Friday, June 30, 2017 9:30 am
This is the second time President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone is granting us interview on his tenure and stewardship. The first was in October 2015 during the Ebola Crisis. Thanks to our seasoned and versatile West Africa Bureau Chief and Project Consultant, Abubakar Hashim, who worked tirelessly to get these two interviews done. In this second interview, President Koroma spoke about his legacy for the people of Sierra Leone as he is completing his final term in March 2018, his chairmanship of the United Nations (UN) Committee of 10 to secure a permanent seat for Africa in the UN Security Council and the robust relationship between Sierra Leone and Nigeria
Q: This is your last term and final year. What is your most outstanding legendary legacy for the people of Sierra Leone?
When I attained the presidency in 2007, my priority was to embark on a massive transformation of the country. And even with the several challenges, through our governance and investment reforms, my Government has succeeded in repositioning our country for a take off to prosperity. I believe that through our infrastructure development – whether it is in roads, in energy, in ICTs, in the water or health sectors – we have done a lot to connect our country to neighbouring states, our rural communities to urban centers, to health facilities, to schools and we have considerably improved access to energy from a paltry seven megawatts to about a hundred and twenty megawatts.
Our renewable energy intervention added to this; over 250,000 households, translating into millions of Sierra Leoneans, now have access to energy. And through the building of water stations in every district and several major towns where there had been no pipe borne water for over three decades, we are providing clean pipe borne water to millions more of our compatriots. Our Free Health Care Initiative is also an intervention that has provided hope and saved the lives of thousands of women and children. And now my Government’s reform of the justice sector including its Legal Aid to indigent citizens; is restoring confidence to our justice system.
All of these are on top of our efforts in expanding access to education: establishing three universities in nine years, ensuring that all public examinations are free, that there is free university education for females in the sciences and for persons with disabilities. To answer your question more directly; I would say, because of all of the interventions we have made, we have been able to generally improve the lives of our people, build on our democracy, maintain and keep the peace for which we have been ranked the most peaceful country in West Africa and the sixth most peaceful in Africa. I think those are phenomenal legacies.
What is the present relationship with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari?
Let me first state that Sierra Leone and Nigeria have a long standing bilateral relationship; one that has stood the test of times. Both countries have taken the bold decision to stand solidly by each other particularly in times of need. Long before now, there were Nigerians who actually gained higher education in our premier university – Fourah Bay College. Recently, we have seen Nigeria coming through for us during our eleven years of conflict and during our fight against Ebola. And we have had exchange programmes to support our health and education sectors which have served to further strengthened our bilateral ties. We also have hundreds of Nigerian businessmen here in Sierra Leone. Now to my relationship with Mr Buhari; he is an elder brother and a colleague, a close and strong friend. Our relationship is based on mutual respect and trust and we have worked together on several peace initiatives in the region: in The Gambia, Mali and in Bissau. He is a determined leader and a dependable partner.
As Chair of the Committee of 10 at the UN, what is the present state of Africa’s Permanent Membership of the UN Security Council?
It is hot and cold. Hot, because the greater majority of African states are united in pursuing our common position. And there are several non African states that are also supportive of the African demand. It is cold because the negotiations are unacceptably slow; making it almost impossible for any real progress to be made. In fact, it is only now that meaningful negotiations are taking place. But no one should underestimate Africa’s strong determination to compel the UN to accede to our common position as espoused in the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declarations; even if it means by boycotting the UN. The UN must accept that over the past 70 years, the world has undergone profound changes.
Let me first state that Sierra Leone and Nigeria have a long standing bilateral relationship; one that has stood the test of times. Both countries have taken the bold decision to stand solidly by each other particularly in times of need. Long before now, there were Nigerians who actually gained higher education in our premier university – Fourah Bay College. Recently, we have seen Nigeria coming through for us during our eleven years of conflict and during our fight against Ebola.
The increasingly complex and numerous peace and security threats require a Council capable of fulfilling its mandate in line with the United Nations Charter. This also requires inclusiveness and equity in dealing with global issues. As a Committee, we are focused on the need to correct the historic injustice of exclusion in the global decision architecture. To ensure that Africa’s voice is heard on that global platform; in part by expanding the Council, to include at least two permanent seats for Africa with all the rights and privileges of current members, including the veto; and two additional non-permanent seats. The journey may seem long, but we will get there.