Wow, New APC is two Years Old!

19 September 2009 at 05:56 | 658 views

By Alpha Rashid Jalloh, Patriotic Vanguard Freetown Bureau Chief.

The new All Peoples Congress has spent two years in office and critics have been asking: What have they achieved?

President Ernest Koroma inherited a cataleptic economy, from the previous Sierra Leone People’s Party government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. The international community poured a huge amount of money to resuscitate the economy after the ten year war, but it ended pointed accusing fingers on Kabbah’s government at the advent of the election; that it misused donor funds.

Many projects were uncompleted and monies could not be accounted for. Observers in Sierra Leone attributed it to the pitchforking of party stalwarts into public offices and in supervisory positions of projects. In a Commission of Inquiry instituted by President Ernest Bai Koroma’s government, it was discovered that some unqualified people were heading some projects . A typical example was that of a woman who was supervising a European Union project and had only a diploma. One of the school projects at Hill Station in the West of Freetown was poorly done because of lack of competent supervision. It led to the loss of a huge chunk of donor money.

Also, during the reign of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission discovered that funds from the African Development Bank were misused by a Minister, Okere Adams. But when an attempt was made to arrest him, the president prevented it, claiming that there was “no evidence against him”. Observers noted that it was a serious blow to the Commission in its crusade against corruption. It greatly paralyzed it and it was incidentally observed that corruption thrived in Kabbah’s government which apparently caused the SLPP to go down the drains during the election. But some people have argued that Kabbah was serious in fighting corruption because ministers like Momoh Pujeh and a judge, Justice Taju Deen were arrested and tried, though this has been counter argued that they fell into trouble because they crossed swords with Kabbah.

Under Kabbah’s reign, life seemed to come to a standstill . There were persistent blackouts causing both the commercial and private sector to lose a huge chunk of money in providing energy fpr themselves. The placing of party stalwarts in many top positions, which the SLPP now also criticize the APC of doing, also caused widespread disillusionment. Many of the government contracts were awarded to party stalwarts who did not fulfill their contractual obligations and incidentally exposed the Kabbah regime to ridicule.

Ernest Korma is now two years in office and had made promises during his campaign. Is the situation now different ?, people ask. A vox -pop conducted by several radio stations indicated that many people appreciate the two year reign of president Koroma , especially his effort to provide regular electricity supply through the Bumbuna Project. It is hoped to bring relief to both large scale and small scale entrepreneurs and even domestic users of electricity.

The Freetown City Council has for many years merely been a white elephant as far as service delivery is concerned. But now it has become one of the most appreciable institutions in terms of service delivery. As one student said in a Vox pop conducted by a radio station: “Cemeteries which used to be homes of criminals and covered with bushes are now clean and fenced”. Market structures are constructed through billion of Leones projects, thus providing facilities for traders who were driven here and there in the past and some ended being charged to court for hawking. The government has also piloted a bill which when it becomes a law will enhance the establishment of a Youth Commission.

It will mobilize youths for development projects, provide opportunities for skills training, economic opportunities, networking, provide a forum for the articulation of interest, preferences and priorities , and as a bridge between the government and the youths. This venture has been widely commended as previous governments had been not only gerontocratic in psychology, but also exhibit ageist tendencies thus alienating the youth and making them disillusioned.

This apparently made them to throw their support for Ernest Bai Koroma during the election. He swept the north which has five districts, swept the Western Urban which has 416,000 voters, twice the size of Kenema, SLPP’s stronghold; he swept the Western Rural, and like a Kamajor entered the South, SLPP’s stronghold, and pinched some votes in Moyamba (APC has a seat there), pinched some votes in Bonthe because of the APC and Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) alliance, pinched votes in Bo, Kenema and Kono and left only Pujehun and Kailahun for the SLPP.

Though Christiana Thorpe has been unnecessarily blamed by some old heads in the SLPP who observers say have failed to come to terms with reality, the banning of 477 stations did not only affect SLPP. Bombali, in the north, APC’s stronghold, was also affected. And for the first time an Electoral Commission made it known and implicitly gave a warning that over -voting will no longer be tolerated.

It had marred past elections in which Electoral Commissioners had to remove “excess” votes and declare a winner, which created doubts, confusion and portrayed elections as nothing more than a nasty game, especially when people like James Jonah were later compensated with ministerial positions and diplomatic jobs which was in contravention of ‘The Sierra Leone 1991 Constitution’, that clearly states that a person who served as an Electoral Commissioner should not hold a ministerial position after the elections.

Back to APC’s two year in office: The revitalization of the Agricultural station at Newton, twenty-four miles from the capita, Freetown, has given a ray of hope that agriculture will once more boom in the country as in the days of Siaka Stevens. There have been criticisms levied on the government on the poor performance of pupils in public exams. But Education ministry officials reveal that schools had been performing badly even in the past but the situation has been compounded by the Minister of Education, Minkailu Bah’s avowed aim of getting rid of ghost teachers and ghost pupils (non existent teachers whose salaries were collected by principals and pupils whose names are not officially on record but are in school and their fees were collected by principals.) It has been revealed that they were doing it in collusion with some education officials who apparently tried to thwarts the minister’s efforts and employed cheap newspapers to carry out their propaganda; something which is characteristic of the Sierra Leone print media.

The Fisheries ministry for the first time has generated revenue that is in billions of Leones as disclosed by the minister, Afasatu Kabbah. Plans are underway to construct the Kenema- Kailahun road, which the past government promised to construct . The Sierra Leone Roads Authority gave millions of Leones adverts to newspapers on plans to “construct” the Kailahun -Kenema road only for people to discover that the contract with donors had not even been signed.

It was when Ernest Korma came to power that he revealed that the contract had been signed. Observers point out that SLPP fell because of insincerity, too much of nepotism for which they are criticizing the APC. Many of the top officials were from the south now making it easy for APC to be easily accused of waging a crusade against southerners in its effort to reform the civil service.

“Because whoever is removed at the top is a southerner. So, it is easy to point fingers at APC as a party removing southerners from office. We do not know what they would say about Obama’s reform in the US”, one APC stalwart says.

Observers say Ernest’s greatest problem will be the pro-SLPP civil Society groups that were formed in the previous regime. “ Every now and then they come out with poor ratings against his government and check the background of those in those civil society groups, you will find out that they were strong SLPP fanatics. These are the people, who want the outside world to believe them”, one observer says.

“With intermittent clashes taking place between SLPP supporters and APC supporters in which hoodlums sometimes use the opportunity to loot, and party stalwarts feigning the committing of heinous acts for which they end up gaining sympathy, it is not yet known how Ernest will outsmart them or else they will continue to use such a trump card and the international community if not prudent may easily be hoodwinked”, says one political observer.

With a politically fragmented press in which one observer says , “journalists behave like kamajors," assessing a government will be very difficult because every good side presented will be met with negative perceptions already instilled in people by the press.

The greatest fear of some APC stalwarts now is that those who masterminded the coup that toppled APC in 1992 are planning to create a chaotic situation and use it as a strategy to undo them again. This fear has been confirmed to me by one intelligence source.

But on the whole, the people on the street say: “APC with only two years in power cannot perfom magic; whatthey have done is appreciated”. The opposition which has fallen from power sees things differently.