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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

Harnessing the fruits of democracy after free and fair elections in Sierra Leone
By Umaru S. Jah- Information Attach, Sierra Leone Embassy Germany
Feb 7, 2013, 17:00
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Umaru S. Jah
Since not all efforts to up hold or harness the fruit of democracy are altruistic, leaders wishing to implement policies and those seeking to win political office both use the word DEMOCRACY to market their ideas and manufacture their images for public consumption.However, as renowned scholar and critic McGinnis reaffirmed "it is not what's there that counts, it's what's projected." 

 

In repeating these words, I do not wish to simply equate such theoretical analysis on what the word democracy means. The meaning of this significant but sometimes overused and misused term is very broad and includes the organization of competitive elections as undertaken in many countries. Notwithstanding, conducting successfully elections alone is not enough to make a country democratic. Equally important is to deliver on the political promises made during the electioneering process to deliver on the high expectations among the people for an improvement in their lives.

 

In this piece (a sequel to my last article "Marching forward: from the era of change to the era of prosperity"), I will look at President Koroma's Agenda for Prosperity within the mirror of democracy - as an endeavor to fulfill other tenets of democracy that place premium on providing for and improving the standard of living of the people. Put another way, I will critically look at the specifics encompassing the President's key challenges intrinsic to democratic values and norms.

 

Before delving into further details, I would like to quickly bring readers down memory lane by restating and reemphasizing here that the essence of my analysis to which this article is no exemption, is to project the work of the Ernest Koroma's APC led government in an effort to market the country's image in the Diaspora. Thus, it is our responsibility to mobilize support, participation,  reach wider audiences and engage the public in political issues relating to the socio economic development of our beloved country.

 

The period of Change

 

Drawing on the President's quest to fulfill his democratic responsibilities through the Agenda for prosperity, a review of its predecessor - the Agenda for Change - which has set the basis to foster sustainable development and economic growth is essential.

 

The Agenda for change outlined government's commitment to improve the lives of the people, while at the same time it enhanced infrastructural development through the transformation of many sectors in governance. Key among those sectors was energy, agriculture, health and education. The Agenda for Change was a big accomplishment - the reelection of President Koroma for a second term speaks volumes of the successes of that project.  People saw what has been achieved and therefore chose who they wanted to lead them in those significant 2012 elections that were not only deemed as free, fair and peaceful by International observers, but which were considered to be an important test for the country's democratic consolidation. For instance, a UN report that was released shortly before the polls stated that: "the successful conduct of the elections would demonstrate the maturity of the country's political leadership and institutions." The success of the elections therefore clearly showed that Sierra Leone has a MATURE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP! At the helm of this proficient team is President Koroma, whose committed and inestimable leadership role coupled with his sound and effective policies ensured that the Agenda for Change programme will go down the records as one of the most successful governance policies of all times.

 

That said, the imperatives of the peaceful conduct of the elections were not meant only to ensure democratic values and restore confidence in the people for an improvement in their lives - a schema I will return to shortly. Let me first of all, in more details, examine what the Agenda for change has ushered into our country's political history. In doing so, detractors might feel bothered by our constant dissemination of informing regarding the infrastructural transformation that took place in the country within the first four years of the APC regime. But certainly, it will be unfair if we give a blatant disregard to those gainful periods of our times in the recent past. Because those gains extend beyond the much expected goods that a country like Sierra Leone needs especially at a time when the country's state coffers were left in ruins by past governments. To elucidate those rewarding period, I will reiterate what the President himself told his people during the state opening of parliament: "The gains of the Agenda for change have brought to our shores huge foreign investment in mining, petroleum, industry, agriculture and tourism." As the President went on to add in that address, the country's economy which was in a total mess has continued to project positive signs of growth.


Through the Agenda for change, our road networks have been overhauled; electricity is more effective and accessible than it was ten years ago; a free health care for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five has eased the problem of health for our vulnerable women and children across the country.

 

The country's human rights record is commendable.

 

Public service delivery is admirable, while decision-making and participatory governance is now closer to the people than ever before.

 

In retrospect, the Agenda for Change is the roadmap through which the country has benefited from tremendously, vis--vis the socio-economic and infrastructural development. In the midst of all those remarkable achievements, the people again voted in Ernest Bai Koroma as President for a second term, defeating his closest contender, Julius Maada Bio. By that 58.7 percent vote cast, the people of Sierra Leone have again entrusted the job of taking Sierra Leone to another level in the competent hands of President Koroma. That next level is packaged in the Agenda for Prosperity project, which has already taken off.

 

A new paradigm

 

To continue the rebuilding process, President Koroma set forth a new paradigm - the Agenda for Prosperity.It is geared towards transforming and advancing the gains made through the Agenda for Change, based on the principles of the rule of law, equitable distribution of wealth, youth empowerment and the enhancement of human capital. In the Agenda for Prosperity, government is committed to restore discipline, law and order in society, institute more training programmes and increase employment schemes for women and youths across the country.  This, in effect, is an illustration of reflexive modernization- a move towards a more encompassing form of government, whereby those in power are seen to react to their citizens` needs and desires more closely than previously.

 

Unlike other leaders seeking political offices within the pretext of upholding the values of democracy, President Ernest Koroma has committed himself to serving his people. He is not only interested in gaining power and abandoning his compatriots amidst corruption and flawed government policies.  He is determined to leave a legacy that other leaders especially within the sub-Saharan states would emulate.  That is why his statement during the State opening of Parliament called for effective service delivery, transparency and accountability, proper utilization of our national resources. The President also encouraged participatory democracy as a bed rock to national development.  

 

However, contemporary challenges facing democracy are enormous. That is why in regions or countries where democracy is relatively new, most of those challenges are centred on governments' ability to deliver expected goods such as the equitable distribution of prosperity, development programmes and put in place strict security measures to maintain peace and stability. The Agenda for Prosperity underscores such challenges, which to a very large extent will take the country to higher heights. 

 

Of the broad portfolio of activities that characterize the Agenda for Prosperity, is the assurance made by the President during that state opening address to Parliament, when he aptly pledged that the fruits of prosperity will be distributed equitably. This means everybody regardless of their alliances will benefit from the country's natural wealth. Clearly, the pace at which our mining sector is expanding and contributing to the country's economy justifies the above pledge.

 

Furthermore, the Ernest Koroma-led government is poised to ensure transparency and remain accountable to its people in all its policies and programmes. The openness of government initiatives in the mining sector and the recent discovery of oil and gas in the country's deep water is a case in point here. A clear example: to ensure openness, the government recently, through the Sierra Leone Extractive Industries International (SLEITI) embarked on a nationwide sensitisation and dissemination of a comprehensive reconciliation report based on educating Sierra Leoneans about the Extractive Industry in the country.

 

This was aimed at ensuring that people directly participate in evaluating the effective management of the country's natural resources - a decent respect to the opinion of the people and determination to ensure that the people themselves directly benefit from their God given resources.

 

In a nutshell, President Koromas administration is committed to upholding the fundamental principles of democracy in ensuring that the distinctive qualities embedded in democratic governance are put into practice for sustainable growth and national development. This is why the Agenda for Prosperity is designed to ensure that those values are met within the framework of good governance, rule of law and equitable distribution of national wealth.


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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