Ernest Bai Koroma

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Ernest Bai Koroma
Ernest Bai Koroma February 2015.jpg
4th President of Sierra Leone
Assumed office
17 September 2007
Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana (2007 - 2015)
Victor Bockarie Foh (2015 - present)
Preceded by Ahmad Tejan Kabbah
Leader of the All People's Congress
Assumed office
24 March 2002
Preceded by Edward Turay
Minority Leader of Parliament
In office
2005–2007
Preceded by Edward Turay
Succeeded by Emmanuel Tommy
Personal details
Born (1953-10-02) 2 October 1953 (age 64)
Makeni, British Sierra Leone
Political party All People's Congress
Spouse(s) Sia Koroma (1986–present)
Children Alice
Dankay
Residence

State House (official)

Freetown, Sierra Leone
Alma mater Fourah Bay College
Religion Christianity (Wesleyan)
Website Government website

Ernest Bai Koroma (born 2 October 1953) is a Sierra Leonean politician who has been the 4th and current President of Sierra Leone since September 17, 2007.

Born and raised in Makeni in northern Sierra Leone, Koroma spent more than 24 years working in the private insurance industry before entering politics in 2002. From 1988 to 2002, he was the managing director of the Reliance Insurance Trust Corporation (Ritcorp).

He is a 1976 graduate from Fourah Bay College, the oldest university in West Africa.

He was elected as leader of the All People's Congress (APC), Sierra Leone's main opposition party, on 24 March 2002,[1] after defeating then incumbent APC leader Edward Turay. Koroma stood as the APC candidate in the 2002 presidential election but was defeated in a free and fair election by incumbent President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who won 70.3% of the vote, to Koroma's 22.35%.[2] Koroma conceded defeat.

Koroma was later elected to Parliament, representing his home District of Bombali from 2002 to 2007. In 2005, he was elected the minority leader of Parliament and remained in that position until his election to the presidency in 2007.

In the 2007 presidential election run-off, Koroma received 54.6% of the vote and defeated incumbent Vice-President Solomon Berewa of the ruling SLPP.[3] Berewa conceded defeat, and Koroma was sworn in as President on 17 September 2007, at the State House in the capital Freetown. International and local observers declared the election free and fair.[4][5] Koroma succeeded President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who was constitutionally ineligible to run for the presidency again after serving the maximum two five-year term limit.

In the November 2012 presidential election, Koroma was re-elected as President for a second term, receiving 58.7%, against his main opponent, SLPP candidate Julius Maada Bio, who received 37.4%.[6][7][8][9] International observers deemed the election to be free and fair.[7][10]

Early life and education[edit]

Ernest Bai Koroma was born on 2 October 1953, in Makeni,[11] Bombali District in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. He was born of Christian parentage in the predominantly Muslim north and is a devout Christian himself of the Wesleyan church of Sierra Leone. Koroma is a longtime member of the Wesleyan Church of Sierra Leone.[12][13] Koroma was raised in a predominantly Temne household and is a fluent speaker of the Temne language and Limba language of his parents.

His father, Sylvanus Koroma, who was of Limba and Loko heritage but grew up in a Temne household, and was a native of Makari Gbanti chiefdom, Bombali District, spent years working as a bible school teacher at the Wesleyan Church in Makeni.[14][15]

Koroma's mother, Alice Koroma (27 June 1932 – 6 July 2012), was an ethnic Biriwa Limba from the small rural town of Kamabai, Bombali District. She served as a councilor in the Makeni city council in the 1960s as a member of the All People's Congress (APC). Alice Koroma was a prominent member of the APC, and the women's leader of the APC Bombali District branch. She was also a strong supporter of then Sierra Leone's president Siaka Stevens' APC government. She later spent almost her entire career working as a primary school teacher in Makeni.

Koroma attended the Sierra Leone Church Primary School in Makeni, and then proceeded to the Magburaka Government Secondary School for Boys in Magburaka, Tonkolili District (about 25 miles from his hometown of Makeni), where he graduated in 1973.[16] He then moved to the capital Freetown to attend Fourah Bay College, from where he graduated in 1976 with a degree in Business Management.

