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Information and Communications Minister calls presidential invitation a cardinal endorsement

Information and Communications Minister calls presidential invitation a cardinal endorsement

President Ernest Bai Koroma’s invitation to participate at a high level panel conversation together with heads of states of Cape Verde, Malawi and Senegal on Consolidating Democratic Gains, Promoting African Prosperity scheduled to take place at the US Institute of Peace in Washington is causing a stir.  (Photo: Information and Communications Minister, Alpha Kanu)

Minister of Information and Communications – Mr. Alpha Kanu, said the gesture by the USA has been received with great joy by the Government and people of Sierra Leone.

Mr. Kanu, who also doubles as Presidential and Government spokesperson made the remarks in an email response Monday from his office in Freetown on the eve of the president’s departure on a three-day visit to Washington.

“President Koroma sees this as a great honour while we the people he leads see it as a cardinal endorsement of his impeccable democratic credentials underpinned by the successful conclusion of the 2012 presidential, parliamentary and local council elections in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility,” argued Mr. Kanu.

But pro-government media outlets are welcoming the invitation as a status upgrade for Sierra Leone to be recognized as a viable democratically governed country to earn such a prestigious invitation from United States President Barack Obama

Opposition party newspapers and bloggers are deprecating the importance of the presidential invitation.  Critics of the administration cite allegations of malpractice including use of state media during last presidential and parliamentary elections which they say gave President Koroma an edge in winning the 2012 elections; unemployment, high cost of living and other economic and social ills affecting the country are sufficient reasons not to celebrate.

Still, Steven Ruder spokesperson for USIP in a statement Monday on the invitation said “these four heads of state are in Washington, DC together at the invitation of President Obama.”   Ruder further explained “the USIP is hosting this event at the request of the US Department of State. USIP hosted a similar event, ‘Assessing Progress Towards Democracy in Francophone Africa,’ on July 28, 2011, with the heads of state of Benin, Guinea, Niger, and Cote d’Ivoire.”

The aim of USIP at this event, according to Ruder, is “to have an important conversation on the link between good governance and increasing prosperity in their countries and across Africa,” underscoring “promoting democracy, transparency, economic advancement, their countries’ roles as regional leaders, and how partnering with organizations like the Millennium Challenge Corporation has helped motivate and sustain democratic reforms.”

Ruder also stressed requests for comment on the invitation of these heads of state to the United States should be directed to the Department of State in Washington

Meanwhile, speaking in his capacity as presidential spokesperson, Minister Kanu made the following declarations on behalf of President Koroma’s selection:

  • It is recognition of his brilliant human rights record where he placed a permanent lid on executions, persecution of journalists, the complete absence of political prisoners in our prisons, the maintenance of law and order that earned him the award of abolitionist of the year by the “Hands off Caine” organization.
  • His incessant concern for timely and effective delivery on the Agenda for Change in such a transformative manner that the UNDP human Development index has not only moved 10 places up from the bottom of the scale where the nation had been trapped year in year out for the last two decades prior to 2007.
  • For his governance strategy firmly focused on then MDGs as end points, the Agenda for change as a road mapping strategy and the MCC indicators as benchmarking milestones leading to the invitation for Sierra Leone to prepare an MCC Compact proposal.
  • All this happened while growing the economy as the fastest in the world in 2011 and 2012 at 35% and 19% respectively and achieving the fastest growth rate in HDI in Africa.
  • This apparent defiance of the gravity like pull down factor on one of two competing interests of economic growth and social delivery has rendered the effect of the expected Pareto optimality concept negligible.
  • President Koroma may not have won a Nobel Prize for leadership nor an Oscar for political dexterity, however, his invitation to the White House by President Barack Obama, the most powerful man on earth today, more than compensates for that.
  • Well done President Ernest Bai Koroma and good luck in your visit to the United States of America.”

 However, Minister Kanu did not comment on a transparency related question – that of the impediments preventing a final vote and implementation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill – a legislation that would allow members of the public to obtain access to information held by public bodies including information that was previously inaccessible, or that was considered sensitive such as government contracts with multinational companies as well as declaration asset information of the administration officials.

The bill which was introduced in September 2010 has been languishing in parliament awaiting a final vote.  President Koroma had said he would sign it into law if it passes.

By Dennis Kabatto

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