Vox populi in pace! Our General Elections held on 17th November 2012 were, once again, to the credit of our people in Sierra Leone. President Koroma was re-elected to serve as President until 2017, and promptly adopted a new “Agenda for Prosperity” slogan, which is yet to be clearly defined.
After a prolonged period of silence extending over Christmas and the New Year that tested the principle of continued governance to its limits, an official Press Release issued on Friday 4th January 2013 announced the appointment of 16 Mministers, 2 Ministers of state, 21 Deputy Ministers, 3 Resident Ministers and 2 officers in the President’s Office viz Secretary to the President and his Chief of Staff. Noteworthy amongst ministers still to be appointed was a Minister of Tourism whom we now know to be Mrs V Saidu-Kamara. A formidable Team to run a small country.
Following from my earlier comments in my article in October 2012 about our “Elsewhere Society” l note with not much surprise that our new Ministers have not been rushing to tell us, and the World about their plans and aspirations, neither is there a post on the State House website under ‘National Agenda.’ That section is still blank despite the pronouncements about an Agenda for Prosperity.
However, the website proudly displays details about the visit on Tuesday 15th January 2013 of Mr Tony Blair, Head of the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), a private NGO. This must be seen as being of less impact than if other Leaders, say the current British Prime Minister were rushing to associate with our newly elected President. In true form Tony Blair wasted no time in publishing his visit in the AGI website, did not speak to local newspapers or journalists, but with the BBC World Service, typically omitting any substantive detail. Of significance, though, he stated that “Sierra Leone has natural resources, it’s culture, and great potential in the area of tourism, and the development of the private sector.” During the visit he had discussed details of Sierra Leone’s ambitious aim to become a Middle Income Country by 2035 with government officials as well as the need for the country to diversify away from a reliance on natural resources by growing a strong private sector especially in manufacturing. What we need to be growing now is enough rice for consumption and not fuel, and other economic crops , and to ask where our trained if qualified citizens are that would engage in manufacturing. One is tempted to enquire who these government officials to whom he spoke were; does he mean Ministers as well? More importantly where is the stated ambition on our income levels contained? Why do we allow a private unelected individual to govern us?
It is interesting that the AGI website makes it quite clear that the ‘Africa’ in AGI is only Liberia, Guinea, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan, which is a far cry from the original dream. He explains that a Team of 8 – 10 AGI staff has been on the ground in Sierra Leone since October 2008 providing support in key government institutions including the office of the President, Sierra Leone’s Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA), and the Ministries of Agriculture and Health. He continues to take full credit for the development and introduction of the Healthcare Initiative. One could be forgiven for being confused about the true effectiveness of our Ministers, and indeed our President. Especially as the AGI News report on the recent visit states “My Government, and I have agreed that the services provided by the AGI have been useful, and will continue with these services, and possibly expand areas of intervention.” Indeed, this looks like ‘intervention’ from outside! We must ask, who pays the AGI staff, and at what salary levels, and what is the true Bill to the country for their services? Before the elections I suggested we should be told about their work, and given details of their secret activities in our country. If they play such a pivotal roll, there should be some national debate about their position in Government if a charge of corruption, in the normal way, is to be avoided.
Finally, the AGI maintain a stony silence on Education and Training, which is arguably our main obstacle to any local prosperity of our people as opposed to the prosperity of those who come from outside to exploit our resources whilst we continue to remain blind to their self seeking true aims.
If we are saying that without Tony Blair Sierra Leone is doomed, and could not prosper, then the conclusion must be that he’s got us by the proverbial.