President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma last Saturday won the hearts and minds of Sierra Leoneans in the United Kingdom, when he delivered an impressive four-year report card about his government’s achievements.
PRESIDENT KOROMA LEAVES THE HALL AFTER OGI MEETING
The programme organised by the Open Government Initiative (OGI), took place at the Globe Academy hall on Harper Road, South-east London – and it brought together Sierra Leoneans from across the United Kingdom.
Addressing the audience, President Koroma said in seeking his mandate to rule Sierra Leone, he promised Sierra Leoneans that he was going to effect a positive change in the country and that he was in the United Kingdom to tell Sierra Leoneans the change he has so far effected in the country.
PRESIDENT KOROMA (LEFT ) SITTING BY HIS SECRETARY MR. OSHO COKER
The President recalled on October 5, 2007, when he pledged before the House of Parliament that he will ensure that officials of his government will be made to be transparent and accountable to the people of Sierra Leone.
“I believe the people have a right to know what is going on in their country,” the President said adding that that was the reason why he initiated the Open Government Initiative.
CIVIL SOCIETY’S VICTOR LANSANA AND OGI DIRECTOR KHADIJA SESAY
He declared that the OGI is a non-political organisation and that he was not in the United Kingdom to talk about politics.
“This is not an APC, SLPP or a PMDC affair,” the President declared, adding that “I was not elected as President of a particular political party or group, but as President of Sierra Leone.”
The President therefore called on Sierra Leoneans to come forward and ask questions on national development after his address.
President Koroma said that the days of talking about aspirations and manifestos are gone and that he was in the UK to tell Sierra Leoneans about his government’s achievements over the past four years of his rule.
Addressing the jam-packed hall (which was full beyond its 800 capacity), the President said when he took over office there were so many challenges, but he decided to deal with them on the basis of priority starting with electricity, food security and then health.
He said this is not because the other areas are not equally important but because the three priority areas would lay the basis for development and growth in Sierra Leone.
In the area of electricity, the President said he inherited not more than 10 megawatts of power generation which saw Freetown being classified as the ‘darkest city’ in the world; but within 100 days in office, he transformed Freetown into a city of light.
The President said his government increased electricity generation when they completed the Bumbuna Hydro Electric Project – thanks to the outcome of a meeting with donor partners who helped his government raise $42million that was badly needed for the completion of the project.
In a show of sincerity and honesty, the President said the Bumbuna dam will not provide the required power generation expected for the country and that was why his government has embarked on the second phase of Bumbuna electric project which, if completed, will generate power supply of 300 megawatts.
The President said his government has also provided solar panels for people in inaccessible areas that will see about 149 chiefdoms benefiting. He disclosed that plans are currently underway for all chiefdom headquarters to have access to electricity.
According to the President, his government is working alongside an Indian company Barefoot College which is currently giving professional training to old people to be able to manage and provide power supply for their communities.
As part of efforts to ensure a free flow of movement, President Koroma said that his government has embarked on the biggest infrastructural development drive ever seen in the history of the country.
The President mentioned some of the major road construction projects – some currently underway while others have been completed. They include: the Masiaka – Bo, Kenema Highway, the abandoned Freetown – Conakry highway, the Lungi – Portloko which is currently in progress; the Lumley – Tokeh and the Wilkinson Road, to mention but a few.
These are all first class roads and not sub-standard ones, the President said, amidst thunderous applause.
President Koroma said that Sierra Leone had maintained a permanent bottom place in the United Nations Human Development Index over the years which according to him; was partly because of the terrible death rate of children and pregnant women in the country.
“I have visited hospitals and clinics throughout the length and breadth of the country and I saw the miserable conditions patients have been subjected into – people are dying because they could not provide a meagre Le30, 000 for drugs,” the President lamented.
He said he was delighted that things have changed in the last four years with a record 85% reduction in death rate after his government initiated the Free Health care programme.
The President disclosed that his government had succeeded in encouraging 40,000 pregnant women to give birth in established registered clinics.
“One would imagine how many of these 40,000 would have died if this health care programme had not been established.”
President Koroma also highlighted his government’s successes in the areas of education and agriculture as well as the private sector.
In a confident mood, the President said although the tasks ahead are quite great and challenging, he was confident that Sierra Leone will be a level income country in the next 25 years.
The President however warned that this is not going to happen overnight because the challenges ahead are great, adding: “the fact remains that with commitment and your support together we will get there one day.”
The rebuilding of Sierra Leone is not a day’s job; the President said and reminded Sierra Leoneans that Rome was not built in one day.
Earlier, OGI Director Khadija Sesay gave a wider picture of her organisation’s activities both in Sierra Leone and in the Diaspora as well as its concept and objectives among which are to promote communications between government and the people as well as to compliment the Civil Society Movement.
Civil Society Movement Chairman Victor Lansana, while introducing the Chairman of the programme said as members of the Civil Society, they form part of the OGI to represent the interest of the people of Sierra Leone.
Secretary to the President Emmanuel Osho Coker who chaired the programme said the OGI is the brainchild of the President and that nation-building requires the participation and coorperation of all.
Ade Daramy, a Sierra Leonean historian and journalist based in London, gave the welcome address and seized the opportunity to announce the presentation of an award to the President by Sierra Leonean-born Mayor of the London Borough of Lambeth Elizabeth Valcassel.
Overall, the programme turned out to be the most successful Presidential town hall meeting ever organised by the OGI in the Diaspora; and quite apart from the fact that many Sierra Leoneans in the UK have been looking forward to a question and answer session with the President, most of the attendees stormed the Globe Academy to see and hear from the man who has brought so much positive changes and pride to the country now widely referred to as the NEW SIERRA LEONE.