President Koroma the youths and the November elections- a case of Sweissy Jewellers Association in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone’s commitment to her socio-economic and infrastructural development has taken a level that requires public support. This is particularly true, given the desire among the present political class led by Ernest Bai Koroma to steer the nation in the right direction. We have, as a nation always come out of burning issues that often tend to put us apart. We had a civil war that accounted for the deaths of tens of thousands of people. (Photo: John Baimba Sesay, IA, Beijing, China)
Paradox of plenty:
Sierra Leone is a country with plenty of resources. But there is some paradox here- These resources had both direct and indirect effect in the country’s socio-economic decline during her civil war period. They accounted for the civil war, coupled with other factors, especially the conspiracy at the time, to remove the then APC government from power.
What worsened the situation itself was when some small and inexperienced boys left their barracks to remove a legitimate government in 1992. Sierra Leone at the time had her own challenges but for a group of military officers to use the barrel of their guns to gain power was s just unacceptable as even undermining the democratic tenants of a state. A military officer is trained on how to protect the territorial integrity of his country and how to defend his people from external aggressors, and not how to run a government. I am yet to see or be told of any military academy that gives training on how to govern the affairs of a state. The military coup of 1992 was the climax of Sierra Leone’s sad chapter in her political history.
But still on the resource potentials of Sierra Leone; generally, there is a direct and indirect relationship between plenty resources and conflict. An abundance of resource, thus, having both direct and indirect relationship with conflict, will account for what is referred to as the “paradox of plenty”, in which, dependence on such resources will definitely contribute to a nation’s economic and state decline “and aided rebel group mobilisation” (Read Resource-Conflict Links in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, by Ruben De Koning)
Notwithstanding the abundance of resources in Sierra Leone, there came a time, when people realised that only peace and a politically stable nation can foster national development. That that was how we begun realising the need to put an end to that war. By 2002, our decade long civil war officially came to an end. The willingness on the part of Sierra Leoneans, to call for an end to the war must be commended.
That said, I need to also mention the fact that immediately after the war, we were able to get success stories in the area of setting-up institutional post war reforms. The end to Sierra Leone’s civil war witnessed the creation of institutions like the National Revenue Authority, National Commission for Social Action, National Social Security and Insurance Trust and the Independent Media Commission, among others. I must commend the Tejan Kabba (h) led government for that, even though, in my view, much was also not done to make some of these institution fully operational to be able to move in line with what was expected of them.
President Koroma’s desire and role of youths:
I also must hasten to bring to mind the desire and commitment that the Ernest Koroma led government has shown during the last four years of Sierra Leone’s development history to move the country to the apex of socio-economic, infrastructural and political development. Ranging from the country ‘s progress in its infrastructural development, to the provision of electricity, the progress that has been made in the area of the free health care, to that of putting efforts together to market the once battered image of Sierra Leone at the level of government’s ‘re-branding’ efforts.
Again, these practical developments have come as a result of the resolve among Sierra Leoneans for such.
But we need not stop at that, we need to also look at the role of the youths, in relation to governance and democracy. While young people account for 34 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa, in Sierra Leone it is almost double that figure, standing at 60 percent. (http://worldpress.org/Africa ). Therefore, when once supported by the youthful population, one is sure and certain of winning elections in Sierra Leone. Groups like Union of Youths Sierra Leone, the National Youths Coalition, Sweissy Jewellers Association, amongst others have a crucial and critical role to play in Sierra Leone’s development efforts.
Abdul Karim Daboh is President of the Sierra Leone Sweissy Jewellers Association. This is a group that has an outstanding membership and has the capacity of influencing votes in Freetown, especially among its membership. I recently had the opportunity of meeting Abdul Karim Daboh at the Beijing International Airport on his way to one Province in China for a conference on Youths Initiatives for Business from Developing Countries. My eagerness to meet him was primarily to know what he makes of present development in Sierra Leone.
Progress made so far:
Daboh’s first take was his impression with the type of leadership that has been provided so far by President Koroma during his four years as President of Sierra Leone. “President Koroma is a visionary leader that has demonstrated his love for his country. He is development oriented.” He compared Sierra Leone to other nations within the sub region, thus saying “when you travel out of Sierra Leone and see what is happening in other countries within the sub region, you feel compelled to speak high of what President Koroma is today doing back home. Sierra Leone is now moving in the direction that other nations have been moving in terms of development.
We were deprived of development initiatives by past leaders. We have now continued to perform in line with international standards, look at our airport and see what is now happening there?, he said. My view on this has not been quite different from Daboh’s. I recently visited Sierra Leone for a period not exceeding 12 days and I must say, that the facelift that the airport has been given shows that if we had got leaders who had been sincere in moving Sierra Leone to another level ,as we now see, things would have taken a different shape.