Soon after graduating from Fourah Bay College, he was employed as a teacher at St. Francis Secondary School in Makeni (1976–78).

Career in the insurance industry[edit]

Koroma joined the Sierra Leone National Insurance Company in 1978. In 1985, he joined the Reliance Insurance Trust Corporation (Ritcorp), and in 1988, he became managing director of Ritcorp, remaining in that position for 14 years.[17]

Marriage and family[edit]

Koroma is married to Sia Nyama Koroma, the daughter of Abu Aiah Koroma, the former Attorney General of Sierra Leone, who also held several other government ministry positions under presidents Joseph Saidu Momoh and Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. An ethnic Kono from Kono District, Sia Koroma is a biochemist who holds a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Chemistry and a Masters in Biochemistry. She is also a psychiatric nurse trained and qualified in Great Britain.

Koroma and his wife Sia Koroma were married on October 18, 1986, at the King Memorial UMC Church in Freetown.[18] Together they have two adult children; Daughters Alice Koroma and her sister Dankay Koroma. Koroma"s first daughter Alice, is named after Koroma's mother: the second daughter Dankay Koroma is named after Danke Evelyn Koroma, the mother in law of Koroma, and the mother of Koroma"s wife. Koroma"s first daughter Alice Koroma is a lawyer and a law school graduate from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.[19]

Political career[edit]

APC campaign leadership[edit]

In 2002 it was announced that the All People's Congress (APC) would hold their convention to elect a new leader that would challenge president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP who faced re-election for a second five-year term. Ernest Bai Koroma, then an Insurance broker from the northern district of Bombali who was virtually unknown by the general population in Sierra Leone announced his candidacy for the leadership of the All People's Congress (APC) ahead of the 2002 Sierra Leone presidential and parliamentary elections.[20] He was one of seven candidates for the APC leadership.

Koroma was a clear underdog to longtime APC leader Edward Turay who was the favourite and was expected to easily win the APC leadership yet again. Koroma stressed that under the APC leadership of Edward Turay, the party had lost a significant number of seats in parliament and had lost trust among Sierra Leoneans, even in its traditional stronghold in Northern Sierra Leone. Koroma said the party will continue to lose even more support unless the party moves to a new direction that will care more about the interest of Sierra Leoneans. The APC was thought to be divided between the old guards wing of the party leady by Edward Turay, and the new generation wing of the party led by Ernest Bai Koroma.[21] Koroma was elected leader of the All People's Congress (APC) on 24 March 2002, at a national convention of the party held in the northern town of Kabala, Koinadugu District ahead of the 2002 Sierra Leone Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. Koroma received 370 votes from APC delegates, while 12 delegates voted against him and the remainder abstained.[22]

2002 presidential and parliamentary election[edit]

In the 2002 Sierra Leone presidential election Koroma received 22.3% of the vote as the APC presidential candidate, losing in a landslide to incumbent President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), who received 70.3% and was shortly sworn in for a new five-year term.[23] In the parliamentary election, Koroma was elected to a seat from Bombali District.[24]

Court case[edit]

Embattled by a series of court cases against his youthful leadership and executive and the 2002 APC Constitution, Koroma was eventually stripped of his de jure leadership of the APC by the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone on 22 June 2005.[25] He was, however, again unanimously elected as Leader and presidential candidate of the APC ahead of the 2007 Sierra Leone presidential and parliamentary elections at APC National Delegates Convention held on 3 September 2005 in the northern town of Port Loko. The internal party dispute was said to be resolved in April 2007, mainly between Koroma and Edward Turay, with Koroma being accepted by APC dissidents as the party's leader ahead of the 2007 general election.[26][27]

Under his leadership, the APC swept virtually all the seats in the Western Area and the Northern Province during the local government elections of 2004. This was in spite of the fact that some of the old guard of the APC dismissed his leadership as a matter of child's play.

