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2022 and 2023 local council and presidential elections is no easy push-over for SLPP (Sierra Leone People’s Party) Government. This article explains why a hands-down defeat awaits SLPP. In April, 2018, SLPP (Sierra Leone People’s Party) under the guise of New Direction assumed power in the face of controversial circumstances Sierra Leone has ever seen.
The election period was a defining one for the people of Sierra Leone as they hope for a brighter future under the New Direction. The hope was strengthened by the youthful exuberance of a President who had been once at State House. He was expected to navigate the country’s political dynamics with ease. President Julius Maada Bio was expected to know and lead the way.
In 1996, he ushered Sierra Leone into an era of democracy. The great sacrifice made him internationally iconic. He was popularly admired around the world with UK as the greatest admirer of the young and energetic President. Little wonder that former High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Gyde Warrington worked hard to ensure a successful transition of power.
The Slogan ‘New Direction’, no doubt, is mesmerising. It built hope in the minds of Sierra Leoneans. It was expected that the New Direction leadership would be a complete deviation from leaderships of old in Sierra Leone. The redemption and revival of Sierra Leone through key sectors of the economy under Pres. Bio was the main hope.
A little over three years in governance, the people of Sierra Leone felt disappointed owing to naked failings. Governance failings are visible in electricity, agriculture, infrastructure, health, Law and order and national cohesion among others.
Despite fine promise of electricity embedded in the 2018 Manifesto popularly known as the ‘People’s Manifesto’ achieving that aim remains one of the greatest myths. The noisy sounds of old generators in offices and houses in Freetown stand as a glowing testimony of an unreliable power supply Sierra Leone grapples with.
Sierra Leone is fastly going back to the ‘Kabba Tiger’ Days, a period in which Freetown was tagged the darkest in the world. The period was named after President Kabba (late) who was President at that time. Strong evidence exists to show that New Direction has destroyed legacies it inherited from their predecessor, former President Ernest Bai Koroma.
The Karpowership agreement entered into by the past government has been nullified; Bumbuna Phase-two stalled, budget allocation to the energy cut down among other factors.
Megawatts the country relies on to power businesses and offices remain a closely guarded secret. No official in the energy sector dares reveal the exact megawatts Sierra Leone has even the Public Relations Officer Of the energy supplier, EDSA (Electricity and Supply Agency).
In the absence of electricity, businesses crumble and investors threaten to pull-out. In spite of the high-pitched wailings of a terrible energy supply, the Minister appears complacent. President Bio is yet to act on him if there is going to be any action. In the agricultural sector, New Direction also failed miserably by failing to provide food for the masses.
Government is yet to take advantage of the God-given Tomabom and Gbondapi swamplands. Farmlands too in the north and south of the country have been neglected. The stretch of land offers hope of freedom from hunger and starvation, but hunger still persists.
The promise made years back by President Kabba that no Sierra Leonean goes to bed with hunger is still a promise on paper. Over the years, government has been producing a soothing when it keeps on promising the people of Sierra Leone of food security and sufficiency. The people of Sierra Leone voted out former APC administration owing to what they referred as extreme hunger.
Expectations still keep on rising that this government would fix the agriculture problem to make Sierra Leone safe from hunger.
A bag of rice hovers around Le300, 000 and Le400, 000, a big hike from where it was left in 2018. Failings in the aforementioned sectors were no difference to those in the infrastructure. SLPP Government has been quite weak to fix the problem of poor roads in Sierra Leone.
Since three years of its political existence, government cannot take credit for any major road project in the country. Even the road leading to the home of the President is yet to be fixed.
The Bo-Mattru highway which was a priority to the New Direction Agenda is still in its terrible. Although better off in the dries, it is worse in the rains. Commercial Motorists (Okada riders) and drivers are no strangers to the road’s rugged and rough nature. Passengers know it too.
SLPP politicians who were referring to the Koroma roads project as cosmetic have become powerless when they are at the helm. Their criticism is hunting them now. Can they fight back? No. Too late to fight; Time is no longer in their favour.
The trouble continues in the health sector. Lessons taught by Ebola were never learnt. Building a robust health system was a key lesson taught by the Ebola Virus owing to its disastrous effect in the Manor River Basin. The virus swallowed a population of over 5,000 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone got a fair share of the Ebola deaths statistics.
Over 1, 000 lives were lost including over 300 nurses and 11 medics.
Terrified by the death toll, OSIWA (Open Society Initiative for West Africa) funded media publications in nine West African countries On Post Ebola Recovery Strategy. The research was about calling on African leaders to invest in the health sector to make it effective. The lesson is not properly learned. Sierra Leone’s health sector is still eclectic owing to neglect.
The weak nature of the country’s health system resurfaced when Corona Virus struck in 31st March, 2020. Government still responds on a trial-and-error basis. The country’s health experts do not and cannot understand the exact characteristics of COVID-19. As if to mitigate the pains of Sierra Leoneans, former Minister of health, now Minister of Higher Education said the country needed 3, 000 medical doctors to look after the health problems of Sierra Leone’s 7,000, 0000 (seven million) population.
It means more resources have to be poured in. New Direction’s abysmal performance in the above critical sectors spill over to the economy. Inflation, recurrent unfavourable terms of trade, balance of payment deficits, low productivity, weak industrialisation characterise Sierra Leone’s economy.
Sierra Leone is still a primary producer and a price taker in international trade. The country still exports unpolished diamonds, raw Cacao and Coffee, Iron Ore, Rutile, Bauxite among others. This state of affairs renders Sierra Leone a Bread-and-Butter economy as widely trumpeted by the former Finance Minister now Chief Minister, Jacob Jusu Saffa.
Law and order as well as National cohesion remains farcical in a country plagued by economic hardship. Sierra Leone has seen intermittent waves of public order disruptions since New Direction took over state governance.
Riots in the northern town of Lunsar, in the eastern city of Kenema, Tombo in the Western Area and other communities are glittering indicators of lawlessness. Freetown, quite recently, was hit by an Okada Strike which nearly halted life in the city.
Under currents of future strikes still bubble. SLPP government is seriously indicated in the slums and ghettoes. But, it is heedless. Political tensions between the two main political parties, SLPP and the main opposition, APC (All People’s Congress) worsens an already polarised situation.
Tensions are sure to rise in the eve of 2018 elections if government does not take steps to neutralise them. These failings are too hard to put up with. The people of Sierra Leone are determined to demonstrate it in the coming elections.