Sierra Leone Foreign Minister Samura Kamara must quit his job

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 May 2015

The campaign bells are silent and the town criers have all gone home. Now its time for a reality check and search for an answer as to why Sierra Leone’s foreign minister Samura Kamara, failed to convince the Board of the African Development Bank that he is the best man for the presidency.

There were eight candidates, and it is understood Samura was the first to be eliminated from the first round short listing process, which saw the Nigerian economist Akinwumi Adesina unanimously confirmed by all the board members as the best candidate for one of the most important jobs on the continent.

Political analysts believe that Samura’s defeat was expected, after embarking on a naked and self – gratuitous international and domestic campaign – soliciting support for his job application.

And many would say that such blatant attempt to publicly influence the decision making process of the ADB was not only counterproductive, but raised serious questions about Samura’s modus operandi and calibre of professionalism.

In short, Samura has done himself no favours, nor has his campaign team understood how institutions like the ADB which are very well governed, function.

The success of the ADB, serving as Africa’s jewel in the crown has not been accomplished through misplaced loyalties, nepotism, or political patronage. Take a look at the bank’s philosophy and values that drive its mission and you will see why it has succeeded as Africa’s premier bank.

Those values and philosophy, also explain why the likes of Samura Kamara would find it very difficult to be entrusted with the leadership of such an institution.

Critics would say that by Sierra Leonean standards, Samura’s performance as finance minister was at best very mediocre.

TEJAN KABBAH 2First as Finance Minister of the 1992 military junta, whose fiduciary governance and stewardship has been strongly questioned. And then, in 2005 Kamara was appointed financial secretary in the ministry of finance of the Tejan Kabba (Photo) SLPP government, which was also accused of presiding over massive corruption and poor management of public finance.

Following the defeat of the SLPP government at the polls in 2007, Samura Kamara was appointed as Governor of the Central Bank of Sierra Leone, after a short assignment with the International Monetary Fund in New York.

And in 2009, Samura was brought into the Koroma government as finance minister, after the sacking of the incumbent minister David Carew, so as to steady a sinking ship. By all accounts, Samura not only failed to steady the ship and bring sanity to the country’s financial management, but also failed to control spiralling public spending.

GDP fell from 7% to 5% under Samura’s watch. Between 2009 and 2010 Sierra Leone’s economy was heading for the rocks, and Samura was clueless. The government was running out of cash and banks liquidity was falling.

Public sector workers and private contractors were not getting paid. There was no money in the government’s kitty.

Freetown street traders2Prices of basic necessities and interest rates were spiralling out of control. A bag of rice selling a year earlier at seventy thousand Leones, was being sold at over two hundred thousand Leones.

The Koroma government’s economic policy – managed by finance minister Samura was in tatters.

Perhaps Samura’s biggest failure as finance minister was the disorderly manner with which he introduced and implemented the unpopular Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 2010, following its enactment into law in 2009.

After months of confusion and paralysis caused by the poorly introduced GST, overall tax revenue declined significantly. This further worsened the government’s inability to implement its Agenda for Change that had promised so much, yet delivering very little.

Relationship between finance minister Samura and DFID – sponsors of the development of the country’s National Revenue Authority (NRA) hit rock bottom. A confidential report questioned Samura’s stewardship of the NRA in particular, and the country’s economy in general.

The minister’s relationship with the senior management of the NRA was less than cordial, as DFID threatened to withhold funding until key performance measures were met and the minister’s stranglehold of the NRA loosened.

Local businesses in Sierra Leone suffered massive cash flow difficulties, as cost of borrowing went up and the economy went into free fall.

Thanks to the injection of over $100 million dollars into resuscitating the country’s ailing iron ore mines by African Minerals, a lifeline was thrown to minister Samura.

By the end of 2011, Sierra Leone’s economy was haemorrhaging and something had to be done to avoid bankruptcy.

The sudden revival of iron ore production and exporting, led to a rise in the country’s GDP from 6% to 13%, which the Koroma government is up till today celebrating as one of the fastest economic growth in the world. But this economic miracle – not surprisingly, has never again been repeated.

African minerals2014

With the exception of the surge in iron ore exports in 2011, other sectors of the economy were lagging behind and Samura remained clueless. The economy was slowing down and heading for another recession despite the rest of the world coming out of a recession.

In a televised BBC interview, Samura – a big fan of former British Prime Minister Blair, told the reporter he would welcome the return of the British to run the affairs of the country. He felt that Sierra Leoneans were incapable of running the country.

Although many in Sierra Leone were sympathetic with those sentiments, minister Samura had unwittingly made a rod for his own back. His removal from the ministry of finance was inevitable.

In 2012, he was sacked by president Koroma and transferred to head the foreign ministry, a department many in Sierra Leone regard as nothing but a drain in the country’s meagre resources, with little or no return to the tax payer.

If there is one lesson to be learnt from the failure of minister Samura’s quest for the presidency of the African Development Bank, it is that whilst Samura may be regarded as a giant by his fans, in the wider scheme of things on the African continent – clearly he is a midget that is trying to box above his weight.

