“He came in with promises and he is going out with promises again – that is Tejan Kabbah for you” said Abubakarr Kamara after listening to the three hour long address from the throne by President Kabbah. What Mr Kamara was saying was that in 1996, President Kabbah assumed office promising to end the rebel war, build a bridge to link Lungi and Freetown, restore the defunct railway, ensure that “no Sierra Leonean goes to bed hungry” and at a later date also promised to build a fly over at Lumley junction.
After eleven years in office, though President Kabbah was able to end the war, yet he has not been able to fulfill all the other promises.
Now barely two months to the end of his term of office the President has in his last address to Parliament again delivered promises, which cannot humanly be achieved before he leaves office.
In his three hour valedictory address the President recalled the rebel war and how it ended, the rice and petrol queues before he took office, emphasizing that two governments – one civilian and one military had not been able to end the war.
He recalled the developments which have taken place in the army and police forces, and the cooperation and aid his government received from friendly governments.
On education the President boasted of moving the Literacy rate from the 21% recorded in 1995 to 39% by the 2004 population census, and also of increasing the number of primary school children from 400,000 in 1996 to over 1.2million in 2007.
On health the President pointed out that “in 2002, only 16 government hospitals were functioning fully in the country (and now – 2007) that number has increased to 24.”
He also mentioned the “significant increase” from 350 Peripheral Health Units in 2002 to 800 in 2007.
On the Economy, President Tejan Kabbah pointed out that real GDP which had fallen to minus 17.6% in 1997 had risen to 7.5% in 2006. He also mentioned the inflation rate, which has jumped to 66.9% by close of 1997, but which has now fallen to 11.6%.
The country’s gross international reserves which he said stood at less than US$ 20 million in 1996 now stands at “around US$ 200 million”
On Agriculture and food security the President pointed out that production of rice which is the country’s staple food has increased from 422,065 metric tons in 2002 to over 758,800 metric tons in 2005, which he says translates in to national rice self sufficiency levels of 85% in 2006.
He revealed that export earnings from Cocoa increased from five and a half million dollars in 2005 to over six and a half million dollars in the first six months of 2006.
Also that US$2.2 million worth of improved rice varieties has been exported to neighbouring Liberia to support their food security program.
On Mining the President noted the jump in export figures for diamonds from US$ 42 million in 2002 to US$ 125 million in 2006.
He also disclosed that oil drilling may likely start in January 2008 and that what appears to be the biggest Kimberlite mine in the world has been discovered in Marampa.
On the Energy sector the President revealed that his government has ordered a hundred thousand prepaid meters to ensure that all electricity consumers will pay for their electricity before they use it.
On water he highlighted the dangers of environmental degradation and revealed that his government is in negotiations with the Chinese to build a dam and water treatment plant in the East end and also construct the Orugu dam to improve water supplies to the Western area.
Describing Pademba Road prisons as having a “high nuisance value” because of being targeted by coup makers or rebels or serious rioters who often target the facility and also because of the traffic chaos created by the blocking of the roads when high profiled prisoners are incarcerated, the President promised to relocate the prison to Masankay for convicted prisoners and Waterloo prisons for remand prisoners.
He also revealed his plans to “develop a modern shopping mall offering a wide range of facilities and services including shops and parking areas.” The President also promised “compulsory” primary education “as from September at the start of the 2007/2008 academic year.” This is even though he will not be President again by the time the schools open in September.
The President ended with an instructive lesson that “too much dependence on others for the solution of one’s problems even those of a basic nature, is most undesirable and can have unpleasant consequences especially for a sovereign state; where a conditionality may require either the suspension or changing of certain laws or some provisions of the constitution thereby raising questions of sovereignty – a practice which in our own case may have contributed to the outbreak of the rebel war.”
His final words were “As I ride into the sunset, I am content that I have played my part in the progress and development of my country and have made a difference in my own humble way.”
The Speaker Justice Cowan thanked the President for working with Parliament, and admonished all to “put Sierra Leone first”.