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Northerners Dominate Sierra Leone's Next Government

A government official in Sierra Leone says parliament will this week screen 20 ministers nominated by recently-elected president Ernest Koroma. He says the selected ministers come from a broad background with a range of abilities. But analysts say the limited number of women and southerners nominated by the president is disappointing. Selah Hennessy reports from the VOA West Africa bureau in Dakar.

President Koroma, leader of the All People's Co ngress or APC, announced ten new ministerial nominees on Saturday, after an initial ten last Monday.

APC National Organizing Secretary Alimamy Koroma says parliament will review the nominations this week. "The next stage will be for these nominees of the president to appear before the screening committee of parliament, to go through their profiles and to form an opinion and recommend to parliament for final approval," he said.

He says if the ministers are approved, they will take up their posts immediately.

He says the selected ministers come with a broad range of experience. "Some are internationally based, meaning working with the United Nations; others have worked with institutions here in Sierra Leone; others have served as members of parliament, and so on and so forth-so there is a mixture," he said.

Three of the nominated ministers are women. No-one from the main opposition party, the Sierra Leone People's Party or SLPP, was selected. But Mr. Koroma did elect four people from the South, a traditional strong-hold of the SLPP.

Koroma says it is not important which party each minister comes from. What does matter, he says, is that each minister serves the interests of the nation. "We have to work together to govern this country. It is not a matter of just saying let us have SLPP in the government. We need nationals to lead this country and for them to serve the country and the civil world -- that is really the bottom line," he said.

But Frances Fortune, the head of Sierra Leone based non-governmental organization National Election Watch, says she fears the nation is not being fully represented with this cabinet. She says northerners are over-represented. "The predominance of the 19 ministers who have been announced are all from the north. If you are talking about national reconciliation and trying to put together a divided country it does not look very much like that," she said.

And she says she is disappointed by the number of women selected. "There are a lot of very good women here who have done a lot of very good work on the electoral process and the political process. And in the members of parliament we actually lost ground in this particular parliament and so to balance that out, I would have expected more women in the cabinet," she said.

Ernest Koroma beat the SLPP party candidate Solomon Berewa in a September run-off. He has promised to fight corruption and alleviate poverty in the war-ravaged country.

Sierra Leone is still struggling to recover from a decade-long civil war that ended in 2002, leaving some 50,000 people dead.