A Special Look at Sierra Leone; Egypt Wins Africa Cup
February 16, 2008


ISHA SESAY, HOST: Hello, I'm Isha Sesay, in for Femi Oke. Welcome to INSIDE AFRICA, your weekly window to the continent. On the program this week, a special look at Sierra Leone. We'll find out what the people think about the job their president has been doing since his inauguration. And some fishermen will tell us why their nets aren't as full as they used to be, and what that's doing to their lives.

Also ahead, Egyptians welcome home their triumphant football team and the African Nations Cup.

We begin in Sierra Leone, three months into Ernest Bai Koroma's presidency. He came to power after a mostly peaceful election, the first since U.N. peacekeepers left two and a half years ago. One of his main campaign promises was to end long-running power shortages. So how is Mr. Koroma doing? Thomas Nybo asks some Sierra Leonenas to rate his performance so far.


THOMAS NYBO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Andrew Johnson spent eight yeas mining diamonds, until rebels killed three of his family members during Sierra Leone's brutal 10-years civil war. Fearing for his life, he fled to the capital Freetown, and learned how to drive a taxicab. He earns the equivalent of about $5 a day.

ANDREW JOHNSON, SIERRA LEONEAN: Well, as for now, the life is better. (inaudible) are very hard. But (inaudible). Everything is better, because before we had poor (ph) electricity. But now we have a good electricity.

NYBO: Life is better. But there are still problems. Johnson, who shares a small house with his extended family, says food prices are rising fast, with the cost of bread and cooking oil nearly doubling since Koroma became president. Above all, he wants a better paying job, and he wants the president to attract businesses to Sierra Leone.

JOHNSON: If I have any opportunity today to see the president, also express my opinions to the president, I would just try to give out advice to (inaudible) Sierra Leone. Because Sierra Leone is a very small country and a very nice country. (inaudible).

NYBO: But it's not easy either, as a tour of Freetown tells you. Restoring electricity to developed areas has been one of President Koroma's greatest accomplishments since taking office in the fall of 2007. For countless Sierra Leoneans living in shacks like this one behind me, though, there is still no electricity, no running water, and little chance of getting either any time soon.

Hawa Koroma, no relation to the president, has no water or electricity. She says her life is more difficult since the election. She's raising seven children, and her husband is out of work.

HAWA COROMA, SIERRA LEONEAN (through translator): I want the new government to create jobs. My oldest son just completed school, but there are no decent jobs for him. We need the government to create a center that helps him find work. The people are suffering. Some people have no money to provide for their family. Not even lunch for the children.

NYBO: The equation is similar for her neighbor, Aminata. She's raising three children on her husband's modest government salary.

AMINATA KOROMA, SIERRA LEONEAN: Some of us are not working, right? So if the prices are down, we can (ph) meet our ends. But now, for now the cost of living is very high. The food, the fuel, the transportation. The light is no problem. We are getting current, but we cannot eat current, or sleep on it.

NYBO: Jobs and prices and making ends meet -- it's the same lament everywhere. The U.N. estimates about two-thirds of adults are unemployed.

The professionals also have a mixed report card for President Coroma. Valnore Edwin (ph) is a director of Campaign for Good Governance, a nongovernmental agency. While welcoming the improvement in the power supply, she's disappointed in other ways, such as the lack of women in government.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we have very few women. There is argument that even like for parliamentary seats et cetera, women do not come forward because of the economic implications and the violence, et cetera. But we think like for ministerial positions, for other appointments, you can sort of create a balance. Which shows another sign of commitment, which so far we have not seen.

NYBO: All in all, her approval rating for President Koroma is about even.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think for now, if I used percentages, I would give him like 52 percent so far.

NYBO: Certainly, president has plenty to do. Sierra Leone's infrastructure is ruined. It desperately needs investment. But this mineral-rich country has plenty of potential, and if Mamoud Bah is any example, it has some natural entrepreneurs. He's 28 years old and owns a roadside call center, charging people for making calls from his mobile phone. And he says the president needs time.

