APC campaign coordinator Balugun says Maada Bio has excess baggage
Sierra Express Media went to find out from the All People’s Congress National Coordinator for the 2012 elections, Leonard Balugun Koroma (Lugus) what plans the APC have to see the November 17 elections pass off without qualms. The interview also asked pertinent questions to state governance issues and president Koroma’s track record of a five year first term. Read through and explore the values.
Mr. Leonard Balogun Koroma, now we see the 2012 elections approaching and there are lots of issues regarding violence in the November polls, and the President H.E Ernest Bai Koroma has recently pronounce that he is determined to keep the elections, that means the November 17 polls very peaceful. How prepared are you as a party to implement the words of the president to the letter?
Well of course his Excellency the president is the leader and chairman of the All Peoples Congress (APC), and in addition to that he is the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. He has certain duties and obligations, first to the government and the people of Sierra Leone, and then to the party which brought him to power. So when the president makes a pronouncement of that nature, we in the party have to follow him. We are his followers and he is our leader. As a united party, we go by what he says and asks us to do in the interest of the party. The president has demonstrated in so many ways that he is determined to make sure that this election is violence free. First of all he has appealed to members and supporters of the party to stay away from violence. He has even gone to the extent of inviting the International Criminal Court (ICC) to direct its radar to Sierra Leone and to observe what going on in the forthcoming elections, so that anybody that is held culpable when it comes to violence will have to answer for it. I mean that speaks for itself, its speaks volumes. The president has made it clear that nobody is above the law, even with the members of his party and the ministers of his government, so the commitment is there and in addition to that also the president has a name and image to maintain. He has built a very good image with the international community as a man who is democratic, who respects human rights, who respects the rule of law, and who is practicing good governance. So there is no way the president is going to allow this hard earned image to be eroded or dented.
Many in the political circles have expressed opinion or views that the November polls are crucial considering the tight contest between the opposition who are gearing towards reclaiming power in the 2012 elections and you. So if the president is saying he has invited the ICC, is this a hint that there will be foul play in the upcoming elections?
Of course, I mean whether you like it or not, the SLPP has a bad candidate, it’s like what happened in 2007, they had a candidate they couldn’t sell – Solomon Berewa, who was unpopular at the time. What they have repeated for 2012 is also having a candidate who has excess baggage. We have nothing to say about their choice, it is their fundamental right to choose who they want as a leader. When somebody wants to lead a country like Sierra Leone who has a history of violence on their record, we are going to continue referring to that whether it pleases the individual or not until they make a firm commitment to the people of Sierra Leone that they are no longer prone to violence. We have recently seen defections from the SLPP to the APC, some of them are close friends of Julius Maada Bio – Thomas Nyuma is one of them, two days ago the former boss of Maada Bio – captain Valentine Strasser, the former head of state held a press conference and stated that Maada Bio is prone to violence. This is coming from a man who directly worked with Julius Maada Bio, a man he was very close to and a man who congratulated him when he was elected as flag bearer of his party. It is clear what Strasser is saying is genuine, he is not biased at all. Listening to the things that people are reporting about Maada Bio is food for thought for Sierra Leoneans. The president should be concerned about this, hence the invitation to the ICC to observe what going on here.
What are you saying regarding the gains the United Nations has made for the first time in the West African country, having to go through the tight hell of the 11 years civil war and bringing it to a halt?
Well the United Nations has made significant gains when it comes to conflict resolution in Sierra Leone and a country that has rapidly transformed itself from a war ravaged country into a democratic and peaceful country. Sierra Leone is being used as an example and as a model country that has rapidly in record time evolved from a brutal war to peace. We are very proud of that and we must also pay tribute to former President Tejan Kabba for the role he played in bringing peace to Sierra Leone, but that peace is now being consolidated by President Ernest Bai Koroma and we are very proud of that record.
Now we are going to the 2012 polls with a reduced mission of UN officials, what do you have to say towards that?
Well this is because of the confidence that has been established, confidence in good governance, confidence in the credibility and international image of the president and his commitment to adhere to the principles that have been laid down to maintain peace. Now the United Nations mission here has transformed us from a conflict country to a peace building country. Once the coming election is successful as we predict, it will be in 2012 that Sierra Leone would have graduated from a peace building country into a peaceful and stable country.
On President Koroma’s second term bid, what have you to say as a campaign co-coordinator, considering his track record over his first 5 years term?
Well his first 5 year term was unprecedented, never in the history of this country has any head of state successfully implemented so many projects all over the country, from the east to the west and from the north to south as President Koroma has done, not even during the Siaka Stevens era, a president who has been credited with most of the developmental projects that have taken place in this country prior to 2007.
