Friday, January 11, 2013

Usu Boie Kamara Faces Baptism by Fire

Alhaji Usu Boie Kamara
Former opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) strong man and flagbearer runner up Usu Boie Kamara, who switched over to the ruling All Peoples Congress Party (APC) after being asked to leave the SLPP just as he was about to bail from the party,  has some very tough challenges ahead in the immediate future.

Usu Boie Kamara was recently nominated by President Ernest Bai Koroma to head the Ministry of Trade in the country's new administration. His approval by the Parliament is a foregone conclusion as though he is relatively new in Sierra Leone politics, he is one of the few politicians in Sierra Leone that has huge followings in both of the two main parties in the country, as he is known to have very deep pockets and also very generous to those with lesser means. In a poor country like Sierra Leone, money and generosity will buy you much love and cross party acceptance.
Police Controlling Fuel Line in Freetown

Usu Boie Kamara is taking up the trade portfolio just at the moment when dire shortages of fuel has hit every corner of the country, practically bringing transportation to a grinding halt. In the capital Freetown and the main urban areas of the provinces, fuel rationing has led to extremely long and chaotic lines at Petrol Stations and the distribution of goods and services around the country has been seriously curtailed. Rogue traders and black-marketeers are also exploiting the situation by jerking up the prices of essential commodities, just when the people have spent a lot of money on Christmas festivities.
Ouattara Why?

The outgoing Minister of trade and Industry Richard Conteh who is now the president's Chief of Staff has attributed the drastic shortages to an unexpected halt to the shipments of oil to the country from the country's primary suppliers in politically unstable Ivory Coast and the hopelessly poor West African nation of Benin. Minister Conteh did not release details surrounding the halt in fuel shipment to the country, but stated that a shipment of fuel to the country from Europe was currently at the Free Port in Liberia, but was expected in the country yesterday, Thursday January 10, 2013. However, the outgoing minister and nominated chief of staff warned that the people should not expect an immediate relief of the situation, as the fuel still had to be offloaded and distributed to filling stations before the drivers can have access to it.  He however promised that the government will do everything possible to expedite the situation.
Richard Conteh 

The long fuel lines in Freetown and other cities have led to frayed tempers, resulting in frequent scuffles among those waiting in the long lines, adding to the already chaotic situation. Profiteers are also joining the lines to buy fuel not for use, but for resale on the blackmarket and some are charging up to ten dollars on the black market for a single gallon of gas. The result of the fuel shortages has been a concomitant increase in the prices of food and other essentials in the country adding to the country's already high inflationary trends.

Ordinary Sierra Leoneans have taken to social networks to express their frustration with the prevailing situation in the country. While some urge patience, as the President is still taking his time to put together a functional cabinet, many are saying that the resulting shortages are just the result of poor planning, as at the same time last year, the same problem occurred in the country and if there was serious planning such a regular occurrence would be avoided. Others are claiming that there was so much focus on electioneering during the past few months, that not much attention was paid to anything else, resulting in this dire situation just at the moment when the President's Agenda for Prosperity is supposed to start. As one young student sarcastically wrote on Facebook, " the first people to benefit from the agenda for prosperity are the petrol sellers." Others are blaming Allasane Ouattara the President of Ivory Coast stating that he has let President Koroma down, as Koroma was one of the leaders that went to beg Lauren Gbagbo to hand over power in the last Ivorian elections.
Queuing in Kenema

During his period of campaign for the flagbearership of the SLPP, Alhaji Usu Boie cited his long public and business experience, which he stated gave him the requisite skills to turn the country around and many ordinary Sierra Leoneans have high hope that he will soon be able to correct the situation and turn the tide around. If he is able to quickly stabilize the situation he will have demonstrated some competence at a time when APC members are already thinking about a new leader to take up the party mantle, as President Ernest Koroma is in the twilight of his presidency.



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