A serious case of “Rub Kondo Fat” – Part Two
The two main themes upon which I intend to base this second article under my chosen title are Leadership, and Governance. As a retired military officer, I spent my whole career in the Royal Air Force studying, and employing effective Leadership, and this together with good Governance is what we have yearned for in our Leaders, not only in Sierra Leone, but across Africa, and indeed in the West also. The Americans usually seem to struggle to select those who should stand as prospective Leader causing someone to say during the George Bush days when the Republicans did struggle, as they appear to be doing now, “If God had wanted them to have a good Leader he would have given them a candidate!” The British Labour Party similarly tolerated their new Leader who imposed the experiment of “New Labour” on them in 1997, and they still seem to be mainly unsettled on the need for a good Leader of their choice. Their past Leader, Tony Blair once said that the art of leadership was to make sure that what shouldn’t happen, doesn’t happen. (Photo: Squadron Leader Winston Forde RAF Ret’d)
There are several types of Leadership: A Leader who is seen to be ‘doing’ things is probably using action-oriented leadership; Vision is associated with visionary leadership; Compassion is a characteristic that is most likely to be (indirectly) associated with participative leadership; Although listening is a skill, a leader is more likely to be perceived as listening when there is a match between the personality type of the follower(s), and the leadership style of the leader; An executive leader who uses processes and ‘rules’, but is also ‘strong’, may be perceived as ‘drive by rules’ by someone who has a personality type that wants a very different type of leadership style. When looking at leadership qualities, therefore, we need to take account of the style being used by the Leader, and the types of behaviours or personalities in the group. John Kenneth Galbraith once said that all of the great Leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of Leadership. One could, therefore, argue that our two recent Presidential Leaders, Kabbah and
Koroma, rose up during the time of our civil turmoil for this very reason. In the context of Leaders for Africa the best executive was bound to be the one who had sense enough to pick good men to do what he wanted done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they did it. This presupposes, though, that there are sufficient educated, and able good men, and the proletariat was equally as literate as to be able to respond. President Siaka Stevens got round part of that difficulty by using his memorable if distinctive sense of humour, which is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, and of getting things done. However, our present Leader has said that “It was through the grace of God’s will, and blessings that I became President of Sierra Leone, and it is also by the grace of God that I am able to work for his people.” I would make bold to add that “Thank God he is also a visionary Leader” for where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18). The bottom line is that he who wants to lead needs to have a vision to show others where he is going.
The concept of “governance” is not new. It is as old as human civilization. Simply put, “governance” means: the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented). Governance can be used in several contexts such as corporate governance, international governance, national governance and local governance. Our President should be quite familiar with just about all of these. Since governance is the process of decision-making, and the process by which decisions are implemented, an analysis of governance should focus on the formal, and informal actors involved in decision-making, and implementing the decisions made, and the formal and informal structures that have been set in place to arrive at, and implement the decision.
Government is one of the actors in governance. Other actors involved in governance vary depending on the level of government that is under discussion. In rural areas, for example, other actors may include such as our influential Paramount Chiefs who act as land lords, associations of peasant farmers, cooperatives, NGOs, research institutes, religious leaders, finance institutions political parties, the military etc. The situation in Freetown, and other urban areas is much more complex. At the national level, in addition to the above actors, media, lobbyists, international donors, multi-national corporations, etc. may play a role in decision-making, or in influencing the decision-making process. All actors other than government, and the military are grouped together as part of the “civil society.” The problem with Africa is that civil society is usually either absent or weak, and it has for far too long been possible for Corruption to also influence decision-making, particularly at the national level. On the other hand, Good governance has 8 major characteristics. It is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive, and follows the rule of law. It assures that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account, and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.iIIt follows, therefore, that good governance is an ideal which is difficult to achieve. Very few countries, and societies have come close to achieving good governance in its totality. However, in order to ensure sustainable human development, in the interest of Africa in general, and Sierra Leone in particular, accountable actions must be taken to work towards this ideal with the aim of making it a reality. I now turn to the main characters in this piece.
