Sierra Leone has had more than its fair share of calamities over the recent past, with natural disasters and outbreaks of Ebola as well as a kleptomaniac administration. How is the year-old government of President Bio coping with the huge challenges it faces? Analysis by Julian Lahai Samboma.
It has been a year since Sierra Leone's President Julius Maada Bio took office in this mineral-rich but desperately poor West African nation of 7.5m people. This makes it an opportune moment to take stock of how the country's former military ruler has fared thus far as its new civilian chief executive.
It was in 1996 that, as Brigadier-General Bio, the then 32-year-old junta leader handed over power to a democratically-elected civilian administration, after his National Provision Ruling Council (the NPRC) organised multi-party elections in a country that had been brutalised by a fratricidal civil war that claimed up to 50,000 lives and devastated its export-oriented economy.
While you could argue that the new administration would have to accomplish a lot to make even a dent in the plethora of problems inherited from former President Ernest Bai Koroma, a sceptic could argue that Bio and his team do not have to do much to be seen to have done a lot. Not unlike the classic question of whether the glass is half-full or half-empty, it all hinges on perspective.
But whatever that perspective, your point of departure has to be the shambolic state of affairs they inherited--a mismanaged, nosediving economy that had been systematically looted during the decade long hegemony of Koroma's All Peoples Congress (the APC), with a total debt of $3.7bn.
Add to that a diseased body politic whose citizens had been ravaged by an Ebola epidemic and mudslides that destroyed whole communities, claiming thousands of lives, poor healthcare services, a moribund education system, inter-party political violence and, last but definitely not least, endemic sexual violence against women and girls.
And, atop this veritable poisoned chalice, were the lingering reverberations of the decade-long, internecine civil strife, known here as "the rebel war" (1991-2002).
Hit the ground running
It therefore came as no surprise to many when the new President hit the ground running upon taking up the reins of power on 4 April last year. True to his campaign promises, he instituted an investigation into corruption and mismanagement under the APC government. In a rearguard move to close off...