Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Timothy M Kabba, on Monday 21st August 2023, met with members of the diplomatic missions including Ambassadors and High Commissioners at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
the Minister’s maiden meeting with the diplomats was an interactive session that enabled him and his deputy Madam Francess Algali to meet and engage heads of the various diplomatic missions in the country after his recent appointment to head the ministry.
In his address, the Minister expressed sincere appreciation to the government and the people of Sierra Leone for the cordial relations and mutual benefits between the country and the diplomatic communities in crucial times such as the outbreak of the Coronavirus.
Minister Timothy Kabba highlighted the achievements of His Excellency Dr. Julius Maada Bio’s first term administration which includes huge investment in human capital development. “We substantially increased investment in educating future generations of this country–improving the healthcare systems, addressing poverty and unemployment, empowering women and youth, protecting the environment, mitigating public safety and disaster risks…”, he said. the Minister informed the Diplomatic community on gains made in the fight against corruption, deepening democratic governance as well as promoting reforms to strengthen the government’s effectiveness, regulatory quality, and the Rule of Law, citing a few international benchmarks such as the MCC scorecard and the extractive industry’s transparency initiative requirements, government policy of Radical Inclusion in education with the government allocating an unprecedented 22% of the national budget to education.
“For us educating the girl-child is a central component in the radical inclusion program… Gender Equality is now firmly on our national agenda”, he emphasized, recalling that the recently concluded multi-tier election increased women’s representation in Parliament for the first time in the history of the country,” he said.
The Minister shared the Big Five agenda of President Bio’s second term with the diplomatic communities;, Feed Salone, Human capital Development, Youth Employment Scheme, Revamping of the Public Sector architecture, Technology and infrastructural initiative, and calls for collaboration and support in those areas.
On the election of Sierra Leone to the non-permanent seat category to the United Nations Security Council on June 6, the Minister thanked the diplomatic communities for making that happen while he promised to tap into the experiences of countries that had been there before.
He said President Bio during the State Opening of Parliament made it clear that a National Electoral System Review Committee with the inclusion of independent bodies will be set up to look into the just concluded elections and made recommendations on how to improve the electoral cycle. This he said shows the commitment of government in promoting democracy, peace, and security.
“We respect the diversity of political ideologies and firmly believe that such diversities of thoughts and actions are the building blocks for peace and prosperity. We also recognize the inclination for political factors to trigger hard conversations especially when interests seem to sway. However, our call to service should see us putting the interest of our sovereign nation above all else”, the Minister said.
The Dean of the Diplomatic Community, the Nigerian High Commission to Sierra Leone, His Excellency Henry John Omaku, commended the Minister for hosting all diplomats through an interactive session which has given them much understanding of development programs and priorities of the government.
“We have listened to your intention and have seen the fact that you are extending a hand of friendship, partnership, and cooperation to the diplomatic community. We are fully aware of the Vienna Convention of 1961 which stipulates some of our responsibilities and our guide in discharging our functions as Ambassadors and Heads of missions. We appreciate the fact that you have been in the system and are familiar with the policies of the government. By your speech today, we do not doubt that the government of Sierra Leone is still open and still has national interest at heart”, High Commissioner Omaku said.
The Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Wang Qing, said China and Sierra Leone are friends based on mutual respect, support, benefit, and cooperation. He pledged support to work with President Bio’s Government under the south-south cooperation. The UK High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Lisa Chesney thanked the Foreign Minister for the opportunity and appreciated the spirit of the interactive meeting.
“The UK-Sierra Leone relationship is strong and enduring between the two countries and people, she said. Chesney appreciated Minister Kabba’s focus on dialogue in terms of how the country faces the challenges and opportunities of building bridges and on the importance of diversity of views which she said is at the center of any functioning democracy. She said her government would support the government of Sierra Leone, opposition parties, and the people in addressing the challenging issues the minister mentioned in his speech.
She appealed to the Sierra Leone Government to help check the proliferation of fake news on social media which she said is holding the country back. She congratulated Sierra Leone for winning the UN Security Council seat in the non-permanent category.
Outgoing US Ambassador, David Dale Reimer appreciated the partnership between Sierra Leone and the US which he said was long-term. He said the US Embassy had always enjoyed access to the Foreign Affairs Ministry. He hoped it would continue under the new Minister Kabba’s leadership. He reminded the Minister of the US Government’s concern about the conduct of the June Multi-tier elections. He said he appreciated the fact that Government has always created an atmosphere where they would talk about matters in a face-to-face and civil manner.
Minister Kabba wished him well and looked forward to receiving the new US ambassador to Sierra Leone. Ghanaian High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Her Excellency, Mrs. Worwornyo Agyema, said Sierra Leone has taken a seat on the US Security Council where Ghana was just exiting. She assured the Minister of Ghana’s support. She asked that Sierra Leone share notes on issues of illicit mining concerning Ghanaians.
EU Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Manuel Muller, appreciated the minister for the invitation and openness. He pledged the EU’s commitment to continue to work with the people of Sierra Leone and further emphasized his appreciation of the opportunity to continue to have a frank dialogue with honest intentions with the Government of Sierra Leone.
He said the EU Electoral Observer Mission’s final report on the conduct of the June elections will soon be out with the usual recommendations. He said the EU appreciated the government’s commitment to strengthening the electoral process in Sierra Leone but importantly appreciated the government’s effort in finding ways to dialogue and find a common ground among actors.
“We appreciate your government’s commitment to supporting peace in the region. We appreciate Sierra Leone’s election into the UN Security Council, and we look forward to working with Sierra Leone as a member of the UN Security Council to support peace and security in the region”, he said.
The Director-General and Ambassador at Large in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Victoria Sulimani thanked the diplomatic communities for their comments and reactions in the meeting which are all geared towards building and maintaining a strong bilateral relationship between Sierra Leone and their nations. She called on them to always engage the Ministry when they have concerns to address.