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Hon. Alhaji Alpha Kanu Becomes Mineral Resources and Political Affairs Minister

 - Tuesday 10 March 2009.

Commentary

By Karamoh Kabba,Freetown.

In a modest handover ceremony at the ministry’s Youyi Building, Brookfields headquarters, Hon. Alhaji Alpha Kanu took over the Ministry of Mineral Resources yesterday, Thursday 5 March 2009.

Apparently, Minister Kanu(photo) has become the first minister or transferred minister to complete a handover ceremony without qualms following President Ernest Bai Koroma’s cabinet reshuffle on Friday 27 February 2009.

There was no doubt in the public that President Koroma would retain Minister Kanu. However, rumours had riffed about before the reshuffle that he was going to be transferred to Foreign Affairs. Asked about that in his quiet time at his State House Presidential Affairs ministry office, Minister Kanu switched on his signatory infectious smile “a good player does not scramble for a vest. I can play any wing on President Koroma’s team,” he stated. “What I want to see is a successful Presidency. We have suffered for too long,” he added.

Meanwhile, news of the recent cabinet reshuffle has been the focus of all print and electronics media discussions this week and will certainly remain on the news in few more weeks to come throughout the upcoming Parliamentary confirmation of new ministers. Even amongst everyday people here on the streets of Freetown, the long and widely talked about cabinet reshuffle, which is now a thing of the past, dominates ataya-base and small bars gathering discussions.

At face value, it appears that President Koroma has cleverly moved high-powered and high-performing ministers around to inject steroids into very important ministries whose upward performance level is critical to national socioeconomic development.

Dr. Soccoh Kabia’s transfer from Health to Gender and Social Welfare, some people have called a demotion, comes to mind. But many more are quite conscious of the headways in the health sector and are saying that Soccoh’s transfer may have been just that. And indeed, there are visible signs of improvement in the healthcare delivery indicators.

But the most notable transfer and talk of town is that of Minister Kanu, who has been referred to as the Super Minister. The public and even his fervent critics know that this is not a lavish praise song for Minister Kanu.

This man has transformed the Presidential and Public Affairs ministry he held before now into a real ministry with vibrant, actual and tangible measurable deliverables unlike its past disposition of just a bag-carrying portfolio for the President.

The most vibrant units Minister Kanu has created out of presidential proclamations since the APC took power are the following sister programmes; Office of the Diaspora, Open Government Initiative (OGI) and Attitudinal and Behaviourial Change (ABC).

By many measures, these three programmes have helped greatly to awaken the roaring but sleeping Lion State House was before now. In fact, the UNDP OGI Programme Manager, in a meeting in early February intimated the State Chief of Protocol (SCOP) that OGI has been nominated UNDP Sierra Leone success story at UNDP New York headquarters.

Indeed, State House and the people of Sierra Leone, who before OGI lacked such forum that brings the government to the people and the people to government in open and uncensored town hall meetings dialogue, have swallowed the OGI concept hook line and sinker. For these many successes, Minister Kanu has been observed walking amongst his peers with high riding shoulders and unfathomable confidence in his capacity to deliver for the people of Sierra Leone “even as a goalkeeper on the team.”

“I can play any wing on President Ernest Koroma’s team” seems to have been the motivation for Minister Kanu who has become the first team player, without complain, to put on his new vest and number.

No doubt that the people of Sierra Leone know Minister Kanu’s vest is new. What has become intriguing here among many is the new fact they have to now grapple with: The man who has been very articulate and eloquent as Presidential Spokesman is a Mining Engineer by profession.

Not only that, Minister Kanu has wholeheartedly embraced the APRM - Africa Peer Review Mechanism and EITI - Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative. It means that, having worked with EITI in his capacity as Presidential Affairs minister, Hon. Kanu knows too well why the President chose him as the best fit for Mineral Resources.

For the benefit of those who are not knowledgeable about EITI, “is a global effort to increase transparency and accountability for the revenues generated by oil, gas, and mineral industries and improve their use in reducing poverty and generating economic growth.”

With that in mind, Minister Kanu stated at the handover ceremony that “we must consolidate our mineral resources gains if we must shake off our culture of donor dependency for economic growth.”

And on its recent field trip visit to Kono district, OGI had mining as the focus of its government and people’s open dialogue discussion forum. The resettlement community people’s disgruntlement with mining companies spurred by what they called “improper resettlement housing arrangement with and lack of corporate social responsibility by mining companies operating in their community” were the focus of questions and answers in the open dialogue on the resettlement ground in Koidu. Before OGI took the government to the people of the resettlement community, there have been a series of demonstrations that led to the death of two youth demonstrators.

As a panelist at the open dialogue session on the resettlement community ground in Koidu, Minister Kanu, in the company of the young, energetic and vibrant Vice President Sam Sumana of Sierra Leone, took questions from the people on corporate social responsibility.

“As a government, we will not undo the mining contact decisions of our predecessors. Our government is a democratic government. However, ours is more focused on ensuring corporate social responsibilities by companies in the communities they work.”

Did Minister Kanu know in Koidu that he would become the next Mineral Resources minister?

Photo: Karamoh Kabba.