MAMOUD BAH, SIERRA LEONEAN: Well, the president, he is trying, he's trying. But at least life is more difficult, yes, because we've just gone through some hard times. You cannot amend it one time (ph) or even in a year or two.

NYBO: After a decade of warfare, it will take much longer than a few years to put this country back on its feet. But at least now, it's at peace.

Thomas Nybo, CNN, Freetown.


SESAY: Up next, Thomas looks at the struggle Sierra Leoneans fishermen are facing, and why their nets are coming up nearly empty.

Also ahead, Egypt celebrates its African Cup of Nations victory. We'll show you why one footballer just had to take a nap.


SESAY: Welcome back to INSIDE AFRICA. Many Sierra Leoneans who live along the coast depend on fishing for their livelihoods. But thriving demand for their daily catch may actually be making their jobs much more difficult. The Institute for Security Studies, a South African thinktank, recently published a report that said poaching and over-fishing could soon cost stocks to collapse for a number of African countries. As Thomas Nybo reports, Sierra Leone's fishing community says that's already happening.


NYBO: A timeless image on the West Coast of Africa -- a fisherman in a handmade boat repairing his nets. Like his father and grandfather before him, Alpha Sheku Koroma is heading out to sea. But these are troubled waters. The fish are disappearing, and so too is his livelihood.

ALPHA SHEKU KOROMA, FISHERMAN: Ten years ago, you go to fish, most likely, two to three hours, you go to fish after three to two hours, you come back. But now it will take two days, three days, even a week.

NYBO: Koroma blames industrial fishing vessels from other countries. Some ships operate with permission from West African governments; others fish illegally.

ALPHA SHEKU KOROMA: We have a lot of illegal fishing vessels coming to our sea. They use -- they use (inaudible) because of our sea territory (ph) is not properly protected. Because of that, they come into the sea illegally, fish and (inaudible). So (inaudible) is that we need to have -- we need to empower our military navy to properly monitor the sea.

NYBO: Experts say as a result of both illegal and legal fishing, many costal economies in West Africa are being decimated, as the fish populations shrink. The Environmental Justice Foundation says global demand is fueling overfishing in the region. Small local fishermen are being pushed out.

The men in Goderich have been fishing these waters for generations. Fishing is the only way they know how to provide for their families. With the fish population in decline, they say their very existence is on the line.

Damba Kamaru began fishing as a boy. He's 40 now, and has four children and a wife to support. He spends his days repairing his nets, running errands, catching a few hours sleep before spending the night on the water fishing.

DAMBA KAMARU, FISHERMAN: It's hard to fish, because when you're putting nets in the water, and you can't go to sleep, you can't sit down (inaudible). Then you have to draw (ph) the net (ph) and put it in your boat. You have to then (inaudible). You come back home. You see, there's no sleeping at night. You can't sleep.

NYBO: Five years ago, Kamaru made the equivalent of $7 a night. Now, he's lucky to earn half that amount. Kamaru says he's most worried about those fishing vessels that practice bottom trawling, which involves pulling a net through water behind boats. On a single pass, it can remove up to a quarter of an area's seabed life, and leave local fishermen like him with nothing to catch. He worries that if the fish continue to disappear, so too will a way of life that dates back centuries.

Thomas Nybo, CNN, Goderich, Sierra Leone.


SESAY: Coming up on INSIDE AFRICA, Egypt and fans around the Arab world celebrate the Pharaohs' second straight Africa Cup of Nations.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This time, the whole Arab world and the Arab peoples are rejoicing. This tournament is different from any other. We've managed to elevate the status of the entire Arab world with our victory.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Making business news in Africa this week. Kenyan tourism officials say tourist arrivals plunged 90 percent last month. A Tourism Crisis Committee, made up of industry leaders and Tourism Ministry officials, blames the drop on the post-election violence that broke out in late December. But members are looking toward the future with optimism. The chairman of Kenya's Tourism Board is calling for marketing strategies to bring about a quick rebound once a political settlement is reached.

