Opinion

President Kabbah’s Legacy

31 July 2007 at 01:22 | 618 views

By Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie II.

INTRODUCTION

History will indubitably hold President Kabba as both the architect of peace in modern day Sierra Leone and the national leader who spearheaded the reforms necessary to strengthen and enhance our fledgling democracy. In achieving both feats he has demonstrated calm and patience often deemed as weakness and indecisiveness by his detractors. But Kabba needed to administer with caution, for he ruled in an era of war and sublime peace when the bulk of Sierra Leoneans were at their weakest and poorest, as a result of a decade of war and the combined effects of years of dictatorship and decadence. In this regard therefore his challenges, failings and triumphs should be analyzed against that hideous setting.

When Ahmad Tejan Kabba a retired senior international and national civil servant and a former diplomat with the United Nations took over power in 1996; our nation was in the heat of war with the economic machinery of state at a standstill, social injustice the norm, and blatant abuse of the basic rights of the citizenry a daily occurrence. For these poignant reasons, at the dawn of democracy the expectations of our people were very high and still remain high; because of our immediate horrible experiences both with the war and the bad leadership of the past. We therefore became impatient and very critical of our leaders and rightly so. In the event a lot was achieved for which together we have failed to credit ourselves both as governors and the governed.

PEACE AND NATIONAL SECURITY

In achieving peace there were the usual impediments, some for which the President was profoundly criticized and others for which he was heartily hailed. His persistence in seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis and exposing the vaulting ambition of Foday Sankoh to achieve power solely by the gun isolated the latter and created the opportunity to negotiate peace with his successor. His shortcomings during the period, according to his critics will include: the coup which was preventable according to intelligence divulged by him retrospectively, his signing the death warrants for the 1997 coupists and their military collaborators, forming an inclusive government with members of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and marginalizing the military at the dawn of his tenure. Some of these condemnations were adequately considered and remedied in his second term as he builds a new modern democratic army capable and willing to defend our territorial integrity and a security apparatus that now guarantees the continued serenity of our burgeoning democratic state. The present moratorium on the death penalty and the ongoing debate on the subject will surely dissuade future governments from signing death warrants which will consequently lead to its eventual abolition. Therefore as future Sierra Leone reflects on the war, she will always remember the Kabba era that spearheaded the vanguard for peace and the engineer of a more secured and democratic Sierra Leone.

DEMOCRACY

The contributions of the Kabba administration towards the building of democratic Sierra Leone are immense. The two elections so far conducted by the regime - The 2002 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections and The 2004 Local Government Elections were all declared free and fair by both national and international observers. President Kabba himself has constitutionally stood down from contesting the next elections by vacating the leadership of his party a major plus in strengthening our budding democracy. The President’s commitment to the democratic process is further buttressed by the fact that he did not even attempt to meddle with our constitution to make way for a third term Presidency as has become the vogue in contemporary Africa.

Today freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of expression are at their best since independence, despite the challenges that subsist and the shortcomings of the administration. Today, we debate everything freely and healthily without recourse to violence. The democratic culture of agreeing to disagree has taken roots in the Kabba era, and the growing size of civil society groups especially human rights organizations is a living testimony to the fact. We are today debating the repeal of the draconian laws of yesteryears which includes the Criminal Libel Laws, the Death Penalty, and novelties like the Freedom of Information Act as a direct benefit of our democratic freedoms which were to a great extent upheld, promoted and respected during the Kabba era. The Kabba Government is not only partaking in the ongoing series of debates but has been the leading light in some.

POST-WAR RECONSTRUCTION

For democracy to thrive our nation needed to urgently consolidate its new found peace starting with its post war reconstruction; as the end of our nation’s ten years onslaught made more visible the complete destruction of our nation’s infrastructure, which the Kabba government was commendably quick to respond to with the assistance of our development partners especially the EC and DFID in collaboration with the Breton Wood institutions.

