Special Adviser defends President’s Ebola war record
Special Adviser to President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone has said that the Ebola war cannot be seen as the sole test of the President’s ability to govern the affairs of state “as he has effectively provided leadership” in building the country’s infrastructure, education, and health amongst others, which is indicative of his vast knowledge on what to do to build a modern State. (Photo: I B Kargbo and Pa Baimba)
Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo spoke the night of Wednesday 17th June, 2015 during an exclusive in-flight interview with this writer whilst both were flying out of the country via SN Brussels.
Kargbo was Minister of Information and Communication during the first inning of President Koroma. Before that, he was President for the Journalists’ parent body in Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ).
Defending President Koroma’s record, Hon Kargbo said that the President has been able to create a partnership between his Government and Civil Society as a result of his democratic credentials “as a man who believes in the rule of law, and has created governance structures like free press which are part of the country’s development process”.
The President, Kargbo said, has laid the foundation to move the country forward, in partnership with other stakeholders, from an Ebola war country to a post Ebola success story.
Major engagement of the Government and its development partners at the moment is not just getting to zero Ebola case, but putting measures in place for post Ebola recovery process.
The President, Kargbo continued, has mapped out strategies for Post Ebola activities and has been able to provide effective leadership in the social mobilization drive across the country “and as such, he is conversant with the problems ahead”.
Speaking further, the former Chief of Information and Communication said, post Ebola programmes will likely be incorporated in the Agenda for Prosperity (AfP) even though the outbreak has posed a lot of challenges to the country.
Due to the President’s charisma and respectability gained in the continent, Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, who was flying to London said, donor organizations like the World Bank and the UN are ready to stand by the President to not only bring back the country to normalcy “but in ensuring post Ebola programmes that will benefit Sierra Leoneans”.
Sierra Leone’s Post Ebola activities, he said, “Must incorporate our rebranding efforts in convincing the world that we have eradicated the virus so more tourists and flights could come”.
Kargbo, a veteran journalist with decades of experience and having witnessed the governance periods of Presidents Milton Margai, Siaka Stevens and Ahmed Tejan Kabba (all dead), said, what comes out clearly is that “President Koroma is a visionary leader whose legacies can even now be counted. He is a people’s oriented leader whose programmes are centered on the development of his citizens”.
The President, he stressed, undertook the Ebola war from the national level “and never did he marginalize any district. Mobilization support was provided for every district” but however agreed that lessons have been learnt in the area of isolating a district or town, where such an outbreak occurs thus preventing its further spread.
The Ebola outbreak also saw the indictment of individuals and civil society groups by the country’s auditing firm, Sierra Leone Audit Service. This eventually led to the country’s law making body, Parliament to conduct an investigation on how public funds were used.
Commenting on this issue, Kargbo said, “whatever came out of the Audit Report came by surprise because we had engaged civil society before and they performed well” in the launch of the Free Health Care scheme, in sensitizing people about the change in the metric system and with regards the activities of the Open Government Initiative. “This is no attempt to support corruption. I can only state the episode which dragged civil society to Parliament must be seen as an isolated one. We still need their (civil society) support”.
The country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, IB Kargbo stressed, made clear the need for Government to utilize civil society to reduce political tension “and this explains why President Koroma has identified them as partners”.
During the Ebola outbreak also, Sierra Leone had a lot of support from her development partners and friendly nations, amongst them, the People’s Republic of China. According to Adviser Kargbo, “majority of Sierra Leoneans were taken by surprise, taking into account the massive contribution China gave. As a country, we believe the leadership of the People’s Republic of China did not identify Sierra Leone by mistake” he said, especially as both countries view each other as strategic partnership.
The President, IB Kargbo said, is impressed with the activities of China in Sierra Leone especially during the Ebola period when they sent in their citizens to help with the fight.
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