President Koroma’s feeble reshuffle

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 December 2013

president koroma end of the road - 220513If good leaders are known by the promises they keep, and by the tough and resolute decisions they take, based on an ethos of good governance, then president Koroma is doing himself great disservice by continuing to fail to rise to the occasion when it matters most.

Last week’s feeble attempt by the president at reshuffling his beleaguered government, broken by six years of poor management, slothfulness and infighting, will not cut ice with those who have been clamouring for a clean sweep.

And there is strong suspicion that the president is in a quagmire, held hostage by a radical caucus of ministers and senior ruling party grandees, who do not want to change the status quo.

They are the sacred cows – abusing public office, who many believe are beyond the reach of the president’s powers. They made the president.

They are corrupt, lazy, incapable of heading their ministries and departments, and have not only become an embarrassment to the president himself, but impediments to Sierra Leone’s economic progress.

Alpha kanu and Logus KoromaAbove all, there are failing ministries, such as; education, health, energy (electricity), water and sanitation, trade and industry, agriculture,  Telecommunications, Transportation, mining, and works (roads) that have in the past five years come under serious criticisms.(Photo: Koroma’s sacred cows).

These ministries are poorly led and are failing to meet expected standards of management and delivery. Yet, the president has turned a blind eye to a runaway train that is totally out of control.

The much awaited government reshuffle which many had expected to bring the necessary cabinet changes has been turned by president Koroma into a charade, by choosing instead to tinker around the periphery of state governance.

Poverty in saloneTake a cursory look at the ministries, departments and agencies he chose to reshuffle and the irrelevance of the positions of those involved – with respect to the bread and butter issues affecting the poor people of Sierra Leone, and you get a sense as to why the president has been accused of poor leadership and lack of vision.

When such criticism keeps following the president – year-on-year, it must be said that he does no justice to his own credibility, by falling into that ugly trap of self-fulfilling prophesy.

A month ago, there was plenty of evidence that all was not well within his cabinet. Those expected to be responsible for steadying the ship at State House, where instead busy plotting ministerial mutiny and fighting among each other.

Since his return to Freetown and the reading of the Riot Act to his rebellious ministers, there has been less heat coming out of the smouldering volcano. But according to sources close to State House, there is very little doubt this is the calm before the final explosion in the coming months.

The recently stage-managed military coup that never was, is believed by many to have been orchestrated and engineered by senior presidential loyalists, to frighten those close to State House who may be destabilising the government for their own ends.

Those ministers and senior party grandees hoping for a change of leadership before 2017, when presidential elections are due, are now said to be considering a new strategy, as attempts to get president Koroma to sack his vice president has failed.

But the effect of the ministerial chaos and mutiny goes beyond the government’s ability to deliver its programmes. It’s the effect on the general stability of the country that is most worrying.

And it is for this reason that the Sierra Leone Telegraph had called upon the president to make meaningful and decisive changes to his cabinet, bringing sanity and seriousness to the job of moving the country forward economically.

Sierra Leone is still regarded as a fragile state, languishing at the bottom quartile of the poorest countries in the world, as well as performing poorly in the Mo Ibrahim Governance Index.

And without good governance hundreds of millions of dollars spent on education, health, water and sanitation and other sectors will continue to achieve very little.

Calling for the president to make a clean sweep of his ministerial team makes sense, and is a gift owed to the people of Sierra Leone this Christmas.

The least said about last Friday’s reshuffle, coinciding with that hopeless inflationary budgetary statement in parliament by the finance minister, the better.

President-Ernest-Bai-KoromaRewarding loyal foot soldiers and those regarded as potential ‘fire starters’ to be shunted out of the country, is not a true display of good leadership – but a profound show of weakness and vulnerability.

So while we wait with baited breath for the real reshuffle to come, perhaps president Koroma ought to reflect on the impact that the changes he made last Friday, will have – if at all, on the colossal level of unemployment in the country, high maternal and childhood deaths, poor electricity and water supply, poor road conditions, rampant corruption and falling education standards.