Columba Blango – Chairman of KKY Movement UK
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 July 2015
The Ebola Crisis has brought home to many people a sad truth that they had been trying to avoid. And after the high hopes of the first few post-civil war years, Sierra Leone is still broken. (Photo: Columba Blango).
Despite all the bold claims of a miracle recovery over the last eight years, when we needed them most, our Government simply failed to deliver.
Corruption has eaten away at the heart of the state. Instead of a higher calling it seems at times as though public service is becoming little more than a get rich quick scheme for the powerful and the ambitious.
Despite billions of Leones in foreign aid having poured into the country, especially into the much vaunted free healthcare system, our public services still can’t seem to provide for even the most basic needs – from medicine, to beds, and even rubber gloves.
But things do not have to be like this. There is an alternative. Sierra Leone can and has produced real leaders, leaders who are committed to public service, to honesty and accountability.
One such leader stands out above the others, a leader who has made a global reputation at the highest reaches of international government – fighting to transform the lives of ordinary people across the planet. That leader is Kandeh K. Yumkella.
In 20 years on the world stage, Yumkella has built a reputation for hard work, honesty and competence that has made him the highest ranking African in international diplomacy as Under Secretary General of the United Nations.
He has led the UN’s multi-million dollar body, promoting industrialization in developing countries, UNIDO – eventually becoming the global champion for energy access for the world’s poor as Chairman of the Sustainable Energy for All Campaign.
When he announced earlier this year that he was resigning his position at UN to return home to Sierra Leone, there was an all too rare moment of optimism that he would now bring his much needed style of leadership to tackling our nation’s pressing problems.
Indeed, such is the anticipation that even before he has returned, excited volunteers have flocked to his cause – and have already set up a campaign to draft him as the SLPP flagbearer in the 2018 Presidential elections.
Sierra Leone is a donor driven country. The international community wants a partner in Freetown it can trust, someone it knows has the ability and commitment to deliver on their promises.
That is one of the reasons why Dr Yumkella is such a compelling candidate for President.
However, he is not just a globally respected advocate for social justice, at ease rubbing shoulders and negotiating with some of the most powerful leaders on Earth – he is also a son of the soil, who has never lost touch with his roots in Salone, with a life story that reflects the diverse face of modern Sierra Leone.
Born in Kambia District, in the North of the country, he is the son of a local Paramount Chief who was a founder member of the SLPP, he was raised in the South, going to school in Bo, and is married to a Southerner.
As a teenage student he led demonstrations against dictatorship.
In his 30’s he was asked to help kickstart the worn-torn economy as Trade & Industry Minister, where his fresh approach and calm leadership saw him headhunted by the UN for a job advising on economic transformation.
Today, his distinctive style of hands-on leadership continues to mark Yumkella out. as a different kind of leader – one who is humble enough to listen to people, not just lecture them – but has the vision and charisma that make people believe in him and want to follow. (Photo: Dr. Yumkella lending some advice to president Koroma).
He is due to return home to Sierra Leone in the next month, and is expected to embark on a whirlwind nationwide tour to listen to what ordinary Sierra Leoneans are saying about the country’s future and the role they want him to play.
With the myth of the Sierra Leone miracle so cruelly exposed by the failure to tackle Ebola, and having spent more time on political feuds in recent months than planning the recovery, there are few in either Sierra Leone or the international community who believe neither APC nor anyone else in the SLPP has the capacity to lead the nation’s recovery apart from Kandeh Yumkella.
Sierra Leone needs an altogether different style of leadership.
Next few years will not be easy for our country. When we choose a new President in 2018, they will need exceptional qualities to create confidence that we are back on the right course.
We will need a leader who is a unifier; one who can help heal our nation’s wounds not deepen them; someone with the moral authority to tackle corruption, and a proven track record of managing change; someone who understands how world leaders think and who they can instinctively trust; someone who can lead the post-Ebola recovery and be the face of a modern, forward-looking Sierra Leone – I for one have little doubt that that leader is Dr Kandeh K Yumkella.
For those doubters who think that people like me and several others all around the world that believe in Kandeh Yumkella’s ability to lead and change Sierra Leone are mistaken, I say this:
Why not give him a chance to prove to Sierra Leone that he can transform our nation for the better?