The Kabba Government will be remembered for making significant strides in consolidating our five year old peace, for with the help of the international community they made considerable contribution to economic growth and stability through a programme of rehabilitation and maintenance of main roads; rehabilitation of school buildings, health facilities, and water and sanitation facilities destroyed during the war.

So far, 1,774 km of roads have been improved and resurfaced since 2003, 153 primary and secondary schools built or rehabilitated, and 76 health units and hospitals rehabilitated or constructed. The Tejan Kabba Government will also be revered for focusing on good governance and institutional support for the decentralization process; strengthening accountability mechanisms and public finance management systems and elections.

ANTI-CORRUPTION

The Kabba Government, most aware that corruption weakens investor and donor confidence and worsens the well-being of the population; in the post-conflict era took measures to address this threat through the creation of an Anti- Corruption Commission (ACC) and also the introduction of a number of provocative reforms meant to reduce the opportunities for corruption.

Kabba’s anti corruption agenda in the medium term promotes accountability and transparency with greater emphasis on public institutions. So far five hundred (500) corruption related reports were made to the Anti - Corruption Commission, of which, forty two (42) cases were forwarded to the investigations Department. In 2005, a total of fifty (50) cases were investigated, and twenty - two of these referred to Court. Of this twenty -two seven convictions were secured. To ensure further transparency in the prosecution of corruption cases, a three- person committee was set up comprising two Special Prosecutors attached to the ACC and a State Counsel. The decision to prosecute is now been determined by this committee.

Serious challenges regarding the Commission’s independence and efficacy continues to linger, with the opposition seizing at every moment to lash out at the government’s efforts which they often criticize as selective and ineffectual. Despite these criticisms and shortcomings which are the normal teething problems of audacious initiatives like the ACC; this scheme and its future success or otherwise will always be credited to the Kabba Administration.

PUBLIC FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

The Tejan Kabba government realizing that the future success of our nation lies in a restructured and effective public financial management system; made significant progress in implementing its Public Financial Management reform programme by adopting the following strategies:-

Improving the legal framework for the budget process.

Improving policy making and budget planning.

Strengthening budget execution.

Improving capacity for accounting and reporting

Improving the effectiveness of monitoring and control systems.

Designing and supporting financial management systems for local governments and

Reforming the public procurement system.

To accomplish these several gains the Kabba government significantly strengthened the legal and regulatory framework for public financial management through the enactment of the Government Budgeting and Accountability Act 2005, the Public Procurement Act 2006 and the ongoing preparation of regulations for the implementation of these Acts.

PUBLIC EXPENDITURE TRACKING SURVEYS (PETS)

The Tejan Kabba government now regularly conducts public expenditure tracking surveys as a key instrument in monitoring the flow of public resources from the Central Ministry to districts and service delivery facilities at the community level. In August 2006 President Kabba’s government approved the PETS Report on the Financial Year 2004 selected expenditures in Health, Education and Agriculture.

Effective since 2006, it is his government’s policy that PETS is conducted twice every year.

POVERTY REDUCTION

In its quest to reduce the prevalent poverty in post-war Sierra Leone, the Tejan Kabba administration established the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper which analyzed poverty to underpin policy design in that area. The paper confirmed that poverty is widespread and profound. About 26 percent of the population is food poor, and cannot afford a basic diet; 70 percent live in poverty. There is wide disparity in poverty’s geographical distribution: although about 66 percent of the 4.8 million population live in rural areas, three quarters of the poor are rural. In the poorest districts, where war destroyed tree crops or which relied solely on poor subsistence farming and artisanal mining, more than 8 out of every 10 people live in poverty. Sierra Leone’s poverty profile proves that the main poverty indicators are insufficient food, poor housing, poor health, and high infant and maternal mortality rate, high illiteracy, limited access to clean water, and lack of money.

President Kabba, in this regard believes that pro-poor economy-wide growth is central to achieving food security and job creating opportunities, particularly for the teeming number of unemployed youth in the urban and rural areas.