Sierra Leone’s health sector:
Daboh called for a thorough look at the country’s health sector. He referred to the free health care scheme that was introduced by President Koroma over a year ago and the impact that such an initiative has made. When President Koroma was elected in 2007, a number of areas were considered as priority areas, including health, energy and infrastructure.
The UK ‘s Guardian newspaper of October 21st 2011 wrote, that “…Blair (referring here to former Prime Minister of Britain) cites Sierra Leone’s free healthcare programme for pregnant women and children under five as an example of what can happen under the right leadership. The idea for free healthcare had been “knocking around” for years, he says, but only under President Ernest Koroma did things take off last year. AGI [African Governance Initiative] supported the government in developing a plan for abolishing fees for health services, getting donor backing and implementing system-wide reform…. But while the scheme has been welcomed and is showing positive results – the number of women giving birth in hospital has doubled, for example, and child deaths from malaria have fallen… (http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/oct/20/africa-tony-blair-poverty-democracy)
The MediPharm News in Sierra Leone of September 2011 quoted President as saying that “…the people of this country are poor, and many of them do not have the means to buy the drugs, we abhor to witness our citizens dying prematurely only because they cannot access five or ten thousand Leones to buy drugs…”(page 18). In fact the increase in the drugs purchase from an encouraging 7.7 million dollars to about 11 million dollars must have been as a result of the increase in the number of pregnant and lactating women visiting our hospitals today. The figures, according to the newspaper quoted above , increased from 800 per year prior to the introduction of the scheme ‘to over 9,000 in eight months after the health care was launched…this shows a 60% drop of women and children who were dying as a result of complicated cases…” (Page 41) .In essence, President Koroma has scored great marks in this direction. And for Daboh, this success must be counted in determining the chances of President Koroma, being re-elected.
Fight against corruption:
This is another area that Abdul Karim Daboh thinks the present government has made great strides. For him, “what we have seen today in Sierra Leone is the type of leadership that is determined to tackle the issue of corruption at all levels. The fact that the ACC can now prosecute people on its own means, the President is serious…”
Corruption appears to have been minimized in recent years. (This is according to the ACC Commissioner, in an interview with Torchlight newspaper, October 2011). Transparency International ranking, according to reports, was 158 out of 180 countries in 2008 and 146 out of 180 countries in 2009. Today, the country is the most-improved economy in terms of doing business and despite being a post-conflict country; Sierra Leone can move forward to encourage entrepreneurship (Mary Agboli, head of IFC in Sierra Leone as reported in page 3of Concord Times, 21st October 2011)
Koroma and public communication:
Another aspect pointed at, as a success of this government by Daboh is that of public communication. He argues, that “it is now part of government policy to always keep people abreast on development, of what the President is doing and we are regularly being informed by even government Ministers…” He pointed at the Open Government Initiative, a flagship of President Koroma, saying “This was very lacking prior to the election of President Koroma”.
Public communication is the lifeblood of governance. A government that fails to communicate with its people will fail. In a Rapporteurs’ Report for the George Washington University’s Elliott School for International Affairs, it is argued, that “neglecting to provide information to the public represents a serious impediment to governance, and underscoring the benefits of improved government communication has a strong multiplier effect”.(see “The Contribution of Government Communication Capacity to Achieving Good Governance Outcomes”). The report also advanced that “Governments have an interest in instituting regimes of transparency and accountability. Providing citizens with adequate information on priorities, programs, and activities ensures the legitimacy of the government and therefore stabilizes the political situation in a country…It is therefore in the interest of governments to communicate effectively about the work they do on behalf of their constituents…”( http://siteresources.worldbank.org)
Richard Tamba M’bayo is a scholar in media and communication. In a work, titled, Press And Politics In Africa, and also looking at the government-press relationship in Sierra Leone, he submitted argued that the relationship between the press and the government in Sierra Leone at a given period experienced “some tumbling…from a level of relative cordiality and respect…to a depth of near animosity and mutual suspicion…” But that trend is no longer the same in present day Sierra Leone.
President Koroma’s relationship with the media in Sierra Leone has always been an excellent one, even since his days in opposition. Today, the media still holds its traditional function as inspector general to the entire political system, as “even in the most weak and unstable country the mass media must still retain to some degree their most basic functions: that of serving as an inspector general to the entire political system, so as to provide the necessary public criticism to ensure some degree of political integrity among the power holders…”(Daniel Lerner in Communication And Change In The Developing Countries)
I was listening to David Tam Bayoh’s Monologue program live from Sierra Leone in China over the weekend and the impression I go, listening to Alpha Kanu defending his government was that, this is s government that takes communication as serious as its desire to win the November elections.
Assurance of re-election
With all these success stories highlighted by Abdul Karim Daboh, he was quick to assure that President Koroma will be re-elected this year. For him, there has not been an alternative to President Korma and that “taking into account what he has done and what he is still doing, I am certain, he will be re-elected and he will get the votes of the youths.”
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