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Sierra Leone News: Good bye Former President Koroma

When former President Jerry John Rawlings handed over power in Ghana, he was being driven past the route to his former state residence. He thought his driver had forgotten so he said, “My friend, you have past the route, where are you taking me?” his Driver replied saying, “Sorry Sir, you are not President anymore.” It happens with many people, you so get used to something and you find it difficult to let it go. I am sure Former President may experience this whenever he is passing by the Freetown Cotton Tree.
For some decades now since in 1985 when Sierra Leone did its first feeble attempt at democratizing governance when Late strongman President Siaka Stevens chose Major- General Saidu Momoh to succeed him, as a nation we have been vilifying one leader after another once they stepped out of State House and power. Even Late President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah had the taste of it from both his party and outside. What is fundamental about the relationship between citizens and their governments is that like someone once said that every country deserves the government that rules them. We really need to have a close look perhaps at the most acceptable definition of democracy which is, “A government of the people, by the People and for the people”
Former President Koroma was at the helm of state affairs from 2007 to 2018. After the partial turbulent period of Late President Kabbah’s period, I think President was the first real peaceful Salone after the 11 –year civil war and two coups. His predecessor spent the bulk of the time bringing the war to an end and also to face the AFRC coup that exiled the government for almost a year. Perhaps Pa Kabbah’s most remembered quote is when he was interviewed by the BBC while he was in exile in Guinea and was asked when his government will return to Sierra Leone, he said, “Pretty Soon.” That pretty soon took almost a year. Today people jest about the expression “pretty soon.”
I must say from the onset that President Koroma while in office was a very committed and tenacious man. He was very daring and remained so up to the end of his two terms. Just now if you are thinking that I am going to catalog former President Koroma’s woes, I am going to disappoint you. I think a foremost thing he will be remembered for is his initial honesty and sense of purpose. When he said Freetown was going to have electricity in three months, he did and Freetown people almost immediately went into entertainment business because of the comparatively frequent electricity. A lot of compatriots wondered how the government could arrange for electricity supply in so short a time as promised. Well since the country was at peace, he also encouraged international companies to flood our mine fields all over the place. Interestingly it was the failure of these huge investments that got our country on her knees. What was so painful at the time was that our GDP was doing so well that we were counted among fast growing economies, something the Koroma Administration put on its head and ran with. I hope it is a stark lesson that the Bio Administration should watch: the over dependence on mining and other huge investments that are not reflected in the improvement of the ordinary citizen’s life.
Another thing we will remember President Koroma for is the Fee Health Care Scheme. Immediately after an international conference at which Former President Obama appealed to African leaders to improve the health of their citizens by reducing death from preventable diseases, Former President Koroma wasted no time in implementing the Free Health Care Scheme for Pregnant women, lactating mothers and Children under the age five. Can you remember what made the launching of the scheme epoch making? It was a kind of Independence gift to the nation as it was launched on April 27, 2010. At the time our Health system was overwhelmed. One because the facilities were inadequate to receive the huge numbers that were turning up at the health facilities for treatment. Even with extra- incentives for health personnel, the scheme suffered a lot of strokes. In most facilities the drugs were just not available. It was still a very good initiative but it was difficult to measure its success. For the simple reason that no baseline was done. There was no time since the President announced its immediate implementation. Also the scheme depended entirely on donor money. All this does not rob the Former President of initiating a very important scheme. You might argue that our health situation is worse at the time former President Koroma was leaving office. I agree but while it lasted it was laudable despite its challenges.
On the youth angle, the Former President tried hard but the harder he tried, the more the youth questions opened up like several Chinese boxes. He separated the Ministry of Youth and Sport. Many thought it was quite remarkable to have a separate ministry of Youth and that of Sport. Instead of the Staff at both the ministry and the National Youth Commission maximizing their synergy, they rather decided to be drawing daggers. Things at times got so messy that even when the president had said that he would lay his life for the youth, it was the youth that lost their lives over some of the very projects meant to bail them out of their sorry state. I cannot entirely blame all this on the president. You can remember the Youth Farm and the Youth Village schemes. Kabala youth protested when they were told an earlier decision to locate the Youth Village in Koinadugu was changed to Port loko District.
Perhaps an area to his credit was how he endeared himself with the international community to an extent through him, Our Country was placed on very important international bodies some even as Chair. Interestingly the accolades our former president got outside was not reciprocal at on the home front as the living conditions became harsh by the day up till his leaving office. It got to head that the Government pronounced an austerity that remained in force and no assessment report given till former President Koroma Left office.
In so many ways you might think that the minuses outweigh the plusses, but our former president left his mark and when the New History of Sierra Leone is written former President Koroma will have several chapters. I particularly liked his adventurous spirit. In my previous writings I said that Former President Koroma tested the depth of the river with his two feet. When he realized it was deep, he had no choice to swim across. Now that he has left office, while we thank him…we can add that President Koroma came dared many things and people and came out still managing to hold his head up. Enjoy your retirement Sir. For the new Administration, I am sure many lessons have been learnt. Like Josh Ruskin says, “Where corruption is ended, prosperity thrives, and in a prosperous land, people can afford their own family health care. That is when they are safe. That is when they are safe from such things as Ebola. When they are safe, we are all safe—and only Then”
By Ben CAMBAYMA
Monday April 16, 2018.

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