Acceptance Speech of Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella Presidential Candidate of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) for the 2018 General Elections

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It is against this sombre tapestry that the Interim National Trusteeship Council of the new National Grand Coalition Party has put its trust in and nominated me as the Party’s Presidential Candidate for the March 2018 Presidential and General Elections. So today, on behalf of my wife and my entire family, I want to express my profound gratitude to you all and to say, with deep humility, that In the name of all the people of Sierra Leone without exception, I accept the nomination.

Personally for me, your nomination is not only a great honour; it is also a great responsibility; and I want  to say thanks to all of you who have taken precious time out to be here but more importantly,  I want to recognise and thank the sea of young men and women  I see before me.

My special thanks and appreciation also go to all the members of the KKY Movement both at home and abroad. For those of you who may not know, my  journey with that Movement started almost five years ago when the global KKY Movement was born in 2013 and has now transitioned and merged seamlessly into the National Grand Coalition Party.  We thank the Almighty that at last we can look back and rejoice that the ordeals, violence, intimidation, and vilification we encountered along the way are behind us now. Once again, kudos to the KKY Movement for its tenacity in staying the course through out those years of trials and tribulation.

Fellow Sierra Leoneans:

As I stand before you to launch the National Grand Coalition, I want to you  to recognise that this is indeed a historic occasion for us all because under the auspices of this new party, our country has the opportunity to take the unprecedented step and march towards the dawn of a new era of Hope, Opportunity and Transformation.

It is difficult for the younger generation present here today to accept that Sierra Leone in the 1960s and 70s was full of promise and hope. The country back then had high standards both in public and private life as everything seemed then to work the way they should: a Sierra Leone where there were strong institutions that worked; a Sierra Leone where there was respect for law and order; respect for constitutionalism, respect for property, respect for each other, and above all, respect for human life. Strong values indeed. But today, alas, under the Ernest Koroma-led APC Government, many institutions have been degraded, cronyism has replaced professionalism, and party loyalty has replaced meritocracy. We must therefore change this narrative and the only political party highly capacitated to bring about that change is the party we are presenting today to the people of Sierra Leone – the National Grand Coalition. If you will massively support the National Grand Coalition, I can assure you, fellow Sierra Leoneans that together we can take our country and bring back those unique traditional values for which our country was widely renowned. 

However, let us not assume for once that the task of bringing about the Change our country needs and you desire, is going to be easy by any means because in our determination to change the socio-political narrative, we must recognise that our country is at crossroads and in crisis. We must admit that we are standing on the threshold of the 2018 Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council Elections with great trepidation because this potentially rich country of ours is the third hungriest country in the world according to the Food & Agricultural Organisation; our country is the worst place in the world to be youth; our country is the worst place in the world for a child to be born; our country is ranked among the most corrupt in the world; and our country has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world. In short, the National Grand Coalition will take over a country that is trembling on the brink of a failed state and a dystopia.

So fixing the problems of our country has to, therefore, commence with a complete overhaul of how power has been organised and exercised, to what effect, and for whose benefit. Power that emanates from the people must be exercised in their interest and grounding the organisation and exercise of state power in the needs, interests and aspirations of the majority is the surest way to nurture and consolidate good governance.

The clearest sign yet that change is coming to our country is that for the first time in the history of the country, 700 Civil Society Groups backed by the Council of Churches and the Council of Imams, and prominent artists in our creative industry, have come together and developed ‘A Citizens Manifesto’. They have identified what is important to the common man, and translated it into a basic needs agenda. And now their question is how can political actors deliver these public goods. It is a sign that citizens want to be in the driver’s seat of governance and development. They want to be in control of their destiny. The NGC will, therefore, vigorously implement the citizens’ Agenda.  All of us, including our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, have no excuse for not engaging and being a catalyst for change.

As Presidential Candidate of the NGC Party, I want to assure all of you that I am determined to ensure that we Change Sierra Leone from business as usual to a country that innovates and competes with other emerging economies. But to do that we must Educate our people to world standards; we must invest in integrated and sustainable Infrastructure; we must provide access to clean Water and Health Care systems for our people; we must invest in creating the conditions and environment that will encourage Industry and business to grow and create Jobs and Wealth for our people; and, above all, we must seriously tackle endemic and rampant Corruption and bring executive thieves to account for their unexplained wealth, lawlessness and the culture of Impunity.

Undoubtedly, in our quest to usher in the CHANGE we all need and are yearning for, there will be breakers ahead but regardless, we will be energised to move forward given the fact that Sierra Leone is a nation of only 7 million people and is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. For two decades, these resources have been systematically mismanaged by successive governments. I call on all of you to put your trust and confidence in the ability and determination of the National Grand Coalition Party’s Leadership to effect a paradigmatic shift in the way these resources have been managed in the past.

