By Thomas Dixon
From all indications, the 2018 election like the 2007 election is going to be a three-horse race- the ruling APC, the main opposition SLPP and the new kid in the block NGC, the party of the former UNIDO Boss Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella.
The two main political parties have come with their aspirations for Sierra Leone for the next five years and it is the duty of all to critically assess their manifestos. Therefore, I will start with the ruling party Governing For the Grassroots (G4G) Manifesto and will follow with the others in subsequent articles.
GOVERNING FOR THE GRASSROOTS
First it is my belief that the word “Grassroots” is one of the words that have been so overused in this part of the world and that is the reason majority of the people are always at the grass level in terms of development. Besides, I think it is a misnomer for any government to govern just for the grassroots rather than govern for everyone in the state.
The Development document of Samura Kamara failed to clearly explained the meaning of grassroots. So, it will have been wise for the document to have shown some amount of inclusion from it title rather than being pejorative.
On the flip side, according to Samura Kamara in the intro of his development document, the key areas of priority if elected are: a diversified economy, fighting corruption, job creation, gender issues, improving social development; promoting patriotism, tackling indiscipline and lawlessness, regenerating slum communities and effectively addressing housing issues among others.
The document is very paradoxical because it says it is building on the legacies of President Koroma but it ended up exposing the fact that there are no meaningful legacies of President Koroma.
Economic Diversification is the first pillar of the Agenda for Prosperity and it is one of the areas where Samura Kamara who was Finance Minister, Bank Governor and External Affairs Minister of the outgoing Koroma’s Government exposed his Boss.
The G4G exposed how the economy of Sierra Leone has been badly managed under the A4P which made similar promise of diversifying the economy but landed Sierra Leone in an austerity because of bloated government contracts and increase discretionary tax waivers.
Although not new, Samura Kamara said that he will be prioritizing public or private investment in agriculture, fisheries and tourism other than just the over reliance on the mining sector. These are definitely not new ideas.
The most interesting thing under the economic diversification of the G4G is the establishment of a Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC).
It will be a good idea in a country where the President is not very powerful and a country where people are not afraid of telling the President the reality.
One may wonder why didn’t Samura Kamara with all these brilliant ideas to make the economy of Sierra Leone very buoyant as Finance Minister and principal adviser to the government on economic issues implement them long before now.
For the past ten years the civic space has been closing very fast, human rights violations have been increasing, corruption continues unabated and justice is for the privileged few.
Above all, most of the governance institutions created some 15 years ago have become lackeys of government.
Samura Kamara said that he will ensure speedy dispensation of justice, guarantee the independence of the judiciary and establish special response court on land issues.
He also stated that he will wage war on indiscipline and lawlessness and fight the mentality of ‘Orders Form Above.’ These are very interesting but from the way and manner in which Samura Kamara was handpicked and the way his campaign is being run, one may wonder whether he will have the courage to fight lawlessness and the ‘Orders From Above’ syndrome.
He said that he will also strengthen the human right commission, the office of the Ombudsman and the Legal Aid Board. However, it is the belief of many governance experts that the office of the ombudsman should be subsumed into the Human Right Commission with the power to take matters to court so that moneys will be saved.
Kamara also promised that in his fight against graft in the country there will be special courts for corruption matters which is another brilliant idea just that the fight against corruption needs a strong political will.
Health and Education are very important in a poverty-stricken country like Sierra Leone.
Like the AF4, Samura Kamara’s G4G is not saying anything different on the health sector other than extending it for the disable and the aged. He said he will continue to work towards decreasing infant mortality and morality which is currently the worst in the world.
He said he will continue with the Sierra Leone Health Insurance Scheme (SLESHI) which was proposed by Koroma but will be paid for by the people.
On the area of education, Samura said he will review the 6334 system of education which has been going on for almost 25 years.
What Samura failed to realize is that his government has already started reviewing the 6334 as we now have 6344 based on the Prof. Gbamanja Commission of Enquiry.
This is the area which exposed the fact that the ruling party’s manifesto was just rushed into and most of it were copied from the Agenda For Prosperity with little research being put into it.
Samura also promised that they will establish technical vocational institute in every district and at least two universities per region.
This is very much tough, especially when government is finding it difficult to fund the present public universities in the country. One may also wonder where will they get the manpower especially professional lecturers to lecture in those universities and technical vocational institutes.
He said he will expand the school feeding programme as well as making university forms free. The latter is very ridiculous because university forms supposed to be free any way.
YOUTH AND WOMEN
The youth and women formed the bulk of the population of Sierra Leone but at the same time, majority of them make up the suffering masses. Therefore, it will be necessary for any government that will take over after March 2018 to concentrate on the young people and women.
Samura Kamara promised creating jobs for the young people but he failed to talk on how he will do that. Another thing which Kamara promised is the creation of a youth investment fund that will be used to capacitate the young people.
On the issue of women’s empowerment, Kamara promised that he will be appointing up to 30% of women into the cabinet and the civil service and that he will be strengthening the implementation of the gender rights act.
There are many things that Samura-Kamara promised to do but the low of the Governance For The Grassroot is the fact that Samura Kamara failed to tell the people how he will go about doing what he has promised.