This second ever peaceful democratic transfer of political power testifies to the popular acclamation that President Koroma’s actions, policies and programmes have, more than any other thing else, been inspired by his determination to consolidate the peace and build on our democracy.
As he leaves office, Sierra Leone, once regarded as a failed state, is now noted to be the most peaceful nation in our region, one of the most peaceful in Africa, and one among other “nations in Africa where democracy has taken root”. The building of democracy and consolidation of peace are not the only far – reaching achievements of the ten years APC led government under Ernest Bai Koroma. In virtually every sector, the indelible prints of a turnaround are visible and will remain to be for a long time to remind Sierra Leoneans that once upon time, they elected a truly transformative leader. In spite of what his detractors have been labouring in vain to propagate, Ernest Koroma has certainly raised the bar in terms of delivery of social services. The new government of President Julius Maada Bio therefore clearly has a huge task to sustain the gains that have been made over the last decade, especially in the provision of free health care, in construction of roads, energy and water infrastructure. The expansion in the access to electricity, clean and safe drinking water, justice, education and in government’s support to agriculture has been unprecedented since independence. The evidence of this is easily available on the ground but on top of this, just yesterday, former President Koroma submitted his Handing Over note to his successor. That document would no doubt be a rich reference material for all Sierra Leoneans and a reliable benchmark by which the new SLPP regime will be assessed.
Already, there is uneasiness among the general public regarding the apparent inability to sustain the constant supply of electricity in the city. The many excuses and propaganda about the economy do not seem to sit well; the public retort is that the economy was in this shape yet the erstwhile Koroma led APC was able to provide electricity not just to Freetown, but to over nine other major cities and towns across the country. Others argue that Bio and his SLPP knew the state of the economy when they opted to succeed the APC and so there is really no point in not sustaining at least what they inherited.
In his inaugural address today, Bio himself acknowledged that the task ahead is “momentous though not insurmountable” that to succeed, he needs everyone and that he would strive to be inclusive. But his statement on inclusiveness came on the back of an unrestrained appetite to exclude from governance people perceived to be non-members of his party or are coming from regions not of his ilk. In less than two months since his election, he has summarily and discourteously dismissed hundreds of State House staffers, all political appointees in the Foreign Service including ambassadors, and there are palpable indications of a purge underway in the civil service. Analysts therefore believe that the political platitude of inclusiveness by the new president has to be translated into meaningful actions in his appointments, policies and programmes. Like his predecessor, he promised and he must deliver.
Watch out for a copy of the Handing Over Note of former President Ernest Bai Koroma to His Excellency President Bio.