On April 4, 2019 Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio celebrated his first year in office at an orphanage on the outskirts of the capital Freetown promising the children a bright future.
“Every child is important. We are here to show you all that we love and value you,” he said, while renewing his pre-election promises.
A year earlier, President Bio was sworn into office hours after he was declared winner of the tightly contested presidential elections that brought his Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) to power. He defeated his closest rival from the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) party in the second round of the polls.
President Bio had campaigned on the platform of uprooting corruption, which he believed had denied millions of Sierra Leoneans prosperity under his predecessor’s decade in power. His critics, including the opposition, say he has done well in improving governance.
Cost of living
However, the cost of living has skyrocketed following the unmitigated collapse of the Leone, the country’s local currency against the US Dollar.
“We note citizens’ concerns over the depreciation of the Leones, rising cost of basic goods and their implications on the quality of life of Sierra Leoneans. We call on government to take remedial steps to reverse this situation,’ said the Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) in a call to action.
On Wednesday, the Leone was trading at 9,250 to the dollar, down from 8.405 units in August last year. It has lost 8.2 per cent of its value this year alone, according to Trading Economics.
Last year Sierra Leone was the 14th country in the world with the highest inflation rate, 16.87 per cent, a trend that has continued this with the cost of goods rising at 17.46 per cent as of March 2019.
The introduction of the Free Quality Education which has benefitted 1.5 million children by far remains one of his major achievements as do service delivery in health and social protection in a bid to reduce poverty.
On corruption there has been an unprecedented increase in prosecution of public officials and recovery of ill-gotten wealth.
The Anti-Corruption Commission put the amount at Le 12 billion (nearly $1.5million) at the end of December which marked President Bio’s first nine months in office.
But the actions at the top are yet to be felt by the average Sierra Leonean.
“The problems that have been created over the years cannot just disappear in one year,” President Bio said on the eve of the anniversary, pleading for patience.
He appealed for patience saying the government had inherited an economy on the brink of collapse.
“Through austerity, the SLPP-led Government has put the economy on the road to recovery from double digit inflation, low domestic revenue mobilisation, high domestic borrowing, unsustainable external debt and unpaid bills to contractors.
Away from bread and butter issues President Bio has been accused of overlooking due process in his urgency to get things done.
There was a showdown in Parliament where the APC said it would not work with the National Human Rights Commission whose appointments it was not consulted on.
Similar complaints followed the appointment of new member to the National Electoral Commission in May and the Anti-Corruption Commission.
He has also used Executive orders which are vested by the constitution to counter an unprecedented rise in sexual violence in the country and to curtail exploitative investors who are ripping off the country.
“Sierra Leoneans can hardly quarrel with the problems these Executive Orders try to solve,” says CGG,” warning: “What is worrisome is that Executive Orders do not build consensus, they diminish the power of the legislature, and are open to abuse.”
The campaign group also said opposition strongholds were being disadvantage in distribution of state resources.