Even as United Nations, British DfID, American Embassy and Tony Blair are busy heaping praises on H.E. President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, there is a massive growing discontent in Sierra Leone as the end of the promised three-years time frame implementation of the Agenda for Change, looms on the horizon with nothing much to write home about. It will be recalled that H.E. Dr. Koroma upon taking up office in September 2007 had promised anxious citizens that he would turn the country around for the better within three years.
However, as September 2010 looms just around the corner, the people of Sierra Leone are yet to tangibly enjoy the Agenda for Change. Like a typical Insurance Salesman, the APC Leader swept into office with sugar-coated tongue and promises of milk and honey but all of these promises are yet to be tangibly felt. Even the Bumbuna Hydroelectric Project electricity supply is no longer a source of where to point at successful exploits.
The poor are getting even poorer whilst the Presidentís Friends and Family members are amongst the very few signs of visible success in the country with their own notorious corruption and abuse of influence being ignored by what is now realised to be a heavily compromised Anti Corruption Commission that enjoys praises for misusing armed police officers and abusing the countryís Laws with gross impunity. The ACC that is enjoying such praises from international actors is now a source of ridicule in many local social circles. The ACC is basking in the glow of undeserved praises from diplomats even as the Presidentís mother Alice Rosalyn Koroma, openly boasts over the BBC of how she exerts her influence over her son to help people who go to her "a lot" for her help to get the President to influence things in her favour. The inclusion of the Presidentís motherís name in the unsavoury Fish Mafia saga in which she is alleged to have been amongst persons who unsuccessfully pressured the sacked Haja Afsatu Kabba to bend laws for the Fish Mafia, has not been well received by the sane segment of the Sierra Leone society even if it has been overlooked by the ACC.
The ACC is also overlooking the numerous abuse of office of the Foreign Minister who is a member of the regimeís current sacred cows but who did very little to contribute to the successful win of Ernest Bai Koroma, [the Insurance Executive] in 2007. Catapulting her and others above true foot soldiers is thus creating division and disgruntlement amongst the APC foot soldiers who sweated and spent sleepless nights for Ernest Koroma to win elections but who are yet to see or feel anything tangible for their efforts except disgrace, maligning and calumny for some.
The South-East of the country is where the erstwhile Mumu (DUMB) SLPP Minister, Septimus Kaikai hails from. Kaikaiís latent anger against Tejan Kabbah refusing him the Runningmate slot in 2002, resulted in Kaikai transforming into the countryís most DUMB Information Minister ever who created a chasm between the SLPP Governmentís achievements and the populace. Today, Kaikai who because of his MUMU-NESS back in last SLPP Governance days, enjoys scant respect from the true rank and file of the opposition SLPP, is being cited by mischievous, untruthful diplomats around the world as a symbol of inclusion. The reality is that there is no real inclusion but what there is, is a latent anger at massive selective retrenchment and dismissals of Southeasterners.
In the South-East, the Agenda for Change is yet to arrive let alone be felt in effect. The much-touted Kenema-Kailahun Road Project was kickstarted after an inexplicable delay of two years but only for a few hours and then all the machines left back for Freetown leaving the road abandoned to its own devices worse than it was when the project was supposedly commissioned.
Not just in the Southeast, but there is disenchantment all over the land as was evident during the Presidentís recent visit to Koinaduguís Agricultural Show where he was Ďwarmlyí greeted by a Kabala field devoid of significant human presence. In the Presidentís own backyard Bombali this monthís Bye-Elections saw widespread allegations of vote-rigging being made by even the Presidentís strong political ally, Mohamed Bangura, Chairman of the allied PMDC party.
However, despite the growing disenchantment and the obvious state of decline in which many indices in the country remain, certain unscrupulous members of the international and diplomatic community continue to praise-sing the Ernest Koroma led regime as if all is rosy in the country. A recent Peace-Building Commission delegation arrived in the country and held extensive discussions with the John Benjamin and Charles Margai led SLPP and PMDC parties respectively. In these discussions, Awareness Times has learnt that very serious concerns were raised on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone to these diplomats, only for the latest United Nations Report of Schulenburg and the latest Peace-Building Commission Meeting to gloss over these concerns or totally ignore them as they instead loftily sang the praises of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koromaís Government as if all is well and right on track with the Agenda for Change and the caricature of a so-called fight against Corruption.
Many disgruntled supporters of the President who cast their votes for him in 2007 but who are badly disillusioned with his performance thus far, now opine that come 2012, it will have to be those international actors, writing misleading reports and press releases in their tomfoolery, who will vote in the APC.
"Only DfID, United Nations & Tony Blair are going to Vote for APC in 2012!!"shouted an angry housewife at last weekendís Cottage Hospital event held to showcase the fight against Maternal Mortality in Sierra Leone.
Of worthy note is that a pivotal event that has hardened the hearts of many Sierra Leoneans against this Ernest Koroma regime, especially the minds of women, is the Afsatu Kabba ongoing saga which saw Koromaís decision to release the Lilian Lisk Okeky boat caught in numerous criminal breaches of the countryís fishing laws, whilst the Fisheries Minister Afsatu Kabba who has scored an unprecedented success in reforming the fishing sector and increasing much-needed revenue from the sector was very unceremoniously dumped from the Government Cabinet, just like any piece of used goods.
The Anti Corruption Commission Act calls for a suspension at half-pay for anyone indicted and does not call for an unceremonious sacking. This is because the parliamentary legislators were fully aware that innocent persons could be framed, set-up and unduly molested by egoistic persons with hidden agenda. However, as if pushed by unseen hands, the President unceremoniously sacked the Fisheries Minister Afsatu Kabba rather than send her on suspension as the 2008 Law dictated. The impression many women have been left with is that President Koroma had all along been looking for an excuse to axe the visionary Afsatu Kabba from his Cabinet as she might have stepped on the toes of Ďfishyí persons with interests close to that of the President.
Many women have thus questioned the need to continue to support the call for them to cast their votes come 2012 for such a Leader who shows no appreciation for hardworking women but who goes on to molly-coddle known criminals in the Fishing sector thereby kicking in the teeth his female minister.
The Speech by President Koroma in Moyamba last weekend (See Page 9) during which he apologised to the women of Sierra Leone for the way they had been treated by their menfolk especially during the war-years has been roundly dismissed by many women who spoke to this presshouse as another exercise in hypocrisy that citizens are now fast getting used to.
"Soon, you will see the American Embassy, the British DfID and Tony Blair come and shout out praises for Ernest Koroma as haven apologised to women but the truth is that the spoken apology is a far cry from the reality on the ground. Sierra Leoneans are suffering and if we continue like this until 2012 Elections, only the British, United Nations and those American Embassy staff will cast votes for APC," Pa Sorie Kabia, a card-carrying APC sympathiser told this presshouse over the phone last weekend as he queried how any sane western diplomat could utter undiluted praises for tactics that include the totally unwarranted armed raid of a female cabinet Ministerís private residence in the early morning hours by gun-toting police officers; simply because Anti Corruption Commission claimed they wanted to question the female ministerís husband and her teenage son and took the husband & sons away under intimidating and defamatory armed escort convoy.
Bottom-line, there is massive local disenchantment in Sierra Leone even as the international world is shouting out praises but come 2012 will be the time that President Ernest Bai Koroma might learn the meaning of those words once uttered by a famous American Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Tip OíNeill, which insisted that, "ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL!"
¬© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.