Two years to the end of his second and final term as President of Sierra Leone, President Ernest Bai Koroma last Sunday announced new Cabinet Ministers, Ambassadors, statutory and other appointments. According to a press release, this was done to revive the overall governance structure and performance.
The newcomers who are big winners are: Momodu L. Kargbo, Finance and Economic Development; Mohammed Bangura, Information and Communications; Nanette Thomas, Political and Public Affairs; Ahmed Khanou, Sports; Maya Kaikai, Local Government and Rural Development; Sidi Yahya Tunis, Tourism; Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs; Bai Mamoud Bangura, Youth Affairs; Elizabeth Mans, Fisheries and Marine Resources; and John Milton, Chief of Defense Staff.
Other winners are a few Deputy Ministers: Momoh Vandi, Finance and Economic Development; Ishmael Sengu Koroma, Internal Affairs; Cornelius Deveaux, Information and Communications; Dr. Christiana Thorpe, Education, Science and Technology 1; Osmond Hanciles, Energy 2; among others.
The big winners in the statutory and ambassadorial appointments category are: Dr. Kaifala Marah, Governor, Bank of Sierra Leone; Mr. Abdulai Baraytay, Presidential Spokesman; Alimamy P. Koroma, Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China; Amb. Adikalie Foday Suma, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations; Ms. Mabinty Daramy, Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea; among others.
The big losers who may now take up permanent residence in the country’s Political Hall of Infamy are: Paul Kamara, former Minister of Sport; Joseph B. Dauda, former Minister of Internal Affairs; his deputy Sheka Tarawallie; Alpha Khan, former Minister of Information and Communications, who has been redeployed to the Office of the President as an Adviser, a position political analysts consider a demotion; and his deputy, Theo Nicole, among others.
As ministers of Political and Public Affairs, Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Fisheries and Marine Resources, and Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, Nanette Thomas, Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, Elizabeth Mans and Diana Konomanyi, respectively, all become women in Sierra Leone’s political history to occupy these offices. Also, this brings the number of female ministers in cabinet to four.
After turning in her resignation as Special Executive Assistant to President Koroma in 2014, Ms. Bylden made it clear that she had no intention of retiring from active politics and will continue to support President Koroma’s administration. She has been involved in many government activities, including, as a member of the presidential delegation at the Post-Ebola recovery summit in the United States of America. To many, her appointment as minister did not come as a shocker considering her ferocious stance against anyone who opposes the president.
Ms. Nanette Thomas, National Coordinator and second- in- command, Behavioral and Attitudinal Change Secretariat, must have gotten much more than she expected. She replaces Ibrahim Kemoh Sesay at the Political and Public Affairs ministry.
The Ebola czar and former Defense Minister, Rtd. (Maj.) Alfred Paolo Conteh, moves from Defense to the Internal Affairs ministry, a move many consider a reward for his dedication and commitment in helping the country defeat the dreaded Ebola virus.
Dr. Kaifala Marah, regarded as one of best performers, having carried out a lot of policy reforms at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, has been named the Governor of the Country’s apex bank. Mr. Marah has been touted as a possible presidential material and a future party leader.
Mohammed Bangura, the former leader and chairman of the United Democratic Movement (UDM), is now Information and Communications Minister, while Cornelius Deveaux, the ruling party’s publicity secretary and a non relenting crusader of “More Time” for President Koroma, is Mr. Bangura’s deputy.
Sidi Yahya Tunis was promoted from Communications Director, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, to taking charge of the country’s Tourism ministry, a sector many believe if well managed could generate millions of dollars for the government. Mr. Tunis’ leading role in disseminating information to millions of Sierra Leoneans during the fight against Ebola is believed to be the key factor that has endeared him to President Koroma. Bella Fornah was named his deputy.
Bai Mamoud Bangura, the highly controversial and cacophonous former Presidential Youth Aide, and Chief Crusader of “More Time” for President Koroma, was named Youth Affairs Minister, an appointment political commentators say is a reward for his undying and unflinching loyalty to the president.
Mr. Ahmed Khanou takes over from Paul Kamara as Sports minister. Mr. Kamara, a no stranger to controversies, was stripped of his sports portfolio because of the many local and international embarrassments that trail his reign as the country’s Sports minister.
Dr. Christiana Thorpe, the country’s former electoral boss, who twice declared President Koroma winner, got a major boost to her credentials as she was named Deputy Minister of Education, Science and Technology 1.
Ms. Kadija O. Sesay, Executive Director, Open Government Partnership, was also named the Deputy Minister, Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs. This means, the ministry will now be overseen by women as against the case with Moijueh Kaikai and Mustapha Bai Atilla who where both axed by President Koroma after a brawl between them became sensational on social media.
Mr. Maya Kaika, Ms. Diana Konomanyi and Ibrahim Kemoh Sesay all returned to Cabinet. Mr. Kaikai moves from Resident Minister Eastern Province to Local Government and Rural Development ministry, while Diana was moved from Local Government and Rural Development to Lands, Country Planning and the Environment. Mr. Sesay was transferred from the Ministry of Political and Public Affairs to Works, Housing and Infrastructure.
Political pundits believe these appointments will increase the ministers’ involvement in mobilising grassroots populations who form the bulk of the voters.
Brig. (Gen.) John Milton takes over as Chief of Defense Staff, with Rtd. (Capt.) Abdul Rahman Kamara, named Deputy Defence Minister.
Among those retaining their existing portfolios are Dr. Abubakar Fofonah, Prof. Monty Jones, Amb. Henry Macauley, Mr. Logus B. Koroma, Mr. Joseph F. Kamara alongside Dr. Mikailu Bah, who stays on as Education Minister.
Undoubtedly, Paul Kamara, the former Sports Minister is the biggest casualty after he told the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) to pay One Hundred and Twenty-four Million Leones (Le 124, 000, 000) before they could be allowed to use the National Stadium for the friendly encounter against Malawi and the AFCON 2017 Qualifiers against Gabon on the 21st and 28th March respectively.
His brawl with FA President, Isah Johansen, and Paloh Conteh, during the Sierra Leone Athletic Association (SLAA) elections will remain a talking point even after his unceremonious exit from the Sports ministry.
Joseph B. Dauda, the former Internal Affairs Minister, is another loser in the major cabinet reshuffle. Mr. Dauda’s tenure was marred with alleged corruption scandal over the award and extension of passport contract to De La Rue and the high cost (Le500,000) for procuring it. The price was vehemently criticised by majority of Sierra Leoneans, even as Parliament subsequently approved it.
In June 2015, six Civil Society Organisations called on President Koroma to sack the Minister and the Chief Immigration Officer, Alpha Kholifa Koroma, for what they described as an unpatriotic and fraudulent passport contract they awarded to a Lebanese. The former minister denied all the allegations and said they were all “politically motivated” tales by “character assassins”.
Deputy Information and Communications Minister, Theo Nicole, was also dropped from the Information and Communications Ministry despite staking his neck and putting his integrity on the line to defend every government decisions at the weekly government press briefing by the Information and Communications Ministry at Youyi Building.
With the entrance of new faces and talents into Cabinet – which invariably means more capable individuals may have moved in – the challenge before President Koroma and his team now is ensuring renewed zeal, vigor, passion, and vision in delivering to Sierra Leoneans the much promised prosperity.