In the space of ten years, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has left an indelible mark on the sands of time in Sierra Leone. He was aggressive in his demands for rapid recovery for the Sierra Leone economy and pushed through a range of projects and development initiatives to raise the country up from its once dismal state of underdevelopment and under-performance.
President Koroma took over a capital city reputed to be the darkest city in the world and in these ten years, he has turned the tide and his government has succeeded to offer the people of this city continuous light 24/7/ all year round. On other initiatives, President Koroma pushed through an impressive road network and infrastructure program and made many areas of the country reachable within hours where journey times were hitherto days on end.
The road to Kailahun which was his first promise was completed up to Pendembu within three years of assuming power and the second stretch to Kailahun town is presently under construction. When completed, this road will open up trade and commerce in cocoa and coffee products from the east and also widen trade with neighboring countries such as Liberia and Guinea through the internationals market in Koindu and the Kisibendu areas.
His was a presidency that dealt with its own share of challenges. The Ebola Virus Disease reared its head in the international meeting point at Kailahun where the three countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone converged and within a short time, became the epic centre of a major epidemic that took nearly 12,000 lives in the three countries.
At its highest peak, it became apparent that the spread of the disease had more to do with traditions and customs rather than medical reasons to the extent that President Koroma took a front seat to visit every region where the disease was spreading and took with him a message of care and concern for the people of this country.
His psycho-social interventions resulted in a consolidation of efforts at local levels with traditional and religious leaders joining up with government to fight the disease together.
The last rainy season also became a challenge when the Freetown environment gave way to flooding and mudslide in the slopes of the Mount Sugar Loaf mountain range, where Motormeh, Kaningo and other communities suffered casualties and destruction to properties.
The president’s international standing was put to the test as many Heads of States and institutions came in to offer condolences to him and the people of Sierra Leone.
Despite the challenges, Sierra Leone demonstrated great resilience to recover from these disasters. The president’s delivery team that was led by Yvonne Aki-Sawyer, the now Mayoress elect of Freetown and provided the space for national recovery planning. They took their lead from a very concerned president who engaged hands on in the delivery of the Ebola recovery priorities.
President Koroma has achieved many good things for Sierra Leone. He has been a noted statesman and an internationally acclaimed democrat. His work with regional and international bodies climaxed with his chairmanship of the Group of 10 set up by the AU to secure Africa’s seat as a Permanent Representative on the United Nations Security Council, an assignment for which he has been greatly acknowledged.
Walking into retirement from the strictures of government, President Koroma is assured of his continuing credence in international politics as he joins other African leaders as men of eminence and high repute. A very good friend of Tony Blair, President Koroma is expected to engage on the international lecture circuit so that other leaders will learn about his approach to issues such as religious tolerance, poverty and development under such difficult circumstances and conditions and the challenges that he faced in running the affairs of a country such as Sierra Leone.