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Sierra Leone News: The Audacity Of Incumbency

The week from March 19 was full of drama. Remember out of bitterness, corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh launched its rebel carnage on Sierra Leone on March 23, 1991; The students of Njala University did their demonstration on march 23, 2017 which they called black Thursday. The events of that day are by now fully in the public domain. Another event that was gathering momentum that day was the APC National Youth Convention which took place in port Loko the next day with pomp and pageantry.
For some decades now it looks like each government manning affairs in Sierra Leone gets critical distractions.  Particularly in Africa the issue of incumbency plays a crucial part in elections. Many ruling parties take ample advantage of it. For the 2018 elections we will definitely witness a lot of this. We have already started hearing about allegations of vote buying.
With the look of things it appears unfortunately obvious that our current national administration will finish their second term in office without cleaning off some very salient challenges facing the people of Sierra Leone, some of which were nurtured by them directly or indirectly. Because we as a nation have for so long been satisfied with mediocrity, we are too prone to gullibility. This is not helping at all. Just now we have very few people who are ready and can fight for their rights with the necessary cogent facts to go with them.
No doubt the Presidency started off with lofty intensions to push this country forward, and indeed initially fulfilled that, like the electricity for Freetown.
However picking up from the many software and hardware pillars late Presidency built to strengthen democracy proved very difficult. So tell me, what has gone wrong? Before that let me tell you that Sierra Leone is yet to have the kind of leadership and government that concurrently embark on genuine development programs and at the same time observe the tenets of democracy, human Rights and good governance and genuineness with equal weight. From 1967 governments dead or alive have not been able to conduct themselves with clean accountability powered by the fear of God.  I challenge any one to tell me otherwise with evidence.
Let us start from the beginning. When this administration came to power, in two years the Free Health Care Scheme was pronounced on April 27, 2010. It was indeed a very welcome idea since our country has for ages stayed at the bottom rung of the UN Human Development Index. As I write this piece, Sierra Leone is still dangling at the bottom in 179 position. The scheme covers pregnant women, Lactating mothers and children under five years. The project took off on the wrong footing. In the first place the health sector, with all its inadequacies and ineptitude, were not prepared for it and as such could not cope. One thing we need to know is that it was at an international conference that President Barrack Obama appealed to countries to improve their health services through the free Health Care scheme; it was not an initiative of our President. To our President’s credit is him taking it up without delay. Like I always say, it is dangerous to test the depth of a river with both legs. We plunged into the Free Health Care Scheme River and realized it was very deep and we had no alternative but to swim.
The universal development best practice is to do a base line survey before a new project starts. This was not done in the case of the Free Health Care scheme. The health sector was overstretched and government had to rush to increase the remuneration of Doctors and other staff I
n order to encourage them to work. This made people in other professions to also ask for an upping of their remunerations. It almost got messy at a point but somehow the storm was weathered. So the health sector managed to stagger through the implementation of the free Health Care scheme. A lot of malpractices were reported time and time again and sometimes even brawls were reported between patient’s relatives and health personnel who claimed that some facilities and drugs were not available in sufficient quantity to cope with the scheme. The long and short of this is that it is difficult to say the level of success that the scheme has/had. We agree that more and more people visited health facilities for treatment. This is obvious considering the state of poverty our country continues to wallow in.
The APC government’s next big project was the extension of the Wilkinson road into four lanes. This project was a welcome one. But what people were not satisfied with is the amount purported to have been spent on it. The road was compared to a road project in Ghana of similar nature but cost over three times cheaper. So here the issue was accountability. In general many road projects are said to have been poorly done and very costly. I can remember Kennedy Street Road project which started having pot holes after a few weeks all over. It even had to be redone afresh. The bye-pass road is yet to be completed. The major problem has been reneging on contracts with road construction companies.
Two other projects that have made headlines are the celebrated Mamamah Airport which the minister said some 4 years back will be completed after four years! The other one is the proposed four lane high way from wellington to Masiaka. Honestly and patriotically, if you ask me, I will tell you that from Wellington to Waterloo, the four lanes are most essential because of the traffic jams. But tell me why we need four lanes from waterloo to Masiaka at this point in time when we have 99 % of the roads in the east end of Freetown in very bad conditions. Take a walk in the east and you will wonder whether it is part of Freetown Urban. Although the east houses the Quay through which most of our imported items come into the country including rice for the forces, governments dead or alive keep the east in perpetual marginalization. The east has no pipe borne water beyond parts of kissy. How can governments treat an area with the highest population in the city with such blatant nonchalance?
Let us now go to communication sector especially the much trumpeted Fiber optic hoax. Some three years ago or so the then Minister of Information told this nation that we as a nation was going to have a very effective information communication technology that will make life as easy as drinking water. Today in 2017 I am told very few establishments are having a feel of the fiber optic. What is sickening is that no authority is bothering to tell the public in what state the whole scheme is now. The APC 2012 foremost slogan was; Action Pass Intention! I think the only very successfully completed project is the three-City water project for Makeni, Bo and Kenema. Kudos…never mind how much it cost!
The Aberdeen inhabitants of slum areas were rudely buldosed from their habitats to make way for an outlandish project that never took off. An old man was even reported to have collapsed and died when the bulldozer was destroying his home.
The most recent project that generated controversy that led to the death of two people allegedly by the police is the Youth Village. The president, a long time ago said he will lay his life for the youth. The question now is how many youths will have to die before the President lays his own life for the youth. Is it not scandalous that the youth farm could not be properly run in Masiaka? So how do we hope to run bigger project like the youth village. President Koroma, your men and women in government need the attitudinal change you started preaching when you first took office.
The preponderance of Cabinet reshuffles may not after all pay much dividend as you have only a short time to end your final term. As I speak the Ministry of Water Resources cannot give the people of Freetown east the necessary water supply they badly need.
Our Country has had a long history of incompetence, demonstrated by public officials and yet remain in office unscathed till thy kingdom come. In the few cases where they are sacked, they lie low for some time only to be reappointed into positions of the same level as previously or even sometimes higher. I only hope the appointments for non-statutory positions at the presidency be curtailed to the minimum or cut off completely.
Some of us still remember the Akibophobia after that firebrand APC Cabinet Minister Alfred Abraham Akibo-Betts opened the Voucher gate and squander gate scandals roping in a lot of Civil Servants. He ended up hounded like a fugitive by his own party members. He went into hiding at FBC until he exiled himself for years. I have come to the realization that: not everyone who shits on you is an enemy and not everyone who gets you out of shit is your friend. And when you are in deep shit, its best to keep your mouth shut!
By Ben Cambayma
Tuesday April 04, 2017.

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