President Ernest Bai Koroma's New cabinet - An Outlook
|Ernest Bai Koroma, newly re-elected President of Sierra Leone|
Koroma's first term government composition clearly reflected his re-election agenda. Majority of his cabinet and key government positions were filled from the party base (predominantly from the North).
Then there was the People's Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) factor.
Under the circumstances of his first election, Koroma appointed some PMDC party members to a few government ministries either as ministers or deputy ministers as a payback for PMDC leader Charles Margai's endorsement, which ultimately handed him the presidency.
And then, there was the strategic re-election move to penetrate into the south-east where his party had performed so badly in 2007. To infiltrate Kenema and some parts of the east, Koroma surprisingly made JB Dauda the foreign minister-which turned out to prove quite ineffective.
To dig into the prevailing discontent of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP)-PMDC bad-blood, Koroma richly rewarded some of the carpet-crossers with lofty ministerial appointments, particularly those that he considered strategic in his re-election bid.
It is too early to say whether any of these moves gave Koroma the inroads he made in some SLPP strongholds, or whether they were a result of incumbency factor, or huge financial advantage over the SLPP, or election irregularities, or a combination of factors. But now that he has been re-elected, he faces more challenges than he did in his first term.
In retrospect, there have been several criticisms of his administration particularly with respect to his reward-based cabinet and key government appointments. Koroma's cabinet has been tagged "Wussum stars" due to its significant reflection of Bombali district and some other parts of the party's northern base. Clearly, even where the president made broad-based political appointments, many of these appointments proved ineffectual, incompetent and irresponsible, beyond their re-election agenda.
Fortunately for the president, he has graduated from the trappings of party loyalty and payback to a national agenda that will determine his legacy. He will not be running again.
PMDC performed so woefully that even a declaration for the ruling APC [All People's Congress] political party by the present PMDC ministers is unlikely to save their jobs.
In a serious Koroma second-term, there is expected to be a huge overhaul of the cabinet. Key ministries like Foreign Affairs, Health, Education, Mineral Resources, Finance and Economic Development, etc, would have to be staffed with Sierra Leoneans with strong subject-matter intellectual pedigree and proven moral character.
JB Dauda, who has served in virtually every civilian administration since the mid 80s has very little value to add to Sierra Leone's foreign policy. Under Minkailu Bah's watch at the Ministry of Education, students have spent more time at home than in school more than at anytime in our recent post-war history. Soccoh-Kabia, who woefully mismanaged the Ministry of Health despite his nuch touted "stellar" medical background, is undoubtedly a square peg in a round hole at the Marine and Fishery ministry which had already been the subject of a high-profile corruption scandal. We can go on and on with most of Koroma's first-term ministers in making a case for massive overhaul.
But first, the president will have to deal with the internal wrangling between those who are already jockeying to keep their current position, and APC-diasporans who descended on Freetown like locust and invested hugely in the election, hoping to have "their own turn". Many of these party operatives will be less concerned with the president's legacy, or the country's future, because they don't necessarily see a short term benefit. They will be therefore inclined for more of the same. It will have to take strong leadership to break out of this political clutch to form a government that is truly patriotic, truly national and yet technocratic in outlook and outcome. A government where vigilante-ministers have less role as was in the first term. A government where everyone will tone down the rhetoric.
Koroma has this opportunity as the first truly post-war democratically elected president, to move Sierra Leone ahead in the face of enormous international goodwill, enormous human and natural resources. And above all, to reconcile the people who have been so bitterly divided by this long drawn-out divisive election. Speeches will not be enough.
I am hopeful for my country. Because I saw it in the eyes of the millions, who spent hours in line waiting to cast their vote, and days listening to the radio waiting for Thorpe to announce the election. Every one of their vote must count, whether they voted for the president or not. How this president wants to be remembered when he leaves office is up to him. The people will support him in the same way they will hold him accountable.
Steven Nabieu Rogers is a research associate at the Institute of Urban Studies, University of Texas, Arlington. He is a recent Phd graduate in Urban Planning and Public Policy from the School of Urban and Public Affairs of the same institution and he lives with his family in Irving, Texas. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org