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Statement by Ambassdaor Conteh at Stamp Out Violence town hall meeting

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Statement by Ambassador Ibrahim S. Conteh at 1401, University Blvd, Hyattsville, Maryland, USA at a Town Hall meeting of Sierra Leoneans with the theme: “Stamp out Violence” on April 14th 2012.   (Photo: Ambassador Ibrahim S Conteh, 2nd left)

Mr. Chairman, distinguished guests, friends of Sierra Leone and fellow Sierra Leoneans. Let me at the outset convey to you the sincere greetings of H.E. Ambassador Bockari K. Stevens and his profound regrets for not being able to be here today due to other pressing official matters. On my own personal behalf, I want to thank you for taking time off your busy schedule to be here. Clearly, it’s a demonstration of the importance you attach to this meeting. Let me also seize the opportunity to thank the organizers of this event. I am quite sure that before we leave this hall, we would have come up with ideas on how to resolve our individual differences in a more amicable manner rather than resorting to the use of violence.

I also take the opportunity to particularly thank members of the Maryland State Government for being here with us. We believe our collaborative efforts will go a long way in helping proffer ways and strategies for Sierra Leoneans to settle their differences amicably.

Members of the hard working organizing committee

Mr. Chairman, we are all here as “ambassadors” of Sierra Leone, and as “ambassadors,” we should be mindful that whatever we do, be it good or bad, reflects on Sierra Leone.

A bright example here was an incident which took place in New York in February, 2011,when  a Sierra Leonean taxi driver by the name of Zubairu Jalloh, “returned a $100,000 worth of jewelry and other items” to a passenger, who left these items behind in his taxi. The report went on to state that: “the 42-year-old cabbie, who moved to America from his native Sierra Leone in 1998, added that it would have been against his Muslim faith to keep the items for himself.”

Cross section of audience

Cross section of audience

In the news quoted, Mr. Jalloh alone as an individual had acted in honesty but the mere mention that he was a Sierra Leonean – just one mention of his country of origin – made Sierra Leoneans proud.

About that same time, a government official happened to come to New York on an official visit. As she walked the streets of Broadway, in Manhattan, looking for souvenir items to take home, shop attendants who talked to her were impressed to know that she was a Sierra Leonean. “Oh you are Sierra Leonean? You are very honest people!’ And at the airport on her way back home, as the flight attendant took her passport and saw “Sierra Leone” inscribed on it, she said, “Oh! So you are a Sierra Leonean? You are very honest people!”

It therefore takes only one person to do something remarkably good to add to the feather of the cap of every Sierra Leonean here and at home.  Mr. Jalloh made his compatriots walk on the streets with their heads held high.

Similarly, an inconsiderate action of a Sierra Leonean or a group of Sierra Leoneans can blacklist a whole community of Sierra Leoneans or, even the country.

The Government of H.E. President Ernest Bai Koroma has been making every effort to rebrand Sierra Leone from its post-war image and therefore, all Sierra Leoneans should be involved in this rebranding exercise. We should continue to showcase Sierra Leone as a country of peaceful, loving and law-abiding people, as that is truly what we are.

As an embassy, we condemn violence in its entirety and encourage every Sierra Leonean to respect the laws of the United States of America. Let me conclude by  assuring you that the Embassy will continue to make every effort to collaborate with every Sierra Leonean community in this country to ensure that our rich cultural values of love for one another and selflessness are upheld.

I thank you for your attention.

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