Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown plunged into darkness as government fails to pay its debts

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 02 December 2021:

The capital of Sierra Leone – Freetown, home to over two million people and once known as the darkest city on the planet for its lack of electricity, has once again returned to claiming its global darkness status, after the Turkish ocean power generating ship that provides electricity for much of the country on Monday turned off the lights in protest at not being paid by the government.

The Sierra Leone Telegraph has been reliably informed by sources at State House that the Bio-led government owes Karpowership – the Turkish owned electricity generating company, over $50 million in unpaid electricity bills.

Two months ago, Sierra Leone’s minister of energy and his team went to Turkey to negotiate a payment plan with the company, but the Bio-led government has failed to honour its promise to make the payments, prompting Karpowership to turn the power off, leaving millions of people and businesses in darkness.

Six months ago, Karpowership, which provides electricity to Lebanon from two barges, shut down supplies over payment arrears and a legal threat to its vessels as the nation grapples with a deep economic crisis, according to Reuters.

The company, which supplied 370 megawatts (MW), or about a quarter of Lebanon’s electricity supply, told the government it would have to shut down unless there were moves towards settling the issues.

In 2017, the former Sierra Leone government of President Ernest Bai Koroma was faced with similar crisis which saw the entire capital crippled by lack of electricity, after Karpowership turned off power because of government’s failure to pay it electricity bills.

One of the key reasons President Koroma lost the 2018 elections was the failure of his government to prioritise the provision of electricity in the country, and his fall-out with the Turkish Karpowership who removed their electricity generating ship from the shores of Freetown, leaving the city in darkness.

President Bio promised the people of Sierra Leone that he will fix the country’s electricity crisis if voted as president. But now he has created his own electricity crisis for all the wrong reasons, including non-payment of government debts, as the government runs out of cash.

This crisis comes as Sierra Leone’s Vice President Juldeh Jalloh this week signed an agreement on behalf of President Bio with the President of Ivory Coast, for the supply of Ivorian electricity to the south-east of Sierra Leone – the President’s political heartland and homeland.

The agreement has been signed as part of Ivory Coast’s West African TRANSCO CLSG Power Purchase and Transmission Service.

According to Sierra Leone’s ministry of energy official report (published on Tuesday November 30, 2021): “Speaking on the purpose of his visit,Vice President Jalloh said he is in Ivory Coast as a Special Envoy of President Bio and in the country with a high-powered delegation to firm up arrangements in relation to the TRANSCO CLSG Power Purchase and Transmission Services Agreements with a view to lighting up the southeast of Sierra Leone.

“Vice President Jalloh informed President Ouattara that his Sierra Leonean opposite number (President Bio) is eager to see the energization of the power line so as to accelerate the delivery of reliable and sustainable electricity to the southeastern cities of Bo and Kenema.”

“President Alassane Ouattara described President Bio’s leadership as quintessential of exemplary statesmanship, adding that the fact that he had to dispatch such a high-level delegation was indicative of his commitment to the acceleration and realization of the CLSG project.

“President Ouattara instructed his Minister of Energy to forge a strong partnership with Sierra Leone’s Minister of Energy and to ensure that the Power Purchase Agreements protocols were signed to enable the people of Bo and Kenema enjoy uninterrupted electricity,” Sierra Leone’s ministry of energy said in a report.

But the Sierra Leone Telegraph understands that the cost of the Ivorian Power Purchase Agreement is huge – running into tens of millions of dollars, which may well become an albatross for President Bio’s government, leading to more unpaid debts.

President Bio and his government are now hoping that the Worldl Bank will make good on their promise of a $48 million finance announced by the government a few weeks ago, to help the government meet its financial obligations including payment of salaries to public sector workers.

4 Comments

  1. “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change”. A change in the mindset of people towards achieving a better nation. A change in the mindset of people on how we perceive things by comparison to other nations. A change in the mindset of people living in the country as we yearn to see an acceleration in the future growth of our country.

    Electricity supply to the city is seen very challenging compared to other areas in the country. If this government chooses only to concentrate its attention to just the Freetown city, I see it as an unfair treatment to the people living in the other part of the country. In as much as Freetowneans and their sympathizers find comforts in enjoying this facility I believe the provincial people themselves deserve to enjoy such amenities. And I believe under his leadership, My president, your president our president Dr. Julius Maada Bio is on course in ensuring that light energy enters even the remote village in Sierra Leone. I have travelled across the country myself to verify this account.

