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Page added on April 28, 2011
His Excellences, Ambassador Joseph Mono Koroma and his deputy Idrissa Mohamed Funna and Embassy staff in collaboration with the Sierra Leonean community in China presented a new Sierra Leone to the world in celebrating the country’s 50th independence anniversary with splendor in Beijing, the People’s Republic of China. This is the first independence celebration by the Sierra Leone Embassy in China since 1977. (Photo: Ambassador Joseph Mono Koroma presenting his Independence speech)
To officially open the ceremony, both national anthems of Sierra Leone and the People’s Republic of China were played.
Ambassador Joseph Mono Koroma presented once again a new Sierra Leone to the world at a dinner organized at the Five Star Radegast Hotel in Beijing to mark the country’s 50th Independence anniversary with the theme: 50 Years Forward, Celebrating a New Sierra Leone. The celebration indeed presented a new Sierra Leone to diplomats from many countries working in China. Though with a shoestring budget, the ceremony was well organized and attended by people from different walks of life; Chinese government authorities, and members from the diplomatic and consular corp, business institutions. The organizational skills and venue of the ceremony gave the independence celebration the stately splendor it deserved, and also scored the point that the country is emerging again as a born again nation; putting all its ugly past behind it and ready to forge ahead.
Making his independence speech, HE Ambassador Joseph Mono Koroma, said it was on this day; 27th April 1961 that Sierra Leone gained its independence from the British colonial rule. He said the celebration was an appreciation of the great men and women who regained the instruments of sovereignty for all Sierra Leoneans. “We are happy that the government and people of China are joining us to celebrate our freedom,” Ambassador Koroma appreciated. He said it was a great manifestation of strength of the partnership and commitment to the cherished values of freedom, independence, peace and international cooperation.
The Ambassador went further to say there were moments when the custody of promise of independence has been in great danger, and the pursuit of the purposes of liberty was almost derailed. But the overwhelming majority of Sierra Leoneans he said stood up to the challenge and asserted faith in the great ideals enshrined in the country’s motto: Unity, Freedom, and Justice.
Ambassador Koroma mentioned the country’s religious tolerance which he said is an inheritance and Sierra Leoneans have proved worthy of that heritage as one of the most religiously tolerant nations in the world. “Inter-ethnic harmony is a birthright the country has asserted even in the midst of conflict”, the ambassador proudly mentioned.
Ambassador Koroma continued that, Sierra Leone is today staying true to its aspirations for democracy, peace, and development with the guiding spirit of the government’s “Agenda for Change”, inspired by committed leadership from the president of the country, Ernest Bai Koroma. He said the government’s commitment to development is visible in the construction of roads and power station, access to healthcare and the assertion of freedom of expression and association through community radios, political parties and progressive organizations.
Revitalizing the private sector was also one area the ambassador mentioned which he said is the country’s engine of growth, and the government is attracting huge investment in many sectors of the country’s economy. He however mentioned the role the government is playing in fighting corruption as the number one enemy of a country, which he said the government is fighting with great determination and strength.
As a result of the important role the media plays in nation building, the ambassador said the government is revitalizing information and media systems by transforming the government owned broadcasting services into an independent broadcaster controlled by a member of the opposition. “We have not yet reached the summit of our capabilities, but our sights are now on the heights and we are working towards the direction of greatness foreseen by the founders of our nation,” Ambassador Koroma promised.
To ensure that the country achieves on this promise, Ambassador Joseph Koroma said, the country is seeking partnerships in the expanding opportunities in oil, iron ore, gold, diamonds, agriculture and infrastructural development. He went further to say the government has created mechanisms and processes that are universally lauded that are ensuring investments in iron ore mining, oil exploration and agriculture worth billions of dollars. He urged China and nationals of other friendly nations to these expanding opportunities for mutual benefit, and therefore reassured all partners of the country’s promise of peace, democracy and development and that the country shall deliver on its international commitments.
The Ambassador registered his profound appreciation and deep gratitude to the many Sierra Leoneans living in China for their unity, cooperation and sense of loyalty to the country in their different ways they are celebrating this day. He pledged the Embassy’s firm support to the newly formed Association of Sierra Leoneans in China (ASLC).
He paid special tribute to a young but very special Sierra Leonean lady, Mariatu Kargbo who is staying in China for her extreme love and loyalty to the country.
