In The USA… Bio Sells Salone

 

President Bio on Thursday, 7th  March, 2019 addressed students and faculty of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Institute of Politics on the theme: ‘A New Renaissance In Sierra Leone: A New, Bolder Vision’.

After the traditional courtesy, and after giving two sayings to illustrate what he was going to say; the one been: ‘A bad reputation is easy to make and hard to break’, and the other: ‘A good reputation is hard to destroy’, Bio launched into his dissertation on Sierra Leone’s past, present and future outlook with a graphic depiction of the stereotypic view a poorly informed West has of Sierra Leone as a pathetic war ravaged country, as depicted in the Hollywood blockbuster movie, ‘Blood Diamonds’.

Some Westerners, he said, still see the country as one overwhelmed by drugged rebels that are busy chopping off the limbs of the people. Other Westerners have this vision of Sierra Leone like Libya being under the vice of warlords fighting against the government. Still others, he told his audience, see Sierra Leone as languishing under the grip of Ebola with hundreds dying every day from it.

At the political level, he said others see Sierra Leone as a fragile state, a place for international charity to fee malnourished babies, a pitiful place where money is poured to save the people from themselves. Most Westerners, he said, still have to update their warped imagination about Sierra Leone as either just another unsafe, failed state or one teetering on the brink of relapse into anarchy.

Because of this misconception about the reality of what Sierra Leone is, Bio said, the country pays a hefty price in terms of insurance coverage for Sierra Leone, dearth of tourists and investors not considering the country as safe for their capital.

He lamented that many Westerners see Sierra Leone as a haven for predatory hawks, red tape and illicit financial flows; as a place where the leaders are not interested in maximizing gains from their natural resources or training their population into a skilled workforce.

At the level of international intellectual discourse, he mocked that Sierra Leone is seen as a place for trying out “new insights” into resource curse and state collapse, neo-patrimonialism and clientism, liberal peace-building, truth and reconciliation best practices, hybrid justice systems for human rights, post-conflict and peace keeping models, ethno-politics in emerging democracies, and many more such theories.

Beyond the above dismal images of Sierra Leone, Bio informed his audience that Sierra Leone is a progressive democratic state that has held three peaceful democratic elections in 23 years and one that has great human and resources potentials and one that provides leadership to the sub region.

The present Sierra Leone he said provides security, access and opportunity to its citizens to prosper in a well governed state. Its present governance structure he said stands on four pillars: good governance, purposeful planning and domestication of development priorities, investment in human capital development and negotiation of new relationships with the rest of the world.

In the realm of good governance, the government places premium on the fight against corruption, waste, abuse and fraud as exemplified in the setting up of three judge-led commissions of inquiry. Efforts at better public sector management, he said, are being complemented with institutional reforms, greater public financial management, reaching the Millennium Corporate Challenge benchmarks, scientific mapping out of the country’s mineral resources, transparency in that sector, repeal of criminal libel from the law books on the understanding that a free press enhances good governance, devolution and decentralization of government, engagement with Civil Society, introduction of the mid- term National Development Plan, engagement with development partners to avoid duplication of efforts and effective engagement with the private sector in order to push forward robust and diversified economic development. Thus, Bio appealed to the West to give the country more opportunities to trade than giving it aid.

His government, he said, has place a high premium on human capital development with introduction of the free education programme with emphasis on education of the girl child and higher retention rates. He said to promote science, technology and innovation; a separate directorate has been set up. To complement human development, his government is investing in health infrastructures as well as promoting social protection for the vulnerable, giving women financial inclusion as well as reviewed the law on rape and sexual violence against women.

On the continent, Sierra Leone, he said, is chair of the African Union Committee of Ten charged with the mission to lobby the United Nations to give Africa permanent seats on the Security Council, give that Africa with a population of over 1.2 billion has no seat on the body which decides on all global security matters. Sierra Leone, he said, continues to contribute meaningfully to global security by participating in AU and UN international peace keeping missions.

Bio then came to his vision of the new Sierra Leone under and beyond his leadership. He envisioned a nation that is developed on the principles of democratic governance and accountability, one that drives along on the wheels of informed choices arrived at through consultative processes, human resource development and innovation, protection of the vulnerable, private sector participation for economic growth and a Sierra Leone that provide regional leadership whose reputation cannot be destroyed.