Seven months ago, Sierra Leone elected a new government headed by Hornest Bai Koroma of the All People’s Congress party. As a candidate, Koroma accused then incumbent President Tejan Kabbah’s government of low productivity characterized by high youth unemployment and non-performance infrastructure. He promised that as president he would restore basic utilities such as electricity and water supply.
Samuel Sam-Sumana is vice president of Sierra Leone. He was in Washington this month to receive, on behalf of the Sierra Leone people, a Miracle Corners of the World award for the steps Sierra Leoneans have taken to build peace, prosperity and democracy. Vice President Sam-Sumana told VOA that despite opposition criticism, President Koroma is delivering on his campaign promises.
“From the previous regime, we had a total blackout of Freetown. Today I’m proud to say that under the leadership of Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma we have an emerging capacity of energy to which Freetown is now enjoying electricity. We have also gone ahead to close the envelope for the Bumbuna Waterfall Hydro Dam to give us sustainable electricity to the capacity of 50 megawatts. I’m sure that will help us in stimulating the economy because as long as we have energy in our country, we will be heading in the right direction,” he said.
The opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party of former President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah has accused the Koroma government of doing little to curb the rising cost of living in Sierra Leone.
But Sam-Sumana said the opposition is playing politics with economic factors beyond the control of the Koroma government.
“It’s just a concept of pull down syndrome from the opposition party. When it comes to the issue of rice, rice yes, is the staple food of Sierra Leone, but unfortunately we do not grow enough. We need about 528,000 metric tons to feed the people of Sierra Leone per annum. Of this we are only producing about 320,00 metric tons. We inherited this problem because there was no sustainable program in Sierra Leone to encourage or stimulate agriculture,’ Vice President Sam-Sumana said.
He said the Koroma government has taken steps to alleviate any future rice supply shortages in Sierra Leone.
“We have decided as a government that by 2010 there will be no more importation of rice into Sierra Leone. His Excellency and myself were out in the northern region of country where we launched the tractorization program. We want to use this opportunity this time around and transform our economy to an agro-based economy and be able to plant enough rice to eat and to export,” he said.
Sam-Sumana said the government is encouraging Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora to return home and participate in the development of the country.
“My message for Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora is in appreciation for their contribution to Sierra Leone. And I’ve always been encouraging them to give back. We owe it to our nation. Sierra Leone is not proud to find itself in the present predicament. We are not proud to see that we one of the poorest nations in the world. We should go back and give back to our country and rebuild our nation. We know as a government we will give them opportunities. But we will need to work together and build our nation. Ask what Sierra Leone can do for you but what you can do for Sierra Leone,” Sam-Sumana said.
He said the Koroma government has established an office of Diaspora affairs to encourage Sierra Leoneans to return home.
As a candidate Ernest Bai Koroma promised to fight corruption if elected president. Vice President Sam-Sumana said the government has a zero-tolerance corruption policy.
“I’m proud to say that His Excellency has said to this great nation that zero-tolerance for corruption, and that there is no chance for anyone who thinks that there is a sacred cow in this game. Whoever is culpable will be answerable to the court of law,” Sam-Sumana said.
Vice President Sam-Sumana described as baseless some reports that there has been a rise in the murder rate of businesspersons in Sierra Leone since the Koroma took power. On the contrary, Sumana quoted the British minister for international development whom he said remarked recently that Freetown, the Sierra Leone capital, is one of the safest cities in the world.