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A collective achievement!

By John Pa Baimba Sesay:

I have been tempted to bring back an article I wrote few months ago, one dealing with our national efforts to develop the country in five years. Given the tremendous progress we keep making especially following our recently concluded elections, I am coming with this piece, but with additional information on what we have done as a country and why we should commend ourselves as a people for such positive development.

Lao Tzu is one of the most important men in history and a great Chinese Philosopher of his time. He once submitted that “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’ Given the above quote, I can we happily suggest, that what has been achieved in five years by President Koroma was actually done by ourselves, giving our collective efforts and overwhelming support to his Presidency in five years.

This was through the Agenda for Change that we have today rolled over to the “Agenda for Prosperity” I have repeated argued, that effective leadership is “not about making speeches or being liked; but that “leadership is defined by results not attributes.” If leadership, as Bill Bradley puts it, is about “unlocking people’s potential to become better”, then within sixty months, Sierra Leone’s potential has been unlocked and today we are comparatively far better off than we were when the Kabba (h) government was in power.

This has to do with the effective leadership that was provided us by President Ernest Bai Koroma, who was recently crowned ‘World’s Best’. But come to think of it, the progress we have made as a nation, the successes scored by this government in five years and the ability that President Koroma demonstrated, thus leading to his reelection some few days back, occurred due to a number of factors, among them the leadership qualities he demonstrated in sixty months and his likeable character His leadership features: Ray Kroc, an American businessman once argued, that the quality of leaders is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.

President Obama’s standards are so great that, he today is seen as a great leader. This is same with President Koroma .His standards are great and achievable and as such, one can argue with no fear that he is a great leader. His greatness led to his reelection. His outstanding leadership features made him to defeat his opponents during the first rounds of polls and his leadership qualities ensured, when the international observers came to monitor our elections, they all came out with commending words for us. He won and he is today President.

Author…John Pa Baimba Sesay, Sierra Leone’s Information attache to the Peoples Republic of China

He is a man of the people, a national leader that believes in unifying the country, to the extent, only few days back, he brought the opposition leadership to the table and talked some national issues with them. In the last five years and under the astute political leadership of Ernest Koroma, it was, and is acceptable to state that the achievements are incalculable given what we have achieved in the areas of agriculture, in infrastructure, in the nation’s health care delivery, in the fight against corruption, in making Sierra Leone an investment friendly nation, thus being able to bring in more investors and investments in the country, Yes, ‘we did it ourselves’ with general leadership given by President Koroma.

And if leadership entails the capacity to translate vision into reality, one needs not say more, for the realities are on the ground for all to see and feel. In five years, we have been able, as a country, to establish the ability to promote our mining management in line with international best practice base on the principles of sustainable development and significantly, this has led to a decrease in mining share holder risks and increased the level of investments in the country.

Since ‘we did it ourselves’, we have also seen an increase in government’s revenue from new mining investment in exploration and development, and from current mining operations. We have also today witnessed successful mining operations by African Minerals Limited in the Tonkolili district and which is estimated to bring thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue to government. Million tonnes of proven bauxite reserves and million tonnes of inferred bauxite reserves have been discovered by the Sierra Leone Exploration and Mining Company. Because this is a government that cares, we also witnessed, within a short period of five years, the introduction of a Gold Area Community Development Fund alongside the Diamond Area Community Development Fund.

Our diamonds, our minerals: Sierra Leone is rich in mineral resources. Take diamonds for instance, which have been commercially exploited since the 1930s. Our diamonds are considered to be of advanced quality, with the average carat value higher than that of almost any other diamond-producing country. By 2003 Sierra Leone mined and legally exported approximately US$76m worth of diamonds from alluvial fields. In 2004 the total reached US$126m. But tax revenue from diamond mining remains small.

The 3% levy on diamond sales brought in less than US$4m in 2003. (http://business.highbeam.com/437192/article-1G1-134630736/sierra-leone-mining). In fact, Rob Bates, in a piece, titled, “Whatever Became of Sierra Leone?(trends in diamond industry)(Industry overview)” wrote, authoritatively, that “in 2005 Sierra Leone legally exported a record $140 million in gems.

