Ethnicity, Development, and Democracy on Independence Day

A month before Sierra Leone marked 59 years of independence on April 27, the Smallholder Commercialization Program or SCP quietly closed its doors on March 31. According to the Global Agriculture & Food Security Program website, the program with a $50 million price tag was a success.

The project reached 377,412 poor Sierra Leoneans, of whom about 47 percent are women. All told, the SCP is expected to benefit a total of 500,000 people, one-half of them women.

The project improved drainage services on 1,150 hectares for a total of 5,256 water users and aims to reduce the supply-demand gap in rice as well increase incomes for 100,000 farm households.

The SCP also rehabilitated 6,300 hectares of tree crops: 2,800 hectares of cocoa, 3,000 hectares of new oil palm, and 500 hectares of cashew. The project is piloting climate change technologies, such as rainwater harvesting.

In addition, the project established financial services associations and community banks resulting in 34,025 clients, of which 42 percent are households headed by women.

So far, 104 individuals and 20 private sector players have received business-to-business training. Nearly 540 contractors, thirty service providers and about 12,000 people are benefitting from the cash-for-work scheme and tree crop rehabilitation.

The project will also contribute to job creation for young people as development service providers. It's provided training on tree crop management practices and tree nursery establishment/management for the tree crop youth contractors. Further, youth are being trained and employed as operators for postharvest equipment and as management staff.

At press time, spokespeople in the rural areas and local associations were unavailable for comment because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Online, Titus Boye-Thompson, who worked as a consultant in government ministries, agencies, and departments during the Ernest Bai Koroma administration, made his feelings clear: The $50 million SCP was a dud.
“That fund should be showing results for agriculture in Sierra Leone,” he wrote. “The supply of certified seeds for rice, for example. As it stands, our farmers still eat half of their rice seeds every year hence our low production per hectare. Our people are incapacitated in maintaining their farms, hence traders from Mali still come in to prepay very low prices for their harvest and the country suffers as a result,” Boye-Thompson added. 

“Take what I tell you to the bank,” he declared. “But not the agricultural development bank, where most of that money was siphoned off and which still doesn't fund farming but imports.”

Boye-Thompson was just as scathing of the recent announcement that a new technical award worth $22 million has been made to Peter M. Kaindaneh, managing director of the Economic Forum.  
On April 16, the Economic Forum made headlines when it signed the multi-million dollar contract with Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Technical and Higher Education to manage a fund for skills development focused on Technical and Vocational Education and Training. TVET institutes provide skills for employment using formal, non-formal, and informal learning.
“This is just a job for one of the boys and nothing else,” Boye-Thompson wrote.  “The APC (All Peoples Congress political party, now in opposition) handed over $40 million to this same guy in the last administration... Out of the funds that Pete managed under the last government, nothing substantive came out of it and no improvement to agriculture was discerned.  I am lost for words with this management of funds for education and TVET as this seems to be a far cry from agriculture.”

Peter Kaindaneh, who founded The Economic Forum, bristles at the idea of any impropriety. According to the forum’s website, the consultancy offers a range of integrated consulting services in areas that transcend various sectors.

An agricultural economist with experience in implementing World Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and other donor-funded projects, he has been a consultant to the African Development Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and other international bodies.

After earning a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Louisiana State University, Kaindaneh was among a dozen individuals, that formed the "FAO Panel: Expert Consultation Panel," which was held in Rome in 2002.

On WhatsApp, Kaindaneh said he returned to Sierra Leone in 2003 to manage the World Bank-funded Public Sector Management Support Project, which was completed during the administration of Ahmad Tejan-Kabbah,  Sierra Leone’s’ wartime president.

After that, Kaindaneh went on to manage the Institutional Reform and Capacity Building Project that ended in 2008. Next, he competed for the management of the Rural and Private Sector Development Project, under Sam Sesay.
“Despite all the opposition, I got the job,” Kaindaneh said. “I managed it so well that I was selected as one of 12 project managers out of over 800 to be recognized by the World Bank with a certificate of commendation. As a result, it was also agreed that I manage the WB-funded West Africa Agriculture Productivity Program.”

By all indication, Kaindaneh did not get the same recognition from his peers like Sam Sesay, who worked for a time as minister of agriculture, or Monty Jones, onetime special advisor to former President Ernest Koroma.

Joseph Sam Sesay was appointed as agriculture minister in 2007 during Koroma's first term. He attended the Milton Margai Teachers' College in Freetown before moving to Russia, where he completed postgraduate degrees at the Timiryazev Agricultural Academy in Moscow. On his return to Sierra Leone, he worked in the planning division of the then Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries for eight years before he moved over to the National Commission for Resettlement Rehabilitation and Reconstruction after the civil war ended in Sierra Leone.

