In Part One of this article, I promised to do a Part 2 where I will present more of President Julius Maada Bio’s achievements and show how in just five short years he has done much more than the eleven years of former President Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC. As bonus, I will also put forward why Samura Kamara, the current APC flag bearer candidate is no match for President Julius Maada Bio and why the latter will win with ‘No Run-Off’.
When President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah left power in 2007, Sierra Leone was debt free. The country’s fiscal situation was perfect for take-off and there were several infrastructure projects waiting for implementation as funding for all of them had been secured. You may recall that at the early years of the APC government of Ernest Bai Koroma, the then SLPP opposition party nicknamed it “pull-nar-doe” government because all the infrastructure projects which President Tejan Kabbah started were completed few months after Ernest Bai Koroma became president and he (EBK) had the honour to open them, taking credit for doing sweet nothing. Examples are the CID headquarters and ONS building among many others.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans and other readers, it will surprise you to know that by 2018 when Ernest Bai Koroma handed power over to President Julius Maada Bio, Sierra Leone’s debt was 1.7Billion dollars. The country’s financial situation was so rotten that the World Bank, the IMF, other financial institutions, donors and development partners stopped doing business with the APC government of Ernest Bai Koroma one year before the 2018 elections. Even the support to the government for the 2018 elections had to be managed by the donors and development partners themselves for fear that Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves would tamper with the monies and compromise the process. So by the time the Maada Bio administration took office, Sierra Leone was a financial pariah – we have been kicked out of all financial institutions because the APC government had been so very fiscally irresponsible and reckless. So when the SLPP government in those early days stated that the economy was in dire strait, it wasn’t politics as usual, it was the reality.
Five years down the road, what is the story? There has been a financial rebirth for Sierra Leone. The country has been, through very prudent fiscal management, re-admitted into all the financial institutions it was kicked out of. Financial institutions and donor partners now have confidence in the Government of President Bio. Unlike in the days of the APC when one year to elections partners had ran away from the government, this time around donor partners and financial institutions are not only running to the SLPP government to do business, they are giving grants (free money) instead of loans (moneys to be paid with interest) to the government. This can only be done to a country for a reason – Respect and Confidence in the way the country’s finances are managed.
In five years, even with the ravages of Covid-19, the economic strangulation of the Ukraine war and the instability of the exchange rate, the Maada Bio administration had managed to keep Sierra Leone’s debt to about 2Billion dollars, adding only about 300million to the 1.7Billion which Ernest Bai Koroma bequeathed this nation. Even there, half of the 300Million added to our debt burden by the SLPP government were interests accrued on the APC debt Ernest Bai Koroma left Sierra Leone. Put in simple English… Ernest Bai Koroma lef we pan poe!
During the 11 years reign of Ernest Bai Koroma, two different SLAJ presidents, Umaru Fofana and Kelvin Lewis, tried all they can to get him to honour his campaign promise of repealing the Seditious Libel Law but to no avail. Instead, President Ernest Bai Koroma played games with the two SLAJ presidents. He pretended he was committed to doing it but drag his feet until his tenure was over and he did nothing. Several journalists, including this writer, were guests at the Remand Cells of Pademba Road Prison because of this obnoxious law which politicians use to silent or victimize journalists and which pliant magistrates implement to satisfy their political godfathers.
During his campaign for the 2018 elections, Julius Maada Bio did not only promise repealing the Seditious Libel Law, he made it a manifesto commitment. Upon winning the election, he was true to his word. He not only repealed the law (which many non political players advised him not to do), but he also gave the people of Sierra Leone ‘bunya’ by abolishing the Death Penalty as well. It is only a president with a good heart and one who cares for Press Freedom and Human Rights would do such a thing.
In the area of strengthening governance and deepening democracy, the government of President Julius Maada Bio is second to none. Even President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah who started the reconstruction of Sierra Leone after the war cannot match President Bio in this area. President Bio brought back the teaching of Civics in school by setting up the National Commission for Civic Education and Development. He also set up the following: Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion, National Disaster Management Agency, National Management and Evaluation Directorate, Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, National Investment Board, Office of the Presidential Infrastructure Initiative and of course, the Office of the Chief Minister – all of these geared towards enhancing effective and efficient public service delivery. Only a president who cares for the well being of his people will go the extra mile to put in place institutions or mechanisms to facilitate service delivery.
