Austin Thomas: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 January 2012:
I want to agree with president Koroma’s supporters that we need to give him a second term in office, as according to them; “he is the best leader Sierra Leone has ever produced.” In just four years in office as president he has succeeded in transforming the lives of every Sierra Leonean!
Today, the majority of the people in Sierra Leone are rich and can now afford three square meals a day. Indeed he has turned Sierra Leone from a donor driven country to a donating nation.
His supporters would also have us believe that, today, Sierra Leone is ranked first in Africa for its viable economy, education and maternal health care, as every Sierra Leonean now receives medical care in hospitals – free of any charge, as well as free education – starting from primary school to college.
Indeed Ernest Koroma has achieved the impossible. There is no need for him to campaign for re-election, or better still, we do not need an election because it has been ordained for president Koroma to win by a landslide in November.
Sierra Leone is now a paradise on planet earth – thanks to the vibrant, charismatic, and energetic president Koroma.
I am also in agreement with some political pundits in Sierra Leone and other global opinion leaders such as Tony Blair, that President Koroma indeed is ‘the best leader in Africa’. And I can give ten reasons why this is so:
1. In his first three months in power he spent $20 million dollars on leased electricity generators to provide electricity at all cost – just for the city of Freetown. Although the machines are incapacitated, they have continued to produce 24 hour electricity a day, and Freetown is now the brightest capital in West Africa.
President Koroma was happy to defend his Energy minister during the press battle that ensued, which called for the minister to be dismissed for corruption and mismanagement of public funds.
The Anti-Corruption Commission failed in their pursuit to hold the president and energy minister accountable. Instead the ACC boss – Tejan Cole, gave up his job in frustration.
2. President Koroma on taking up office in 2007 gave powers to his APC youths to wage violence against members of the opposition, which saw the destruction of their head quarters in Freetown. The UN repaired the SLPP head quarters costing thousands of dollars.
One of the opposition supporters seriously wounded during that attack at the opposition SLPP offices was Lansana Fadika. It is indeed an irony that Fadika has now become a very strong member of president Koroma’s political inner circle.
3. Ruling APC party’s political violence against the opposition have taken place on at least three occasions, during president Koroma’s first two years in office. Yet he was showered with praises by the international community – especially Tony Blair – for attempting to silence and intimidate the opposition.
4. President Koroma was also praised for protecting his former transport minister – Kemoh Sesay, who was allegedly at the centre of the cocaine trafficking plane saga. He was never arrested and the police had strict orders from the president not to touch ‘his sacred cow’.
Even though Sesay’s brother was highly instrumental in plotting the cocaine trafficking logistics, there was ample evidence pointing at the culpability of the minister. Yet he was protected by the powers vested in president Koroma, whilst his brother spent all of his jail term at the Connaught hospital until he was freed late last year.
5. President Koroma has done very well by supervising and condoning serious acts of lawlessness and violence by his APC henchmen and youths. His special security minders are responsible for setting offices ablaze around the country, beating up workers of Bo-Kenema electricity corporation, raping of innocent women, chasing away of journalists from State House, and the burning down of opposition Party’s offices.
Recommendations of Reports of Commissions of Enquiry into political violence have not been implemented.
6. In 2007 President Koroma told us that he has come to save us from poverty. His government inherited a debt free country. Today he has plunged the country into further abyss. He has damaged the economic fabric of the country, with inflation and rising prices of essentials causing widespread poverty.
A bag of rice that was sold for Le70,000 in 2007 is now closing in at Le300,000.
A gallon of petrol in 2007 was Le11,500 is now Le20,500. And the exchange rate of a dollar that was Le3,000 is now Le4,500.
Death rate amongst those aged 20 to 60 years old has risen by more than 30%. The majority of Sierra Leoneans are now suffering from acute heart disease and blood pressure.
7. For the very first time in peacetime Sierra Leone, Fourah Bay College was unable to organize its annual convocation in 2011.
Thanks to our able and versatile president and his foot soldiers for making education so important to the country.
I can authoritatively say that the Athens of West Africa has once again been reinvigorated to its former glory – as the ‘best’ university in the sub region.
8. President Koroma has done well, with over 70% unemployment – especially among the youth. Over 100,000 young graduates and students are roaming the streets aimlessly and jobless in Freetown.
We are now a country sitting on a time bomb of joblessness and youth crime; lack of investment in education due to cuts in the capitation grant; angry teachers; inadequate learning materials and lack of initiative to raise funds for investment in quality educational facilities.
9. The much talked about free health care programme has become a farce, due to the lack 0f necessary drugs and structures, to meet the needs of patients. In most hospitals and health centres, up to eight mothers and their babies share three beds at a time, thereby increasing sickness rather than cure.
10. President Koroma has done very well in tackling the country’s acute and chronic shortage of electricity. Today there are more widespread blackouts in the capital Freetown, than he promised four years ago, despite huge spending on Bumbuna and thermal electricity generators.
Load shedding in the city, with major parts of the country in darkness has become the new normal, with ‘Chinese Tiger’ lamps replacing ‘Kabba Tiger’ generators – gracing the living rooms of most Sierra Leoneans.
Since he came into office, he has presided over petrol queues in the country, foods shortage, and corruption in high places.
The president and his supporters say that his government has spent the nation’s meager resources on construction of roads around the country, but we are still waiting for most of the so called new roads to be completed.
The international community is watching keenly to see the outcome of president Koroma’s handling of the Timbergate corruption scandal, involving his vice president and other ruling party henchmen.
With the national elections just around the corner, president Koroma should remember that in 2007, the international community instigated regime change across various African countries, which also brought him to power.
And right now, they are not happy about what is going on in Sierra Leone. Of course Tony Blair is the only one that knows how successful president Koroma is and why he should be given a second chance to implement his ‘Agenda for Growth’.
But with the above performance – after four years in office, it is left to the people of Sierra Leone to decide whether president Koroma’s performance is worthy of a second term.
And should president Koroma and his party supporters truly believe that Sierra Leone has been transformed into the best country in Africa to live, work and invest, and if the result of the recent by-election at Fourah Bay in Freetown is anything to go by, then president Koroma is seriously staring at the face of defeat at the polls in November.