President Ernest Koroma’s shaky start

26 October 2007 at 05:38 | 1177 views

By Edie Vandy, USA.

Listening to President Koroma’s BBC high profiled guest appearance on ‘Africa have your say’ with presenter Alex Jakana on Tuesday Oct. 09, 2007, it became quite clear that the President was in for a big challenge, having set himself benchmarks that will either be difficult to fulfil, or he rather made it appear an easy mission for his administration. President Koroma knows that there will be no second chance should he abandon the core elements of his platform.

APC faithfuls, friends and sections of the international community are singing alleluya on the President’s accomplishments made thus far, but proponents are treading cautiously and not frenzy happy to rain praises just yet, for in their eyes mere statements alone are no proof of the pudding.

Critics are in agreement that the President has not taken time or done enough to guarantee the safety, peace and security of the opposition members caught up in the political fiasco following a closely contested presidential run-off, which SLPP loyalists believe was ‘stolen’.

The Sierra Leone Police is under the microscope for their, in my opinion, partiality in the whole political ball game. Commentators were bemused to witness an incumbent sitting vice president and flag bearer crying foul to the BBC that his supporters were being brazenly molested at every given opportunity. In this Manichean struggle(politics), defeat should not be looked at or assumed as weakness to be punished or purged.

What happened in the aftermath of an APC election victory equates to thuggery and intimidation, observed under watchful police eyes. Where is the neutrality when an Inspector General of Police is on record to have finger-pointed SLPP membership as perpetrators of their party’s office looting, in complete contravention of due process and without any form of investigation?

Peace loving citizens should be worried if the arrest and detention of business mogul Abdulai Sidibay, (credited as a magnetic pillar to have mobilized the SLPP’s showing in Kono) was perfected from “orders from above’?

Sierra Leoneans have grown above such type of doctrinaire politics, and hopefully will not sit by and allow a handful of political power drunk ‘extremists’ usurping and manipulating a police system or ‘force for good’ created for their own conceived ill- interest.

Berewa and the SLPP should be credited for allowing the tenets of democracy and good governance to hold, and for conceding defeat much earlier than necessary to avoid a blood bath, many had predicted was doomed to happen had the SLPP put up resilience to stay on, after a closely fought election, with many voters ending up disenfranchised, through what has been hinted as a calculated ‘regime change’ allegedly masterminded by the UN office in Sierra Leone in cahoots with NEC.

These are very strong allegations, which should be investigated to allay fears that the changing political ‘goal post’ was not a man-made tsunami.

Whilst the election fever is yet to cool, and reconciliation perfected, we are having a plethora of requests and lobbying efforts to have a street dedicated to the NEC Chair, and nomination for a coveted Nobel Prize.

Aren’t we trivializing politics, and sending the wrong messages: that laurels be won upon every successful conduct of democratic elections, or that streets be dedicated after people for merely doing their job for which they are paid?

This is tantamount to political gerrymandeering when assumptions are being made that the SLPP was an obstacle to reforms and democratic nuances. What if the next NEC commissioner succeeds to conduct elections that usher in an SLPP mandate, will there be a re-dedication of our streets, or a re-branding of our national stadium to suit every incoming government as and when dictated?

Let’s get off this election stupor, and not start a precedence that cannot be sustained. People can understand why the APC is trigger happy to be appreciative to the NEC chair, but please let it be personal and private.

When it comes to wealth, it is no longer a secret that President Koroma is relatively rich. He has described himself as being comfortable and happy, having made some investment in the past which has paid of. Several weeks ago, this writer challenged the President (http://www.wesalone.com/acc/acc_pg10_ernest_cor_091907.html) to lead by example and be real in declaring his assets if his campaign to defeat corruption is for real.

Ernest defied odds to state his intent to make that declaration on his true worth, in days or at most in two weeks. Thumbs up to him, for this administrative policy justifies righteous admiration. It is a novelty unheard of in Sierra Leone, Africa and world over. Whether he does it or not is another issue.

APC hopefuls and some critics deemed the cabinet choices as credible. Not any more, as lips are quirking, and there are whispers that the expanded nomination list rolling names like Hindolo Trye is no longer the hype assumed. It is no longer a secret that Hindolo Trye has nothing more to offer the people of Sierra Leone. Hindolo is just a name of the past, a liability. He is baggage. He is no longer the man he was crafted to be when leading the student movement for change, against the very APC who now hails and pampers him.

Hindolo had his chance to deliver as Information minister during the NPRC administration, but he flunked it. In fact, under his leadership, draconian laws were scripted to muzzle the press. This appointment is clearly an appeasement, and it stinks. President Koroma got this one wrong. He appointed a man who has lost all moral authority to serve, not even in his own constituency.

So now, we have the President sending mixed messages. He talks about leading a pack of clean-shaven politicos free from the old-schooled mindset, and is on record to have said that the old APC is gone, and that people with baggages will not be welcome on board his new bandwagon.