PRIVATE SECTOR DEVELOPMENT

Recognizing the centrality of the private sector to its poverty reduction efforts in post conflict Sierra Leone, the President’s focus in recent times is to support the private sector to become a central pillar for growth, job creation, increasing incomes and consequently reducing poverty on a sustainable basis. His overall objective of intervention in the private sector is to create an enabling environment for private sector development.

To promote a conducive atmosphere for greater investment, the administration will be fondly remembered for taking the following initiatives:

Enacted an investment code in 2004 based on international best practices.

Worked on developing a new Company’s Act, a Bankruptcy Act,
A Securities Act and a venture capital scheme.

. Developing a competition policy.

. Implementing recommendations relating to business registration,
regulatory costs of operations, investment and export promotions
made to make investing in Sierra Leone more attractive, and
undertaken by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

. Reducing the cost of importation and promoting exports, the highest
tariff band was removed in 2004 and in January 2005, Sierra Leone
became the first ECOWAS member state to adopt the Common
External Tariff (CET) which will be fully implemented by the end of
2007.

. Establishing the National Coordinating Committee on Trade in May
2004 to brainstorm on trade policy issues and hold regular meetings
with the private sector as a means of information sharing and
sensitization on those issues.

Holding the first annual investment forum with a very good participation from local and international business community.

Improving the coordination of trade policy formulation and implementation, a policy planning and research division was established at the Ministry of Trade and Industry in 2004 to provide expert advise on trade issues and facilitate inter- ministerial coordination.

AGRICULTURE

The fundamental objective of President Kabba’s agriculture policy is to improve on food availability and increase agricultural export earning. In support of this objective, his government provided agricultural inputs which included 3168 metric tones of seed rice, 115 tractors, 8 combine harvesters and 6 mobile threshers to farm families nationwide.

As a result of this initiative rice paddy production increased by 4.82% between 2004 (526,619 metric tones) and 2005 (552,000 metric tones) with self sufficiency in rice increasing from 60% in 2004 to 69% in 2005. The production of other food crops (cassava, sweet potato, and maize) has also been increasing. In terms of progress towards meeting the PRSP targets set for 2005, the actual production of the four monitored crops exceeded the targets. These support efforts continued in 2006.

FISHERIES

The short and medium term objective of Kabba’ism in this area is increase supply of fish to the domestic market and for export. This strategy involved support for fishermen and women engaged in both the artisanal and aquaculture sub-sectors with essential inputs and skills training in processing.

In this regard, the Kabba Government in collaboration with donors trained 2,500 fish processors in fishing communities nationwide. In addition, 12 smoke fish houses were constructed. A Comprehensive Fish Policy was also developed and adopted. This led to increases in both Industrial and Artisanal fish production levels.

MINING

The Tejan Kabba led government’s wide-ranging aim in the mining sector primarily involved the restoration of the significance of this sector in the economy through increased output, employment, fiscal revenues and foreign exchange earnings.

In this regard the Kabba government embarked on:

Reactivating existing rutile, bauxite, iron ore and diamond mines.
Promoting the development of an existing pipeline of identified promising deposits, and
Promoting exploration of favourable geological target areas to develop and maintain adequate pipelines of promising prospects that can be proposed to potential investors.

For the small scale and artisanal mining sub sector, the goal is to improve the overall standard of living of miners - who are among the poorest people in society.

President Kabba’s Government succeeded in facilitating the re-opening of the Sierra Rutile Mines in 2005, by securing an EU grant of €25 million and then lending it to the Company. Since then production has started and export of rutile is ongoing. Government also provided the necessary support for the reopening of Bauxite mining at Mokanji. The restart of the mining of Rutile and Bauxite directly created an estimated 1400 (one thousand and four hundred) new jobs in the mining areas.

