Sierra Leone president in first major cabinet reshuffle
By Umaru Fofana
A little over a year since his election, Sierra Leone’s president, Julius Maada Bio has carried out his first major major reshuffle.
Three ministers have been axed while many others have been transferred to other ministries.
Two new deputies have been brought in while others have been moved.
Foreign Minister, Dr Alie Kabbah who is in the United States apparently on official assignment is now the Permanent Representative to the United Nations, while Development and Economic Planning Minister, Mrs Nabeela Tunis replaces him.
Mrs Tunis, the wife of the parliamentary leader of the ruling SLPP party, has been having challenges with civil society recently over a controversial NGO policy which activists consider unfriendly.
Dr Kabbah was the campaign manager for candidate Maada Bio in last year’s election after dropping out as a candidate himself. It is not clear why he has been removed from cabinet but there have been talk that State House was not pleased with his diplomacy.
The Permanent Representative at the UN, Dr Francis Kaikai is the new Minister of Economic and Development Planning. Even though he spent much of the last decade working at the United Nations in Liberia, he was in charge of disarming and training of thousands of fighters at the end of the rebel war as head of the National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration. He had also served as education minister in 1996 when Maada Bio was military head of state.
Mines Minister Dr Morie Manyeh has been sent to the UK as High Commissioner, while Tamba Lamina leaves London to become the Minister of Local Govt. The soft-spoken Dr Manyeh, a former university lecrurer, was a candidate to become Chairman of the SLPP party.
Foday Rado Yokie is the new Mines Minister. The former two-time parliamentarian from Bo was in charge of recovering government vehicles following last year’s elections. For many years he stood trial for his alleged involvement in political violence in Bo after the stoning of Maada Bio in Bo led to an apparent reprisal attack. He denied any wrongdoing calling the charges politically motivated.
Dr Hinga Sandy is the new Minister of Trade and Industry, while the current holder, Peter Bayuku Conteh becomes Minister of Works and Public Assets.
Bayuku, who is hugely influential in his home district, was Chairman of the Koinadugu District Council. He was later appointed as tourism minister by President Ernest Bai Koroma. Somewhat controversially, the two men fell out and while he said that he resigned over principles, the president said he was sacked. He later resigned from the APC and joined the new National Grand Coalition party from which he resigned recently and is yet to join any party.
Mamadie Gobeh-Kamara is the new Deputy Minister of Information and Communication while her predecessor Solomon Jamiru is the new Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The former deputy foreign affairs minister, Namatulai Bah-Chang becomes deputy minister of water resources.
Miss Gobeh-Kamara was for many years a broadcast journalist at the state broadcaster and the local UN Radio, who went into public relations and has been working in that capacity in the energy ministry.
Jamiru is generally regarded as a brilliant lawyer who taught law at the IMAT College in Freetown. As deputy information minister, he was praised for being witty, phlegmatic and smooth talking.
Umaru Napoleon Koroma – the outgoing head of the National Privatisation Commission (NCP) – is the new Deputy Minister of Justice. The current holder of that position, Abdul Bangura was recently appointed as head of the Political Parties registration Commission.
Napoleon is also the National Secretary General of the SLPP party.
Philip Tondonneh is Deputy Minister of Works, while Mrs Melrose Kargbo succeeds him as Deputy Minister of Local Government.
Retired Brigadier Kellie Conteh is National Security Adviser. Until recently, the former head of the Office of National Security worked for the United Nations.
Former works minster, Raymond d’Souza George is a senior presidential adviser and ambassador at large for heritage and cultural heritage which is his natural habitat. He is a retired lecturer of African Studies at the University of Sierra Leone.
No reasons have been given for the reshuffle, nor are any obvious. But some say it is a move by the president to assert himself following the petering out of the niceties of the election victory cabinet he appointed.
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