How can such a transparent and accountable President be a dictator ?

Published on August 22, 2010 by Cocorioko News   ·   No Comments

Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone

There are some things in life about which there are no two ways. Black is either black or nothing else. It is the same with white. An object can only be white. It cannot be all-white and  still  be considered black. It is not possible. In the same breath ,  a spade is a spade. It cannot be called a lawn-mover or tresher. The reason is that a spade is a spade. It is not a lawn -mower or a tresher.

News that President Ernest Koroma will be bringing the government to the people of Sierra Leone in the United States during the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly is a brilliant demonstration of the fact  that Sierra Leone is really under a completely  new dispensation now .  That the President has already despatched the Director of the Open Government Initiative ( OGI ), Ms. Khadija Sesay , to the United States to make concrete arrangement for the OGI Session with the people of Sierra Leone in the Continental USA  one month before the event shows the determination of President Koroma to ensure that government in Sierra Leone is no longer conducted in secrecy.

During the OGI Town Meeting planned , Sierra Leoneans in the U.S. will be presented with the opportunity to clear whatever doubts and concerns they have about governance and events back home .They will have the opportunity to ask the President questions about their doubts and their concerns. In his usual forthright spirit and candour , President Koroma will be answering their questions with a view to enlightening them about what is presently going on in Sierra Leone. If needs be, some of the ministers present will answer questions about the going-ons in their ministries. This is indeed open , transparent and accountable government in action.

According to an overview of the OGI from the now-defunct Ministry of Presidential Affairs which once ran the  UNDP- funded program,  “The concept of Open Government Initiative (OGI) was proposed by His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma at  the Bumbuna Presidential Retreat in January 2008. On this occasion, the President stressed the importance of accountability, transparency and higher performance standards in public service and expressed his commitment to strengthen separation of powers in government to ensure that democracy, transparency, accountability, and the rule of law prevail during his five year tenure. In view of this, OGI was borne with the aim of strengthening the mechanism for public information flow from the three branches of government while providing opportunities for a public dialogue on development policies and programmes. ”

Since its inception, the OGI has conducted successful interactive field trips and sessions all over Sierra Leone in typical town meeting style where both ordinary and top-ranking citizens have had the opportunity to question their ministers, parliamentarians, members of the judiciary and other public servants about matters of concern  .

This OGI concept heralds a new dawn in Sierra Leone , a country heading into a new progressive direction under the outstanding leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma. With freedom of the press thriving in the country , with nearly 60 newspapers of different shades of opinions and political persuasion , newspapers that  write stinging articles against the President and levy putrid allegations against him and his ministers daily ,  Sierra Leone is enjoying her finest moment of multi-party democracy and transparent and accountable government. All true and patriotic Sierra Leoneans should be really proud of the direction their country is moving.

This is the Sierra Leone where  during many decades past, a citizen could be arrested for “Careless Talk” and detained indefinitely for merely questioning the manner he is being governed.  In those days, Presidents and public servants did not consider themselves accountable in any way to the people they served and one could be charged with treason or defamatory libel for criticizing the President or the government. As recently as 2004, a Sierra Leonean journalist, Mr. Paul Kamara of FOR DI PEOPLE  newspaper was jailed and he nearly died in prison for unearthing the truth  that while he served as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry in the 1970s, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was found guilty of engaging in corruption by the Beoku-Betts Commission of Inquiry and banned from public office.  This is also the Sierra Leone where for more than a decade, the only  two newspapers in existence were   government -owned and they and the only radio present provided news and commentaries only from the government perspective. Today, things have changed under the Presidency of Ernest Bai Koroma.

President Koroma is a truly democratic , transparent and accountable Head of State and even his detractors can admit that this is the first time in the history of Sierra Leone that citizens have enjoyed so much freedom to write and say whatever  they want against the President and government officials without any fear of being arrested . For the first time in the history of Sierra Leone, there are no politicians, journalists, civil society activists or government critics in jail. Sierra Leone is one of the very few countries in Africa where there are no political prisoners.  As long as they don’t try to create chaos and set the nation back, Sierra Leoneans are among the freest people on the face of the earth. Even those trying to incite trouble and confusion are walking like free men and women in the country. The government has been tolerant to a fault .

We hope the opposition will be truthful to the people of Sierra Leone by not attributing qualities to the President or government that are just a figment of their imagination. President Koroma is not a dictator by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, President Koroma is a breath of fresh air in the politics of Sierra Leone and Africa .For the first time, Sierra Leone is trading the lofty heights of constitutional democracy, multi-party pluralism and transparent and accountable government. For this, we must really  thank God .


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