Alan Luke: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 December 2017
On a visit to Sierra Leone in 2010, I travelled the length and breadth of Freetown. I observed the economic activity and social interactions. I listened to political conversations, and was able to form a judgement about the rate and pace of our socio-economic development and maturity as a nation.
At that time, Sierra Leone was experiencing a mining led economic boom. Young men and women hustled and bustled in the city, selling whatever they could lay hands on. Gleaming new developments were emerging, displaying a renewed sense of confidence, post the civil war. However, the benefits of the economic boom did not appear to trickle down to the majority, who remained in poverty.
I then turned my attention to the elections, which were scheduled for 2017 (now 7th March 2018), because I acknowledged that the 2012 elections would be won by Ernest Koroma, because then, it may have been right for the people of Sierra Leone to give Koroma sufficient time to deliver – after all, Rome was not built in a day.
One of my greatest concerns, was the prospect of Julius Maada Bio, emerging as Koroma’s successor. This outcome then and now represents one of the greatest threats to our future development as a nation, as it is near certain to plunge Sierra Leone into decades of penury, human rights violations, economic malaise and backwardness.
Thus in 2010, after careful consideration of potential successors to Koroma, I concluded that Dr Kandeh Yumkella was the most suitable person to succeed Koroma and to put the country on the trajectory of sustained economic and social development. So, on what basis did I come to this conclusion?
As a child of the one-party era in Sierra Leone’s politics, I am acutely aware that the All Peoples Congress (APC), is not a party that eschews democratic principles and therefore, any challenger for the 2018 Presidential campaign, must be capable of mounting a political campaign that not only counter-balances the campaign that the current regime would mount, but to face head on all attempts to rig the elections.
By that I mean that it is important to recognise that in the run up to these elections and throughout the campaign, the APC would brazenly deploy the coercive power at its disposal, to achieve its political objectives.
We have seen how the APC has prevailed on NEC and the PPRC, agencies which were created independent of the Executive and to safeguard our democratic gains, post the civil war. Any challenger, must be able to confront the abuse of state power by the APC and to do so without fear. Only candidates with the ability to leverage international attention will be able to challenge abuse of state power.
Dr Yumkella, is not merely recognised internationally, he is sought after, trusted and respected by world leaders and key influencers within multi-nationals, international NGOs, the UN / EU / AU systems and therefore can leverage international support against APC excesses. Let us consider the registration of political parties, as an example.
Is it a coincidence that on the day the NGC Leader went to the PPRC’s offices to collect the certificate, an EU Delegation had earlier visited the PPRC?
Secondly, it was evident to me then, that at the end of 10 years of APC rule, Sierra Leone’s economy would be in perilous state. Leaving aside the detrimental impact of Ebola on our economic fortunes, the APC is a party whose core political ideology is the misappropriation of state resources through industrial scale embezzlement, fraud and bribery for private gain.
Therefore, it unsurprising, that at the end of Koroma’s second term, the country faces economic uncertainty and potential collapse, which a high incidence of multi-dimensional poverty, unemployment, public debt and inflation. Previous APC governments were best by cronyism and ineptitude, which have also been the hallmarks of Koroma’s regime.
Thus it was possible to predict that at the end of 10 years of misrule, the task facing Koroma’s successor would be gargantuan – no mean feat. Facing up to the challenges of the post-Koroma era, therefore requires world class leadership.
According to Professor Andrew Kakabadse, Professor of Governance and Leadership at Henley Business School, University of Reading in the United Kingdom, world class leaders possess the following quotients:
- IQ – Intellect
- EQ – Emotional intelligence
- PQ – Political skills
- RQ – Resilience
- MQ – Moral judgement
Dr Yumkella possess all these quotients and in abundance. He has harnessed the opportunities presented to him through a first class “Ivy League” education received from Cornell University, while retaining strong roots to his home town of Kychum, where he initiated a number of developmental projects to improve the economic and social outcomes of local people.
His work in UNIDO was focussed on ensuring that under-developed countries addressed the challenges, which inhibited their growth and development and this has given him a solid grasp of the issues such as poverty, deprivation, and energy access to list a few.
Through his meteoric rise to the highest echelons of the United Nations, his service in a ministerial capacity under the NPRC and through his work as an academic, he has developed a unique set of political skills and the ability to focus the attention of international partners, in order to prioritise the concerns of under-developed and developing notions, which he describes as “enlightened self-interest” and is equally at ease empowering and inspiring youths, women and vulnerable communities from the slums of Madras to the Ataya bases in Freetown. He is very resilient.
No amount of verbal abuse, intimidation and threats from the Paopa led SLPP, nor the distractions of brown envelope journos, sycophants and cheerleaders of the APC, has diminished his resolve to build a coalition of progressives, to work with him and change the political narrative and development trajectory through:
– sustained economic growth, through the development of credible short, medium and long term plans to grow and diversify our economy, which would robust and achievable; as well as attractive to development partners, the private sector and the significant community of Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora.
– consolidation and strengthening of democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech and access to justice, through fundamental reforms and de-politicising the judiciary, police, prisons, military and probationary services and by ensuring greater levels of citizen participation in decision making by subjecting public institutions to routine performance management, review and audit as well as ensure pro-active citizen engagement and participation in boards and building data protection, freedom of information and a right to access information for all citizens as well as requiring accountability and transparency in corporate governance arrangements, including but not limited to managing conflicts of interests and annual production of reports and performance against key indicators and benchmarks.
– significant and continuous improvement against socio-economic and developmental outcomes through measures such as effective waste management and recycling to reduce filth; securing access to clean drinking water, reducing the incidences of exposure to pipe borne diseases; providing access to renewable energy in order to increase economic output and enhance security and safety; and strengthening our fragile education, health and social care systems
– significant and sustained improvements to health and education outcomes, which will result in a reduction in infant mortality, maternal mortality, increase in life expectancy and the reduction in the prevalence of diseases, as well as improvements in literacy and numeracy, reduction in illiteracy among adults and ensuring that our education curriculum is relevant to our economy and enables our youths to access jobs and reduce high incidence of unemployment.
Dr Yumkella’s moral compass is underpinned by an unwavering faith and a clear sense of his personal obligation to his family, community and society, nurtured throughout his childhood and youth. He has a deep appreciation for our local chieftaincy arrangements and customs, and has strong cultural awareness of the contributions that various ethnic groups have made in our nation’s history and a clear sense how the local customs, practices and structures can be shaped and empowered to meet the challenges of the future.
In the past two years, I have been privileged to meet with Dr Yumkella and gradually to observe him at close quarters and to get to know him at a personal level. I have found him to be very consistent in his decision making, and I have been able to track his and the KKYM and subsequently, the NGC’s progress against key milestones.
He is hugely accessible and personable and the prominence he has achieved internationally, does not get in the way in his daily interactions with supporters and members.
When you are around Dr Yumkella, you tap into his positive energy and you a filled with a genuine sense of optimism and the possible. You feel valued and that you have a role to play and a voice, regardless of your circumstances.
Dr Yumkella possess the necessary attributes to serve Sierra Leone as President and in the interest of all our communities and to make us a people with dignity and respect again.