On March 7th, the citizens of Sierra Leone – my nation of seven million people on the coast of West Africa – will elect a new President. Our outgoing head of state, President Ernest Koroma, is term-limited to two mandates and is therefore standing down.
This is important: a president departing serenely and in accordance to the Constitution has not always been a given in West Africa. Doing so unquestioningly, President Koroma completes an important milestone in Sierra Leone’s political development. This he began in 2007 on assuming office after my country’s first peaceful transfer of power since 2002 – the year our civil war ended.
When he and the All-People’s Congress party (APC) were elected to government, the only Sierra Leoneans that did not know the horrors of that terrible conflict were children under five. While today they have not yet reached voting age, many of their elder siblings have. They are the last generation of first-time voters who lived through wartime.
I intend to ensure they are the final bearers of that title.
For them – indeed all Sierra Leoneans – every one of the policy pledges I have made as the APC candidate for President are intended to deliver one aim: for the country to attain middle-income status by 2035. And through economic growth – that in which all must have an equal opportunity to share – the nation solidifies peace.
Currently, 60 percent of Sierra Leoneans are dependent on subsistence farming. While this activity provides employment and sustenance for millions of citizens and families, by its nature it provides no scope for trade. Through investment in irrigation and fresh water networks across the countryside we can help transition from subsistence to commercial farming that provides both food and employment – and prosperity.
To further economic opportunity, I intend to continue the expansion of the program of major infrastructure projects initiated by President Koroma. To maximize any transition from subsistence to cash crop farming, clearly a road network is crucial; but similarly, it is for the mining and energy sectors – both of which are key contributors to Sierra Leone’s economy. Through further improvements to our developing transport network, we can create additional jobs in mining and begin the process of building in-country processing facilities to complement raw metal and mineral extraction.
Every aspect of my agenda – from jobs and trade, to education and health – are dependent on Sierra Leone’s continuing the peace and stability it has enjoyed for the last 16 years. Economics and opportunity are of course vital to maintaining our stability but so is fostering a sense of national identity and unity. Sierra Leoneans may predominantly adhere to Islam or Christianity, but we are one of the most religiously tolerant nations in the world. We are united by the English language, and even our own variant of it – Krio, or Sierra Leonean English-creole – which is spoken by close to 100 per cent of our citizens. These commonalities and many more must be nurtured further to re-build and strengthen the growing unity that our long civil war once pulled apart.
While I passionately believe that my agenda for development and unity will be supported by the people at the ballot box, nonetheless I had expected the forthcoming election to be close. However, scientific opinion polls – along with the anecdotal experience of thousands of APC members and supporters – suggest otherwise.
Predictably, this has led some of the opposition leaders – in reaction to their slide in polling support – to allege that the election will be rigged. Sadly, that has been the response of too many losing candidates in recent African elections. While some may have had a genuine case, most have not. Nevertheless, I still share the hope of millions of Sierra Leoneans that political leaders will put country before ambition and learn from John Dramani Mahama’s noble example in Ghana in 2015: that the losing candidate will gracefully concede defeat.
Even should my opponents refuse to admit their loss, I am certain that none of them – nor any of our people – would ever risk Sierra Leone’s precious years of peace and stability by resorting to post-election violence such as witnessed in Kenya in 2007.
I am equally certain there will be no turning back for Sierra Leone from multi-party democracy. There is no longer any room in our politics for leadership or governance that does not command an electoral majority – while at the same time governing on behalf of the whole nation. And should the country seek to move forward with the APC – as I strongly believe they do – we shall work together to ensure that, under my leadership, Sierra Leone only moves forward, not back.
Samura Kamara is the All People’s Congress Party (APC) flag-bearer for President of Sierra Leone in the 2018 election.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.