“I am disappointed at the international community in their delay in responding towards the fight against the deadly Ebola virus in Sierra Leone,” the President said. “We have not been provided with enough equipment, resources, qualified health officers, and we have lost the only expert we had in the country to the disease amidst the declaration of the international health emergency on Ebola” (http://news.yahoo.com/sierra-leone-appeals-18m-plug-ebola-funding-gap-220451048.html)
Reply: Mr. President, we are disappointed in your government. We are disappointed in the response or non-thereof, of your government towards the fight against the deadly Ebola virus.
Let’s start from the very beginning Sir. You have been in power for about 7 years. Your election campaign contained several promises which included tackling corruption, upgrading education, providing electricity and clean water etc.
Regarding corruption: Despite being one of the government’s central policy initiatives, fighting Sierra Leone’s endemic problem with corruption appears, in practice, to have become an increasingly marginalized objective. Although the powers of the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission have been strengthened and some high-level prosecutions have raised its profile, it has failed to ensure convictions and has remained selective with its investigations; causing disappointment among the general public. As a result, corruption remains a serious concern and affects people’s trust in the state bureaucracy, as well as the functioning of the government. Reducing it by about 5% is not good enough Sir. It is an insult to every Sierra Leonean that in 2014, you still allow members of your government to blatantly engage in corrupt practices.
We are not fools and we clearly see how you and yours suck Sierra Leone dry. The consequences of your government’s corrupt practices are children dying, children malnourished, children going to bed hungry, families starving and living in deplorable conditions and the majority of Sierra Leoneans living in abject poverty. The UN human development index not only ranks Sierra Leone amongst the poorest countries in the world, life expectancy is below 35 years. Plus the high cost of living makes Sierra Leone hell for most of its citizens. The inflation rate is steadily rising every year and was recorded at 10% (Country Report by Economist Intelligence Unit, London July 2014) at the start of this year. For a man who was dubbed “the world’s best” when you assumed office, you have not lived up to that title and Sierra Leoneans now hold a different perception of you and your government.
Mr. President, take a moment and look into the eyes of a dying child, a hungry child or a poor mother who cannot provide for her family and allow yourself to do the right thing. Remember you were elected to serve the people. What could you possible need tens of millions of dollars for? What do you need several cars for? How many houses do you need? Do you realize how ridiculous it makes us look to the rest of the world? The average reasonable man cannot wrap his head around such gross selfishness. Frankly speaking the money is not even yours. Give it back.
Sir, Sierra Leone is not as poor as you make us look, though you and your government officials are far from poor. Personally you are worth more than most western presidents (http://www.thenewpeople.com/national-news/item/2190-ernest-koroma-now-4th-richest-president-in-africa); how come you still go begging to people you are richer than? It was reported by the World Bank that for 2013, Sierra Leone’s income was nearly $5billion, (http://data.worldbank.org/country/sierra-leone) an all-time high. What happened to all that money? It certainly did not trickle down to the masses. I am quite puzzled that considering we mine several minerals (diamond, bauxite, iron ore, rutile etc.), we fish, and we export agricultural goods, the average Sierra Leonean does not benefit from the country’s wealth. I am no economist, in fact I have zero knowledge of this subject, but I and many other Sierra Leoneans possess common sense. Sense enough to see that you are failing us.
Regarding education: Sir, about 65% of Sierra Leoneans are illiterate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_literacy_rate). Considering we have a population of six million people. That is three million nine hundred thousand citizens. Why is that? Sierra Leone had the first university in West Africa; Sierra Leone was called the ‘Athens of West Africa’. Where did it go wrong? Between 2007 to the present day, can your government boast of any major achievement in education? Take into consideration the deplorable state of the Fourah Bay College, the plight of teachers and the conditions that children are expected to learn in before you answer the question.