And oil industry experts warn that Nigeria must do more to curb violence in its oil-producing region, or risk losing its credibility as a reliable oil supplier. "The Wall Street Journal" blames anxiety over disruptions caused by recent rebel attacks for pushing oil futures above $90 a barrel. The International Energy Agency says Nigeria was producing less than 2.2 million barrels a day in December. Nigeria estimates it has a production capacity of about 3 million barrels a day.


SESAY: You're watching INSIDE AFRICA. Welcome back. Africa has figured prominently on U.S. president's agenda of late. Mr. Bush has dispatched Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Kenya, to support the work of former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Annan is trying to nail down a solution to the political crisis that has gripped Kenya since a disputed presidential election in late December.

Earlier in the week, President Bush hosted Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure at the White House. Both leaders reaffirmed their commitments to fighting terrorism and disease in Africa.

Now, Mr. Bush is on an African tour that includes stops in Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia. Ahead of that trip, he told the BBC he intends to put more pressure on South Africa to broker a diplomatic solution to Zimbabwe's crisis.

So it is a perfect time for us to examine how he has engaged with Africa over the course of his administration. I spoke with Chris Fomunyoh of the Washington-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. He organizes democracy support programs around Africa.


CHRISTOPHER FOMUNYOH, NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTE: You know, surprisingly, I would say that for those of us that have worked on Africa over the various administrations that American governments focused on Africa, that the Bush administration surprisingly has done a lot for the African continent, probably even more than it's gotten credit for. And that some of the initiatives that have been put in place are really meant to benefit the African people, and in some cases to reward those governments that govern justly.

We should also note, when it comes to Sudan, that the Bush administration is one of the first countries in the world to have openly say that what is happening in Sudan is genocide. And I think we have to commend them for being very outspoken on this Sudanese issue.

SESAY: Outspoken, yes, but not using their political leverage to push it further, to actually stop what's happening on the ground is how people would counter that.

FOMUNYOH: That's a valid criticism, but I would also point out that the Bush administration has helped train some of the African peacekeepers that have now been deployed in Darfur. It has also provided logistical support in terms of transporting some of the African troops. And I think that the voice that it continues to lend to draw world's attention to what's happening in Darfur may also have bring other countries along, especially countries such as China and Russia.

SESAY: So, taking a broader view, what would you say has been the greatest achievement of this administration when it comes to Africa?

FOMUNYOH: I would point to the health sector. For example, the resources that have been made available to fight health challenges such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. I think that's really been a meaningful contribution and it's borne fruit.

I can also point to the assistance that has been given in building the capacity of various militaries in Africa to be more effective peacekeepers in operations across the continent. That's also been very helpful.

And I think in the area of conflict resolution, of conflict mediation, that there have been, you know, credible examples of success (ph) made. And, of course, in the area of democracy and good governance, just being (ph) the bully pulpit and continuing to lend support to African democrats is something that's well valued across the continent.


SESAY: Now, let's look at some other stories making the headlines on the continent.

An African Union official is hailing what he called a milestone for peacekeeping efforts in Darfur. The political head of the Joint United Nations African Union Mission signed a deal with the Sudanese government that grants unrestricted communications and movement of personnel in the region.


DENG ALOR, SUDANESE FOREIGN MINISTER: The people of Darfur, as all of us know, have suffered for a very long time, have suffered a great deal. And I think it is our responsibility as a government to facilitate the work of SOTA (ph), of the work of UNANIT (ph) to help our people.


SESAY: So far, only 9,000 of the expected 26,000 peacekeepers have been deployed to Darfur.

And Zimbabwean opposition figure Morgan Tsvangirai is directing some rare strong criticism at South African President Thabo Mbeki. Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change told "The New York Times" that Mr. Mbeki has failed as a mediator to promote fair elections in Zimbabwe. He asked Mbeki to, quote, "stop his quiet support for the dictatorship," a reference to the government of Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwe's presidential election is scheduled for next month.

After the break, Egypt's football team savors its victory. We'll hear from the player who brought their country its second straight Africa Cup of Nations.