Ernest Bai Koroma is the fourth, and current President of Sierra Leone. He was born on October 2, 1953, in Makeni, Bombali District in the the predominantlyMuslim Northern Province of Sierra Leone of Christian parentage, and is a devout Christian himself. He was thus raised in a religious Christian household, and regularly attended church services with his siblings at the Wesleyan church in Makeni, where his parents were long time members of the congregation. Koroma attended the Sierra Leone Church Primary School in Makeni, and then proceeded to the Magburaka Government Secondary School for Boys some 25 miles from his hometown where he graduated in 1973. He moved to the capital Freetown to attend the Fourah Bay College graduating in 1976 with a degree in Business Management. Our new Graduate was employed as a teacher at the St. Francis Secondary School in his hometown of Makeni from 1976 to 1978. A full career in the Insurance Industry then followed starting from when he joined the Sierra Leone National Insurance Company in 1978. In 1985, he joined the Reliance Insurance Trust Corporation (Ritcorp), and in 1988, became Managing Director of Ritcorp, remaining in that position for 14 years. Koroma is married to Sia Nyama Koroma, the daughter of former Sierra Leone’s Attorney General Abu Aiah Koroma. Sia Nyama Koroma, an ethnic Kono from Kono District, is a biochemist; she holds a Bachelor of
Science Degree with Honours in Chemistry, and a Masters Degree in Biochemistry. Sia is also a fully qualified Psychiatric Staff Nurse. The couple were married on October 18, 1986 at the King Memorial UMC Church in Freetown, and have two daughters, Alice and Danke Koroma who are attending university in the United Kingdom. There’s no doubt that we have to be ever so thankful that being in Insurance was not enough for Ernest Bai Koroma.
Still virtually unknown in political circles in Sierra Leone, he unexpectedly announced his candidacy for the leadership of the APC ahead of the 2002 Sierra Leone presidential, and parliamentary elections. He was one of seven candidates, and was clearly underdog to long time APC leader Edward Turay who was the strong favourite to easily win the APC leadership, yet again. However, Koroma urged the party to move to a new direction that will care more about the interest of Sierra Leoneans, and in the event won an overwhelming victory. He was, therefore, elected leader of the APC on March 24, 2002, at a national convention of the party. Regrettably, in the 2002 Sierra Leone presidential election Koroma received only 22.3% of the vote as the APC presidential candidate, losing to incumbent President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), who received 70.1%, and was shortly sworn in for his second, and final five year term. In the subsequent parliamentary election, Koroma was elected to serve as a member of parliament from Bombali District.
As a result of litigation arising from his youthful leadership and the 2002 APC Constitution, Koroma was eventually stripped of his de jure leadership of the APC by the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone on 22 June 2005. Notwithstanding, he was again unanimously elected as Party Leader and presidential candidate at the APC National Delegates Convention held on September 3, 2005 in the northern town of Port Loko. More importantly the internal party dispute, mainly between Koroma and Edward Turay was also resolved in a timely manner. Under his leadership, the APC swept virtually all the seats in the Western Area and the Northern Province during the local government elections of 2004 despite a continuing lack of confidence in his leadership by some of the old guard of the APC.
In the first round of the 2007 presidential election in Sierra Leone, held on August 11, Koroma gained 44.3% of the votes, ahead of Solomon Berewa of the ruling SLPP, who received 38.3%. This was not enough to win outright, and a run-off election was held on September 8. In an interview with Reuters on September 13, Koroma said that he wanted to run the country “like a business concern”, emphasize agriculture and tourism rather than mining, and fight firmly against corruption. On September 17, the Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission declared Koroma to be the winner of the election with 54.6% of the vote, although the SLPP disputed the results. He was sworn in later on the same day at a ceremony attended by Berewa and Kabbah. President Koroma took some time to name his Cabinet ministers, doing so in stages. The first group of 10 ministers was named on October 8, and another 10 were named on October 12. This appeared to auger well for the future as the president was clearly willing to take additional time to find the right people for the governance task ahead.
