Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Sorry State of Sierra Leone

41 Million Leones 3 Day
Over the past few weeks,  I have received various queries from numerous readers of the Segbwema Blog regarding a lull in the frequency of posts. I want to assure all our readers that we are following developments in our homeland Sierra Leone with a keen interest and keeping up to date with all developments, positive and negative.
Sierra Leone Delegation to
A Women's Conference 

I have taken some time out for personal  professional development and to also lend a hand to various nonprofit organizations engaged in the Ebola eradication effort. Many private individuals and groups are doing noble things in terms of mobilizing equipment and food supplies, raising awareness and support and preparing for the immediate post Ebola era in Sierra Leone, when a lot of individual and institutional help would be needed.

Here in Minnesota, Sierra Leone organizations like OneVillage Partners,  Rural Health Care Initiative, and the Sierra Leone Community in Minnesota  (SLCM) have been at the forefront of advocacy and resource mobilization for Sierra Leone. They will be vital in the post Ebola period.

However,  reports of all the shenanigans back home in Sierra Leone and various credible accounts of how Ebola funds have been squandered by public officials even in the midst of this terrible tragedy are extremely discouraging to say the least.

For all organizations going to Sierra Leone to help rehabilitate Ebola stricken communities, my fervent advice is to go straight to the communities and avoid all government institutions, unless there is an absolute need to engage some government institutions. The current government of Ernest Bai Koroma has lost all credibility both domestically and internationally. It is only the lack of sophistication of a largely illiterate and gullible population that is even making people think they have a government. What Sierra Leone has is a criminal syndicate masquerading as a government.
In the midst of a crisis like the current Ebola outbreak , any serious government would have been preoccupied with mobilizing domestic resources and international support to find a speedy solution. In Sierra Leone however,  Ebola represented a unique opportunity for easy pickings and the vultures were ready and waiting.
His Excellency Dr. Bai

While President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia was on the international airwaves 24/7 appealing to the international community to intervene in her country,  President Koroma converted State House to an Ebola donation collection center where people went and paid checks that are now largely unaccounted for. Authorities are saying many of the checks bounced,  but the donors are pushing back showing bank statements of checks having been cashed. It is a complete mess, even as people continue to suffer and die needlessly.

Millions of Leones spent on food distribution where individuals only received single plates of cooked rice. Purchases and payments for which there were no receipts, and so on. It was an Ebola bonanza and many people close to the powers that be are now newly created Ebola millionaires.
The Lost Generation 

While authorities in Guinea turned over the Ebola effort to qualified public health officials,  President Koroma set up a system of political patronage putting the country's Defense Minister with no health qualification and Steven Gaojia another political ally with no health care qualification in charge of the national Ebola response, while qualified Sierra Leoneans who are infectious disease and medical experts were sidelined simply because they were not political allies of either President. The Ebola strategy has largely been a guessing game even as thousands have died for lack of a cohesive strategy.

By politicizing every aspect of Sierra Leone life and governing through an elaborate system of patronage, nepotism and propaganda, the Ernest Koroma  government has reversed nearly all the gains made in the immediate post war period. Sierra Leone today is a country with an Agenda for Prosperity that has become an Agenda for Corruption.

However, the average Sierra Leonean has been conditioned through decades of false political promises to accept the status quo and believe that the only thing that matters in life is to sleep on a full stomach. The level of official incompetence and neglect in Sierra Leone is almost criminal, but most people have such low expectations that only a seismic shift will wake the ordinary Sierra Leonean from the blissful oblivion to which he is condemned. Unfortunately the  Parliament which is suppose to provide checks and balances is largely full of people happy with the status quo, because for them,  things have never been better.

Today in Sierra Leone, it is every man for himself with government slowly becoming the country's main burden. A modern tragedy.

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