Candidacy[edit]

A man passes, in Freetown, posters for APC candidate Koroma (foreground) and the ruling SLPP ahead of presidential elections, 6 August 2007.

Koroma was the APC presidential candidate in the August 2007 general election. His main rival for the presidency of Sierra Leone was incumbent Vice-President of Sierra Leone Solomon Berewa of the SLPP. Koroma stronghold was in Northern Sierra Leone, and in the Western Area of Sierra Leone. Berewa, on the other hand, maintained strong support in south-eastern Sierra Leone.

Koroma was allegedly the target of an assassination attempt in the early hours of 23 July 2007 in Bo, Sierra Leone's second largest city (a traditional stronghold of the SLPP), when, according to the APC, a group of armed men led by Tom Nyuma, who was a participant in the 1992 coup that ousted the APC from power, attempted to enter Koroma's hotel room to kill him.[28] Nyuma was severely beaten by Koroma's guards, and he was hospitalized as a result.[29] According to another version of events, however, there was no assassination attempt and the claim was invented to justify the beating of Nyuma.[30]

2007 presidential election[edit]

In the first round of the 2007 presidential election in Sierra Leone, held on 11 August, Koroma garnered 44.3% of the votes, ahead of Solomon Berewa of the ruling SLPP, who received 38.3%. This was not enough to win outright,[31] and a run-off election was held on 8 September.[32]

In an interview with Reuters on 13 September, Koroma said that he wanted to run the country "like a business concern", with a focus on agriculture and tourism rather than mining, and fight firmly against corruption.[33]

On 17 September, the Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission declared Koroma to be the winner of the election with 54.6% of the vote,[34] although the SLPP disputed the results.[35] He was sworn in later on the same day[36] at a ceremony attended by Berewa and Kabbah.[37]

On 21 September, Koroma left Sierra Leone for a diplomatic visit to neighboring Guinea and Liberia, his first trip outside the country as President.[38]

Koroma took a notably long time to name his Cabinet ministers, doing so in stages.[39] The first group of 10 ministers was named on 8 October,[40] and another 10 were named on 12 October.[41] According to Koroma, he was willing to take additional time to find the right people;[39] others, however, speculated that the delay was due to maneuvering within the APC for Cabinet positions.[39][40]

Inauguration[edit]

Koroma was formally inaugurated in Freetown on 15 November 2007[42] at a ceremony attended by seven other African leaders.[43] On this occasion, he promised to fight corruption and emphasized the importance of changing people's attitudes towards corruption.[42][43]

Koroma promised zero tolerance on corruption, to fight against the mismanagement of the country's resources and that he "would run Sierra Leone like a business concern", emphasising agriculture and tourism. He further promised his government will increase the GDP per capita; reduce poverty and increase jobs; pledged the provision of electricity not only in the urban areas, but to all parts of Sierra Leone.[44]

The inauguration ceremony was attended by several African Head of State and representatives of other world leaders and organisations, including Nigerian president Umaru Yar'Adua, Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade, Gambian president Yahya Jammeh, Burkina Faso's president Blaise Compaoré, Malian president Amadou Toumani Touré, Guinean Prime Minister Lansana Kouyaté and United States Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer.

Presidency[edit]

The Koroma presidency has focused upon rebuilding the country's national infrastructure after the Civil War, fighting corruption and improving the country's health care system. In April 2010, Koroma signed into law the country's free health care program for pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under the age of five.[45] Koroma has focused on free-market solutions, attracting more private investment.

On 4 September 2008, Koroma declared his assets to the Sierra Leone Anti-corruption Commission and signed into law the country's new Anti-Corruption Bill of 2008 at the State House in Freetown.[46][47] Under the new law, it is compulsory for the president and other government officials to declare their assets and update them annually.

Koroma has given the country's anti-corruption commission more powers to investigate and prosecute corrupt officials.[48] Since coming to power in 2007, Koroma has dismissed several government ministers associated with corruption, including two of his ministers indicted on corruption charges by the Sierra Leone anti-corruption commission.

