October 1, 2022

Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella who is once seen as a source of hope for the people of Kambia is now a fiend and not a friend. Yumkella is founder and leader of the National Grand Coalition (NGC), one of the opposition parties in Sierra Leone.

He is UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation)’s former Director-General, a post he held for years. Despite the love and admiration he got from his people in his glory days, his influence in his hometown is now at an all-time low.

The fading away of the admiration showcased few days ago when youth warned the former Political icon not to go into Kambia for campaign during next year’s elections. One of the disappointed youth is Alimamy Kamara (not his real name) who told this press that he was part of Yumkella’s campaigns in 2018, but would boycott him this time.

Kamara had hoped for a better life in Kambia through Yumkella, but his hopes have been dashed. Kambia still the same.

“In 2018, I played a very important role during campaigns for Kandeh Yumkella with the hope that he would do something great in his hometown. After the elections, we have seen nothing except great disappointment,” Kamara recounted.

When asked about how Yumkella could contribute to the development without winning the presidency, Kamara replied that the NGC leader would still contribute if he ever wanted to do so. He argued that one cannot develop his community only when he became President.

Many personalities, he said, had contributed to the development of their communities through mere education. Kamara cited Dr Samura Kamara as a glittering example of one who has contributed to his hometown without being a President.

“Samura Kamara invested in agriculture by cultivating cashew nuts through which he provide jobs for young men and women in his district. But, Yumkella has never done such work in Kambia,” Kamara voiced his sad feelings he hold for the NGC leader.

He went on to state that it was even a big problem for Yumkella to visit their district since his party got the four parliamentary seats. Kambia prides itself with good roads, electricity, water supply and other essential services especially its main car-park, the best and biggest in Sierra Leone.

Many say the park is the handwork of former President Ernest Bai Koroma. One would thought that such development projects were brought into the community by the former political icon.

But, such thought is a mere figment of imagination since Yumkella has initiated no marked development project for his people. Despite the sound legacies built by the past government, Yumkella was lucky enough to capture four seats, and substantial presidential votes relying on the notion that Kambia is his home. His reliance lends credence to Prof Patrick Lumumba’s mantra of “home is home.”

The situation was no easy pushover for the APC in 2018 as the NGC leader took away a good chunk of the votes. Those votes played a deciding role for APC (All People’s Congress)’s defeat in the 2018 elections, the incumbent party at that time.

Kamara and the youth who spoke to this press indicated that they had high confidence in Yumkella that he would triple the former President’s achievements since he is a son of the soil.

Another youth, a woman who spoke to this press on condition of anonymity was also very blunt about the neglect of Kambia by Yumkella. She recounted about how she struggled hard to ensure Yumkella’s parliamentary victory.

“I did not only sing and clap for Yumkella, but also cooked, fetched water and did odd jobs to ensure that Yumkella won the elections,” she said.

The young lady is however not forgetful of the agony of being defeated in an election. “Although it is painful to lose an election, Yumkella must come to us regularly so that we can sit together to see what other action to take,” she said.

She further explained how she would have been the happiest if the NGC leader comes to them as he used to do during elections. “This is a great disappointment from Yumkella, someone who we have hoped to contribute to the development of the district,” she said.

Kambia’s situation is very much akin to the one that is prevailing to the southern-eastern districts of Pujehun and Kenema. Those districts had hoped for better days under the leadership of President Julius Maada Bio.

Youth in those districts were highly confident that Bio’s work would, by far, surpass that of Ernest Bai Koroma. Without much difference, Kenema and Pujehun remain the same appalling condition.

Owing to the years he served the United Nations, Yumkella was highly expected to change the politics of Sierra Leone with his new party as political third-force. The people of Sierra Leone, with no hesitation, threw their weight behind him with much expectation that he would clinch the presidency.

The people had thought that it is a repetition of Ahmed Tejan Kabba’s situation in 1996 when he became President of Sierra Leone after serving the UN as a peace diplomat.

Sierra Leoneans were hoodwinked into voting for Yumkella when he jetted into the country from UN headquaters in New York. Little wonders that the Kambia-born politician got votes in almost all districts in Sierra Leone posing a great danger to the APC.

People in Pujehun, Koinadugu, Kailahun, Bombali and other districts voted in for Yumkella, but those votes are not enough to earn him the presidency which he so much cherished. 

Yumkella could not be reached by this press, but a leading NGC politician has anonymously told this press that the people of Kambia missed the point. He said a politician who won a seat in parliament should not be expected to contribute to the development of a district.

 “Parliamentarians are not purse holders, but mere representatives. They are there to provide oversight and representation for the people, and most importantly to make law for good governance,” the politician explained.

He is quite sure that Yumkella has been providing representation in parliament for the people of Sierra Leone saying that he has taken on the current government on major issues of bad governance. Yumkella, he said, had disagreed with most of President Bio’s policies and governance style.

He was quoted to have referred to Bio’s administration as a “Junta Government.”

Yumkella’s criticism of government and oversight is not what the people wanted. It is not too much of a benefit to them.  The people wanted to see him transforming his promises made years back into reality. It is clear that the responsibility of providing essential services to the people rests with the executive arm of government.

But, over the years, parliamentarians’ campaigns have been based largely on the provision of social amenities to the people.

Knowing well that they are not controllers of coffers, most parliamentarians would use these promises as baits to capture the unsuspecting and clueless electorate.

Their aim is to get votes that can enable them darken walls of parliament to get their own share of the national cake.

Once they have got their seats, they quickly forget the backs of those on whom they climbed to glory.

 It is no difference with Yumkella and his men. The NGC leader promised the people of Kambia basic social amenities if voted in. He failed to look at the other side that what would happen if he fails in the elections. 

Yumkella has now failed, but those who voted him in care less about his failure, it is his promises that bother them. Time is no longer on the side of the NGC leader; elections are now at the corner, and one cannot fatten a pig on the market day.

Yumkella’s failure in Kambia district spells great gains for APC, a party whose legacy still lingers in the district.