2018 ELECTIONS: A FORGONE CONCLUSION
By M.B. Jalloh, Press Attaché, Sierra Leone Embassy, Saudi Arabia
His Excellency President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) in February this year pronounced date for the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections which is 7th March, 2018.
The last national elections were conducted in November, 2012 when Sierra Leoneans gave the mandate to the President for a second inning when he ushered in the Agenda for Prosperity, the blueprint for national development – just like when his predecessor, the late President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah whose promise to end the eleven-year long civil conflict in Sierra Leone led to his reelection by Sierra Leoneans in 2002.
Having delivered on his promise to the citizenry and the international community through and through amidst several challenges such as the Ebola outbreak and the slump in the price of iron ore which was a great shock to the nation, the President will be finally leaving the driving seat next year and Dr. Samura Kamara of the governing All People’s Congress (APC) party will likely succeed him and continue to consolidate his good works for the nation.
During his first three years in power, for instance, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma made a turnaround of the economic situation in the country and created a very healthy and friendly business environment that attracted direct foreign investment.
Foreign investors started investing in the country including the defunct London Mining Company and African Minerals Limited that eventually became the main economic drivers in the exportation of iron ore which automatically ranked Sierra Leone among the fastest growing economies in the world. But unfortunately, the two shocks of the Ebola outbreak and the fall in the price of iron ore in the International Market reversed most of the gains made by the APC Government between 2007 and 2014 after the successful implementation of the President’s Agenda for Change.
The President inherited Freetown as the darkest capital city in the world but in one hundred days, he ensured most parts of the capital enjoyed electricity supply. He inherited ten megawatts but today, there are over one hundred megawatts in Freetown. Electricity supply in the provincial cities like Makeni, Bo and Kenema is much better now than before, as well as in the district headquarters. In smaller settlements where electricity supply is not available, Government has provided thousands of solar lights for those settlements and the cities to brighten the country in fulfillment of what the Head of State promised his people. Majority of Sierra Leoneans have benefited from the provision of electricity supply and solar lights which were inexistence during the previous regime.
Also, there has been much improvement in the water resource sector as compared to the days of the previous regimes. For instance, following his reelection in November 2012, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma saw the need to establish the Ministry of Water Resources to tackle the acute water problem in the country especially in the rural areas.
The Sierra Leone Water Company (SALWACO) that was a sleeping giant in the past was revitalized under the dynamic leadership of the new Director General, Samuel Bangura who is in his 30’s. Today, Makeni, Bo and Kenema can boast of clean pipe-borne water under the Three Towns Project sponsored by development partners like the African Development Bank (AFDB). Similar projects have been implemented in other districts like Kambia, Kono, Pujehun, Koinadugu, Bonthe and Kailahun while implementation is taking place in other districts without pipe-borne water facility.
There is hardly any big town in Sierra Leone where SALWACO has not implemented water project and more of the projects are reported to be in the pipeline for implementation. Besides, President Koroma’s administration has made its mark in the education sector with the establishment of more universities in the country, disbursement of school fees subsidies to schools, recruitment and prompt payment of teachers and school feeding programme for primary schools. Though there are still challenges in the education sector, the APC Government has over the last ten years invested heavily in that sector as compared to other sectors of social services.
The construction of roads across the country is another landmark of the Koroma-led APC regime which every Sierra Leonean should be very proud of irrespective of political affiliation. Imagine Kailahun district that had for long been deprived of good road network from colonial days – that district can now boast of one of the best constructed highways and bridges in the country. That district which used to be SLPP stronghold has started appreciating the good works of the President whose development strides have affected the nook and cranny of the country.
The widening of the Wilkinson Road in Freetown, the widening of the four-lane Wellington – Masiaka Highway, Gbere Junction – Conakry Highway, Masiaka – Mile 91 – Bo Highway, Bo – Kenema Highway, Masinbge – Kono Highway are some of the major roads that have been constructed or rehabilitated since President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma acceded to power in September 2007.
His Government has so excelled in infrastructural development that the former Bank Governor and now nominated Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Kalfala Marah referred to the President as “Father of Infrastructural Development” since Sierra Leone became independent. He made the remarks in his speech at the launch of the Bintumani Bridge in his home district, Koinadugu a few months ago.
Both the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) and the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) have made tremendous professional improvement under the Koroma administration.
Both forces have since been participating in peacekeeping missions across the world and the personnel have been hailed by many organizations for their contributions to peacekeeping missions, including the United Nations, African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Better training facilities at home and abroad and the monthly provision of the staple food, rice are some of the benefits of personnel of the RSLAF and SLP.
Practically, there is no sector that has not been affected positively in terms of development under the Koroma administration. In fact, had it not been for the Ebola Outbreak and the slump in the price of iron ore that reversed the gains made by President Koroma under his Agenda for Change, the country would have still been among the fastest growing economies in the world. This situation culminated in the introduction of the austerity measures so that Government would cut down on public spending and divert the resources towards Social Services programmes aimed at alleviating poverty and hardship among Sierra Leoneans.
Even as I write, the President’s Delivery Team (PDT) is in action to ensure the progress of the President’s Recovery Priorities – the investment programme initiated after Ebola. The PDT is reported doing exemplarily well and it was against this background that the Ethiopia’s Head of Social and Good Governance Delivery Support, Muktar Kedir praised PDT and wrote a letter to the Chief of Staff, Saidu Conton-Sesay commending the work of the PDT and expressed their (other Senior Ethiopian Government Officials) interest in visiting Sierra Leone to take lessons from the operations of the PDT.
The aforementioned achievements of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and others I didn’t mention, because of space, are clear manifestations of exemplary leadership and the passion to work assiduously for one’s country and people.
I therefore believe that the only gratitude we, as Sierra Leoneans, should express to the President for doing so much for his country and people is by reelecting his political party to power come 7th March, 2018 to consolidate his good works. It is only continuity in governance that will protect the legacies he would be leaving behind after the elections. I believe most Sierra Leoneans would agree with this suggestion.
My prediction, therefore, is that the ruling APC winning the 2018 National Elections is a foregone conclusion taking into consideration the Government’s achievements since it took over in 2007.