Monty Jones was an adviser to President Ernest Bai Koroma and Ambassador-at-large until his appointment to the cabinet. Described as a plant breeder at the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security of Sierra Leone, he was co-winner of the 2004 World Food Prize. He won the award based on his discovery of the genetic process to create the New Rice for Africa (NERICA), which gives higher yields, shorter growth cycles, and more protein content than its Asian and African parents.

While Jones may have kept a lid on his displeasure with Kaindaneh probably because of the perception that he was partisan and more loyal to the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Sam Sesay made his feelings clear.

Sesay's opposition was such a distraction, Kaindaneh resigned and set up a consultancy which he called The Economic Forum.  
In defense of Jones, Boye-Thompson said the method of operations before Jones went to Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Food Security (MAFFS) was that externally funded projects are spun off, leaving the government department with a supervisory role.
“Monty proposed change and set in motion arrangements to bring all projects back to Youyi building (civil service headquarters) or at least that all projects should maintain a strategic desk there,” Boye-Thompson said.

“Part of the reason for this separation,” Boye-Thompson continued, is because project teams are not paid at the same rate as MAFFS core staff, and also most projects take on MAFFS staff on secondment and such staff get enhancements from projects and as such many do not wish to have highly paid dwarfs coexisting with hard-working ministry staff.

"Project Managers wield significant power even over the Minister as they are often called upon to finance the minister's trips and other expenditures,” he added.  What needed to be done was a refocusing of the deliverables and this was where the absence of flexibility and a consistent deficit of professional integrity failed the system.”

Long story short, the working relationship between Sam Sesay and Kaindaneh deteriorated to the point where he felt his position was no longer tenable.

Kaindaneh said he was in “retirement” when he was approached by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations, to salvage the Smallholder Commercialization Program (SCP), funded by the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program of the World Bank.

“This is a project that had changed four managers in 5 years due to misappropriation of funds and incompetence,” Kaindaneh said, adding that the project had been suspended, and the suspension was only lifted on the conditions that misappropriated funds were refunded and a competent manager was recruited to manage the remaining $20 million for 3 years to end of the project.
"Government made the refund and given the fact that Sierra Leone was going to lose the money, if the conditions were not met, Monty Jones unwillingly accepted IFAD's recommendation that I took over the management,” Kaindaneh said.

Boye-Thompson, Jones, and Sam Sesay were among hundreds of professional and technical staff that were let go when the new administration came in two years ago after an election that ended the two-term Koroma administration.

At last count, President Maada Bio has appointed more than 1,200 men and women considered part of his inner circle of pa o pas or diehardsNo one knows just how many political appointment positions there are in Sierra Leone.

One civil engineer turned global project manager turned chief said Kaindaneh’s competence as a fund manager should not be at issue since the project funds were deployed as agreed. Chief Mandu argued that there was a “contest of ideas” between Kaindaneh and the agriculture minister on how to reprogram funds to make the most impact.
“It beggars belief that the Minister could not find the levers of power for his own ideas to prevail against those of a lowly project fund manager! That's on him, as a not-so-competent senior Public Administration Executive," the chief said. 

Jones and Sam Sesay have moved on to greener pastures but Boye-Thompson is adamant that when the APC returns to power people like Kaindaneh will not be leading productivity, management, or improved access to TVET delivery.

"The issue of tribe became significant when this new regime came up with their aggressive narratives while they deliberately excused prominent Mendes from the same scrutiny that North Westerners were put through," Boye-Thompson said. "The political landscape is now extremely potent with calls for vengeance and "turn am gee" as they say in Freetown."

Chief Mandu sees the problem as 'ethnic arithmetic in government affairs.'  He explained out that a quick survey of news reports on Sierra Leone's government affairs from 2007 to now, show that nothing has fundamentally changed.

"Fact is that our governments have largely operated as being given the mandate to reward their political party supporters with available opportunities in employment, contracts and other privileges that come with the trappings of political power," the chief observed. "That's a structural problem, which I don't see political decision-makers having any incentive to resolve. The electorate also seems to prefer it that way. The fact that our political parties are mostly ethnically stratified, obviously makes the problem take on ethnic dimensions, which in the extreme, can lead to boundless instability."

The chief said the problem is the 
structuring of Sierra Leone's political parties, coupled with weak restraints, rather than of organized inter-ethnic strife.
"Indeed, you have many extremely well qualified and capable members of the supposed ethnic group of a governing party, who are left on the sidelines and worse, if they are perceived as being outside of the core of the political party in power," he noted. 

Friends of Kaindaneh, including Tracey Marke-Tsegaye, a social commentator who currently runs one of the oldest listservs for Sierra Leonean issues, Rodney Michael, a sports entrepreneur, and Morie Alpha, a quality chemist at a research facility in the United States, think he’s the right man for the job because of his track record.

Boye-Thompson disagrees.

“This thing with a man that the World Bank holds in high esteem, I fail to see why. I worked with people like Alhassan Kanu at Decentralization Secretariat who also worked on World Bank projects and he got rave reviews but was one of those to be sacked when this cabal took power,” he said.


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