In the case of diamonds, official diamond exports increased from $126 million in 2004 to $141 million in 2005, with Kimberlite accounting for $113 million while alluvial mining accounted for the rest. The increase in official diamond exports in recent years was facilitated by the Kabba government’s participation in the Certificate of Origin and Kimberly Certification processes.

President Kabba approved a Core Mineral Policy, whose main objective is to create an internationally competitive and investor-friendly business environment in this sector. In its bid to attract investment through a transparent and conducive environment a review of the Mining Laws is ongoing and will be completed before his term ends. In addition a national cadastre installed in 2004 is now been piloted in the Kono District with a view of replicating it nationwide. This new system will facilitate revenue generation within the sector, especially for license fees and surface rents. It will also introduce more transparency in production, exports and revenues.

The mining sector remains a primary source of foreign exchange, fiscal revenue and employment. However, this sector is still beset with a number of challenges including the development of effective strategies to expand existing mining operations and to further diversify mineral production, putting in place measures to maximize fiscal revenues from the sector and how to integrate the informal mining activities into the formal sector.

To address these challenges future governments should seek to improve sectoral governance and the institutional capacity to deliver effective public services in the mining sector.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Kabba’s chief priority in the medium term is the rehabilitation
and expansion of the road network and providing energy for the
expanding population. In 2004, 1350 km of gravel feeder roads were
constructed and maintained. This increased to 1,874 km by mid
2006. Also, the number of all weather trunk roads
constructed and maintained increased from 581 km in 2004 to 1,774
km by mid-2006. 375 km of primary roads and 2,722 km of
secondary roads were maintained nationwide. Within the same
period, the percentage of feeder roads in good condition increased
by ten percent.

In 2006, the Masiaka-Makeni road was upgraded, the Pendembu-
Kailahun-Koindu road received spot regravelling. In fact the
Pamlap-Kamakwie and Koidu-Kurubola roads are in effective user
conditions. Work has commenced in earnest on the Masiaka-Bo road.
Work will soon commence on the Lumley-Tokeh axis of the Peninsula
road and the Hillside road.

In the energy sector, to increase power generation in the Western
Area, a six Megawatts generating plant has been installed and
commissioned. This has increased the installed capacity in
Freetown to 31.33 megawatts from 26.5 megawatts in 2004. A
twenty five man Moroccan technical maintenance team is
presently in Freetown to rehabilitate the generating capacity of the
Kingtom Power plant. This team has also rehabilitated the Sulzer
5 and the Mitsubishi generating plants. In addition, this team is also
in the process of rehabilitating and repairing the distribution lines
and street lights in the capital, Freetown. The Moroccan government
and BADEA are providing the capital city with an additional 20
Megawatts by the first quarter of 2007 to finally put to rest the
vexed question of electricity supply to the people of Freetown.

With work on the Bumbuna hydro electric dam almost completed and
test runs expected in June/July this year and with government
expected to sign a management contract with the Moroccans for the
efficient management of the National Power Authority; Sierra
Leoneans would hardly forget Kabba’s contribution towards generating
electricity for the people of this tiny nation.

The Kabba Government has also entered agreement as far back as 2004 with a British energy firm Alternative Use Plc that will generate electricity using waste. This project when fully implemented will provide employment for at least 1500 people. In addition they are ready to provide wind assisted power as supplementary lighting
immediately.
At the regional level, the Bo-Kenema Power Station (BKPS) is been
rehabilitated to extend electricity to towns and villages in and around
the Bo/Kenema vicinity. Also, a 500 KVA generating plant with
associated transmission and distribution network has been installed
and commissioned in Pujehun district.

Furthermore, an IMW generating plant to provide electricity for
residents in Makeni has been installed while the associated
transmission and distribution network is been rehabilitated.

CHALLENGES

Despite the significant gains made by the Kabba administration in the area of infrastructural development major challenges subsist:

POWER: The poor performance of the National Power Authority (NPA) is one such major challenge which is attributed to a number of factors including poor maintenance, lack of investment, theft, and excess workforce. There are also fundamental weaknesses in their accounting procedures particularly for revenue collection.