You are pushing a cabinet with some ‘morally stained’ characters who have no business running a state agenda. Alpha Kanu,is good at dishing out vibes, but that’s it. His credibility on handling the Hajj pilgrim project is seriously tainted.

Is former diplomat Dauda Kamara, the new internal affairs minister not part of the former APC? What about Hon. Kemoh Sesay, who stands accused on document falsification to grab a passport? Rtd. Major Palor Conteh nomination as defence minister could not be unconnected to his past resume as nephew and former aide to late president JS Momoh. Are these men and women a part of the President’s grandiose plan of only bringing in peers who can subscribe to his views?

Did we not hear the President pledge crafting a cabinet of national representation, a deal that will have set him at par with hard core supporters hardened to engrave a winner take all rapport and appeasement strategy?

President Koroma failed woefully in living up to this benchmark. He backed down on his earlier commitment of reconciliation and national cohesiveness and snubbed some serious minded professionals from the southeast, who would have gladly served if asked to do so.

Don’t tell me that the President is really dead scared of south easterners and cannot vouch on their patriotism and loyalty as Sierra Leoneans, even where they are non-partisan, or is he being simply partisan? APC has to thank their cosy partnership with PMDC (than NEC) on their Presidential victory, which die-hearted loyalists are now denying that their party will have won all the same with or without a deal.

David Omashola Carew’s appointment as finance minister with his unique accounting background was the main reason I gave kudos to the President’s earlier ministerial appointees.

I am a bit skeptical about Zainab Bangura’s appointment as foreign affairs minister. Zainab is a politician, and she likes being in the media spotlight. This appointment gives her the perfect alibi to showcase her political career to another level. Her stance on good governance and accountability are going to be battle tested. Will she play to the administrative dictates, or will she be the Zainab Bangura I know,trumpeting good governance? Only time will tell. We shall watch her every move.

Opinions are mixed on the appointment of Haja Afsatu Kabbah as head of an ailing energy sector. She is a fine woman, and she commands a lot of respect. The main contention is that she once served as deputy minister to Emmanuel Grant, and her short tenureship in that ministry is not anything to write home about. Having an engineer detailing the energy resurgence, just like a medical doctor directing health affairs would have had far-reaching consequences, particularly when the President recognizes electricity as the utmost of his priorities.

President Koroma’s clarion vision for change, it appears, is not being heard by his Vice President. He seems not to listen as his boss speaks. Media reports highlight a controversial and power crazy VP in the making.

Power, when earned easily and paid for by cheque is either abused or misplaced. There is a perceived miscommunication between these two gentlemen, as they seem not to be on the same page or working in tandem. Is it true or not that the President was reportedly embarrassed by his VP’s announcement to have all public officials secure police clearance before travelling? Definitely, the VP’s activities needs to be monitored, and placed in check before he runs amok and falls out of line with his boss who might be saying one thing but getting different results from his lieutenants.

The President’s accountability, transparency, corruption and assets declaration promise is welcome news, as it resonates with most Sierra Leoneans. Tackling corruption as a matter of fact has to start with a State House purge. So where does the President stand when it comes to dealing with his elected officials should they fall out of step? Can he be trusted on his pledge that there will be no sacred cow, and none of his family members, friends and ministers will be spared from persecution should they default?

Cautious optimism! The President’s sentiments and vision on the surface appear good and enticing. It is his flip-flopping, the exceptions, his inconsistencies, and him looking the other way when members of his administration are not following orders that are making people worried and rattled about his governance style.

Sierra Leoneans are yet to come to grips with the Presidential rush at sanitising Burkina Faso in their alleged role in the country’s civil war, in stark contradiction with the TRC that had that nation crucified as sympathetic to the rebel cause. It was a wrong foreign policy move that should be re-evaluated.

Inter alia the President fervently promised that his cabinet was going to be strictly from outside the parliamentary podium. Not now, for he has wavered, and changed gears accommodating four parliamentary seat-fillers into his fold. Consistency Mr. President, words should be matched with deeds, if you want to be taken seriously!

The ACC head must be a no-nonsense candidate, with high integrity, and must be ethically flawless, if the President’s anti-corruption song is to be taken seriously. Any resume falling short of that description is prime time cheap politics.

The issue of public asset declaration goes beyond mere declarations. How effective and sustainable depends on its monitoring and evaluation. African despots and corrupt politicians are well versed in their handling of ill gotten wealth and are credited to siphoning such blood money through kinsmen and close associates. Ernest is just an individual. It is those friends’ colleagues, cronies and relatives around him who should be watched to ensure that their lifestyles and usage of the spoils that come with power are not misused. Any sign of living disproportionately to their earnings is a red flag, and a recipe for criminal investigation.

I wish the President well in his quest for change for all Sierra Leoneans. After all, what is important and lies at the heart of the matter is the people of Sierra Leone getting a deserving benefit package, and being able to live their lives having access to the basic of services like their counterparts the world over. My organization, Accountability Alert, will be a record keeper producing a report card once in a while, detailing the President’s tenure in office. Stay tuned.