SESAY: Welcome back to INSIDE AFRICA. Egypt's national football team is basking in the glory of its record sixth Africa Cup of Nations title and second in a row. This after beating Cameroon's Lions 1:0 in the final match in Ghana.

Shahira Amin caught up with some jubilant players and fans.


SHAHIRA AMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Returning home to a rousing welcome, Egypt's national soccer team, the Pharaohs, have certainly lived up to their name, reviving some of the ancient glory of their ancestor pharaohs kings.

MOHAMED ABU TREIKA, EGYPTIAN NATIONAL TEAM (through translator): We had faith in God and confidence in ourselves that we would win the title.

AMIN: Mohamed Abu Treika scored the only goal of the final match in the 77th minute.

ABU TREIKA: We vouched to do the best we can, and we did. God has rewarded us for our efforts.

HOSNI ABD RABOU, EGYPTIAN NATIONAL TEAM (through translator): All the players had a strong will to win this tournament. It's not just words. It was a huge effort. Good training, a good technical support team, and dedicated players.

We knew we had to be well prepared for the final match. We were stressed out, because we knew we had to beat Cameroon, and knew it wouldn't be an easy win.

AMIN: Abu Treika points to a daunting challenge his team had to overcome just to make it to the final.

ABU TREIKA: Facing Ivory Coast, of course, it's a very strong team, maybe the best in the tournament. It has some great players, good tactics. Our best match was the one we played against Ivory Coast.

AMIN: And a convincing win it was. Egypt beat Ivory Coast 4:1.

Notably, the Pharaohs took the cup without a high-profile international star on their roster. That may (inaudible) accomplishment, a thrill seemingly felt by the entire 76-million-strong Egyptian population.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Egyptians are living in difficult conditions because of the high prices. For a few days, we managed to forget our sorrows. We forgot the soaring prices. We even forgot the long queues for bread.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The victory revealed out true nature as Egyptians. It showed that we're capable of bonding together in times of need.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The win has restored our pride in being Egyptian.

AMIN: Young Hossan (ph) tells us that Abu Treika's goal in the final prompted him to grab a flag and rush out onto the street to celebrate with his friends.

Hosni Abd Rabou, who was declared player of the tournament, says the team's victory unleashed a wave of pan-Arabism.

HOSNI ABD RABOU, EGYPTIAN NATIONAL TEAM (through translator): This time, the whole Arab world and the Arab peoples are rejoicing. This tournament is different from any other. We've managed to elevate the status of the entire Arab world with our victory.

AMIN: Mohamed Zidan, who may have staged the tournament's most unusual goal celebration, says playing for his country was exhilarating.

MOHAMED ZIDAN, EGYPTIAN NATIONAL TEAM: It's very different, you know. Playing for the national team, it's like -- that's another word, it's like being a hero, it's like (inaudible) and everybody just behind you from your country. I can't explain it. It's a crazy feeling.

AMIN: Crazy, and apparently exhausting. Shortly after talking to us, he fell fast asleep on an airport couch waiting to board a private jet to Dubai, where the team was to be honored. Before his nap, Zidan vowed that his team has no intention of resting on its laurels.

ZIDAN: Keep on going, and keep on fighting, and keep on dreaming. And the most important thing is to keep my feet on earth, and don't forget where I come from.

AMIN: And so, the still hungry Pharaohs turned their attention to making the 2010 World Cup.

Shahira Amin, CNN, Cairo.


SESAY: You know, I think I may need a nap too. But before we go, we want to give a nod to regular I-Reporter Patrick Kumao (ph) in Nairobi: He sent us these photos of empty kegs of Senator beer. Many Kenyans have renamed it Obama beer, in honor of U.S. senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama. In case you don't already know this, his father was Kenyan. These shots were taken after a night of celebrations following Obama's primary victories in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia on Tuesday. Obama is currently locked in a very tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination with Senator Hillary Clinton.

So that's it for this edition of INSIDE AFRICA, but be sure to watch next week. I'll be reporting on the Freedom schooner Amistad now touring Western Africa. It's a replica of the ship that was the scene of the famous slave revolt, and it is being used as a floating classroom.

Until then, take care.