The Kabba led government, also encouraged Private sector investment in the power sector. To this end President Kabba enacted the National Electricity Act. This new enactment is expected to promote public and private investment in the power sector. Government will shortly adopt a medium term power sector strategy based on public and private investments, regional integration and supporting policy reforms.

ROADS: The continued poor conditions of the road network are a constraint on growth and poverty reduction. To ensure periodic and sustainable road maintenance, government established a Road Maintenance Fund financed by a fuel levy. However, the sustainability and effectiveness of the maintenance program is being undermined by requests for unprogrammed maintenance, and weak capacity at the Sierra Leone Roads Authority.

To overcome these problems future governments should remain
committed to restructuring the SLRA. Also, the agreed draft Road
Maintenance Institutional Action Plan should be implemented.

PORTS: The Sierra Leone Ports Authority suffered from severe
operational inefficiencies resulting in low productivity and poor
financial performance in past years. To resolve this foible government
took appropriate steps to improve the operational efficiency of the
Ports by seeking technical assistant support from the Ghana Ports and
Harbour Authority. Efforts are also underway for transforming the
Ports into a landlord Ports Authority.

To further improve the efficiency of the SLPA operations, the Kabba
government embarked on privatizing some of the non-core activities of
the Sierra Leone Ports Authority. Government in this regard is
presently implementing the following actions with technical assistance
support from the World Bank:

Divesting the ownership and control of the slipway and the ferry under a management contract.
Privatization of the Container Technical Concession and Break Bulk Operations through concessions and licenses.
Restructuring the Sierra Leone Ports Authority as a landlord Ports Authority.

EDUCATION

President Kabba’s priority area of concern in the education sector is to expand access and to improve the quality of basic education with a focus on the girl child.

In this regard, government made great strides in the construction of new schools and the rehabilitation of those damaged during the war.

In 2005 alone, government constructed 200 primary schools, 30 Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) and 30 Technical Vocational institutes. It provided fee subsidies to all female pupils in the Eastern and Northern Provinces. Also, government provided 100,000 sets of teaching and learning materials and trained 1,000 unqualified and untrained teachers. Government continues to pay fees for students taking national examinations (NPSE, BECE, and WASCE) and fees subsidy for those in primary schools.

Consequently, net primary enrolment increased to 87 percent. The number of pupils passing the NPSE exams also increased. Correspondingly, the number of girls passing NPSE also increased from 15,176 in 2004 to 20,062 in 2005 (an increase of about 33%). JSS net enrollment rate increased from 13% in 2004 to 44% in 2005. Primary completion rate increased from 60% in 2004 to 73% in 2005
(calculated 6 year interval).

In 2005 a new University’s Act was passed which allows for more than
one public university and the opportunity for creating private tertiary
institutions. Courses in these institutions vary from the humanities,
law, medicine, technical and vocational options resulting in 200 %
increase enrollment in three years.

Also, the establishment of polytechnics has strengthened the middle
manpower deficiencies whilst standardizing the exams and output.

The Kabba administration has included health education in the
portfolio of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology
(MEST) which allows for diplomas and degree options in Nursing and
other para - medical options. This initiative further ensures that every
student is able to achieve the best of his or her ability and in future
contribute to nation building.

With technical and financial support from DfID in 2002 and again in 2005, management and functional reviews of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) was conducted. An Education Management Information System is being established to meet information needs in planning, monitoring and evaluation of the education system. The MEST would have prepared a ten year sector plan by the end of the Kabba era.

HEALTH

President Kabba’s objective in this sector is to reduce Under Five and Maternal mortality rates by expanding access to and quality health services with focus on the following:

Construction and rehabilitation of health facilities nationwide;
Training of health workers and traditional birth attendants;
Expanding immunization coverage and
Providing Insecticide Treated Bed Nets (ITB)

These measures have resulted in reductions in infant, under five and maternal mortality rates. Efforts have also been made to control the spread of HIV/AIDS by intensifying preventive measures and providing support to those affected by the disease.

