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President Koroma’s lopsided development, Agenda for Prosperity and 2018 elections

October 4, 2016 By Mohamed Massaquoi

For the past nine years since President Ernest Bai Koroma took over as President of Sierra Leone, a lot of development have taken place, with keen attention to infrastructure in the country, with specific reference to roads.

But the word infrastructural development has been badly misrepresented even among the educated elite, as a good number of other communities a badly underdeveloped, despite the much-talked about infrastructural development by the Ernest Bai Koroma-led All Peoples Congress administration.

In 2015, President Koroma addressed House of Parliament thus:

 “Mr. Speaker, the [Ebola] outbreak halted work on some of our infrastructural projects, but we pushed on to prevent a complete stop. We continued with the rehabilitation of Weima Bridge, 40Km of feeder roads in Constituencies 12 and 13 in the Kenema District, and the rehabilitation and maintenance of rural feeder roads and township roads in all 19 Local Councils. We are also continuing the rehabilitation of the 86 km Kenema–Pendembu Road, the Tokeh–Lumley (Phase III) highway Project, the 120km Makeni–Kabala road Project (Phase 1), the 120km Matotoka–Sefadu road Projects, and Phase 11 of the Hillside Bye-Pass road. We will continue with on-going Government of Sierra Leone Funded Projects including the rehabilitation of roads in Moyamba, Bonthe/Mattru Jong and Pujehun District Headquarter Towns totaling 23km, and the rehabilitation of Kissy Road and Fourah Bay Road.

We have awarded contracts for the Bo-Mattru-Jong road, Moyamba-Shenge road, the Pujehun-Gbondapi road, Moyamba Junction–Moyamba town road, the Magbang Bridge and a two lane Magbele Bridge. We have commenced the bidding process for the Pendembu Kailahun Road and contracts will be awarded shortly. We have also given approval for the widening of The Wellington-Masiaka Highway to four-lane on a Public Private Partnership basis. My government will also rehabilitate the Bandajuma–Mano River bridge road and the Bo – Bandajuma road. We will construct the Sewa Bridge, Bandajuma Bridge and Moa (Bandajuma) bridge. Projects and studies that we will fund mainly from our resources also include the Construction of the 42 km Tagrin-Lungi-Konakridee Project, rehabilitation of Western Rural District roads (Waterloo Township) Project, rehabilitation of Mile 88 – Yonibana – Mile 91 (Yoni Loop) road Project, the 70 km of the Freetown Phase II Road Project, and rehabilitation of Makeni-Kabala Road Project – Phase II. We have also received favorable responses from the Islamic Development Bank on funding for the Kambia – Madina – Tomparie – Kamakwie Road and we are putting up proposals to our partners for funding of Kamakwie –Bafordia-Kabala Road.”

However, it is unfortunate that to date, a good number of those promises made in the House of Parliament have not been met, although the president continues to make more promises to Sierra Leoneans even when his time of office is fast running out.

President Ernest Bai Koroma, on Monday, 12th 2013, told people in the Eastern provincial district of Kenema that the Agenda for Change and its successor, the Agenda for Prosperity, have equitably distributed national development projects all across the country. He made this statement whilst addressing throngs of people during his stopover in Weima, Malegohun Chiefdom, as well as at a meeting held in Tongo Field, Lower Bambara Chiefdom, Kenema district.

On that day, President Koroma stated that since Sierra Leone is being admired among the comity of nations for its unique religious tolerance, we should do everything possible to be recognised globally for political tolerance as well. He encouraged all politicians to inculcate the culture of inclusiveness and political tolerance, and assured that development will surely go to not only Lower Bambara and Malegohun Chiefdoms, but the entire Eastern region. Despite all of those wonderful statements from the president, the road network in most of the districts across Sierra Leone, including Kenema district, is deployable.

It could be recalled that residents of Kenema, over a year ago, registered their consternation over what they referred to as “political neglect” by the Koroma administration, noting that the much talked about infrastructure development in the country does not reflect on the township as the district was being marginalised by the present administration.

According to residents, although local councils are charged with the responsibility of developing their areas, most government institutions and functions have not been completely devolved to councils, thus making the situation more difficult for especially opposition controlled councils to embark on meaningful development. They alleged that even the provincial road projects which the president promised in his first term in office do not reflect on major roads in Kenema.

Hawanatu Fofanah, a social worker, said Maxwell Khobi Street, Hangha Road, Dama Road, Coker-Jah Street, Circular Road, Massaquoi Street, Ngombolango Street, among many roads in Kenema, the main town in the Eastern province, are in deplorable state.

From Kamara Town to Lumbaybu and other parts of Kenema, residents are convinced that the development process in the township is nothing to report about.

“We are suffering as a result of poor road network in the city. It is sad to note that the road leading to Kenema from Bo and Kailahun are well paved, leaving the roads within the township so deplorable. The government is not bothered about this deplorable condition. Many people are asking about the role of government in infrastructural development,” Mohamed Mustapha, a resident of Kingsway Corner, said in an interview.

Another resident, Usman Mansaray of Samai Town, said it was unfortunate that up till this moment roads within the township are deplorable, adding that the township has been abandoned by the president because of political reason.