An equal amount likely left the country illegally. All told, over the last few years, Sierra Leone has exported over $1 billion worth of diamonds, yet the people who work the hardest at finding them are paid a pittance…” (http://business.highbeam.com/5670/article-1G1-155273994/whatever-became-sierra-leone).

What was as disheartening was the fact that, these riches were never translated into substantial benefits for the average man. There was lack of proper regulatory systems in the mineral sector, thus leading to non-transparent transactions, decrease in investor confidence and failure to attract large scale investments.

But within this short 60 months period, we have seen a different dimension in the sector. And so, statistically, exports, by 2010, recovered strongly, amounting to US$ 341.2 million, up 48 percent from US$ 230.7 million in 2009. In particular, mineral exports recovered with diamonds, bauxite and rutile recording export growth of 45, 66 and 13 percent, respectively.

This is because, ‘we did it ourselves’ Decentralization: At the level of decentralization, President Koroma, having provided the enabling leadership ensured an unprecedented increase and daily flow of funds from the central government to the local councils across the country. This has completely ensured an unparalleled degree of success in projects implementation by the councils. Today, all of the nineteen local councils across the country have been made fully functional and operational, given the level of political support they enjoy from the central government.

There was also the acceleration of the devolution process by the central government, through the setting up of a National Task Force on Devolution. On internal affairs: The government, within a 60 months period has been working on modernizing and structuring the National Registration Secretariat aimed at enhancing national security by capturing biometric data being used in the production of the National Identity cards.

There also has been the extension of the immigration services to the interior people by setting up of regional offices in the East, North and South for improved service delivery and access to the facility. Today, we have got effective cross border posts restored and functional in key areas such as Jendema in the Pujehun District and Gbalamuya in Kambia District.

In line with internal security arrangements, the Sierra Leone Police Force has been engaged in rigorous reforms in the areas of change management and training, crime management operations and support services. Today, the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces has established agricultural units to effectively contribute to the socio-economic transformation of the country, and for the first time, government has established an RSLAF industrial tailoring complex to ensure cost effective production of RSLAF uniforms.

There has also been an increase in the morale of our armed forces by restoring the supply of our staple food to our military, just as with the police force. The government has been fully capacitating the RSLAF to participate in international peace keeping operations in Darfur, Sudan, thus contributing to regional and sub regional peace and stability. On information and communications: At the level of information and communication, President Koroma has always been committed to improving and transforming this wonderful sector.

With a dedicated leadership provided by Minister IB Kargbo, ably assisted by a very young and unassuming Deputy Minister, in the person of Sheka Tarawallie and above all, with the overall support by the President, the Ministry of Information and Communications was able to transform the then Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service into an independent broadcaster, Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation.

And this is first in the history of the country. A National ICT policy has also been designed as a way of developing a knowledge-based information society with a vibrant ICT sector. The National ICT policy document provides for the improvement of network performance by service providers. This is in view of the fact that the economic benefits of improved communication and information flows will be much greater when the enabling environment supports innovation and enterprise creation.

The establishment of a standards bureau for the ICT sectoring and the creation of a center for ICT intelligence, development of a National ICT framework and the setting up of a National ICT Advisory Council have always been some sort of positive directions in the socio-economic development of the country, for which President Koroma’s should be given credit. In fact, there has been the establishment of the submarine fibre optic cable in the country.

Aldo in a short period of 60 months, we have witnessed the establishment of four media resource centers in Freetown, Makeni, Bo and Kenema. Not least, there has been the creation and incorporation of the Sierra Leone Cable Limited (SALCAB) to participate in the Africa Coast to Europe Consortium and serve as a landing party for the submarine fibre optic cable. National pride: I feel honored, proud and esteemed, that the leadership of President Koroma did what it did few days ago.

Our elections were peaceful; they were credible, transparent and far. But some had a different view, especially our brothers from the other side. They cried, literally, they shouted, and threatened to boycott Parliament. They went to court, seeking redress, but being the type of leader he is, President Koroma has calm the situation. As we read, Maada Bio has recognized our President as ‘His Excellency’.

And that God, that we did it- the supporters, the party leaders, the extremists and those who are moderate supporters of our various political parties, we all made it, we scored goals and we won. At the end Sierra Leone won. And thanks to us all for having made it ourselves.

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