The 1978 APC publication "A Decade of Progress & Development" is one well worth more than a glance for those seriously interested in Sierra Leone's development. It provides a vivid record of some of the actions and mistakes of independent Sierra Leone’s longest running government. It provides a valuable concise chronological record of political activities in the ten-year period in SL. Of course the picture presented is hopelessly one-sided, but, beyond all the grandiose claims and lofty promises, beyond all the obvious propaganda, one must concede that the document reveals an intention, a desperation even, to "bring development" to Sierra Leone.


Honourable Siaka Stevens, S.I. Koroma and C.A. Kamara-Taylor were at the helm of these efforts, serious individuals, ruthless even in the pursuit of their objectives. In 1978, ten years after they came to power, they were, on the evidence of this publication, convinced that they were on the right path to development. The document's 34 pages reveal a multitude of development projects within a relatively short space of time. If anything, the pace of 'development' stepped up after 1978, with the hosting of the OAU in 1980 attended by numerous infrastructural projects that we were told would be of lasting benefit to the country. Why did it all come to nought? By the time Siaka Stevens left power in 1985 he knew the country was on a downward slide: the currency was plummeting, shortages of rice, fuel and other essential commodities were spreading and the intelligentsia were abandoning ship. Under Stevens’ successor, Joseph Momoh, Sierra Leone slipped into the abyss. The war starting in 1991, was a consequence of Sierra Leone's decline, rather than the cause of it, as the revisionists would have us believe. How was it that despite the best efforts of Messrs Stevens, Koroma, Kamara-Taylor and the entirety of the APC in implementing all the infrastructural projects so lavishly illustrated in the pages of this document, Sierra Leone actually went backward? What do we mean by this thing called development and how do we achieve it?


The introduction to this 1978 document reads, “By the beginning of April 1968, after nearly seven years of Independence, both Africa and the world had almost lost faith in the ability of Sierra Leone governments to rule the country and meet their responsibilities at home and abroad. The great expectations raised at the time of independence had failed to materialize.” The conclusion declares that government was, “...solving to a large extent the key problems arising from lack of infrastructure...” How could Stevens, who even his worst critics concede was a highly astute man, have got it so wrong? How could a whole nation have been taken up with such wildly misplaced optimism and braggadocio?


Some of the same themes that recurred repeatedly in the seventies are still recurring; In this respect, APC2 bears some eerie similarities to APC1: much time was spent on agriculture, with regular reports of increases in agricultural production – in the case of APC1, though, the focus was more on Integrated Agricultural Development Projects than on large-scale agro-industrial farming; infrastructure, particularly roads and bridges, was high on the list of priorities; the output of the mining companies was closely watched 


One problem surely with the APC modus operandi (then and now) is the notion of 'The Big Project' dreamed up at the top and hastily implemented by fiat, without consultation or analysis. Billions of the country's leones were wasted in this way during the 1970s, richly documented in this publication. The oil refinery, commissioned in 1970, was a rusting hulk fifteen years later; it has never been revived. The massive 6.5 million US dollar Government printing complex proudly unveiled in 1978 still stands, but has largely been a vastly underutilized white elephant all these years; government recently called in Ghanaian experts to help manage it. The massive Bintumani conference center, part of the 5.3 million US dollar Bintumani hotel, also completed in 1978, has been used on a mere handful of occasions since its completion. Similar examples abound, with the benefit of hindsight. But at the time, in 1978, there was only unbounded confidence.


Even more problematic is the whole notion of 'The Project'. APC 1, and possibly even more so APC 2, tend to see development in terms of nuts and bolts, in terms of bricks and mortar. Build a road - you have brought development. Construct an airport - you have brought development. Buy an electricity generating plant - you have brought development. Maybe, maybe not. Issues of maintenance, sustainability and internal institutional growth are very much kept to the background. The focus is very much on the wholesale purchase of a new system. If the new system collapses within a few years, then possibly you have not brought development, but retrogression. In the case of APC 1, many of the developments outlined in this document collapsed within a few years of the writing of it. It should be a cautionary tale for today's leaders.


Download “Decade of Progress & Development, 1968-1978