•Explains why he will win
By Dapo Akinrefon
Dr. Samura Kamara is the presidential candidate of the All Peoples Congress, APC, in Sierra-Leone. Kamara, a former governor of the country’s Central Bank, is currently the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
The APC presidential candidate was in Lagos last week during which he spoke on his plans for Sierra Leone if he is elected as president.
The election in your country is coming up in March, can we know from you prepared you are for the exercise?
Well, elections are coming up on the March 7 this year and we have quite a number of political parties, two oldest parties, my party, All Peoples Party and Sierra- Leone Peoples Party are in the forefront and of course as always one has to remain optimistic. We are getting ready, for the elections. We are just in the middle of concluding nomination for candidates for both local council as well as for parliaments and of course, having said that we also scheduled to present our nomination on the 26th of this month.
Campaign proper has not yet started simply because you will be violating the law if you start campaign, campaign will start after nomination, I think its February 27. But the President has been going around, saying thank you to the people of Sierra- Leone for having supported him in the last 10years of very successful period and he is also saying goodbye to them and of course as he does that, he introduces me and the running to the people to give them confidence that he is not leaving a vacuum, so this is where we are at the moment.
Once the nomination fee is paid, we enter the campaign proper; we shall reach out to all parts of the country. We have 16 districts in Sierra-Leon. So in terms of visibility, making the candidates visible, I think we’ve gone far. I have also gone to a number of radio and television programmes just to showcase myself as a flagbearer as a presidential candidate as well as some of our policies that we intend to do.
Looking at Africa for a while now, we know of the xenophobia issue in South Africa and what is happening in Libya, how would your administration deepen the relationship between Nigeria and Sierra-Leone so that we don’t see such things that are happening in those countries affecting the good relationship already in place?
I think over the last 10years, Sierra-Leone has through President Koroma really increased the voice, representation and legitimacy on the international arena whether at the level of the United Nations as well as the African Union but even at the sub-regional level at ECOWAS and other bodies. And in these organizations, Sierra-Leone and Nigeria have actually worked together in trying to strengthen both their bilateral and multi-lateral cooperation in having consensus in some of the decisions that have been taken.
And we’ve looked up to Nigeria as a country for mentoring because of the depth that Nigeria has in terms of its knowledge and in terms of its capacity in international arena. We shall continue to look up to Nigeria and we shall continue to work with her.
Yes, the challenges in international community, in international scene include aspects of xenophobia, terrorism, radical extremism and all of these and President Koroma is very active in supporting decisions by the African Union in trying to look for solution and of course Sierra-Leone was part of those countries that have influenced and worked very hard in major multi-lateral breakthrough in terms of Climate Change agreement in Paris as well as the SDG by the United Nations. So we would continue to do that.
If you are elected the president of Sierra-Leone in March, what do you want to do differently in office?
I would not call it differently, the first thing that I plan to do is to secure properly the achievements of President Koroma has put in place, we don’t want a reversal. And they are the achievements in infrastructure, in roads, energy, and water and of course, achievements in diversifying agriculture, and achievements in human and capital development, health and education.
We’ve made tremendous achievements. So the first challenge is to secure those because we don’t want to make anybody worse of than one is now.
Another thing is that you look for way of scaling up, how much roads can you build because these are essentials for development, infrastructure? And then how much energy can you supply to give the people greater opportunity and the confidence to go out there and venture for them, especially because businesses require energy to thrive.
But especially in the last 10years, we have really built a lot of ground on sustaining peace and security, stability in the country, which is something you have to earn to secure because this is what everybody looks forward to. So we’ve done that but I would tell you if there is anything we want to scale up, but we still believe there are gaps that are basic impediments in going forward. Like we still believe that there is high sense of lawlessness, we still have the perception of corruption, indiscipline amongst our people. But mostly some of us believe we need to build a sense of nationalism for Sierra-Leoneans to own up, to feel that they own the country, the own the progress of the country, that their own destiny as well as the destiny of the country is in their own hands. These are areas we want to look into to move forward.
What are your plans to entrench economic relations across the region?
You mean ECOWAS? I think the major challenge within ECOWAS is the low level of intra-ECOWAS trade and investment. The level is still 12 per cent, which is low. If ECOWAS wants trade to improve, it must encourage intra trade. In Sierra Leone, we have a lot of Nigerians trading in various sectors like transportation industry, agriculture, in the garment and in the media; we have quite a lot of Nigerians and we really appreciate that.
I don’t know how many Sierra-Leoneans are trading in Nigeria. We have had Nigerians and Ghanaians invest heavily in road construction, oil industry and so many other aspects. I think this is what we need to do to reduce the traditional constraints for trade among ourselves. That is why I am very happy that what ECOWAS has achieved more than anything else is the mobility of persons. That is a solid foundation to build on.
We have a lot of opportunities in the energy sector and transportation. Can you imagine if we have a trans-ECOWAS highway or railway? I think we really have opportunities.
Don’t you think the sentiments that your government is allowing foreigners to dominate Sierra Leone business might work against you at the elections?
I am yet to understand whether there has been a hue and cry over this. Let me tell you the truth, Sierra Leone has a very strong foreign enclave in the business community.
If there is any sentiment against businesses, I doubt it but it is something you have to protect and prevent because it is a small global world today.
In a Sierra Leone, we have a very vibrant Diaspora especially in the United States of America, we have in the United Kingdom but what we have not been able to tap into is the Sierra Leonean Diaspora in Africa and I think we also need to look forward to that.
The recent development is just a way of making reference to a constitutional provision that has existed since 1991. In the 1991 Constitution, there is provision that talked about every Sierra Leonean who deliberately goes out and secures a foreign residence and nationalisation should not stand for parliament. This means that if you do not qualify to be a member of parliament, you do not qualify to be a minister. You have to qualify to be a member of parliament before you are eligible to be a minister.
But this is a law that has been inexistence.
I think the fault of all of us is that we just neglected our provision of our laws. So, I am happy that is now an open debate and in our own political party, it is something that we are going to address as soon as we get on board because we are losing talents and quality in parliament. For the APC party, we will take appropriate measures, as one of the top priority to clean it up and this will be done by constitutional amendments as we move forward.
Ahead of the elections, do you have any fear?
I have to remain as optimistic as ever. I am going there full of optimism. The party is going in for a third term and there is always the phobia of regime change but I think that based on our achievements and based on the right support popularity of the party and the prospects going forward, I am very much optimistic that we will win.