Freetown – 26th October, 2017
They lined up the streets from Regent, all the way up to Waterloo and onto Newton; waving, singing and dancing in acclamation. And as we proceeded, the crowds thickened – stone breakers, petty traders, drivers, motor mechanics, bike riders, old people, and kids – invariably people of all ages and classes – stopped whatever they were doing, and practically erupted on to the streets in electrifying spontaneity. As they came out in their large numbers, they gyrated to various versions of songs derived from what has now become the signature slogan of the All People’s Congress (APC) flagbearer. In the typical APC fashion, they asked and then they answered in political mockery of the unintelligible rhetoric the opposition had hoped to use as a jibe against the unassuming APC flag bearer. You sabi am? Yeeees we sabi am! Na we next president!
Dr. Samura Kamara, Sierra Leone’s premier diplomat, in his capacity as Minister of Foreign Minister and International Cooperation, was slated to give the Keynote Address at the graduation ceremony of 300 (120 female) young Sierra Leoneans at the ‘Obasanjo Skills Acquisition and Transformation Centre’ in Newton. This was the fourth since the centre became fully operational in 2011; bringing the number of grandaunts to over 2,000. Being the APC flagbearer for the March 2018 elections, Dr. Samura Kamara could not be allowed to grace such a youth – centred occasion merely as the country’s foremost diplomat. The APC sitting Member of Parliament, the Honourable Claude Kamanda, in collaboration with the APC Youth President and Minister of Youth Affairs, Honourable Bai Mahmoud Bangura, had therefore seized on the moment and mobilized the party’s support base in the host constituency, as well as the other constituencies around it.
And in their bright ‘Red and White’ colours, the residents of constituencies 106, (formerly Constituency 95) and its environs, poured out reassuringly to welcome the tall, good looking and charismatic APC flagbearer. With his characteristic mechanical smile, Samura Kamara waved measuredly to his cheering supporters and as he did so, the crowd roared on in endorsement of his candidature. If anyone had entertained any false hopes that there is disunity in the APC, and that the public is disenchanted with the ruling party, they would be broken hearted by the resounding solidarity and huge number of electorates who thronged the streets just to catch a glimpse of, and even jockey for a handshake with their new leader.
In 2012, this constituency gave more than 75 percent of its votes to the APC and their determination to retain the APC in governance was palpable in their enthusiasm. All the way from Waterloo, onto Newton, some 5 kilometres away, they ‘carnivalled’ with their presidential candidate. And they didn’t do it because they wanted to dance.
“We know what is good for us and for our country; Dr. Samura Kamara’s candidature is the best choice the APC has given us; he has the experience, the temperament and the international network to consolidate and build on the development gains we have made over the last 10 years”, one of the excited supporters boasted.
And he is right. Dr Samura Kamara is a thoroughbred professional who has put in more than 40 years in public service and at very senior levels in the economic and financial sector(s). Analysts believe that, given his high profile and length of service both locally and in the international community, the APC presidential candidate is much more than just a politician; unarguably, he is the most knowledgeable of them all about Sierra Leone’s development milestones and challenges.
Dr. Mohamed Gibril Sesay, an accomplished sociologist and Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (who has worked with Dr. Samura Kamara for over a year), agrees: “Amongst all the presidential hopefuls, Samura Kamara is by far more informed about the weaknesses and strengths relating to Sierra Leone’s governance and development”. Gibril Sesay went on to explain that, even though Samura Kamara worked for the Commonwealth, served as Programme Manager under the auspices of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – to provide financial backstopping to the rather inexperienced National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) military government-; and even though he worked as Alternate Executive Director at World Bank, Samura Kamara’s biggest advantage is that he has been in the country for the longest period and fully understands the systems and the political culture. “He knows where the weaknesses are; which areas need strengthening, and what to do to quickly effect changes, emphasized Gibril Sesay.
When he addressed the grandaunts and the audience, his deep knowledge of development issues was easy to discern. Samura Kamara spoke authoritatively about the bulging youth population in Africa and Sierra Leone, pointing out the need to harness this demographic dividend for the development of the continent and the country.
“Africa is a youthful continent with about 65 per cent of the population below age 35 years, and over 35 per cent between the ages of 15 and 35 years. By 2020, it is projected that 3 out of 4 people will be 20 years old. About 10 million young African youth enter the job market yearly”, he said.
Quoting the 2015 Census figures, the APC presidential hopeful stated that “the youth population (15-35yrs) of Sierra Leone is estimated to be 32% of the population and that 46% of the population is under 15 years. This means that 78% of our population is below 35 years”. He therefore acknowledges the critical role of the youth in national development.
“Let me say this loud and clear: our young people are our most-valued assets for human and intellectual capital formation, youths are critical in developing the knowledge, information and skills required for the social, political and economic development of our country”.
Samura Kamara went on to inform the gathering that his ministry “played a major role in the establishment of this college through the South-South Cooperation. The college was constructed ….for the youth employment promotion in Sierra Leone”. He said the assistance by the Nigerian Government was geared towards training young people in various technical and vocational skills as a means of enhancing their employability.
“I will build upon this promise of employability. … your employability shall be my major concern, and youths shall continue to be in leadership position in all sectors. This is my vow to youths; this is my vow to the nation. There is no turning back. Together with the youths, we will expand upon the great foundation President Koroma has laid”, he assured.
But while he vowed to continue to use his international network to leverage support for skills acquisition centers; he also entreated young people that for this to be achieved, “youths must continue to acquire skills in order to benefit from emerging employment opportunities that offer decent income”.
As Bai Mahmoud Bangura, the Minister of Youth Affairs put it: “Without doubt, Samura Kamara, who was today named Sierra Leone’s Youth Ambassador, understands Sierra Leone’s development issues; with his expertise and passion for the growth of young people; the country is assured of a president who is poised and qualified to take the nation to higher heights.