The Koroma presidency has focused on road constructions across the country, which has significantly improved Sierra Leone's infrastructure. The Koroma presidency has focused on encouraging investments, which has led to investment in the country's mining industry, mostly by Chinese companies.[49][50] The Koroma presidency, with the financial help of the United Nations, has implemented a free healthcare program for children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.[51][52] However, many experts and critics say most of the money meant to fund the program has been mismanaged and misused by senior government officials due to corruption. The Koroma presidency still faces major challenges in fighting corruption, extreme poverty, unemployment, poor housing conditions, poor healthcare, poor energy and water supplies. The president maintains improvements have been made in all of the areas above, but critics and many experts say the government is behind in improving these conditions.

In president Koroma inauguration speech, he promised zero tolerance of corruptions, and during the early years of his presidency, several senior government officials allied to the president were arrested and prosecuted for corruption by the country's Anti Corruption commission. However, most of the senior government official allied to the president were acquitted of corruption charges in court. Critics alleged they were acquitted by the court because they were close allies of president Koroma, an allegation denied by the presidency. The Sierra Leone Auditor General report said millions of dollars of the money meant for Ebola patients were missing in government emergency ebola account.[53][54][55] President Koroma named experts to investigate the allegation, and some senior government officials linked to the Ebola funds were fired and suspended.

President Koroma who won reelection with 58% of the votes, is still very popular particularly in the north and Western Area of Sierra Leone. His presidential staff and cabinet ministers are very diverse and are made up of members of about all of Sierra Leone's ethnic groups. President Koroma has often made unannounced visit to several poor Sierra Leonean neighborhood, and he is often seen waving to the people in his presidential motorcade.

Religious tolerance[edit]

Like previous Sierra Leonean Head of State before him, President Koroma is very tolerance towards other ethnic and religious groups in Sierra Leone. He is a strong believer in religious tolerance and often tell the Sierra Leonean religious clerics of both Muslims and Christians to always promote religious tolerance to people of other faiths. Although a devout Wesleyan Methodist Christian, president Koroma has often pray at different denominational churches across Sierra Leone. And he often visit different ethnic and religious group function in Sierra Leone. Although a devout Christian, president Koroma has often attended Muslim religious functions, including the Ahmaddiya Muslim Conference and celebration of Eid Al Fitre and Eid Al Adha with Sierra Leonean Muslims. President Koroma has on a number of occasions, attended and pray Islamic prayers with Sierra Leonean Muslims across several Mosques in Freetown, despite the fact that he is a Christian.

Accusations of intolerance of journalists critical of Koroma[edit]

Several Sierra Leonean journalists critical of President Koroma, including Jonathan Leigh and Bai Bai Sesay of the Independent Observer newspaper and radio journalist who compare the president to a rat, and David Tam Baryoh who criticized the president Ebola response, have been arrested and detained on seditious libel charges by the Sierra Leone Police but they were later released from jail.[56][57][58][59][60][61][62] The oppositions, the Sierra Leone Bar Association of journalists and critic of the government, alleged the journalists were arrested because of their fierce and outspoken critic of president Koroma, an allegation again denied by the presidency.

Criticism of police brutality[edit]

President Koroma was criticized after several people were shot dead by Sierra Leone Police officers in the Eastern city of Koidu Town in 2007 and again in 2012 at protests rallies against poor living conditions and against the mining companies in Kono District.[63][64] The Sierra Leone Police officers of the Sierra Leone Police Force were heavily criticized for using too much force and firing live bullets on protesters. The Sierra Leone Police opened an internal investigation on the 2007 incident and 2012 incidents in Koidu Town.