Let’s take a little peek at the Supplementary Appropriation Act 2014. The Supplementary Act approved by Parliament on the 10th July 2014 provides revisions to the existing 2014 budget. The supplementary budget in total was Le266billion. It allocates Le7billion to education whilst the military spending budget is nearly Le50billion (http://awoko.org/2014/07/11/sierra-leone-news-coopers-eyes-4/). This means that the military budget is more than 7 times the education budget. The military officer’s uniforms allocation (Le10billion) alone is more than the education budget. Why is that Sir? I understand how important security is but for a country not at war, this disparity is hard to understand. Is it a deliberate ploy by every government we have had in Sierra Leone to keep the people in the dark so they can get away with corruption? I also noticed that ‘Teenage Pregnancy’ in the budget is allocated Le2.2billion (http://awoko.org/2014/07/11/sierra-leone-news-coopers-eyes-4/) I don’t quite understand what ‘Teenage Pregnancy’ means in this context and why it needs Le2.2billion. Is the money going to be distributed to young mothers to help them raise the children? Is it to educate young girls on safe sex? If so, don’t you think Le2.2billion is a bit excessive? I am yet to see any billboards or programs on TV and radio addressing this issue.
Back to education; the Ebola outbreak has further strengthened the case for more spending on education. It has spread like wildfire and the main reason is because the masses cannot grasp the importance of the message that Ebola is highly infectious. How do you expect uneducated people to act responsibly when you have not shown them how to be responsible? Now we are dying. Good people are dying, young people are dying, and babies are dying mostly because of the negligence of your government. Forget conspiracy theories on how Ebola got to West Africa. Let’s concentrate on post Ebola and your government’s response to it. It took you several months to make a statement on this issue. In a publication dated 22nd July 2014, the Minister of Health is said to have told Umaru Fofanah that your government had the Ebola virus under control. Her exact words were “We are at a serious point but I will not say it is out of control” (http://politicosl.com/2014/07/interview-sierra-leone-health-minister-on-ebola/). Umaru Fofanah, being an international journalist communicated to the world what your Minister told him. Even though hundreds had died by then it was still not considered an ‘emergency’. I would think one dead Sierra Leonean is one too many. Fast forward a month later, hundreds more dead and very obvious that the government does not (or ever did) have the Ebola outbreak under control, you choose to shift blame unto the international community, even though a month earlier you were telling the world your government had the outbreak under control.
There were calls to close the border with Guinea and put health officials around every border town as a preventive measure. That did not happen and now Sierra Leone is at risk of being shut off by the world. Your government is now scrambling. An Ebola task force was only created four months after the outbreak hit Sierra Leone. Please outline exactly what measures or strategies were put in place by the Ministry of Health during the first four months of the outbreak or what preventive steps were taken even before the Ebola outbreak spread to Sierra Leone. Some days I wish someone could wave a magic wand and make Ebola go away but considering Ebola is resistant to magic we’ve got to find other ways to fight it. I’m aware that the current magnitude of this disease is now beyond the capability of Sierra Leone and we desperately need help, but trying to shift all the blame to the international community? No Sir it doesn’t work that way. Stop politicizing the situation. Accept fault and your people will appreciate you for your honesty. Take the Liberian President for example; she apologized to her nation. You have hardly made more than 3 speeches to Sierra Leoneans. Why can’t we take care of our own? Members of your government are worth in total over a billion dollars. Why couldn’t you give back some of what you’ve made from Sierra Leone? Again I stress, that money is not yours. Give it back.
Mr. President, like every man I’m sure you want to be respected. Well understand this too, Sierra Leoneans want to be respected. We are tired of being considered amongst the poorest countries or the most corrupt or the country with the highest infant mortality rate. What we all fail to realize however is that we will not be respected if we don’t take care of our own; we will not be respected if we do not stop being selfish; we will not be respected if we do not respect Sierra Leone. Respect is earned Sir. The international community owes us nothing. It is not their duty to ‘fix’ Sierra Leone. It is our duty as Sierra Leoneans to do so ourselves.
You have three more years of your presidential term remaining. I charge you Sir, start the change. We voted you in because we saw you as the best candidate to move Sierra Leone forward. We all know you can do more. You know you can do more. Think of your legacy; it’s not too late but it needs to start now. Be a ‘hard man’ if you must. Let heads roll if they must. All we ask is that you love Sierra Leone like a father would love his home and his children. Our forefathers set the foundation for greatness. Let’s stop settling for mediocrity.
PS: The author of this letter has voted once in his life, in 2007, for H E Ernest Bai Koroma.