Late President Momoh could use it as an excuse), the late 80s and 90s Liberia Invasion, dot com bubble burst in the early nineties (Kabbah’s excuse?), world recession in the nineties, ebola and commodity prices crash in the 2010s (Ernest Koroma’s excuse?) as well as the corona and energy crises in the 2020s.
The law of averages will tell you that we are due another one in the next 5 years even if the present one – the clouding banking crisis abates. So no one should use global shocks as a leg to stand on in any argument to counter the shame in winning us the unwanted prize of the unhappiest country in Africa and the unhappiest in the world.
What? Yet, another slogan. The right direction? Is it a mea culpa and admitting the new direction has been completely wrong all along and it was more or less a vicious cycle? I always say the only time I might have a glimmer of hope that Sierra Leone is on the verge of turning a corner is when someone tries to come to power or being in power without pouting any slogans. What effing slogans have we heard over the years? Woosai den tai cow na dae ee dae eat, green revolution, the reedeemer, wooteteh, agenda for this … and agenda for that…and new direction, are all empty and worthless words.
President Bio has had two fantastic opportunities to be part of two regimes that should have engineered meaningful change in the country. The jury is out in judging his actions and omissions. Look at the lofty promises and rhetoric made by his NPRC and PAOPA SLPP.
The ultimate verdict wil be delivered in June by the long-suffering people of Sierra Leone. I for one don’t believe in marking my own exams. I think because Sierra Leone is stuck in the bottom rung of the UN (external examiner) development and happiness indices all these years and nothing is being done to reflect those big words – unity, freedom and justice – in our coat of arms, no Sierra Leone President in my humble opinion deserves more than 5 years in power. We should take Kabbah’s and Koroma’s decade in power as an abberration. Everything seems to have become three times as worst as in 2018 – be it peace, unity, the economy ( GDP per capita, inflation, exchange rate, national debt).
The following suggestions should change Sierra Leone fundamentally and relect the true words in our coat of arms:
1.Abolish the ACC.
2. Establish a serious economic crime office and send annual Audit reports to them for remedial actions including a brief for the thiefs being sent to jail for a minimum of five years and a life-time ban from holding public office.
3. Empower the PPRC to ensure political party structures are saturated with no more than 33.3 percent of any tribe, old school boys or region; and any future cabinet has at least one minister from every of the 16 districts as a non-negotiable requirement for their registration as a political party.
4. Statutory requirement for the tax payers-funded broadcaster SLBC to give equal air-time to all party presidential candidates and party political broadcasts.
5. Annual demographic audits of all public service jobs by the Audit Office to ensure state employees in state enterprises and institutions are not dominated by no more than 33.3 percent of any tribe, old school boys or region. Part of that process calls for all job application forms to include questions on applicant’s tribe and region. This could be extended gradually to all employees in the private sector where the company has more than 50 employees.
6. Restrict the number of overseas trips per year any public official including the president undertakes.
7. Create or strengthen a police watchdog to oversee actions or omisssions of the Sierra Leone Police ensuring any killings by a law-enforcement officer is referred to them to investigate the circumstances and merits.
8. A judiciary watchdog should be established to oversee actions, omissions and miscarriages of justice of our learned judges and magistrates.
9. Ministry of Justice should publish and enforce sentencing guidelines.
10. Have a body to check all academic records and check all certifcates and qualifications of all employees both in the public and private sector.
11. All assets declaration of public officials should be made public.
12. All dual citizens should be allowed to vote, be voted for and hold any public office in Sierra Leone. Any dual citizen though should declare not only his assets in Sierra Leone but his overseas assets.
13. Any diasporian aspiring to lead a political party should be resident continously for two years prior to any elections.
14. Any company awarded a public contract should have been previously trading for at least five years, have an online presence with its senior management clearly visible on the website.
14. Refocus the so-called Free Quality Education to skills development legislating to ensure every employer, both public and private train at least an apprentice in any trade. Larger organisations should train a minimum of 10.