Additionally, President Bio’s government had advanced the rule of law, promoted justice and human rights in record ways. In just five short years, he has increased access to justice by establishing Magistrate and High courts in every districts and a Special Court to try perpetrators of Gender Based crimes. In the period under review, the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone has been graded to “A” status for the third consecutive time by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights through its accredited body, Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions. These are no mean feats. However, they did not cross the radar of the past government.
In a world where technology rules and Communication is king, Sierra Leone under President Julius Maada Bio has made significant progress. The National Fibre backbone has been extended to five more districts, the number of internet users in Sierra Leone has increased from three hundred and seven thousand (307,000) in APC days (2017) to two million six hundred and seventy thousand (2,670,000) in 2022 in just five years time.
In the area of roads and bridges construction, this government is on top of the game. Several bridges have been constructed, including Sewa Bridge (Gondama), Waanje Bridge (Bandajuma Sowa), Moa Bridge (Bandajuma), Mabele Bridge, Mabang Bridge, Kpangbama Bridge and Savage Street Bridge in Freetown.
This government has equally rehabilitated 46Km of paved roads and paved with asphalt 250Km of trunk roads to facilitate vehicular traffic, while pedestrian overpass crossings are being constructed in the city of Freetown to enhance road safety and reduce accidents due to road crossings.
The most popular sport in the world, football has been improved in a major way since President Bio took office in 2018. The impasse between SLAFA and other football bodies had been resolved, the Sierra Leone national Premiere League reactivated and Female Premiere League introduced. Government has supported other sporting disciplines causing Sierra Leone to participate in tournaments and competitions which she had not done in a very long time.
Several laws have been enacted to empower women and girls, initiatives introduced to provide employment for youth, budgetary allocation increased to Disability Commission to support the growing number of persons with disability, NASSIT court introduced to protect workers’ rights and international conventions ratified to ensure Sierra Leone is at par with other countries in the sub region.
President Julius Maada Bio with his government has done far more in five years than the eleven years of President Ernest Bai Koroma and his government. One question Sierra Leoneans should ask is: “if Sierra Leone has one of the fastest growing economies as the APC government of Ernest Bai Koroma purported, why did the economy collapse so fast under the shocks of Ebola and the global melt down?” Why didn’t the same happen to our neighbours – Guinea and Liberia? The answers to this I will reserve for another article.
Let me now turn briefly to Samura Kamara and show why he cannot match President Julius Maada Bio in the race for State House.
President Maada Bio has the power of incumbency. He has achievements to showcase for his stewardship; Samura Kamara has no such thing. Yes, Samura Kamara may claim to be a technocrat who had worked in very top government positions in the Central Bank, in the ministry of Finance, in the ministry of Foreign Affairs, etc. In fact, he worked for the longest time in the ministry of Finance before and during the eleven years of the APC government of Ernest Bai Koroma. If by the time Ernest Bai Koroma fielded him as the flag bearer and Presidential candidate for the APC our economy which he managed for almost two five-year terms was in shambles, what else does he have to offer Sierra Leone now?
If Samura Kamara lost the presidency to Julius Maada Bio in 2018 when the APC had incumbency, what makes him think he will win now with a party turned against itself, with several APC party heavyweights defecting to join the Bio winning team?
For the first time in the history of party politics in Sierra Leone, a former vice president of government abandons his party and not only declared his support for the seating president (of another party) but also lambasted his boss the former president, calling him names and accusing him of corruption. Are these not sings enough to show that the main opposition APC is not ready to lead, contrary to Samura Kamara’s campaign slogan?
With the third biggest party in Parliament now in alliance with the ruling government, with the power of incumbency of President Maada Bio, with some major and significant achievements to showcase for his first term in office, with donors’ and financial institutions’ support for the economy plus the fact that the SLPP new manifesto clearly articulates the direction for the next five years, what hope is there for Samura Kamara?
It is an impossibility for Samura Kamara to challenge and defeat the vibrant, handsome, energetic, charismatic and young Julius Maada Bio. Samura Kamara is a hard sell. He has passed his “sell by date”. He is now frail, gaunt, unattractive and feeble. A friend of mine who is now 72 years old informed me that Samura Kamara taught him in Form 1 at St. Edwards Secondary School, so by all indication, Samura Kamara will be in his late seventies at best.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, is that the kind of man you want to give our country to? A man, who cannot even manage his utterances, cannot manage a country. Let us think wisely and vote conscientiously. Sierra Leone is at the crossroads. Our decision at this election will determine whether we are moving forward towards development or if we will slide back to retrogression. I trust we will choose right!