At his Inauguration Ceremony held in Freetown on November 15, 2007 President Koroma promised zero tolerance on corruption, to fight against the mismanagement of the country’s resources and that he “would run Sierra Leone like a business concern”, emphasizing agriculture and tourism. He further promised his government will increase the GDP per capita; reduce poverty and increase jobs; pledged the provision of electricity not only in the urban areas, but to all parts of Sierra Leone. The Koroma Administration has focused on a free-market solutions to attract more private investment; rebuilding the country’s national infrastructure, following the Civil War; fighting corruption, and improving the country’s health care system. In April 2010, Koroma signed into law the country’s free health care program for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children under the age of five. To any passionate observer, especially true Sierra Leoneans, this mix of aspirations seems most odd as it makes no mention of literacy or education without which our people could never properly participate in several of these nation building needs, or be able to shake off the need for donor countries to give, and receive in varying measures. Now for the second main character of this part.
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair was born on 6 May 1953, and served as the British Labour Prime Minister from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. He resigned from all of these positions in June 2007, and is now effectively freelance.
Blair was elected Leader of the Labour Party in July 1994. Under his leadership, the party used the phrases “New Labour” and “New Socialism” to define its policy, and moved away from its support of state socialism since the 1960s, and created a new version of the ethical socialism that was last pursued by Clement Attlee. Critics of Blair claim that “New Labour” did not adhere to socialism as claimed, and that it mainly advocated capitalism. Aided by the unpopularity of the Conservatives, “New Labour” won a landslide victory in the 1997 general election, ending 18 years of Conservative Party government, in their heaviest defeat since 1832. Thus, at 43 years old, Blair became the youngest Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool in 1812.
Blair’s role as Prime Minister was particularly visible in foreign, and security policy, including in Northern Ireland, where he was involved in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. From the start of the War on Terror in 2001, Blair strongly supported the foreign policy of US President George W. Bush, notably by participating in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and 2003 invasion of Iraq. Blair is the Labour Party’s longest-serving Prime Minister, the only person to have led the Labour Party to three consecutive general election victories in quick succession, and the only Labour Prime Minister to serve consecutive terms more than one of which was at least four years long.
At the 1996 Labour Party conference, Blair famously stated that his three top priorities on coming to office were “education, education, and education”. So how much did his 10 years in office achieve for schools, colleges and universities under his direct, and undevolved responsibility in England? There was also a push for early intervention – with free part-time nursery places for four, and then three-year-olds, and the Sure Start project, aimed at improving health, education, and welfare for the youngest children. Higher education became a consistently thorny area for the Blair governments. From the first announcement that tuition fees would be imposed for students, made back in 1997, it became a tough pitch for his education ministers. The biggest backbench rebellion faced by his government was over variable tuition fees – but now that the principle has been established, they seem set to become permanent fixture of university life. But despite the campaigns to widen access, there was only slow progress in getting more youngsters from poorer homes into higher education. And the target of getting 50% of youngsters into university by the end of the decade was not achieved. His was a government that liked to set targets, and always showed strong controlling instincts, firing off guidelines, and regulations with a rapidity that stretched the patience of many heads, and teachers. It was accused of trying to run the country’s schools from a photocopier in Westminster – and there were frequent complaints of “initiative fatigue” and an overload of paperwork for head teachers. But there were other failures which showed how difficult it can be for governments to get people to change their behaviour.
Truancy was going to be cut by a third, promised his social exclusion unit. In fact, despite threats of jailing parents and numerous ways of counting absences, the problem simply refused to go away. Bad behaviour, and aggression in the classroom also showed no sign of significant change – despite
numerous initiatives, crackdowns and promises of “zero tolerance”. And the question of vocational education – always described as vital (for other people’s children) – remained unresolved, despite the chorus of warnings about skills gaps. Finally, the ultimate proposals to introduce specialised Diplomas faltered even before implementation. With so many difficulties it is questionable how this triple Education policy will be judged. Was it a golden age? A blizzard of gimmicks? A new lease of life for public services? A door opened for privatisation? There will be at least three and probably four general elections before those Blair Sure Start babies leave school, and reveal the answers. On the face of it, Blair talked the talk on education, but could not walk the walk.
