Sierra Leone is fast coming out of the Ebola crisis. Everyone in the country is full of hope and looking to start a new beginning.
Sixteen months of agony and suffering, caused by an unrelenting virus that has taken the lives of 4,000 people.
The future for Sierra Leoneans has to be bright, and that future is Yumkella – says supporters of the former UN supremo, who has now arrived in Sierra Leone to begin the task of joining efforts that will quickly bring the Ebola crisis to an end; and build his grand coalition for change.
The Ebola crisis has compounded an already miserable existence for most Sierra Leoneans, with massive adult unemployment affecting three out of every four households in the country.
Over 80% of youths are out of work and classed as unemployable.
The economy was already on a life support machine, as the World Bank and the IMF continued to provide much needed cash resuscitation, so as to pay the salaries of public sector workers and contractors.
Effectively, the Koroma government had become bankrupt and was functioning on public sector borrowing that was beginning to get out of control.
The only sector of the economy that was seemingly thriving was mining. After much promise by the Koroma government to invest and develop the country’s fishing, agriculture and tourism industries to create jobs and wealth, nothing has been achieved.
Yet, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on constructing new roads that are yet to stimulate real economic development, that could generate clusters of industrial activity and create meaningful employment for millions of youths in the country.
Yumkella says he will provide a new direction that will transform Sierra Leone from a basket case to a food basket.
As he arrives in Freetown this weekend, he made this statement to all Sierra Leoneans:
“Over the last few months, I have had the opportunity to meet with many of you to discuss our shared dream for our beloved country, Sierra Leone. Let me once again acknowledge with immense gratitude to each and every one of you for taking time out of your busy schedules to meet with me.
I commend the great work you did in planning and organizing meetings with fellow Sierra Leoneans at home and in the Diaspora.
In the past few months, I have met with thousands of you my brothers and sisters at home and abroad. Most recently, I met with many in the UK (Manchester, Reading and London), Amsterdam in Holland, Brussels in Belgium and the USA (Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, Washington, Virginia, Maryland, and Tampa).
You all have helped me to understand your concerns and worries about the future of our native land.
Through these meetings and town hall dialogue you have shared with me your concerns, the problems about our country that keep you up at night. You have shared with me your aspirations and the future you all want for our Sierra Leone and the country you wish to see for your children and grandchildren.
You have shared with me your concerns about the unemployed youth roaming the streets of our major cities and towns.
You have shared with me your concerns about the declining state of our education and our health care systems, and in particular your grave worries about the social and economic impacts of the Ebola crisis.
The plight of our mothers, sisters and particularly the girl-child has also featured very high on your list of concerns. The recent murder and alleged rape of our daughter and sister Hannah underscores the lawlessness and violence against women that has become the new norm and has put a blot on the national consciousness of our nation.
You have asked the tough questions such as why should we be resource-rich and still be at the bottom of the Human Development Index. At every stop the number one question was “how to deal with rampant corruption and lack of probity in governance.”
Indeed, corruption undermines the proper functioning of every institution and destroys the moral fabric of our society.
The second most asked question was “how to deal with tribalism.” I am very pleased to see that you all have ideas on how we can collectively solve these problems.
Today, August 22nd 2015, I return home. So my “Listening Tour” now goes into its second critical phase. I will spend the next few months visiting the various communities across the country.
During this period, I will meet with our community leaders and elders, our youths, our teachers and students, our doctors, nurses and other health care providers, the media, the common man and woman and the young and old from all four corners of the country including those in government to listen to their concerns, dreams and aspirations for a better and more prosperous Sierra Leone.
I will draw upon the core values and commitment of the SLPP party and its members around the country and abroad to unify, strengthen and ensure it is a viable opposition party that can win the general elections in 2018.
If our strategic goal is to win the general elections in 2018 and serve our people, then, we have only one option. We must come together as “One Country, One People” and ensure that our party is tolerant and inclusive.
We must ensure that every Sierra Leonean regardless of tribe and region has a voice and feels welcomed. We cannot be “One Country, One People” if the opposite is true.
To this end, I am grateful to Chief Somano Kapen, Chairman and Leader of the SLPP, for approving my courtesy visit to the party headquarters on Monday 24th of August.
Open dialogue, Inclusiveness and a level playing field for all contestants is the “only way forward, the only way through and power to the people.”
It is my understanding that my supporters and members of the KKY Movement have received all the necessary police clearances for my visits around the country. They have also requested for police protection for their activities in the country.
I thank the Inspector General of Police for his support. Democracy can only prosper if our security services protect the human rights of all citizens guaranteed under the constitution (including the right of free speech, movement and assembly at any time).
What we want to build is hope for the people of Sierra Leone, opportunities for all Sierra Leonean citizens, and the transformation of our beautiful land into a country that uses its natural resources for the benefit of all its people.
Our central purpose will always be to propose a new direction and a future of Hope, Opportunity and Transformation (HOT).”
Editor’s Comment: Please note that the views and opinions expressed in this article are wholly and solely that of the author’s not AYV’s