Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 September 2017
Not much has been heard from Dr Kandeh Yumkella after his resignation from the opposition SLPP party last week, until yesterday – 9th of September 2017, that is, when he spoke to a large section of his supporters in Washington DC, USA. According to those attending the event, “he did not disappoint”.
Dr. Yumkella – a hot favourite for the presidency in 2018, was speaking at a dinner organized in his honour by the Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella Movement (KKYM) DMV Chapter Washington, on the subject of ‘mobilizing to strengthen good governance and public accountability in Sierra Leone’. This is what he said:
I wish to express sincere gratitude to the KKY Movement DMV Chapter for organizing this event. Apart from enjoying the warm hospitality and camaraderie you always extend to Philo and me, we particularly look forward to the freedom to exchange ideas with you.
Let me say outright, that my remarks in this dinner, are done in my personal capacity as Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella and not on behalf of the National Grand Coalition (NGC). This distinction is important because, until we receive our final certificate in a few weeks from now, the NGC cannot organize public events. Let me also say that we have set up a committee to develop guidelines for the full transition of the KKYM to NGC by October 31.
Today, I want to talk generally about governance and to strongly encourage you to be actively engaged in Salone politics. These remarks are an abridged and modified version of a talk I gave to the Freetown Breakfast Club, in April, this year.
My interest in political reforms and “good governance” and politics in general started very early. Further, having been to so many countries around the world, and worked with many governments, I have also learned about the good, the bad and the ugly concerning governance and political leadership. I believe that our most critical challenge or obstacle to socio-economic transformation is lack of good governance.
It was Mahatma Gandhi who famously said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Thus, for Sierra Leone, we must be the change that we wish to see in our nation. For me personally, political activism for social justice, and campaigning for good governance runs deep in my experience during the past 50 years.
In 1967, at the tender age of eight, I was held hostage for several horrific hours when gunmen tried to assassinate my father. At age 17, I joined my first student demonstration in 1977 as the Senior Prefect of Christ the King College in Bo, demanding political reforms under the aegis of “No College No School”.
I was active in student politics as an undergraduate serving as Secretary General and later President of NUC-Students Union, and a member of NUSS. I joined the anti-apartheid demonstrations at Cornel University as a Masters student in 1985 here in the USA. During that time, I also linked up with other political activists such as Pius Foray, and late Hindolo “Guru” Trye.
In 1991, as a young professional, I worked with Professor Jimmy Kandeh, Professor Ibrahim Abdulla, Richard During, Reverend Munda Sam Foray, Harry Silienga, Mr. Tejan Savage and others to form the Coalition for Social Democratic Change (CSDC) to advocate for an end to the one-party-state.
Now as a middle-aged man (after also over two decades dealing with global governance), I find myself in the toughest governance experience of my life – running for the presidency in the Republic of Sierra Leone.
Thus, if people wrongly say that KKY just wants power or he just wants to be President – tell them that KKY just wants Positive Change and Social Justice in Sierra Leone, and has fought for it for decades.
Why good governance?
When Sierra Leone and some other African nations gained their independence over half a century ago, they were wealthier on a per capita basis than Malaysia, Indonesia or South Korea. Today, the latter are industrialized nations, and ranked high on the latest human development index.
But in the case of Sierra Leone, we are ranked among the bottom 10 of the Human Development Index. We are among the countries with the highest infant mortality rates; 70% of our people live on less than $2:50 a day – with 77% on extreme multi-dimensional poverty; We have over 60% youth unemployment; and we leave our handicap brethren and sisters on the streets to fend for themselves.
The developmental states or Newly Industrializing Countries (NICs) of East Asia can tell us a thing or two about how to go about governance and transforming our economies. Many studies have shown that the difference between us Africans and those East Asian countries is that we have lacked good, visionary governance for many decades.
In Salone, we have experimented with a de facto one-party-state and military rule for a total of over 30 years. We now have a nascent democracy for just two decades and it is at risk of retrogressing.
The NICs developed not only by simply growing economies of agglomeration in targeted sectors, but by also investing heavily in education, health care and basic infrastructure.
Social spending and curbing corruption go hand in hand, for the less corruption there is the more resources will be available to spend on health care, clean drinking water, education, energy, and infrastructure.
In underdeveloped countries like ours, development is a primary national interest that should always be promoted by state policies. State power cannot be institutionalized unless it is consistently exercised in a manner that makes a positive difference in the lives of ordinary people.
