In this age of global politics bi lateral and multi lateral partnerships should never be underestimated. As general elections draw closer winning the heart of the international community will certainly prove a worthy dividend. The fact that we are living in an interdependent world within a global economy, the approval of world powers and by extension, their commitment to several development programme, including direct budget support, to a third world country like Sierra Leone barely justify why winning their heart is inevitable. You don’t need a jujuman or cast a Jonah’s lot to buy into this logic. Hence, the confidence of donors and investors must be enhanced if development and sustainable growth should be propelled. Though government is enjoying an impressive internal revenue generation drive, about 40% of government running comes from donor partners such as EU, ABD, Islamic Bank, IMF, World Bank, UN Agencies, etc, and individual countries.
Studies about donor funding to Africa reveal that aids to Africa from the 1960s to the late 70s were influenced largely by the alignment of individual African countries to either the Eastern or Western bloc. Corrupt and inept pro-democracy countries received huge aid packages from the West as long as they denounce communism. Also, no matter the terrible human rights records, pro-communist countries continued to milk from the eastern basket as long as they continue to resist western democracy.Infact, both blocs were determined to meddle into the internal politics of poor and weak African countries, unseat governments -through military coups or armed rebellions- they consider working not in their interests. Take Communist Nkrumah. He shoned western democracy for communism and was overthrow by alleged CIA operations in Ghana military. The situation heightened with the projection of US and USSR as super world powers from distinct opposing political camps. The vulnerability of African countries increased. Struggling for global recognition in the face of the two super-world powers, the Arab could not do much. At some moment they had come to the rescue of pro-communist countries, the lesser of the two evils.
As we turned the 80s, buffeted with several political and military unrests, USSR began to wane and communism began to crumble. . China gave more attention to internal issues with a brazen non-interfering policy. This ultimately left the US as the sole dominant global power. The many pro-communist African countries experienced sharp drop in aid from their eastern masters who were battling with their own internal problems. With no economic alternative, they turned to the West. EU, Commonwealth and other global bodies signed several declarations on good governance and human rights and established democracy, good governance, transparency and rule of law as conditions for aid. Take-it-or-leave-it. The more an African country adheres to these conditions the deeper it will dip into the aid basket; the contrary disposition closed aid doors. Though the West have been repeated blasted for its double standards, adherence to the democratic and good governance credentials have largely influence the flow of aid in the last 20 years.
In the last two decades donor confidence has been demonstrated by the flow of donor funds and direct foreign investment. When this confidence is lost donor aid and direct foreign investment strangle. The international community is quite aware that change of government often leads to change of policies. Often, such changes are very far from the path of development -they simply change for the sake of change, they just start something new all over again. Such uncompleted project will only amount to mere waste of donor funds. It is this fear of uncertainty that has urged the international community to endeavour to know, particularly during political transition moments like elections, which political party is more popular or which presidential candidate is most likely to win and eventually becomes the president. The outcome of these enquiries will certainly determined their funding pattern.
You may asked, how they get such information. Well let me tell you that donors are willing to support civil society groups who are more than willing to carry out such surveys. If findings reveal that an incumbent government is unpopular, corrupt and is bound for electoral defeat, funding will be halted and conversely, if an incumbent is popular, progressive and is set to be greeted by the bell of victory at the polls, funding will flow. Another way these fact are deduce is by the physical presence as consultants and other workers in numerous programmes. They speak with people and institutions as well as listen and observe.
Twelve months to the 2007 elections, all donor funds halted. The international community confirmed that the SLPP was very unpopular and will certainly suffer electoral defeat in the coming polls. In a house to house perception survey I participated late in 2006 which was organized by a coalition of civil society groups with funding from Westminister Foundation, the findings revealed that the APC was the most popular party and Ernest Koroma will win the Presidential elections even in the first round of voting. The winning of all seats in Freetown (the capital) in the 2004 Local Council elections by the APC vehemently signalled the genesis of the SLPP political demise climaxed in the defeat in the 2007 elections. Further still, the diversion of billions of donor funds for programmes under NACSA, Decentralization and other SLPP 2007 election funding baskets plus the unrepentant use of state resources including vehicles, fuel and other logistics for campaigning left the international community with no alternative but to dismissive the SLPP of any genuine electoral victory. The given of deaf ears to the cries of the suffering masses cemented SLPP’s dismissal.