    However, being a prudent leader who see Sierra Leone as his No.1 priority, he is making amiable strives to ensure that alternative measures are being put in place for us Sierra Leoneans to achieve the goal of solving our light energy problems. For example, to acquire meter now is so easy compared to the past. Very recently in the media, we read and hear that the American government has set aside funds to come and build a dam that will generate light for the Freetown city. Few days ago investors from United Arab Emirates were here in the country to Express their desire to invest in the energy sector too. So if all these developments are going on under his leadership despite the CONVID-19 threats, why should people say the president Dr. Julius Maada Bio’s government is failing?

  2. Thanks Mr Wiecha, the next few years will see a dramatic shift from coal powered plants as a source of energy, to more renewables that not only meets our energy consumption needs, but also tackle the vexed issues of climate change and environmental degradation that impacts mostly countries in the Southern Hemisphere. The recent completion of COP 26 in Glasgow, in which morethan hundred countries agreed to stop the use of fossil fuel as a means to meet their energy needs and agreed to phase out the use of coal in the coming decades, Sierra-leone, which a signatory to this agreement, can only deliver on this international agreement, if our government is ready and willing to invest on renewables to meet our energy consumption needs. Solar and wind power will go a long way to help us advance, and meet our international obligations to tackle climate change, and also create a sustainable economic growth.

    There are lot of opportunities, but for creating employment, and training for our youths and most importantly of all sustainable economic development that our country is desperately crying out for. Rich nations have already pledged morethan hundred billion dollars to help countries that are impacted most by climate change, especially ones in the Southern hemisphere and the Islands of the South Pacific ocean, to able to make the transition, to clean energy use and at the same time meet their needs. So our government should start making their pitch for some of this monies that have been pledged. We have already experienced flooding, deforestation and a disruption of our sessional rain falls. We cannot continue on this path, and expect any economic development, if we lack energy efficiency.

    The trouble is, when it comes to addressing the real issues, that will make a difference in peoples lives our government seems to run out of ideas. The government priorities are out of sync with the realities of every day’s peoples experience. This lack of energy is hampering our growth efforts. First things first. Sortout, the electricity problems, roads, education, health and food sufficiency, this are primary care developments, then the rest of the problems will dissappear over night.

  3. A nation can never claim to be qualified as an independent state as long as its continue to be over reliant on foreign assistance to meet both it domestic and international obligations. Sometimes you got to give it to the people that continue to heap praise on Bio and his failing government. Now we know why vice president Julldeh Jalloh was in Ivory Coast trying to engage the Ivorian leader Ouattara about the feasibility of accelerating the TRANSCO CLSG Power purchase and Transmission Services Agreement, since the negotiation with the Turkish ocean power generating company, on how to resolve the debts the government of Sierra-leone owed to this company was going has hit the buffers. We all know when this deal was negotiated, it was meant to be a temporary fix or be it for five years.

    To me this was like sticking a plaster on a gapping wound. As a nation, we need leaders that can think outside the box, to figure how we can make our country’s energy needs viable and meets our long term sustainable energy needs. What happened to the Bunbuna waters falls project? Why can’t we negotiate with the Chinese government to help us develop our wind and solar resources. Love them or hate them,when it comes to the manufacture of wind and solar energy they are the best in the world. We have plenty of sun shine, and gusting winds along our Atlantic coast line, and the Freetown peninsula that is surrounded by mountains range peakes that, extend to the Wara Wara mountains, and Bintuimani mountain ranges and all over Sierra Leone. We cannot develop our country if foreigners have their hands on the ON /OFF switch button that service our country’s electricity needs. Its damaging to our economy, our international reputation, and no foreign investors will want to come and invest in our country.

    They have a lot of options in their menu of countries in the ECOWAS region, that have leaders whose heads are screwed to their bodies, and knows the importance of energy efficiency to long term sustainable national development. Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast, even land locked Bukina Fasso.and Mali, Guinea. For some of this countries, they are in the middle of fighting against Islamic Jihadist,that wants to return them in to the dark ages but still they managed to keep the lights on for their peoples.Bio and his government have succeeded in returning us into the dark ages not by firing a gun but by corruption.

    • i agree with you, mr. jalloh.
      sierra leone had to invest more in wind- and solarpower and not more and again in this stupid kar-
      powerships. and this had to happen decentralized all over the country at suitable locations.

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