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President Koroma, communication and governance

President Koroma, communication and governance

In governance, the issue of communication is relevant. You only succeed when you reach your people and tell them what has been achieved and the challenges ahead.  Communication is one of major factors leading to the success or failure of a given government. The then SLPP led government was referred as a ‘mumu’ government, courtesy, Awareness Times newspaper. This was due to the perception, that then President Kabbah and his Ministers were not communicating to the people.

When President Koroma assumed the mantle of leadership, he ensured, the concept of public communication was given a priority. This, we have seen  through the regular news conferences held every Thursday by the Information Minister, Alhaji Ibrahim Kargbo. This has been producing a positive result.  This is today helping in, from a PR perspective, marketing President Koroma and his government.  It is also the case with the appointment of Press Officer to our foreign missions.

However, the concept of public communication should now be seen to be decentralized to other areas of state function. Other ministries, department and agencies of government should also see the need to be coming in the opening, in communicating to the people as that will go along way in building confidence among people that things are moving.   Let it be made clear that the culture of silence that allegedly exists in some MDAs should now become a thing of the past. There is need for proper restructuring in terms of public communication from within some MDAs.

In a work, titled, ‘Let the People Speak…Tanzania Down the Road to Neo-Liberalism, Issac G.Shivji argued that ‘… the process of democratization… has taken the form of restructuring the organs of the state and redefining the relationship among these organs…’  Indeed, from a Sierra Leonean point of view, there is the urgent need to restructure some of the organs of the state, especially when it comes to communicating to the people. And this is where I would want to commend the Open Government Initiative (OGI) for coming up with programmes wherein, state functionaries could reach the people and ‘talk with’ them.

And it is most importantly encouraging that even the judiciary has now been made to talk to the people. This is one of the most secretive state institutions. People hardly know what is happening; and even when a journalist attempts to reach; say the Chief Justice or any senior official of the judiciary for interview, it is most often difficult or frustrating; not that some of these institutions are not performing, but because they are not used to propagating what they are doing, it has become difficult for people, to learn more of these institutions.

I B Kargbo - a major player in ensuring public communication

I B Kargbo - a major player in ensuring public communication

It is clear that President Koroma, from all, indications is a liked President. This was also even stated recently by John Benjamin, the Chairman for the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party, when I reached him for an interview some 48 hours ago. Her stated that ‘we like President Ernest Bai Koroma….’ but made a political statement when he further that ‘… but we like Sierra Leone more than we like President Koroma…’

But let the government don’t bank on this; the APC should be thinking of governance after President Koroma. And this is the time they should begin to think of being in governance after 2017.  The SLPP are also working assiduously to ensure they capture the seats of power come 2012 or 2017. Politically, I doubt the chances of the SLPP winning 2012 for obvious reason, but John Benjamin has promised me that they are, as a party going to change the tradition of seeing all African Presidents winning a second term in office.  So it will be a real political show come 2012.

Governance dictates that the will of the people must be followed. When you don’t talk to them, it is like, you are ignoring them.  This has not being the case with President Korma. At least he has addressed the press twice; his Minister of Information is always at his best to talk to the media, even at odd hours. This is encouraging, but more should be done.

And in doing more, the government should enact the Access to Information law. A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency. The call for disclosure also means government’s agencies and departments should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public. Sierra Leone has been advocating for an access to public held information. The Society for Democratic Initiative has been leading the campaign for an access to information. The government should now demonstrate the political; will in this direction. This is a major challenge for this government. But it should be overcome. Thank you most humbly.

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