President Koroma was again heavily criticized after at least two people were shot dead by police officers of the Sierra Leone Police Force at a protest in the northern city of Kabala against the living conditions and against the mining companies on August 16, 2016. The head of the Sierra Leone Police Force, Inspector General Francis Munu, suspended two senior Sierra Leone police officers, local unit commander Almammy Bangura and Koinadugu District Police Commissioner Foday Fofanah, pending a full investigation into the incident[65] who is the overal head of the Sierra[66][67][68][69]

Relations with UK[edit]

The British government has continued to provide large scale aid and advice, with former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair continuing to work closely with the Sierra Leone government and speak out for investment in Sierra Leone. At Koroma's request, Blair created a nine-person board to advise the government on foreign investment.[70] The UK continues to be the largest donor to Sierra Leone, giving more money per person than to any other nation, and promising to raise aid by a further 50 million pounds sterling in 2010.[71]

In a 2009 BBC report by Humphrey Hawksley, some British diplomats and aid workers raised concerns about the slow pace of development in the country stressing on the problem of corruption, and asking whether almost a decade after the war – British military and post-war aid assistance has gone in vain as the country still struggle with poverty and massive unemployment.[72]

Reforms[edit]

Koroma pushed through arrest and prosecution authority for the Sierra Leone Anti-corruption Commission, and naming former Human Rights lawyer Abdul Tejan-Cole its head immediately after his election.[73] The government has spoken of transitioning from large scale aid to private investment in the nation, sought to boost the nascent tourist industry, signed deals for more extensive mobile phone service,[74] began a widescale public sector reform program aimed at cutting government waste, and gave greater powers to the government Ombudsman.[75]

At the same time, Koroma inaugurated a large new national park at Gola Forest,[76] and banned exports by logging companies, singling out Chinese-owned companies, which he accused of "plundering" the nation's forests.[77]

Relations with Zimbabwe[edit]

President Koroma has also controversially been one of the few African leaders to criticize Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.[78]

Drug trade[edit]

In July 2008, Koroma pledged to crack down on cocaine trafficking in Sierra Leone, after a large drug bust of an aircraft loaded with cocaine at the national airport.[79][80]

Election violence[edit]

In August 2008, fighting between supporters of Koroma's All People's Congress (APC) party and opposition Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) erupted in Freetown and the country's second largest city of Bo in the run up to municipal elections, with ruling party supporters charged with attacking opposition members and journalists. Koroma promised to crack down on such violence.[81]

2009 APC Convention[edit]

On 16 April 2009, Koroma was re-elected unopposed by the APC as the party's candidate for the 2012 presidential election at the APC National Delegates convention held in the northern city of Makeni. Several senior members of the main opposition party, the SLPP, and the country's third major party, the PMDC, were invited as special guests at the convention to promote peace and national reconciliation following the tense general elections in 2007. Those in attendance at the convention included John Oponjo Benjamin, the leader of the SLPP, and Charles Margai, the leader of the PMDC.[82][83][84]

2012 re-election to second term[edit]

Koroma was re-elected as President in the 17 November 2012 presidential election with 58.7% of the vote, defeating his main opponent, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio of the SLPP, who received 37.4%.[6][7][8][9] Koroma was sworn in as President for his second and final term by Chief Justice Umu Hawa Tejan Jalloh at the State House in Freetown on 23 November, the same day he was declared the winner of the election.

In his swearing-in speech to the nation at the State House, Koroma said the time for politics was over and the moment for continuing the transformation of Sierra Leone had come. He said it was time for all APC and SLPP supporters and supporters of other political parties to embrace each other as one nation. He said Sierra Leoneans had endorsed the achievements his government had made with the Agenda for Change and he had been asked by the people of Sierra Leone to continue on to the Agenda for Prosperity. Koroma said he was inviting the leadership of the SLPP and other political parties to join the leadership of the APC in moving Sierra Leone forward. According to Koroma, the country's good will required the involvement of all political parties.

Koroma said in his second term his government would focus on creating jobs for the youth, continue with infrastructural development, continue to fight corruption, continue to attract foreign investment, continue to bring electricity to every district, and continue to protect the rights of every Sierra Leonean.

Cabinet[edit]

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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Ahmad Tejan Kabbah
President of Sierra Leone
2007–present
Incumbent