CHALLENGES

The health sector in Sierra Leone was adversely affected by the country’s 11 years civil conflict. As a result, Sierra Leone has some of the worst health indicators in the world. Maternal Mortality rate (2,000 deaths per 100,000) live births) and Under Five Mortality rate (284 per 1,000 births), malnutrition among under five children with 23% underweight.

The Tejan Kabba government in line with its Poverty Reduction Strategy remained committed to increasing the population’s access to a comprehensive package of affordable essential health care.

Public Service delivery included the following:
Pre-natal care and delivery care,
Management of high risk pregnancies,
Well-baby services
Vaccinations
Family Planning,
Control of priority communicable diseases; including malaria, tuberculosis, onchocerciasis (river blindness) and lymphatic filariasi
as well as HIV and other transmitted infections
treatment for such common affliction as diarrhea and respiratory infections,
prevention of nutrition deficiencies particularly among infants, young children and pregnant and lactating women.

Kabba’s government’s ongoing decentralization process is ensuring that these services are in the near future offered by decentralized entities through their primary and secondary level health facilities in line with President Kabba’s over arching objective of decentralizing the provision of basic services to the population.

PUBLIC ENTERPRISE REFORM

The weak performance and management of key public enterprise account for the poor delivery of utility services and this has been a major obstacle to private sector development and hence economic growth and job creation. The key public enterprises includes the utility companies i.e. The National Power Authority, Guma Valley Water Company and the Sierra Leone Telecommunications Company (SIERRATEL). Others include the Sierra Leone Ports Authority (SLPA) and the Sierra Leone Roads Authority.

In recognition of these problems, President Kabba set up a National Commission for Privatization (NCP) in 2002 with the mandate to divest government ownership and control over these and other public enterprises. The Commission completed its divestiture plan in September 2003 and issued a revised plan in December 2004.

ACCESS TO FINANCE

Difficulties in accessing bank credit and the rudimentary state of the capital market are major constraints to private sector investment and hence job creation during the Kabba era. These are due mainly to high lending interest rates, requirements for collateral, incomplete property rights and weak judicial system.
Even though interest rates are determined by market forces, the spread between lending and deposit rates remains high. Future governments should therefore continue with the reforms of the financial sector with a view to addressing the above mentioned challenges and enhancing domestic savings mobilization and investment. In particular, key legislations should be brought to Parliament including the Payment Systems Act, the Companies Act, the Bankruptcy Act and the Law on the Commercial Use of land before the end of the Kabba era, the first in the second republic.

CONCLUSION

The account enumerated so far shows the remarkable progress made by the Kabba regime. President Kabba has indeed mapped out the strategic path for managing the Sierra Leone Government and delivering the urgently needed development. A host of programmes have been negotiated with available resources, institutions set up to support the programmes while implementation of these programmes is urgently awaited. With the country’s external debt almost wiped off, there are freed up financial resources
secured under the HIPC Initiative for the next 15 years. Several projects have been signed up for roads, energy and power, health and sanitation improvement to list a few. This country is very impatient with any further delays in ensuring prudent and genuine implementation and use of these resources.

The challenge going forward therefore is not direction. We have strategic direction. The challenge is approach to implementation of the strategic direction. This country, all will agree, has the ugly reputation for weak implementation of programmes. We have taken three decades to complete the Bumbuna project, for example. Certainly, we are tired of this approach.
We cannot wait any longer. The watch word going forward should be “effectiveness and efficiency” in delivering the strategic direction for Sierra Leone’s development. Anything short of this should receive “zero tolerance”.

Concluding therefore, from a Kabba led “peaceful and democratic Sierra Leone with strategic direction for development”, Sierra Leone under the next government should move to a “Zero tolerance for effectiveness and efficiency in delivering the strategic development agenda of the country”.

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