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Cablegate: President Koroma's First Meeting with The

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E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: On 16 July 2008, President Koroma hosted
the first official State House meeting between the Government
of Sierra Leone and the international donor community since
his inauguration in September 2007. The international
community had requested such a meeting for most of the past
year. The meeting was dominated by President Koroma,s
outline of his administration's development priorities, his
request for more resources from each partner, and a asking
partners to encourage new donors to the Sierra Leone table.
The President reiterated his three top priorities in order:
energy, agriculture and infrastructure (though the Poverty
Reduction Strategy Paper identifies at least five). He
highlighted Sierra Leone's continued placement at the bottom
of the UN Human Development Index, citing extreme poverty and
corruption as key obstacles to development. Further,
President Koroma repeated the pressure he felt from the
unrealistic expectations by the citizens of Sierra Leone for
their lives to be rapidly and significantly improved. He
predicted that without an increase in financial and
development assistance, Sierra Leone will not continue its
ascent from poverty, war and despair. End Summary

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2. (SBU) On 16 July 2008, President Koroma hosted his first
meeting with the international donor community &as a
group.8 Such a meeting was viewed by some as long overdue
and was held in response to repeated requests by the
international community (IC) for the government to engage IC
members more formally and frequently as a group as had been
done in the past. The meeting provided President Koroma a
venue to reiterate his development priorities and seek
additional financial and technical support for Sierra Leone
but did not afford the time for a real development dialogue.
In this context, he touched upon the status of the pending
Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), which was due the
end of June, the subsequent first Consultative Group (CG)
meeting of his administration (in November) and the need for
improved aid coordination and donor harmonization.
International participants included: key Chiefs of Missions,
U.S. Ambassador Perry, UK and Nigerian High Commissioners,
the Ambassador to Germany, the EC Head of Delegation, and the
temporary UNIOSIL/ERSG. Country Representatives from the
World Bank, Africa Development Bank, various UN offices,
DFID, Irish Aid and USAID participated. Government officials
included the President, Vice President, the Secretary to the
President, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Finance, as well
as the Bank of Sierra Leone Governor, the Statistician
General from Statistics Sierra Leone, the President's
Strategy and Policy Unit (SPU) and the Development Assistance
Coordinating Office (DACO) ) now within the Ministry of
Finance and Economic Development.

3. (SBU) President Koroma,s Keynote Address entailed a
brief status report of the government's progress to date and
highlighted the country's development needs and gaps. The
President reminded the audience that soon after the
Presidential and Parliamentary elections in Fall 2008, he
held the &Bumbuna Retreat,8 where he consulted with
Ministers and other key stakeholders to establish his
&Agenda for Change,8 harmonizing the Government of Sierra
Leone's (GoSL) development priorities and needs. In this
forum with the international donors, he clearly stated that
his number one priority remained energy, stating the current
capacity at 6 megawatts, while current demand is 250
megawatts. He impressed that providing energy would ensure
and improve social service delivery, health, education and
private sector investment. His second priority is rebuilding
the agriculture sector, and third, significantly addressing
the infrastructure crisis (i.e., poor and/or insufficient
road network, energy/utilities, key buildings, etc.)

4. (SBU) The President said he wanted to meet with the IC to
share his new vision and plan and to provide an update on
some overall issues. He said he had appointed a Core Group to
work on the PRSP II, an informal draft unofficially available
for review and comment. He said he hoped PRSP II would be a
significantly stronger document than the PRSP I, citing lack
of sufficient and timely promised financial support from the
donors, and poor follow-up by the previous government as key
factors that resulted in insufficiently tangible and needed
results under PRSP I. The President indicated that PRSP II
would be completed and circulated to the IC around
mid-August, after which a CG would be held. To temporarily
quell rumors and speculation, under current newspaper
headlines touting, &seven Ministers will be sacked,8 the
President said all Ministers signed performance contracts
with the GoSL and those performances were under review. He
said the specific results of the reviews will not be shared;
however, the IC would see the ultimate results of the reviews
in a public announcement.

FREETOWN 00000388 002 OF 002

5. (SBU) Touched upon the July 5 local elections, the
President thanked its financial and technical supporters and
praised the elections as maintaining the free and fair
standards of the 2007 elections. He said, &We are
front-runners of free and fair elections. We want to hold on
to that. With democratic dividends, expectations will be
high.8 He then talked about his Anti-Corruption Strategy and
the current review of the 2000 Anti-Corruption bill, which is
in a pre-legislative hearing.8 He opined that subsequent to
the Bumbuna Retreat, problems have intensified with the
soaring price of fuel and food, especially rice. &These
issues directly impact the citizens of Sierra Leone,8 he
added. He cited that, &Rice has more than doubled in price
since last year, costing $350/metric ton last year and
$1000/metric ton now. Fuel was $75/barrel last year and is
now exceeding $140/barrel today.8 Again, he asked the donors
to consider providing more financial support, arguing that if
the &very very high expectations of the people are unmet,
there is a potential to undermine the security situation.8
He reiterated his priorities and appealed to the donors to
&realign your assistance and support in line with my
priority agenda. We are expecting substantial donor support.
If we don't make substantial change, citizens, expectations
will not be met.8

6. (SBU) President Koroma closed his Keynote Address by
asking for four to five times the current level of financial
support, promising substantial impact reinforced by political
will. He claimed that less than 50% of the PRSP I commitments
were actually dispersed and if that happens again the
government will be unable to meet donor targets. He said the
government-donor partnership must make a difference in the
next two years and that interventions must be meaningful and
significant, ¬ business as usual.8 The President
assured the donors that there would be no corruption and that
all funds would go where they are targeted.

7. (SBU) President Koroma,s Keynote Address was followed by
about 20 minutes of responses from various heads of Mission,
mostly thanking the President for hosting the
government-donor meeting and asking for more frequent
scheduled meetings of this sort. Basket fund donors commented
on their development activity and DFID used the forum to
announce the provision of 10 million pounds in Direct Budget
Support, focused on anti-corruption and the need to address
education. The EC focused on the food crisis and indicated it
was seeking additionally and stronger support for DBS. The
IBRD requested reinstatement at the government-donor
quarterly &DEPAC8 meetings (Development Partnership
Committee) held under the previous government and welcomed
the CG upon completion of the PRSP II. The ERSG updated the
President about the UNIOSIL transition plan underway to
change from a &peacekeeping8 mission to one that is &peace
building.8 The ERSG stated he expected the newly configured
UN in Sierra Leone to undertake fewer but more concrete
projects which would yield more tangible results. Ambassador
Perry congratulated the President on the peaceful local
elections and assured him of the USG,s alignment with his
priorities of anti-corruption, sustainable economic growth
and ensuring an enabling environment to attract foreign
investment and foster an effective private sector. The
Ambassador reiterated the importance of donor coordination;
convergence with the GoSL; and affirmed the USG intention to
work efficiently with the government.

8. (SBU) Comment: The meeting seemed to primarily serve
three functions for the President: 1) provide a high profile
venue to request additional financial and technical support,
2) reaffirm his development priorities, and 3) host a long
overdue meeting between the President and some members of his
Cabinet with the international donor and diplomatic
community, &as a collective.8 Although the government
demurred on the exact date/venue of the next CG, subsequent
discussions within the donor community indicate a likely CG
in November. The donors are pressing for a Freetown venue;
however, the GoSL is requesting London. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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