Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sierra Leone's Airport Gets A major Transformation

Old Lungi Airport
About two years ago I made a passionate plea to the leaders of my country Sierra Leone for a new Airport Terminal or at least a major transformation and redesign of the main terminal building. My argument was that a country's airport has a lot to say about the country as it was the first thing visitors saw on arrival into the country. For transit passengers who are for just stopping for refuel or to change flights, it may be the only impression they have of your country. So I posited that it was necessary for your airport to show who you were as a people and to act as a vehicle through which you could display your cultural heritage and your traditions. The whole article can be read by following this link. http://segbwema.blogspot.com/2011/03/why-sierra-leone-needs-brand-new.html
Old Terminal Building

It is 2013 and the All Peoples Congress (APC) government of President Ernest Bai Koroma has made many Sierra Leoneans proud by a major redesign of the country's main airport terminal at Lungi International Airport (FNA) and I could not be prouder. There is also talk in several quarters that the current changes are just a start and that a major overhaul of the entire airport is pending and all I can say is bravo and high marks!
The New Face of Lungi

President Ernest Bai koroma spent many years in opposition ranks eyeing the presidency. Over the years he quietly worked his way to the top ranks of the APC. After a sometimes acrimonious struggle between himself and some of the old guard of the APC, he ultimately emerged as the APC flagbearer and leader to challenge Sierra Leone Peoples Party's Solomon Ekuma Berewa for the presidency in 2007 and emerginging victorious after two rounds with support from the people's Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) which was the third most powerful political force in the country in 2007, but has now largely faded into political insignificance. President Koroma was again declared the winner in the recently concluded 2012 elections.
Renovated Lungi Airport

The beginning of Koroma's presidency was full of false starts and scandal.Starting with the largely wasteful Income Electrix saga in which millions of dollars was thrown down the drain in an electrification project involving Nigerian contractors that did not do much to improve the electricity supply in the country, followed by corruption involving members of his inner circle cabinet and the scandalous behavior of some of his ardent supporters who had relocated from the diaspora and given important assignments. There were also some Cocaine and Timber scandals involving some of his close allies and top functionaries.

At the end of his first term, many Sierra Leoneans were surprised when he decided to go with his scandalous Vice president Sam Sumana as running mate, though the Segbwema Blog predicted the move, as President Koroma is very predictable due to his high propensity to reward loyalty. 
Inside The Main Terminal

President Koroma will leave a mixed legacy. Under his watch iron ore production has resumed in the country and the bauxite and rutile mines have also resumed operations leading to a resurgence in national income by impressive margins. With the support of the international community, the windfall income from the resurgence of mineral exports and a good framework left by the former president AhmedTejan Kabba, President Ernest Bai Koroma has embarked on major road reconstruction projects throughout the country and has finally decided to tackle the notoriously dangerous Kenema-Kailahun road that was neglected for decades by one political party after the other and labeled the "Highway to Hell." Petroleum deposits have also been discovered off the shores of the country and there are already plans afoot to start exploitation as soon as possible.

Enhanced Security
2012 was another milestone for the president and country following the conduct of largely peaceful elections that garnered hgh marks from the international community, earning the president a highly publicized visit to Obama's White House. The main opposition SLPP is however contesting the results which they claim was manipulated and rigged to ensure victory for the president. The case is in court.

These successes has ensured that Koroma will  shake off the negative legacy of the last APC leader Joseph Saidu Momoh, who ruled Sierra Leone for seven years and did not even build a public toilet for the use of the people.
State of the Art Technology

The next fives years are very important for President Koroma to consolidate his legacy in the country. Currently the country has witnessed the resurgence of tribalism and an increase in income disparity between the rich and the poor. People close to the president's inner circle are benefiting from government contracts awarded on the basis of loyalty rather than transparency. There was also a resurgence in police brutality during the previous year leading to the deaths of peaceful demonstrators and some of the president's appointments have been described as oblong pegs in round holes. The level of youth unemployment remains high, the education sector is in a perilous decline and journalists have been highly compromised to cover up scandals and write glorious narratives for political appointments.
Obama Celebrates Sierra Leone

Koroma and Obama
President Koroma has within his authority the capacity to reverse the negatives and bring the country together, if he were to only reject the forces of divisiveness and continue to embrace each and every Sierra Leonean, regardless of political differences as he publicly claims. But with the promotion of incendiary, divisive and perpetually disgruntled hatemongers like Sylvia Blyden to be his special assistant, the prospect of a united country seems bleak at the moment. This disunity will be even more profound as the fight for APC flagbearer for 2017 heats up, we have started to witness.

Even with all these fears and negatives, President Ernest B. Koroma will leave a meaningful mark on infrastructural development in the country. The only fear that a lot of people have is that he should not be succeeded by his notoriously corrupt Vice President whose love of money and affluence will lead Sierra Leone down a disastrous path. 

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