That Cabinet Reshuffle: Too Little Too Late

By Kayce Brown

President Julius Maada Bio finally summoned courage to do the needful with Monday’s minor cabinet reshuffle, even if some of his decisions leave so much to be desired.

The move by the president was long overdue, as it was highly anticipated by Sierra Leoneans and for obvious reasons.

Nearly three years since his New Direction administration assumed the mantle of leadership, there is hardly anything to show for the numerous promises President Bio made as an opposition candidate seeking the mandate of the people. Like all previous administrations we have witnessed, the New Direction started with enthusiasm, which suddenly died almost immediately.

Bio’s main campaign promise was fighting corruption and indiscipline. If the 2019 Auditor General’s report is anything to go by, the government has failed in this regard. Indiscipline is ever rife in government. We just have to look at the plight of the masses to see this.

This is why Monday’s cabinet reshuffle was too late too late. 

For us, three things standout.

As has been illustrated by the flurry of celebration on social media, the change at the Lands Ministry is a highly welcomed one. This wouldn’t have been a fair conclusion had it been based just on the jubilation of mostly opposition APC supporters and other critics of the government and the now ex-Minister Dr Dennis Sandy. It also takes into account that there has been hardly any defence of the wannabe Kunfu Fighter from his Paopa colleagues. We have even come across posts from known administration supporters appearing to ridicule their own man. This only goes to show that either they agree with those who wanted to see him gone, or they just realized that it is impossible to defend him. In any case, it was a good decision to have Sandy go.

It must be made clear at this point that we are by no means suggesting that Dr Sandy is guilty entirely as charged. As crazy as he might have been over the last two years, some of his actions helped us re-diagnosed the problems in our political system that we have long ignored because of the inconvenience discussing they bring, but only if we have been paying attention.

Sandy did not only reveal the unfair way some group of people have laid claims on vast expanses of lands, sometimes government owned land, he also exposed the complicity of successive governments in this scheme that set a dangerous path for this country.

What the government needs to do now is to take advantage of this situation and resolve all issues relating to land governance and ownership. This makes the job of the former university professor Dr Tourad Senesie a challenging one. But that’s what he is going to be taken care for by the taxpayer. 

But also, come to think about it. Did we really need a Dr Sandy to diagnose these issues? Certainly not. Only if our system wasn’t this bankrupt. That constitutional provision that allows the president to appoint and sack his cabinet members is one factor of this bankruptcy that has permeated our society. It is a disservice to the people of Sierra Leone.

Those who inserted it into the constitution clearly had the interest of the president in mind above that of the masses whom he or she is supposed to serve. How else can anyone in their right mind explain it?

This is the reason Sierra Leone is full of recycled public officials – sacked by one president today and rehired by another the next day, as in the case of Dr Sandy and many others in this administration.

Sometimes even the same president sacks and rehires the same person. All of this can only happen because the president doesn’t need to explain to the people who elect him to make such decisions on their behalf, so much for accountability.

And sadly, the safeguard put in place against this – parliamentary vetting – has never worked in this country. Otherwise if the presidents’ sense of judgment failed them, our lawmakers should have been there for us. Again this is the only explanation for why we have people like Dr Sandy in cabinet, despite their murky history in the public service.

In the case of Sandy, even more tragic is that he was appointed to the same ministry he had served and created such chaos that came back to haunt him in the last nearly three years.

Like Sandy, the redeployment of Dr Alpha T. Wurie from the Ministry of Health to the Higher Education docket also raises a lot of questions about the state of mind of Mr President.

The change at the top of the health ministry was seriously needed, no doubt, given the sad state of our healthcare system.

Over 10 years after the introduction of the partial free healthcare programme, our women continue to die in labour rooms needlessly. And this is happening amidst persistent complaints of corruption and even abuse, with wanting impunity, by healthcare providers. 

While we try to make sense of the President’s decision to recycle the Biochemistry professor, we look forward to seeing what the new man at the ministry has in store for the people of Sierra Leone. Dr Austin Demby certainly has to think fast, because his new task requires that.

The ministry does need a serious overhaul to start with.

We take solace in the background of the new man in charge, given his impressive CV and his history working outside Sierra Leone with reputable institutions like the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We however do hope that Dr Demby wouldn’t toe the line of others we have seen in government before, who, despite serving and doing well at the international stage, betrayed Sierra Leoneans when given the opportunity to serve their homeland.

We must also spare some thoughts for the higher education sector, where the Professor is going. It is already in a sorry state, thanks largely to the snobbish attitude of the former Minister, Professor Aiah Gbakima, which has created an excuse for our overly ambitious lecturers to choose personal interest above national interest.  

The apparent sacking of Sadiq Silla as deputy minister of Transport and Aviation also calls for some reflections. Maybe Mr President knows what we don’t know. But because he has the right to hire and fire without providing reason, we also have the right to question his decisions, even if that’s all we can do.

For all we know, if anyone should be changed in that office it is the minister, not the deputy. This is not even difficult to see if you have been following development in that ministry. Minister Kabineh Kallon may be good, but he certainly isn’t cutout for that ministry, as he has demonstrated not only in how the transport and aviation sectors have been poorly performing, but also anytime he went on radio to discuss the sector. He has demonstrated over and over that he has no idea how to take that ministry to its rightful direction.

Look at the public transportation. Sierra Leoneans are worse off today than they were before April 4, 2018 in terms of the struggle to commute to and from work. And since then we know it is Mr Kallon who has been in charge.

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