Sierra Leone At 56: Beyond The Clinking Of Glasses

Sierra Leone At 56: Beyond The Clinking Of Glasses

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 6:16 pm


President Ernest-Bai-Koroma of Sierra Leone


Its significance for President Koroma


ABUBAKAR HASHIM/Freetown

This year’s independence anniversary is significant for President Ernest Bai Koroma for two strategic reasons: as a sitting president, he is commemorating his last anniversary and he is overseeing an election transition period that has been dotted with controversies. Africa and the world are eager to see a peaceful political transition in Sierra Leone. Among these nations is Nigeria that has over 200 years of mutually beneficial relationship with Sierra Leone

The next general elections will be held in March next year, completing a 10-year rule that many see as a period of twists and turns, triumph of democracy, good governance and the promotion of press freedom, coupled with other enormous challenges as the devastating Ebola, the massive floods and recently the imposition of austerity measures.

The multifaceted impacts of President Koroma’s works have however stabilized Sierra Leone, leaving behind a fascinating legendary legacy. His administration, however, witnessed a couple of challenges, principally the Ebola scourge, the flood disasters among many others. Overcoming these challenges is perhaps,the best anniversary present for the country.

The Legendary Legacies

When he first came to power in 2007, Freetown was named the darkest city in the world. Within his first 100 days, the city was lit up. There is presently a relatively steady supply of electricity in the city of Freetown. The provincial towns of Bo, Kenema and Makeni have also witnessed remarkable improvement of power supply. These are among the prime legendary legacies of President Koroma’s10 year rule

Sierra Leone at 56


The opening of the road network in the country is another of the legacies of his government. Within the capital city of Freetown, 36 streets have been rehabilitated with supporting funds from the Sierra Leone government. This has been unprecedented as the country has long been totally dependent on donor support for virtually all road projects. The roads that have been fully funded by the government include those on the Central Business Distinct, the Wilkinson/Spur road, and the Hill Cot and Bye Pass road linking the mountainous hills to the east of Freetown.

In the provinces of Bo, Makeni, Moyamba, Pujehun, down to the Riverine town of Shenge, it has been the same success story. A Nigeria company, First Tricon Construction Group is handling these road projects that have almost been concluded, though with some challenges.

In the area of health, it has been a bit challenging for the past 10 years of the Koroma led government. The parameters in assessing the health sector are as daunting and formidable as the successes recorded in the health sector. Since the Ebola outbreak, the country’s health infrastructure has been improved through the massive inflow of support particularly from Nigeria, China, the United Kingdom and other friendly nations. The Ebola crisis exposed the weak health infrastructure of Sierra Leone. This sector, is perhaps, the most challenging and enormously- formidable sector the Koroma –led government inherited since he first came to power in 2007. The country is ranked among the highest in infant and maternal mortality in the word. There is a doctor to every 1000 Sierra Leoneans. Health service facilities, like ambulances are virtually inadequate. When the Ebola broke out, donation of ambulances and other health equipment flourished. There is now 1 ambulance to every of the 12 districts in the country.

In the education sector, it is as daunting as the health sector. There has been an explosive increase in the number of private schools, leaving behind a trail of public schools in the doldrums.

Indeed, the score card of the Koroma-led government, as the country clocks 56 this week, is a mixture of successes and challenges. Successes in the road and energy sectors but the enormity of the challenges in the health and educational sectors are quite formidable.

It is in the transport sector, that this administration has scored the highest especially when the economy is now recovering from the Ebola. Virtually all the flights were stopped. So with ships at the Sea Ports. But it is now normal business. Flights have increased their frequencies in the country with new entrants like KLM that stopped operations 21 years ago resuming operations.

At the Port, remarkable developments have occurred. Core operations at the port like container services are presently being handled by private French operator, Bollore, while bulked cargo services are handled by a British company, Nectar. These two companies have been performing relatively well in beefing up efficient services and providing port infrastructural facilities that were severely lacking.

The government recently provided 100 buses to ease the severe transport problem in the country. Another fleet of 100 buses in expected to further ameliorate the teething transport problem in the country

Relationship with Nigeria, Africa and the world

The relationship with Nigeria is like the birth of children from two sisters. The 200 year- old relationship was commemorated last year with pomp and pageantry. The two countries have a mutually beneficial relationship that extends into various fields and sectors such as education, health, military and the promotion of democracy.

Buttressing this special relationship with Nigeria, Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma gave thumbs up to Nigeria during an exclusive interview with this medium. Referring to Nigeria as a “big brother”, Koroma sees Nigeria as Germany is, within the European Union (EU), he went on, “so Nigeria is within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)”.

As the country celebrates her 56th Independence Anniversary, its foreign relations outlook remains one of an open door policy. It retains friendly posture to all nations, irrespective of ideological leaning. In other words, the country has friendly ties with the United Kingdom, the United States as well as the Islamic Republic of Iran, with the People’s Republic of China in the name of partnership for development.

As he celebrates with the nation on the country’s 56th independence anniversary, President Koroma is leaving behind an undisputable legacy as the first head of state of Sierra Leone to chair a committee of 10 for a permanent seat in the security council of the United Nations. The country recently hosted a world gathering at Bintumani Hotel in Freetown to fashion out modalities for the accomplishment of this objective. The President was also among the tripartite team of heads of states that prevailed on former President Yaya Jammeh of the Gambia to exit from power.

As the voter registration ends this week, former Vice President Samuel Sam Sumana,who was relieved of his position in the past is in the country to register for the forth coming 2018 elections. His lawyer, Dr. Ramond Atugba has written to President Koroma and copied all West African Presidents, requesting gurantee of his safety.

Beyond the clinking of glasses and the tossing of champaign bottles, the Koroma – led administration will have a hard nut to crack as the country approaches the 2018 general elections. Though the score card is relatively impressive, particularly the infrastructural architecture of the country, there are signs of economic hardship and the astronomical level of unemployment of youths, particularly graduates from universities. With the ongoing austerity measures biting hard, the 56th independence anniversary will be celebrated low key, with government officials and the opposition party members gearing for the polls in 2018. This election will be the most challenging and interesting in the political evolution of the country, remarked Albert Massaquoi, the National Electoral Commission’s spokesman.

The Significance of the Sierra Leone 56the Independence Anniversary of President Koroma is a peaceful handover to the incoming President of the 2018 elections aas late President Tejan Kabbah did in 2007.

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