APC Popularity Hinges on Haja Afsatu’s Works

27 January 2009 at 01:29 | 897 views

By Alpha Rashid Jalloh,Freetown.

The expectations of Sierra Leoneans when Ernest Bai Koroma won the elections in 2007 were many and many of them have not (yet) been fulfilled, but one woman who has continuously sustained the popularity of the All People’s Congress is Haja Afasatu Kabbah.

As minister of Energy and Power, she has restored regular electricity supply to the capital, Freetown, which had once earned the unenviable description of being “the darkest city in the world”.

Life in the past was boring as many people relied on electricity for their economic activities. These included welders who manufactured steel windows, doors and did welding on vehicles, and cold water and ice cream sellers. These were sources of livelihood for the average income earners.

Social life also went into doldrums as many homes could not afford to have generators which were being sold at exorbitant prices. Offices and other business institutions including government owned institutions had to make use of generators, thus parting with a huge chunk of their revenue. The consequences of the blackouts were nightmarish. Sierra Leoneans therefore jumped with exhilaration when electricity was restored to the city immediately Haja Afsatu Kabbah was appointed minister of Energy and Power.

To those who know her, they say it is not a surprise as she had always proved to be a committed woman to national ideals in any office and political party she found herself. She has been widely acclaimed and seen as an icon of hope and worthy of emulation because she usually brings herself to the lowest stratum of society. Her help to those who approach her in time of need, unlike other politicians who only offer help when elections are around the corner, have also evoked sentiments of admiration.

For many years, many had hinged their hopes on the completion of the Bumbuna Hydro Electricity Project, which has taken decades. It has now neared completion. Haja has been seen shuttling around the country to put things in place for the final phase. What took so many years to achieve, she has done in less than a year.

However, she has not escaped the tirades of her critics, who had used the anti-government media to paint her black. That, however, has been characteristic of Sierra Leonean politics: those who work hard should be brought down, so as to cripple the government and prepare to replace it.

But she has proved to be a formidable foe. Each time a criticism appeared in the papers, she comes out with an innovation for the way forward, something that has baffled her foes. Instead of cringing in the face of threats, she clenches her fist and advances forward.

Observers say since many of the hopes of Sierra Leoneans have not yet been fulfilled, the provision of electricity has been a great mechanism for sustaining these hopes. Haja Kabbah has therefore been widely praised. Even her critics have acquiesced that her efforts in restoring light to the darkest city in the world have benefited both the ruling and opposition parties and their supporters. Her works are therefore described as a “unifying mechanism” between the two sides.

Haja Kabba was tipped as a possible running mate to president Ernest Bai Koroma during the campaigning in the 2007 elections, but the consideration for a regional balance, which APC cherishes so much, caused her to be pushed to the lower rungs of the governing ladder.

At Fourah Bay, in the east of Freetown, from where she hails, she is a very popular personality and has helped the party to consolidate its gains in the controversial Fourah Bay community, a settlement of mainly descendants of recaptive slaves since the abolition of slave trade and slavery during the colonial era.

Haja has been described as a self-made woman, who is friendly, fair but very firm in her decisions.