As your Presidential Candidate, the vision I am bringing to the leadership of the National Grand Coalition Party and to the people of Sierra Leone is a genuine commitment and message of Hope, Opportunity and Transformation:  Hope, because there is a new awakening to the need for change from the current pessimism of our existence to an optimism for better things to come; Opportunity, because the new Leadership of the National Grand Coalition Party brings the deep knowledge and understanding of a globalised economic trading system and the partnerships needed and commitment to effect the Transformation of our country by creating decent and productive jobs for our people, particularly the 70% unemployed young people, and to lift majority of our suffering masses out of their present poverty as they continue to live as they are on less than two dollars a day.

Fellow Sierra Leoneans:

You may be asking yourselves but how does the new party and its future President plan to deliver the country’s dream and its message of Hope, Opportunity and Transformation. 

From this prism of enlightened vision, I call on all Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad, young and old, men and women, to take responsibility for and ownership of the change we want to see and what the nation becomes going forward. Having spent almost thirty years in international development, I have learnt that sustainable development is a process of accumulation of knowledge and capital; it is also one that is underpinned by building institutions, establishing values and norms and creating new ways of doing business.

Let me repeat here with the utmost seriousness that the worst legacy of the APC government to our country is the well-nigh total collapse of the country’s institutions of governance. Paradoxically, the onus of fixing and rebuilding these broken institutions and restoring the dignity of our people falls squarely on you and I, the citizens of this country. Therefore, the National Grand Coalition is offering you, the people of Sierra Leone, a unique social compact, first because you deserve it as an assurance against a repeat of the ten years of broken promises and, second, because good governance is a compact in which leaders entrusted with political power and authority should deliver on citizens’ expectations, priorities and public goods. All of us gathered here today will agree that in our country, this fundamental principle of governance has been jettisoned by the ruling APC. The Social Compact we will sign with you, my fellow Sierra Leoneans, has already been carefully developed and is consigned in our 2018 MANIFESTO as our “Compact for Jobs Creation and National Prosperity” and it is firmly grounded in and guided by our Motto of “Putting Country and People First”.

Three principles will guide our process of transformation.

1.            We will not throw out the baby with the bath, because development is both an incremental and a cumulative process; you build on successes and learn from failures;

2.            We will build on what is good, accelerate and scale up what is good, but work hard to drastically change that which is holding our people in continuous suffering and misery; and

3.            We will depoliticise institutions and reduce government waste. Government should be a facilitator of growth and transformation and not an obstacle. We will empower people and institutions to realise their full potential and not build barriers to hamper progress.

Based on the three principles, here are the building blocks and Pillars that will form the core of our social compact.

1.            Creating Jobs and National Prosperity

2.            Governance, Corruption & Accountability

3.            Human Capital Development

4.            Social Justice & Civil Liberties

5.            Security, Justice,  Law & Order

In the Social Compact I am holding out to you, I commit to build a Sierra Leone that works and gives each and every one of us the opportunity to improve our lives; a country that works for us and our families and not just for the rich and powerful or the privileged few. I will be the President for all Sierra Leoneans whatever their region, tribe, gender, status, religion or social and economic background. I will serve you all. If elected as President, I will champion your cause and every day I wake up, my first consideration will be what is best for the country we all love and what I can do to improve the lives of its people. 

I have an unshakeable faith that our country, the former “Athens of West Africa”, under the regime of the National Grand Coalition, has a bright future that will be secured by the enterprise, creativity, and hard work of its people. Based on this Social Compact with you, the 2018 Campaign and Election must be on what the real issues are – the declining economy, rampant corruption and mismanagement, poor health care, fast declining standard of education, insecurity etc.; and not the ego of individuals and their personal interests.

Fellow Sierra Leoneans:

Let me conclude by launching an urgent appeal for your support and vote for the National Grand Coalition Party. Remember that both the APC and the Opposition SLPP have cumulatively been in power for almost 56 years. Whilst the APC has excelled in bringing the country to its knees in the last ten years under President Ernest Koroma, the SLPP has eminently distinguished itself by transforming itself in this century into  the most naked and offensive tribal political party in the history of our country. Given the track record and legacy of these two so-called traditional parties, I call on you to deeply examine your conscience and agree that the APC and SLPP have both failed this nation. They have knocked and let us down. And for you, therefore, there can be no turning back. And here I want to paraphrase a quote that I read recently which I consider to perfectly describe and capture what you, gathered here today, should resolve:

“ .. When you have fought so hard to get back on your feet, don’t ever go back to the very same APC and SLPP parties who knocked you down …” 

I therefore urge you, my people, to come together so that, together, we can build a country and a society where, if you show up, step up, and work hard, you will have your fair share of its wealth, and be fairly rewarded for your hard work; a country in which hard work pays, and cutting corners and corruption, even at the highest executive level, does not; a country in which, no matter which tribe or where you come from, you will be rewarded based on merit, not on whom-you-know; and a country in which every young person can hope, and aspire, and reach his or her fullest potential, right here in mother Salone.

WE ARE UNITED; UNITED WE STAND FOR COUNTRY AND PEOPLE FIRST!”