The last five years provided another opportunity for international community assessment and reactions to the governance pattern in the country. Under the leadership of President Ernest Koroma and the APC government the report card is different. Though he took power at the height of a global economic recession, President Koroma’s government has recorded phenomenal success in several governance sectors beyond the priority areas of the Agenda for Change (Infrastructure, energy, agriculture, health and education) .
There has been massive road network are being contructed in every district and towns right across the country. From Kailahun to Koinadugu, from Kambia to Kenema, from Freetown to Bo, this massive road networks ensure among other things easy movement of people from one place to another as well as the transportation of agricultural produce from farms to business centres. The other day I spent 2 hours 30 minutes form Freetown to Pamlap, a border town neighbouring Guinea. I used to spend 8 hours on the route 3 years ago. This is incredible. Wilkinson Road, to Goderich and Spur Roads are all being extended to 4 lanes. Hill Mountain cut bypass road and the peninsular road are some of the fantastic picks President Koroma’s infrastructural drive.
Improved agricultural productivity is not only attaining food security but catapulting farmer as leading players in the much cherished private sector led growth. The over 300 track tucks and over 500 Agricultural Business Centres established right across the country has laid the solid foundation for mechanised farming in the country.
There is an unprecedented increase in the supply of electicity as a result of the completion of the Bunbuna Hydro , the building of mini-hydros right across the country plus the substantial investment in the provision of solar light. Women are trained to become solar engineers (“the bare foot project”) and a solar installation centre has already been built in the outskirt of Freetown. This has not only transformed Freetown, which was described in 2007 as the darkest city in the world, into one of the brightest cities in Africa but has rendered ‘kabba tiger ‘ – a mini generator dubbed after former President Kabba notorious blackout era (1196-2007) – redundant.
Passionate about realising a profound intervention in the health sector, President Koroma announced
In the 2009 UN Summit, that he was going to launch the free health care in one year. Exactly one year later, the free medical health care for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under 5 years was launched. Today, over one million children and over five hundred thousand women have benefitted from these facilities from the provision of basic treatment to major operations. Festula and other child birth delivery complications are properly treated. Medical doctors and nurses are among the highest paid.
Thousands of ghost teachers have been weeded with about 500% salary increase for university lecturers and 100-200% increase for teachers base on scale. Universities have recorded the highest number of access intake in the last 12 years. Good number of WASSCE students failed to get university requirement of five passes. With their one or two passes they rather choose short-cut – a one year access course. This led to rampant cheating and other exams malpractices in universities, thus undermining our national human resource base. Thus, realising that senior school syllabus is to many to be covered in 3 years, the Professor Gpamaja Commission recommended 4 years for senior school syllabus so that students can better prepare for the WASSCE exams which will leave no room for access exams. All disabled persons as well as women studying sciences in tertiary institutions are given scholarship by government. Today government support and funding to education is being shifted to the sciences so as to motivate many to study science so that we can catch up with the information technology age.
Human Rights and Press Freedom: No journalist has been arrested or jailed since 2007. The access to information bill has been tabled in parliament. There has been no political prisoner throughout these five years nor has the death penalty been carried out. Among President Koroma’s catalogue of awards is the prestigious Abolutionist Award for not carrying out the death penalty since he became president.
Corruption and Transparency:
President Koroma reviewed the ACC Act and gave it an independent prosecutorial powers making it one of the strongest anti-graft laws in Africa. Indeed, no sacred cow. In the SLPP’s 2004 ACC Act prosecutorial powers were only at the approval of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice. Only the out of favour with government were prosecuted like Harry Will, Momoh Pujeh, etc.
Koroma became the first president to declare his assett along with his cabinet ministers, parliamentarians and other public officials. Assets are being reviewed annually. The Commission has tried high profile cases and has returned billions of Leaones into government coffers. No, wonder the Commission has bagged several global award during the last 5 years in the corruption crusade.
The report card is endless! It is endless! Endless!
The international community is still pouring cash because development is visible and practical. President Koroma popularity is huge and cuts across the country, even in the south east which use to be the stronghold of the opposition. The president’s pop star-like popularity has transformed him into a political hero. Many believed he is the best president this country has produced since independence. Indeed donor aid is still flowing because President Koroma is winning the heart of the international community.