Sierra Leone citizen writes open letter to President Bio

Mr. President,

Greetings from the parlour of the Peninsular Mountain. It has been a while since I have not reached you on recent happenings in the motherland. Sir, at one point, I was discouraged about packaging my points for public consumption, but my batteries were recharged on my birthday week. I am back to stressing my basic message on social justice, public policy and good governance. I have left copies of my previous letters to you at the State House, but I am unsure if your support system has delivered them to you.

Paul A. Conteh: Academic/Development Professional

Sir, I want to thank you for the information you shared. It was humbling to see you re-adjust the curfew time (from 11 pm – 6 am); open the inter-district flow of transport, and to consider the possible resumption of commercial flights at the Freetown International Airport. You did well by mentioning the recent rape tragedy that has left the nation shocked and shivering. I know your government is developing programs and policies to tackle this societal injustice.

On the Covid-19 pandemic, there are positives we can take from your government’s handling of the situation. The restrictions you placed were on target and timely. These are things we need to applaud your government for doing. However, the decision to buy ultra-modern cars, at the time health workers were not getting paid, quarantine centres were in shambles, health care facilities were under-resourced and citizens living in poverty could not get meals from the state during lockdowns, was a major low. I suggest you do an independent inquiry into how those decisions were made. I have a strong feeling something fundamentally flawed transpired.

Mr. President, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Union, Global Partnership for Education, and a host of donor partners have channelled funds into our country. These funds are fixed around Covid-19 recovery and reconstruction. I hope your government will use these funds for the intended purpose. Do you know what is funny, sir? The communication apparatus from State House made it appear as if these funds were given to Sierra Leone because of your overseas trips. You and I know these grants were given to developing countries based on certain parameters. The most important thing – please ensure these monies are used for the good of the country.

Based on the research I have done, funds from the World Bank were used to support the Social Safety Net Program implemented by NaCSA. It was wise on the part of your government to target Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) & Market Traders. I am unsure if giving them these monies for free was a good idea. What I have learnt in my few years in academia and development sector, is that if you give people things for free, they tend not to take it seriously. Free things can create unnecessary expectations, dependency, and fatalistic mentality. I hope the evaluation results of the program will prove my belief wrong.

At this stage, Sierra Leone cannot do without the IMF & World Bank, but you and your team should start to design a long-term strategy on how to circumvent the Bretton Wood System. NO COUNTRY in the world has developed due to proposals of these financial institutions. Every country that got it right was based on local led initiatives and local led resources.

Mr. President, even though it might be early, I do want to thank you for addressing the power situation in Bo & Kenema. I do work in that part of the country. The residents cannot understand the reason(s) for the power shortage. This is one area they are expecting your government to address. I read this week materials heading into that part of the country, and it was a piece of great news. I just hope that the process can be fast-tracked.

On the Resident Minister North, I was saddened to see you re-appoint him to the same position he publicly abused. The statements he uttered were deeply divisive and destructive. That day, he lost all legitimacy to lead and live with the people of the North. Your decision to bring him back at the balcony was problematic. It brought back memories of the last days of the previous government. The emperor, at that time, showed inconsistency in his hiring and firing policy. I can say the same for you on the handling of this situation.

On the public order act, right to freedom of expression, right to peaceful protests – I do want your government to develop policy positions on these issues. There seems to be uncertainty in the way and manner the law comes to effect when these issues surface. Just last week, activists went out to protest the high incidence of rape, and they were detained by the police for simply promoting human rights. A few months ago, students of Limkokwing University, went out to communicate their dissatisfaction on the rigid romance between their college and the state. They were, likewise, arrested by the police.

On opposition politicians in prison, I encourage your government to treat them with dignity and respect. Let fairness and justice be used in their on-going trials. On the same topic of prison, there was an attempted prison break at the correctional service few weeks ago. I suggest you instruct an independent panel to undertake an inquest. This will be a learning curve for everyone involved in that episode.

On the human capital development drive, your people seem confused as to where we are in the implementation process. There needs to be a better communication and community engagement strategy from the brokers of that bridge. Even though I disagree with a certain aspect of the war on corruption, one needs to commend the commission for their communication and community engagement strategy. They have succeeded in bringing people alongside the work they do.

Commander-In-Chief, sir. I continue to work and pray for the development of our nation. I am tired of seeing this country ranked among the least developed nations in the world. As always, I strive to weave integrity, honesty, and decency in the pieces I produce for public consumption. I am raising these issues as a patriot and public intellectual.

Before I end my letter, sir. I do want to check in with you on the status of the Akon’s Light Project, the Lungi Bridge Project, Idris Elba’s Sherbro Island Project, and the investors that have made way into our country as a result of your overseas trips. Your communication apparatus needs to let people know where we are with those beautiful ideas.

Son of the soil,

Paul A. Conteh

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