From the Editor’s Keyboard

President Koroma’s vision for progress

5 June 2012 at 05:49 | 754 views

Titus Boye-Thompson, Guest Writer, Freetown.

When on Saturday 2nd June 2012 dignitaries from both Sierra Leone and the Republic of Guinea converged on Gbalamuya to commission a joint border post and customs area, the concept of infrastructural development was made ever more meaningful to the peoples of both countries in general but more so to those who live and work in the immediate vicinity.

The context calls for a stark awakening of the benefits that an improved and fully functional border crossing point can offer to the economies of Sierra Leone and Guinea under the auspices of our regional and sub regional co-operation and agreements viz ECOWAS and the Manor River Union. There is also a wider implication for the Trans Africa connectivity, continental highway network and overall integration of national economies under the African Union.

In terms of macro-economics, the harmonized tariff regimes that would result from a transparent cross border integration facility would be underscored by the speed and increasing fluidity that a free movement of goods and personnel can have for increased trade and cultural relations. These are the primordial considerations for infrastructural development and its significant effects that can be accorded to national economies and Sierra Leone has been the subject of a focused and determined drive to improve the life chances of its people through the astute and pragmatic leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma.

As the dignitaries assemble at Kambia for a refreshment break prior to the formal ceremonies, the impact of the new road and the attendant economic benefits that such developments bring to the District was clearly evident. The Kambia African Village, a development of about ten chalets with a Presidential Suite located at the rear, provided a serene atmosphere for lunch in a truly distinctive African setting. No more do the people of this once sleepy District Headquarter Town suffer the agony of bad and un-tarred roads, poor local conditions and inadequate transportation networks. The drive to Kambia is only about 2 hours from Waterloo on a stretch of highway rivalled only by Route 66 or the M 25 in the USA and England.

Yes, these roads (UK and USA) are broader and dotted with more roadside facilities, but you are talking of much bigger economies and higher population densities. The good road network, coupled with the improved living conditions of the people of Kambia reinforces the drive that President Koroma has made as he stresses on infrastructure as a key element of progress for his administration. Once at the border post, the changes brought about by the new facilities become evident. The area is now transformed from a crossing post with merely two huts, two fence posts and a rope stretched between the posts to alert oncoming vehicles that this was a check point, to an enlivened international crossing point, with dedicated vehicular traffic strips, embarkation and disembarkation points that leads to and from the immigration and customs facilities housed in a single modern building, complete with computerised facilities and services.

One key factor of the new crossing is the harmonisation of trade duties and tariffs combined with the expectation that reduced smuggling and other illegal activities will give rise to increased revenue collection and accountability. It is also expected that the benefits of the single processing point will reduce the time spent on this route by hitherto unregulated checkpoints and stop/search check points. Those who ply this route will therefore be in less danger of being exploited by unscrupulous officials or unregulated vehicular check points, used to threaten or otherwise harass commercial drivers and traders.

With all the pomp and pageantry that accompanied the commissioning of the new combined customs and border crossing point at Gbalamuya, the significance of such a facility, given its implications for economic and socio-cultural development between the people of Sierra Leone and Guinea can but accord for closer bilateral relations and a determination for peaceful co-existence by the leaders of the two Countries. The strategic importance of this summit of the respective Heads of States will become discernible in the very near future when the declaration by the Guinean Head of State Prof Alpha Condeh concerning Yenga is actualized.

To those who fail to see that this Government of Ernest Bai Koroma is building the foundation for a prosperous Sierra Leone, their attention must be pointed to the fresh produce dotted all along the route, from Malombo to Palm Oil, fresh farm produce with no additives or preservatives that can now be transported safely and securely from Sindougou after every weekly lumoh or “an luma”.

The smell of fresh produce, evidence of village life, unspoiled by commercialization, women marching to the farms and the men returning with freshly caught meat for the family dinner is discernible from Gberi to Magbema, from Motorane to Gbomtrait. This is the life seen and enjoyed by a people well served by a progressive Government with a development agenda that continue to impact and improve their lives. No more are they cut off from modernity but rather, these are people who have been brought more closer to modern amenities by the rapid reduction on the gulf between rural and urban living in Sierra Leone. The dancing and singing by an array of beautiful “Susu jellibas” gave a heart-warming hue to the otherwise sombre atmosphere at the commissioning of a border crossing point interspersed with dignitaries from both Countries. There is clear evidence that this Government is on the right track, as the banners go on to declare support for Ernest Bai Koroma for another term of office - with no run-off, come November 17th!