Blair had an uneasy relationship with Parliament. One of his first acts as Prime Minister was to replace the then twice-weekly 15-minute sessions of Prime Minister’s Questions held on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a single 30-minute session on Wednesdays. In addition to PMQs, Blair held monthly press conferences at which he fielded questions from journalists, and – from 2002 – broke precedent by agreeing to give evidence twice yearly before the most senior Commons select committee, The Liaison Committee. Blair was sometimes perceived as paying insufficient attention both to the views of his own Cabinet colleagues, and to those of the House of Commons. His style was sometimes criticised as not that of a prime minister, and head of government, which he was, but of a president, and head of state—which he was not. Blair was accused of excessive reliance on spin, the art of keeping people guessing. He is the first British Prime Minister to have been formally questioned by police, though not under caution, while still in office.
Having freed himself of all parliamentary ties Blair launched into the Private Sector as none of his predecessors had done previously. In January 2008, it was confirmed that Blair would be joining investment bank JPMorgan Chase in a “senior advisory capacity,” and that he would advise Zurich Financial Services on climate change. Some sources have claimed that his role at JP Morgan will pay more than $1m a year. This additional salary will contribute to annual earnings of over £7m. Blair also gives lectures and earns up to US$250,000 for a 90-minute speech. Yale University announced on 7 March 2008 that Blair will teach a course on issues of faith and globalisation at the Yale Schools of Management and Divinity as a Howland distinguished fellow during the 2008–09 academic year. Blair’s links with, and receipt of an undisclosed sum from, UI Energy Corporation, a Korean company with oil interests in northern Iraq, have also been subject to media comment in the UK. Speculation places his personal wealth at £60 million, mostly earned since his tenure as Prime Minister, and owns nine properties around the world. In July 2010 it was reported that his personal security guards claimed £250,000 a year in expenses from the tax payer, Foreign Secretary William Hague said; “we have to make sure that Mr Blair’s security is as cost-effective as possible, that it doesn’t cost any more to the taxpayer than is absolutely necessary”.
Blair has established Tony Blair Associates. This firm will “allow him to provide, in partnership with others, strategic advice on a commercial and pro bono [free] basis, on political and economic trends and governmental reform.” However, Blair has been the subject of criticism for apparent conflicts of interest that allow the former prime minister, now a Middle East peace envoy, to earn large sums of money, both directly and through Tony Blair Associates. His activities in the Quartet are well documented. Nabil Shaath, a senior Abbas associate, said that Blair was acting as Israel’s “defence attorney” in face of Abbas’ application for a Palestinian state to be admitted as a full member of the United Nations. According to a recent episode of the investigative documentary series Dispatches, on the UK’s Channel 4, Blair has used his Quartet role to gain introductions and proximity to Arab leaders, with whom he then signed private consulting contracts for Tony Blair Associates. He obtained one such contract, worth $40m from the Emir of Kuwait, to advise on reforms, and another from the rulers of the United Arab Emirates. Blair was instrumental in lobbying Israel to release frequencies in November 2009 for mobile phone company Wataniya to operate in the occupied West Bank. Wataniya is owned by the Qatari telecoms giant Q-Tel which bought Wataniya in 2007 with a $2 billions, loan arranged by the bank JP Morgan, according to Dispatches. Blair also works for JP Morgan, which pays him over $2m a year for providing “strategic” advice. JP Morgan stood to make “substantial profits” if the deal went through, the British documentary said. Israel had tied approval of Wataniya’s frequencies to the PA dropping efforts to pursue the Goldstone report on Israeli war crimes in Gaza, through the UN. Blair also brokered another major deal with Israel for British Gas to secure contracts to exploit natural gas fields worth up to $6 billions, in the territorial waters of the Gaza Strip. Blair negotiated the deal directly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In 2007, the United Nations Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People spent over $400,000 on three armoured cars for Blair.