And this says a lot about sycophancy in Sierra Leone, where mediocrity, mythology and hocus pocus define standards in public life.

The reality is that it is no accident Samura Kamara failed to clinch the presidency of the ADB. Quite frankly, his record in the ministry of finance was nothing to write home about.

He was given the opportunity to transform the lives of 6 million people in a country with a GDP of about $3 billion by successive governments, but he blew it.

Hence, his bid for the presidency of Africa’s premier bank, with a capital investment running into hundreds of billions of dollars, was always going to be a stretch too far for the minister.

samura kamara in abu dhabi

So, now that this episode is behind us, it is time for president Koroma to make a decision.

Samura Kamara’s interest in the presidency of the ADB is a clear manifestation of the fact that he no longer has the desire or the appetite to continue to lead the country’s foreign ministry.

This is a matter now of national importance, which, assuming president Koroma is honest and has the good of the nation at heart, must consider rather than leave to fester, as morale across the diplomatic service is at its lowest ebb.

The lack of a capable, committed and strong leadership at the ministry of foreign affairs is damaging the very little positive image the country has abroad.

Sierra Leone does not need flaky ministers that are constantly looking over their shoulders for greener pastures, rather than focusing on how best to uplift their compatriots from abject poverty.

The minister must now do the decent thing – tender his resignation, or should be asked by  the president to go and pursue his career aspirations elsewhere.

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  1. The potential energy of the political pendulum which swings between the APC and SLPP parties has reached its absolute ZERO. Change has come to Sierra Leone.


    This is the ultimate game changer which will champion the Wellbeing of all citizens and friends of Sierra Leone, Nation Building and other forms of development ignored by the APC and SLPP from 1961-2017. This is the KOMRAH PARTY where equality prevails.

  2. Actually, after following an interview of Dr Samura Kamara on Aljazeera before the African Development Bank selection process, I felt disappointed with his performance in that interview and knew straightaway that he wouldn’t get the job. For the position on offer in such an institution like the African Development Bank, all short listed candidates have proven qualification, what is needed is someone who can project a good image of the bank through impressive professional performance and can standout among his peers. Dr Samura seems to lack all of these qualities. Sierra Leone government made the wrong choice of candidate. Sierra Leone has got better professionals.

  3. For President Koroma the only qualification for leadership is to belong to the Limba ethnic group. He is a tribalist who has surrounded himself with sycophants that are capable of only mediocre results.

    My greatest criticism of the APC has always been their appetite for putting the most incapable in power.

    A president needs to have a clear agenda on how he plans to transform his nation. He needs to get the best experienced minds in the nation to become part of the executive; and lastly he needs to monitor the progress of those he appoints.

    President Koroma has been a complete failure and unfortunately his party may still retain power because the base from which he operates – the north, is the largest in terms of population and votes, and the main opposition party is at its most divided point in history.

  4. The Foreign Ministry is a basket case ever since the decision was taken to run it as a closed shop, and the country’s diplomatic service continues to suffer from paralysis.

    That Ministry was once the flagship (excuse the pun) Ministry of the country which attracted fine and enlightened minds.

    Now though, because of the isms some personnel have been eased out, and what you find there – with very few exceptions that you can count on the fingers of one hand – are half-baked personnel who cannot string two sentences together correctly.

    You should read some of the correspondence(s) emanating from the Foreign Ministry, or listen to the use of the official medium of communication by some officials there – it will make your eyes and ears burn!

  5. How can anyone expect president Koroma to be able to manage people, money and resources of a country when he never had the experience or knowledge that the rigor of academic studies as well as practical on the job learning gives you.

    That man should never have gone anywhere near governing a country. An insurance seller in a non-competitive insurance market pretending to be an excellent entrepreneur? Please don’t make me laugh. But then this is Sierra Leone, where a one-eyed man is king in the land of the blind.

    President Koroma promised to conduct performance review of all his ministers. But one can only expect him to pay lip service to this task because he has no clue what performance management means.

    He would not know what a culture of performance management looks like even if it smacks him in the face.

    None of the so called ministerial performance review reports has been made public since 2007, because the results are disgraceful. The reviews were poorly conducted and the outcomes dismal.

    Sierra Leone is a lost cause. All we can hope for is that soon rather than later, the education of the next generation will be prioritised and only then will we be able to raise standards, from governance to citizens behaviour.

    President Koroma, Samura Kamara and most politicians here in Sierra Leone are all products of a broken system and rotten culture of performance.

    I agree, Samura should now tender his resignation and give chance to someone else who is committed to the job of heading the foreign ministry.

  6. If Samura is not competent enough to serve the people and government of Sierra Leone, why does he have to be retained in positions that others could handle so well to salvage the economy of Sierra Leone?

    President Koroma surely needs to make a performance review of some of his officials and take the next positive step for the benefit of the people of Sierra Leone.

    Mind you, Rwanda was as devastated by war as Sierra Leone was but its rapid development should be an eye-opener for Sierra Leone.

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