Voice of America (Washington, DC)

Sierra Leone: Opposition Criticizes Government's New Development Plan

The secretary general of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) is calling on the government to stop making empty promises and deliver on the ones it made to Sierra Leoneans five years ago.

This comes as President Ernest Bai Koroma is set to launch what the government is calling an Agenda for Prosperity on Friday, July 12.

According to the vision, which runs from 2013 to 2035, Sierra Leone hopes to become a middle-income country, with 80 percent of its population above the poverty line.

The government also foresees the country having a well-educated and healthy population as well as a society where the rule of law is the order of the day.

But SLPP secretary general Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie said the government must first fulfill its promises to fight corruption and bringing about social and economic justice.

"We are top in the Transparency International Index on corruption. We are signing mining contracts that do not benefit Sierra Leoneans. And yet we are talking about prosperity and making Sierra Leone a Middle-income country. There are lots of things in Sierra Leone that we need to do first before we can start aspiring to that particular position of a Middle-income country," he said.

President Koroma is also expected to announce that part of the Agenda for Prosperity would address Sierra Leone's high youth unemployment as well as better management of the country's natural resources.

But Tejan-Sie said Sierra Leoneans have heard similar promises before.

"When the president came to power in 2007, he came out with a new act. Even that act is not reflected in the contract that was signed with the mining companies. The law is still here, but we are not enforcing it. You cannot continue to promise people things that you have not even started doing," Tejan-Sie said.

A Internet-based publication sympathetic to the Sierra Leone government accused Transparency International of using flaw polling methods to arrive at its conclusion that Sierra Leone is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

The publication, Cocorioko also accused the SLPP as unpatriotic by always engaging in misinformation about the government.

Tejan-Sie said the SLPP is doing its job as a loyal opposition but it will not stand by when the government is being corrupt.

"First and foremost we are Sierra Leoneans. We want to see Sierra Leone forge ahead. At the same time, we cannot just stand by as a loyal opposition and watch the government continues to deceive the people of Sierra Leone. Rather than being realistic by addressing what Transparency International is bring to the fore, we are hiding under the cloak of the validity of the Transparency International Index," he said.

Tejan-Sie said most Sierra Leoneans are fed up with the high level of corruption. He said instead of condemning Transparency International, the government should enforce the country's current Anti-Corruption law.

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