Finally, in 2004 Mr. Blair launched the Commission for Africa to generate increased support for the G8 Africa Action plan, during the British Presidency of the G8 Group of industrialised nations in 2005. The idea for an Africa Commission came from former pop star, and long time campaigner against African poverty, Bob Geldof. It was hoped that Geldof would be able to reach out to millions around the world who seldom give Africa a thought – just as he did when he organised the Live Aid concert that helped raise funds for the Ethiopian famine in 1984.Mr Blair’s own motivation came from a long held belief that Africa’s poverty is a ‘scar on the conscience of the world’. It also reflected his own past – with his father having taught at Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone. The aim of the commission was to build on the current efforts, and processes contributing to poverty reduction in Africa such as the New African Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). The commission also hoped that its report will be an important contribution to the assessment of the Millennium Development Goals which was to be held by the United Nations in the autumn of 2005. “This commission will give us the opportunity to review what has worked and not worked, with a view to coming up with better alternatives. It is a commission composed of Africans and non-Africans and therefore it is better placed to come up with a package that takes into consideration views of all the partners of development in Africa,” said Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia. Sir Bob Geldof admitted to a sense of initiative fatigue over Africa, and felt that it was time to stop piecemeal efforts, and to concentrate on a more comprehensive strategy that would break with tradition, and offer hope to the people of the continent. He thought it was particularly auspicious that the commission was being launched on the 20th Anniversary of Live Aid and the 25th Anniversary of the Brandt Commission for Africa .
The original commissioners were: Mr. Fola Adeola who is chairman of FATE Foundation in Nigeria; Mr. K.Y. Amoako, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa; former US Senator Nancy Ladon Kassebaum Baker who previously chaired the US Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs; Mr. Hilary Benn, the British Secretary of State for International Development; Mr. Blair; Mr Brown; Mr. Michele Camdessus, President Jacques Chirac’s Personal Representative on Africa and former Chairman of the IMF; Sir Bob Geldof; Canadian Finance Minister Mr. Ralph Goodale; Dr. William Kalema, Chairman of the Uganda Manufacturers Association and Chairman of the Board of the Uganda Investment Authority; Mr. Manuel; Prime Minister Meles; President Mkapa; Ms. Linah Mohohlo, Governor of the Bank of Botswana; Mrs. Tibjaijuka, and Mr. Tidjane Thaim, Group Strategy and Development Director of AVIVA in Cote D’Ivoire. It is, perhaps, noteworthy that there was no Sierra Leonean deemed worthy to be appointed a commissioner ever.
It was a plausible view that the most important factor contributing to the Commission’s success came from Africa itself. A number of African initiatives had previously laid out a series of concrete plans backed by African heads of state. The most important of these was Nepad – the New Partnership of Africa’s Development, which called for truly massive investment in the continent, in return for improved governance on the part of African leaders. The formation of the African Union was also important, as it gave the continental organisation the right to intervene in the activities of member states to prevent the worst human right abuses. This was vital if wars, and instability were not to undermine African development efforts. As the African Union Commission chairman, Alpha Oumar Konare, told the opening session of the organisation’s summit that July, war and instability were key barriers to growth on a continent that had seen 186 coups d’etat and 26 major wars in the past half century. However, The reaction to the Blair Commission from the African diaspora in London, and the aid agencies was mixed. Some were very sceptical, saying Africa’s problems are well known and the solutions well documented. What was required, they said, was the political will to tackle unfair trade, lack of investment and a fairer redistribution of the world’s resources. Others welcomed the opportunity to put the continent’s problems on the world’s political agenda. So, although there were a number of factors working in favour of the Commission it was far from certain that that it will succeed. In the end the continent’s future lies mainly in its own hands and outside assistance can only play a marginal role in the final outcome. But a well thought-out report that would build on past initiatives, and provide concrete support for Nepad projects might help to reverse Africa’s fortunes. That was the hope embodied in the Commission.
