The Open Government Initiative (OGI ) held a Town Meeting featuring President Ernest Bai Koroma at the Global Academy, Harper Road, Elephant and Castle , London SE1 6AG last night. The meeting was in accordance with President Koroma’s policy of conductiong transparent, accountable and open government in Sierra Leone. With the President also considering the diaspora an important constituency of Sierra Leone, the meeting was held to bring the government to the doorsteps of Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora.
PRESIDENT ERNEST BAI KOROMA
While COCORIOKO is waiting for our reporters and Sierra Leone’s Press Attache to the UK High Commission , Mr. Sorie Sudan Sesay, to file their reports, this newspaper brings you snippets of the OGI Meeting in London last night through Mr. Charles Hubbard and some other members of the Sierra Leone Policy Watch .
I thought I should make this post so we have a permanent record of the notes I made at the town hall meeting with HE and his OGI team.
I am pleased with some of the initiatives the government has taken, especially the Open Government Initiative… which has been set up to build a common understanding between government and the citizens by ensuring citizens’ active participation in governance and consulting them on how they want to be represented. We were told this is happening all over the country on a regular basis. Is this true? Are there noticeable changes in the attitude of public servants? On accountability, we were told the OGI is also tasked to get all parastatals to give account of their work; are they taken to task for wrongdoings in office? The president gave us a report of his achievement in the five sectors he had prioritised over the past four years and that they have been changing the laws, processes and procedures. Here is a summary of what HE said about his 5 priority areas –
ENERGY – He says they have gone from less than 10Mwatts energy generation (2007) to 50Mwatts now and that work is underway to increase this to 300 by 2012. He envisages most towns in the country to be lit by 2020 when we will be generating 1000Mwatts.
INFRASTRUCRE – He told us about the major roads they have completed (the ones we all know about) and they are now focusing on Kenema to Koindu highway which he says is in progress. He says they are now opening feeder roads to agricultural area, and are planning to install solar street lights in all district HQs
AGRICULTURE – He spoke about the National Agricultural Investment Program (NSADP Sierra Leone) and how they are actively working to transform our farmers from sustenance farmers to commercial farmers by 2014. He says they have opened Agricultural Business Centres all over SL. He also told us about ADDAX, the AKAR project and that the banks provide support to all good business plans and are seeking “big time” investors as well.
HEALTH – Free health care for pregnant women, lactating mums and children under fives. They are facing challenges because some of the drugs are stolen but they are working towards stamping this out.
EDUCATION – They want to build on human resources to avoid brain drain…??
According to Wachuku Vidal Wadiike-Williams Zima:
“I was one of the 3-400 people at the meeting, the President was as you would expect quite open and comprehensive in highlighting both the problems facing the Nation and the achievements of his Government…While significant progres…s has been made in providing energy, creating a business friendly environment, investing in developing an extensive road network …
The President was clear on his commitment to an open society and made the valid point that as of today there was not a single ‘political prisoner’ in our jails, and that we played host to 40 Newspapers and over 40 radio stations.
One critism is that the Q&A session was all too brief and in part descended into farce…
On the whole it was a positive example of the attempt to open up the relationship between the state and its Citizens.”
The President also said that he wants Sierra Leoneans to play an active role in policy making decision of the country. Jesmed, Don, Amadu, Sewanu and other! You hear this? The president wants us (Sierra Leoneans living outside SL) to be active participants in the policy making decisisons of Sierra Leone.
The President of SL has said tonight that any Sierra Leonean that goes to SL with a very good business plan will be given a loan by a bank in SL to do business in SL.
He wants us in the Diaspora to be active participants in the development of SL