Ambassador Koroma ended up by calling on all Sierra Leoneans as they celebrate the “Golden Jubilee”, they must also reflect on reconciliation, and reconciliation of what they have gone through and been able to achieve in 50 years of independence.
Speaking on behalf of the Government of the People’s Republic of China, the deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Zhai Jun expressed a congratulatory message to the government and people of Sierra Leone. He said the friendship between China and Sierra Leone is deep rooted that they can always work to keep it strong and fruitful.
Assorted souvenirs like pens, pin-ups, shopping bags and mugs with the country’s flag and emblem inscribed on them were given to all attendants. One diplomat whispered to Deputy Ambassador Idrissa Mohamed Funna saying, “With these souvenirs I will never forget Sierra Leone”.
The ceremony was widely covered by some major media institutions in China like, CCTV News, Beijing TV, Global Times, CCTV 4, and China Daily. Reporters expressed their admiration at the glamorous occasion staged by the embassy in celebration of the event.
In a special interview with China’s international television network, CCTV News, Ambassador Koroma averred that Sierra Leone acquired a rich history and an enviable heritage of many “first” in West Africa: Sierra Leone was the first to have a university in Sub-Saharan Africa, which came to be referred to as the “Athens of West Africa”; Sierra Leone was the first to have a printed newspaper and the first to have a radio broadcasting system in West Africa.
For these, he thanked the Chinese financial assistance, which he said the whole of Sierra Leone is today a public works arena with infrastructural development going on everywhere with particular reference to the Magbass Sugar Complex, the Dodo Hydropower Station, the Jui Teaching Hospital, the Wilkinson Road Highway, the Grafton Road, the Foreign Ministry complex, the tractorization agricultural program, and many more.
Ambassador Koroma also used the opportunity during the interview to extend a warm hand of friendship and partnership with the vibrant Chinese private sector; Chinese companies that would want to take advantage of the opportunities the new Sierra Leone that is open for business offers in a peaceful and stable environment. He went on to say, the country has a portfolio of bankable projects for which the government is seeking funding. He mentioned from upgrading the Lungi International Airport and construction, in the medium-term, of a new international airport on the mainland; construction of the Bumbuna Phase 2 and Bikongor hydropower projects, the Orugu Dam and the Makeni-Kamakwie road projects.
With such a huge development agenda, he said, you have now begun to appreciate and understand why Sierra Leoneans all over the world have come together to celebrate this day. “Our country has seen glory, faced trials and tribulations in the form of a brutal civil war that left the nation with little or no hope but which has been able to rise again from the ashes like the proverbial Phoenix and is today on the path of peace consolidation, stability and sustainable development,” Ambassador Koroma assured.
In an interview I had with deputy Ambassador, Idrissa Mohamed Funna, he recalled 29 July 1971, when Sierra Leone played a leading role in supporting the restoration of China’s legitimate seat in the United Nations. He told a group of reporters at the ceremony that the benefits of Sierra Leone’s partnership with China have been tremendous since that today, China has taken the lead as the number one provider of technical assistance to Sierra Leone in its efforts to implement and deliver the priority areas of Agriculture, Energy & Water Resources, Infrastructure, Health & Sanitation, and Education as set out in President Ernest Bai Koroma’s “Agenda for Change”.
Ambassador Koroma expressed his thanks and appreciation to his able bodied Head of Chancery, Mr. Paul Minah, second secretary, Philip Kargbo, counselor David Gbengeh and the rest of the staff for their tremendous work to make the ceremony a success.
A very impressive video documentary about Sierra Leone was also beamed explaining the country’s history, culture and natural resources.
The programme was well graced by Sierra Leoneans from different parts in China; they expressed good feelings about the landmark celebration which they said was indeed a symbol of the birth of a new Sierra Leone.
The embassy received a deluge of congratulatory messages from embassies and international institutions in China. Ambassador Koroma also received a special calligraphy gift from a physically challenge Chinese calligrapher, neatly written in Chinese characters with the meaning, “Friends Forever”
Mr. Yu Wuzhen, Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone from 1998-2001, also granted an interview to CCTV News expressing his extreme delight for having an opportunity again to celebrate with Sierra Leoneans.
Abu Bakarr Sesay, Jilin University, China
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