The Commission’s first report in 2005 was a document, weighing in at a substantial 453 pages, laying out the findings of a nine-month inquiry by 17 commissioners – nine of them from Africa – into how best to end poverty and promote development in Africa. It was not well received by any means, but reactions were many and varied. The view in Johannesburg — A “decisive first step” towards making poverty in Africa history, an “exercise to cover up the Iraq war”. An Editorial in Nairobi — At last the Western states appear to be beginning to own up. It is that Western companies and experts are major players in the myriad of corrupt deals involving African states.All along, African academics and development agencies have pointed out that high corruption thrives in African states because it has strong links with Western business houses. Our own Aminata Forna wrote: “This week the Africa Commission will target corruption as the chief priority in saving Africa’s future. And for once, the West’s complicity in African corruption – to which my father drew attention 35 years ago – will be acknowledged. The report will contain tough measures to tackle bribery by multinationals and proposals for Western banks to repatriate money pilfered by African leaders. That is something I welcome. For too long, when it comes to corruption in Africa, the West’s position has been “do as I say not as I do.” In Sierra Leone and other countries, debts were racked up knowingly by African ministers and Western lenders in the full knowledge that they would not be repaid. This was not mere irresponsible borrowing, but planned larceny. This – not bleeding heart sentiments – is the reason that its debts should be written off. Africa doesn’t have the monopoly on corruption. Power the world over is misused for financial gain. In a working democracy, it is the role of the political opposition, the press and the judiciary to provide a balance of power. Enron, Whitewater, Sinn Fein’s connection to the bank heist in Ireland – the press investigate the whiff of financial impropriety with zeal. The ordinary African is as outraged by corruption as we are in the West, though perhaps no longer greatly surprised by it. Corruption is not, as is often hinted, some sort of cultural weakness – even if it has, sadly, become the norm. Africa’s problem is that the structures designed to provide those checks and balances on the leadership are often neither sufficiently strong nor independent. When journalists in those countries do stand up to their leaders they may face threats and intimidation.”
Despite all his efforts thereafter, interest in Mr Blair’s Commission for Africa waned rapidly, and seemed to be ebbing away as the twilight of his political career approached. Most African governments seemed comfortable with arrangements with international, or regional, financial and political institutions. In stark contrast to the wide coverage observed during the commission’s launch in May 2004, and its first report in March 2005, there has been little mention of the panel, or its proceedings since early 2006. African commentators differed from the start on the aims of the commission. Critics accused Mr Blair of political dishonesty claiming that his panel was not meant for Africa but UK voters ahead of the 2006 general elections. Others alleged that the commission had been launched to shore up Mr Blair’s image in the face of the Iraq war. In all, South Africa’s
privately-owned Cape Times noted on 10 May 2007 that “Africans have more reason to regret his departure” since Mr Blair “put the continent’s development plight on the world map,” or did he?
The paper hoped that Mr Blair would join former US President Bill Clinton in his anti-Aids fight so that Africa would “continue burnishing his legacy” in the wake of the Iraq war. He joined former US President George Walker Bush instead.
From the ashes of the failed Commission for all Africa then rose The Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative, which is a UK charity governed by a Board of Trustees, and managed day-to-day by the AGI Management Team, led by Chief Executive Kate Gross. The Rt Hon Tony Blair is the founder and Patron, and acts as a pro bono strategic advisor to AGI’s partner governments. I believe it would be true to say that it is disappointing it has not been possible to include a Sierra Leonean in his Team of nine comprising mainly individuals with strong political affiliations to his time as Labour Prime minister with no outstanding specialist African experience. They are optimistic about Africa, and have a relentless belief that change is possible, and problems can be overcome. They work in countries that are at turning points and draw inspiration from their resilience. Of much significance, the concept of ‘Africa’ was now reduced to just three small countries viz. Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, to be joined only recently by Guinea.
I have now provided sufficient background information that should allow me to pull all the threads together in Part three as I deal with how I feel Tony Blair is rubbing Kondo fat upon the people of Sierra Leone, and the few other African countries he continues to operate in, south of the Sahara.
By Squadron Leader Winston Forde RAF Ret’d
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