By M.B. Jalloh, Press Secretary, Sierra Leone Embassy, Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s receptive policies towards human development are known to be tremendously impacting the world over in many sectors. Education is one area where the Kingdom’s contribution is globally acknowledged to be unparalleled.
Ambassador Kargbo addressing the students
The Sierra Leone Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Alhaji M.S. Kargbo who had on previous occasions benefited tremendously from the commendable diplomatic receptions during his trips as a senior member of the Sierra Leone Hajj Mission, was well aware of the potential areas that he believed should be given a priority during his tenure as the new Head of Mission. No doubt, the quest for more scholarships and the search for more educational opportunities top the list of his priorities.
Students listening to Ambassador Kargbo
Apart from the strengthening of diplomatic and bilateral relations including the wooing of investors across the board to contribute to the economic growth of Sierra Leone through massive investments in various sectors such as tourism, agriculture, mining and education, Sierra Leone’s top diplomat in the Kingdom has also been preoccupied with the homely responsibility of unifying Sierra Leoneans in Saudi Arabia and creating awareness among them with respect to their duties and obligations to their country.
Ambassador Kargbo flanked by the students
It is against this backdrop of injecting nationalistic feelings into Sierra Leoneans living in Saudi Arabia that Ambassador Kargbo travelled to the Northern city of Madina, 800 kilometers away from the capital, Riyadh last week to meet with the Sierra Leone Students at the Islamic University of Madina where he discussed many issues with them ranging from the Post-Ebola Recovery Programme, their peaceful stay in Saudi Arabia to their pledge to contribute to national development back home upon the completion of their courses/studies.
The Envoy also updated the students on many other developments taking place in Sierra Leone and assured that everything was under control under the watchful eyes of His Excellency, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, who he said has won the confidence of Sierra Leoneans and the international community because of his exemplary performance since he acceded to office in September 2007. Addressing the students, who are over 70 in number, Ambassador Kargbo extolled the resilient efforts of His Excellency the President, his Government and development partners in successfully ending the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the country and mobilizing funds for the Post-Ebola Recovery Programme.
He thanked the students for the fervent prayers they offered for the eradication of the deadly virus and congratulated all Sierra Leoneans in the Kingdom for a job well done. The Ambassador also encouraged them to continue praying for all those who lost their lives to the deadly scourge. He however lamented that the Government was forced to abandon or delay some aspects of the implementation of the Agenda for Prosperity, which was meant to consolidate the gains accomplished under the Agenda for Change when Ebola struck in May, 2013.
He also spoke about the devastating effect it had on the economy which, prior to the outbreak, was among the fastest growing in the region. The President’s Envoy was very hopeful that now that Sierra Leone has been declared Ebola-free, the Government of His Excellency the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma will be on course to speedily actualize the Post-Ebola Socio-Economic Recovery Plan and put the Agenda for Prosperity back on track. With the Ebola setback now a thing of the past, the Ambassador said that he was certain that the President will fully utilize the potential support from Sierra Leone’s development partners to robustly kick-start his leadership strides and effectively get the country up and running once again.
“If you look at the devastating effect of the Ebola outbreak to our economy, we need urgent support from our development partners and our friends to get our suspended projects back on track and make the lives of our people more comfortable,” the Ambassador said to the students. He also admonished them to remain law-abiding and be good Ambassadors for their country.
The Envoy reminded them of their obligation to return back home upon graduation and contribute to national development in their own little way. He also reminded them of the popular American adage. “Don’t ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” The Ambassador further spoke about the welfare of Sierra Leonean students in Saudi Arabia and assured that the Government of Sierra Leone has always fulfilled its obligation of supporting students on Government scholarships and even citizens benefiting from scholarships offered by foreign institutions. The Envoy said Government is not only catering for the welfare of Sierra Leonean students abroad with Government scholarships or grants, it is also creating job opportunities for some of them on their return home.
In conclusion, one issue he emphasized on was the use of social media by some Sierra Leoneans to tarnish the good image of the Government and the country. Alhaji Kargbo however observed that despite the tremendous efforts by President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and his administration to heighten to optimum productivity of government and the civil service towards development in all facets of society, there are a few unscrupulous citizens who take to the social media to attack Government and destroy the good image of their country unnecessarily.
“Sierra Leoneans who attack the Government in the social media are the unpatriotic ones that have nothing good to talk about their country except to express hatred,” Ambassador M.S. Kargbo opined. He maintained that people should learn to distinguish between partisanship and national development which they often misconstrue out of mediocrity.
Ambassador Kargbo urged Sierra Leoneans to be responsible when using social media and avoid making statements that would likely divide them along ethnic and political lines. He said the misuse of social media to mislead Sierra Leoneans with cheap politics should be discouraged.
The Envoy encouraged them to use the social media in positive ways for the benefit of their country. In his response, the President of the Students Union, Abubakar Saada Sow on behalf of his colleagues expressed thanks and appreciation to the Ambassador for leaving his tight schedule at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Riyadh to visit them in Madina. He commended the Ambassador for keeping them abreast of developments taking place at home and creating the awareness to see themselves as one family residing in a foreign land.
He stressed that the relationship between Sierra Leoneans and their Embassy has changed for the better since Alhaji M.S. Kargbo assumed office as Ambassador. “Formerly, nobody would talk to us about our country or listen to our complaints but today, we have an Ambassador who is always ready to reach out to us and listen to our problems in order to proffer solutions to them,” the Student Union President said on behalf of his colleagues. He commended the President and his Government for pushing forward with the Post-Ebola Recovery Programme and admonished them never to relent until the economy gets back to its feet.
The students assured the Ambassador of their willingness to return home and contribute to national development immediately they complete their courses, adding, “We owe our country a great deal and posterity will judge us if we fail to heal the wounds of our beloved country.”
Speaker after speaker expressed admiration for Ambassador M.S. Kargbo’s shrewd diplomacy, leadership acumen, courage and great humility. The students assured that they will continue to cooperate with the Embassy and encouraged their Envoy to continue holding similar meetings with them from time to time.