It is by effectively responding to the needs, interests and aspirations of our people that governance can be improved and state power institutionalized.
Governance quality has a direct bearing on a state’s capacity to perform basic functions, respond to crises, care for its citizens and promote development.
Bad governance is the wellspring of all sorts of political, social and economic dysfunctions and Sierra Leone would have never suffered from an armed insurgency or be overwhelmed by the Ebola epidemic if governance quality (especially health sector governance) was good and state institutions were effective.
Fixing the problems of our country must, therefore, commence with a complete overhaul of how power has been organized and exercised, to what effect, and for whose benefit.
Power that emanates from the people must be exercised in their interest and grounding the organization and exercise of state power in the needs, interests and aspirations of the majority is (by ensuring that state institutions and agencies function to uphold and promote common interests), the surest way to nurture and consolidate good governance.
Good governance requires consensus among elites on the rules of the political game, the existence of effective accountability mechanisms, respect for the rule of law, no ‘reserved domains’ or ‘sacred cows,’ a vibrant civic public and a social agenda that seeks to lift majority of our citizens out of poverty and provide basic social goods and amenities.
The fact that we have had five coup d’états that toppled governments, not to mention the armed insurgency of the 1990s, underscores the fragility of state power in Sierra Leone and the urgency of strengthening the state, by making it more effective and responsive to the needs, interests and aspirations of our people.
To develop our economies and transform our societies, the state must first be transformed from an obstacle to development into an agent of development. Let me give you an example of the state as an obstacle to growth. Have you ever shipped or exported goods to Sierra Leone?
I have always asked myself the question why should Gambia, Guinea, Liberia and Benin have quick and easy clearance of goods and other shipment at their ports, but for us in Sierra Leone the experience is like going to hell.
The unnecessary delays and bureaucracy is killing businesses, our manufacturing. It is stifling economic growth and job creation.
Another example of the State being an obstacle to good governance is the deliberate and systematic refusal to implement the recommendations of the Auditor-General year after year.
You must engage
I am convinced that it is urgent and critical that we all engage actively in shaping the politics of our country. In the elections in 2018, we will have three clear choices:
Firstly, do we want to maintain the status quo which is characterized by a collusion between the two dominant parties to maintain a kleptocracy, where there are no checks and balances in the exercise of state power as long as the largess is distributed among the political elite?
Secondly, do we want to become a one-party state again with catastrophic consequences? A one-party state is possible because another 10 years of APC means political dissent will vanish and SLPP will be absorbed into the APC by power sharing.
Do we want to be party of a new REVOLUTION to create a NEW FORCE for positive change to take our country back?
Today, 14 new movements applied to the Political Parties Registration Commission for certificates to become political parties. Several of the promoters are from the diaspora. This is a sign that citizens want change.
You can tell me that of the 36 potential political parties for next elections (12 existing plus 14 new ones) you cannot tell me that you could not find one that provides you platform for political expression. If you do not agree with the direction a party is taking, don’t complain, form your own.
The most poignant sign that change is coming is that for the first time in Sierra Leone history, 700 Civil Society Groups backed by the Council of Churches and the Council of Imams, and prominent artists in our creative industry have come together and prepared “A Citizens’ Manifesto”.
They have identified what is important to the common man, and their question is how can political actors deliver these public goods. It is a sign that citizens want to be in the driver’s seat of governance and development.
They want to be in control of their destiny. You in the diaspora, have no excuse not to engage. Be a catalyst for change. Be the change you want to see.
As a former member of the Diaspora and during my frequent visits, I am aware of some of the issues we all faced and continue to face today.
If I am given the opportunity to lead Sierra Leone, some of my priorities will include: To work with parliament to give all those in the diaspora and their children the right to vote.
I will provide the environment needed to enhance and expedite remittance flows into capital investments. I will drastically revamp the operations of the port authority to facilitate clearance of goods in less than two weeks of arrival in the port, rationalize the fees paid to clear shipment, and eliminate the unnecessary bureaucracy.
These are my three pledges to you. If we want to see positive change, I encourage you to engage. We must accept that only we ourselves can free our minds from mental slavery imposed by illiteracy and tribalism, and sustained by kleptocracy. If you want to see these changes happen, join the Zion Train to freedom. Engage Now.
Dr. kandeh kolleh Yumkella (presidential aspirant 2018)
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