Mohamed Massaquoi (Mass): Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 April 2019:
In the wake of that shocking electoral defeat in its traditional stronghold of Tonko Limba, the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC), was left in confusion and internal brawl, and with difficulty in focusing on anything productive but rather turning its propaganda machinery on President Julius Maada Bio’s overseas travelling.
Many independent analysts say that the APC only sees the President’s travelling as an issue because of the extent to which they had plundered state resources through bogus overseas trip when in office, such as the reported 100-man delegation that accompanied President Koroma to his last United Nations General Assembly summit in the United States (Photo), which ended in mere display of fanfare – with nothing to benefit the country, despite the huge cost attached.
Others believe that the opposition APC’s criticisms could only be part of its diversionary tactics to scupper the focus and determination of a government which in less than a year in office, has received many commendations both locally and internationally, especially because of its strides in human capital development, fiscal discipline and determined political will in the fight against graft and red tape.
But whatever school of thought one ascribes to, it is clear that all the policy decisions President Bio has taken so far, are premised on his unending desire to make Sierra Leone great again, of which his oversees travelling is not an exception.
It was and is still an open secret that the SLPP Government of President Bio inherited a country whose economy was broken, but more worryingly a battered and shattered international reputation and image, to an extent that whenever one introduces him/herself as being Sierra Leonean, they were labelled with negativity because of the actions of a selected few.
Whilst this writer does not intend to go into blame games, it would be unjust to the readership if I fail to mention that for eleven good years of the former regime, it was about constitutional violations, human rights abuses, massive and endemic corruption in public office, as evident in successive Auditor General Reports and the inability of the former government to pass the MCC Corruption ranking.
Corruption became an acceptable practice which drove away many investors and other multilateral bodies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from Sierra Leone.
Public Relations (PR) practitioners, like me, believe that a man’s best PR person is himself. President Bio has been able to achieve this in less than a year in office. His rebranding process started with the appointment of the young an illustrious Francis Ben Kelfala who is making corruption an expensive and a no-go enterprise.
In less than a year, the new Sierra Leone has been able to pass the MCC Report on Corruption from a failing APC grade of 49 to a passing SLPP grade of 71. Yes, I mean in less than a year.
President Bio has also used his overseas trips, which sometimes bore no cost on the government, to tell the rest of the world that there is now a new Sierra Leone and one that is open up for credible investments – a Sierra Leone where investors would not need to pay extra burden of 10% in order to start a business; a Sierra Leone where investors would not be duped but rather assured of a new Serra Leone that encourages a win-win situation.
Speaking loudly about Sierra Leone’s Foreign Policy being centred on economic diplomacy, President Bio has also used his foreign trips to reassure investors and multilateral partners that Sierra Leone as a country was well prepared now, more than ever to effectively manage resources.
Such engagements with the international community have led to the recent approval of $40 Million by the World Bank, to help address social needs. Yet, the opposition APC calls it unnecessary travelling.
Again, as the SLPP New Direction Government continues to showcase its seriousness in terms of financial management and the fight against corruption, the world now looks at Sierra Leone with a smiling face.
Little wonder, the former World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, once described President Bio as the “Champion of Human Capital Development in Africa”.
With his overseas visits, President Bio is able to galvanise a lot of support for his priority programmes, especially the free quality education for primary and secondary school children. But more importantly, President Bio has been able to restore donor confidence and trust in Sierra Leone.