“This is the stronghold of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party, that is why the president is treating us like this. All the major roads within Makeni, Lunsar, Magburaka and other towns within the northern region have been paved, but we are here suffering as a result of bad roads. Since the death of the Resident Minister (William Juana Smith), the president has not appointed another person who will advocate on our behalf,” he said.

The Pastor-in-Charge of Incarnation Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenema district, Rev. Lytton Goimo, is also reported to have described the roads in Kenema town as the worst in Sierra Leone.

“When one compares the roads of Bo and Makeni towns respectively, Kenema city is the worst,” Pastor Goimo told New Vision over the weekend.

The man of God said all the major roads within the city, including Blama Rd., Hanga Rd., Dama Rd., Ngombulango Street, Banya Street, Koroma Street and Sombo Street are in deplorable condition.

He said: “What is more shameful is the worsening state of the main Blama Road that leads to the heart of the city.”

He said the poor road network in Kenema has significantly affected socio-economic and cultural activities in the township.

Rev. Goimo emphasised that politics is one main factor that is seriously affecting development in the eastern region, especially Kenema district. He said people are of the view that if development goes to the region, the ruling APC party will take the credit. He blamed authorities of the Kenema City Council for the deplorable state of the roads within the city, stressing that the central government had since devolved functions to local councils.

He pointed out that most of the district headquarter towns are now far advanced in terms of roads and wondered why Kenema town should remain behind.

He said the only amenity the people of Kenema are enjoying at present is electricity, noting that pipe borne water and roads remain a serious challenge.

It would be recalled that five councilors were nearly mobbed by residents when they were informed that they visited the president to apologise.

State House Communication reported the visit thus:

“Five Councilors from the Kenema City Council on Friday 15 April, 2016 paid a courtesy call on President Dr.  Ernest Bai Koroma at State House, Freetown. This visit was to acknowledge the President’s development strides in Kenema district and to apologise for the Kenema City Council’s leadership poor relations with the central authority.

“The visiting opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party Councillors who were accompanied by the APC Deputy Publicity Secretary 2 Hon. Robin Fallay include Councilor Amidu B. Bah in charge of Education, Youth and Sport, Councilor Joseph Alpha in charge of Fire Force and Disaster Management, Councilor Alimamy Rogers for Budget and Finance, Councilor Mohamed Seventy-Sesay for Agriculture, and Councilor Aminata  Koroma, Deputy Chair for the Social Welfare Committee.

“Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Councilor Amidu B. Bah said seven out of the twelve councilors in Kenema City Council have seen reasons to come and say thanks to President Koroma for his untiring efforts at national development. Councillor Amidu Bah stated that ”President Koroma’s enviable legacies are such that even we in the opposition are proud of and happy to take credit for them.

“The Councilor spoke about the many development projects implemented and ongoing in the district. He highlighted the reconstruction of four main roads in the township of Kenema, the Kenema water project, the government hard push in the fight against Ebola in the district, the strides in energy and the unprecedented nationwide increase in councilors’ sitting fees from Le250, 000 to Le830, 000.

“For these laudable strides and in the interest of development, Councillor Bah went on to state that, on behalf of his delegation, they were henceforth dissociating themselves from the leadership of the the Kenema City Council.

“Addressing the councilors, President Koroma informed that even though he campaigned under the ticket of the All People’s Congress (APC) he was sworn in as President of Sierra Leone adding that “this is why my programmes cut across”. He also said that ”even though we belong to different political institutions, we should not be oblivious of the fact that after elections, we should put politics aside and work together for national development.

“The President recalled the politically orchestrated protest by some sections of the people of Kenema city during one of his visits. ”That was an unfortunate incident which we had to be handle with maturity.”

Just two days ago, a coalition of civil society groups and human rights organisations in Kenema District officially lodged a complaint against the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) government of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma to the Ombudsman accusing it of neglect and deprivation.

The letter, which was copied Serra Leone’s development partners, civil society organisations, state security agencies, the media, among other important state and non-state actors, emphasised that in the midst of nationwide road construction undertaken by the ruling APC government, Kenema has so far being deprived of good roads like in Makeni and other district headquarter towns across the country.

The letter states also that although Kenema is the second highest contributor to the Road Maintenance Fund Administration, it receives two hundred Million Leones less than small northern districts from government for road maintenance.

“On behalf of the people of Kenema, the Civil Society and the District Human Rights Committee who represent the space between households and government, write to formally complain the Government of Sierra Leone for failing to provide the people of Kenema district with satisfactory and efficient public service delivery under the Sierra Leone’s Agenda for Prosperity (A4P) implementation ambition. One of the key complaints is that Kenema city has been deprived of Tarmac for trunk A roads, such as the Blama, Hangha and Dama Roads respectively. Even where there are records of several demands and lobbying by various stakeholders in the past, including the formal Minister of State –East, the Press, Parliamentarians, CSOs, local authorities and Councilors, nonetheless, much attention has not been paid by Government to all of these concerns,” the CSO wrote.

Political analysts have said the president and his APC party decided to completely neglect Kenema on the grounds that it is the stronghold of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party.

It is my view that the people of Kenema should continue to protest to the president for what I consider to be a clear manifestation of neglect and this should be clearly shown in the forthcoming presidential, parliamentary and local council elections. It is also noted that the Kenema district is among many other districts that are not benefiting from the so-called Agenda for Prosperity.

I rest my case.