The APC has a strong four year record, running back to the time the president took over in 2007 when the country was conked out after the Kabba era, hence the introduction of the agenda for change. The energy sector was broken down; the health sector was broken down, infrastructure was not in the right form; agriculture was not something we could be proud about, so the president introduced the agenda for change which means every sector of the economy had to be changed. Now that the agenda for change has progressed rapidly and as satisfactorily as you can evidently see in all parts of the country. The second term of President Koroma is going to be an agenda for prosperity i.e. to address the bread and butter issues of the nation; to transform the nation from a foreign dependent economy to a self-dependant sustained economy. In fact the president had expressed in his vision that in twenty-five to fifty years Sierra Leone will become a donor country.
We can see that the economy and trade are two major issues that concern the electorate when it comes to grading the president’s achievements. We have seen a fall in the local currency due to inflation and hence the economic crisis are looming, what plans have been put in place by the president to ameliorate this situation?
The president is working and as you can see some of these issues are determined by international market forces. Let’s go back to the era of the SLPP- 1996 to 2006, ten years of power and look at the graduation of the economy and the fluctuation of the Leone to the dollar for those ten years, and you can see if you make that comparison, you can see that it is no different from what is happening under the APC. Until we start producing oil, we have to buy at the international prices; if we are to restart producing rice to feed the nation which the president is earnestly working towards we have to buy rice from the international market. These are issues no government has total control over, this of course doesn’t mean that the government should not make an effort and that is why the president has told the nation that oil has been discovered, oil prospecting is going on and the president has made sure that he has set up a mechanism in place before the production of oil, to ensure that the country benefits from this revenue. In the field of agriculture, he has established more than 190 agricultural business centers all over the country. Every chiefdom has an agricultural centre equipped with agricultural implements; fertilizers; seed rice; drying floors; milling machines; harvesters, you name it, so that the local farmer can be transformed from subsistent farming to commercial farming. This will generate more money into their pockets. You see the president is focused on all these issues and he is addressing them appropriately and is sure that in the next few years we will be seeing something different.
What will you say about the national GDP, because we recently heard from the minister of finance saying we have achieved a substantial 17% growth?
Well we have, and the prediction is that by next year we are going to achieve 50% increase in the gross domestic product and by that time we would have maximized the export and realize the revenue from those exports of iron ore for which we have billions of dollars in reserve and also hopefully trade would have started for oil and that will generate a lot of interest and enthusiasm in the local economy and would of course lure investors to come and invest in this country. – Taking into consideration a small country like Sierra Leone with about 6 million people; when we start to maximize the realization of those exports, believe me it is going to transform this country significantly.
So what will you say about the symbiosis existing between a 17% inflation rate and a 17% GDP
Well I am not an economist, but what I am saying is that the ministry of finance and H.E the president are taking appropriate measures to address inflation and also corresponded in addressing the issues related to the growth in the GDP.
Okay now what will you say about the security plans ahead of the 2012 November polls.
I’ll say in one ward that they are “Robots” and in view of the warnings that the government has received, the government is fully prepared in consultation with the international agencies that are related to security, to make sure that nobody whatsoever introduces violence or even tries to believe that they can obtain power by forceful means, similar to what has been done by some people in the past. This has been done in the past; in 1992 brigadier Julius Maada Bio was part of a coup d’état that overthrew the APC government and while he was campaigning for president, I think in 2002 he clearly said that if the APC government came into power he would overthrow the government. These are all the statements that are credited to him, he cannot deny it. We sometimes don’t like talking about it, but these are facts and in order to correct the future you must always refer to the past and that is what we are doing. What we want from retired brigadier Maada Bio is a commitment that the Maada Bio of 1992 is not the Maada Bio of 2012.
Mr. Koroma now we see there was a lot of outcry recently about the procurement of the catch of arms by the police to man the internal security affairs of the country ahead of the crucial November polls. What is your take as a campaign coordinator to that development?
If full of a thousand things signifying nothing, one of the responsibilities of any government in the world is to maintain and protect the security, the life and property of any citizen. And any legitimate government in the world has the power to import arms and ammunition in other to achieve that goal. When the opposition was in power they also imported arms and ammunition for the security of the state. I see nothing special about that and it is absolutely not an issue.
The arms importation leads to a lot of questions considering the fact that we are not in a situation of an emergency, we are not in a worried state. And one must also consider what happened to the arms from the last importation that was supplied to our paramilitary outfits there and what must have prompted the recent procurement of arms?
I don’t think you as a citizen of Sierra Leone or I myself as an ordinary citizen are privy to the security threat facing the state. That is classified information. – So the government knows why they are importing arms at this time and it is for nobody who is not part of that sector to pass judgment on the reasons or otherwise for importing arms and ammunition. I believe that they are legitimate and I believe that the government is proven to information that we are not proven to.
What will you say to the general reading public?
What I have to say to the general reading public is that President Koroma should not only be re-elected for the second term, he should be endorsed in order for him to continue the good work that he is doing, not only for Makeni, but also for Kailahun, Bo, Kenema, Kono and for Freetown. Indeed this is unprecedented and I think as a note we must give the president an endorsement. A unanimous and a overwhelming endorsement to continue the good work that he is doing and for him in his second term to bring this country to prosperity.
Thank you very much Mr. Koroma.
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