His Excellency, Mr. Osman Keh Kamara, Sierra Leone’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the Africa Union Commission had made a case to the Commission to cease its apparent silence on the sea, land and air blockade imposed on Ebola affected countries.
Ambassador Kamara presented his case to the African Union during the emergency meeting of the Executive Council of the African Union on the Ebola crisis, which was held on Monday 8th September 2014 in Addis Ababa.
In a statement delivered to the Executive Council of the African Union, the erudite Ambassador made a convincing case for the affected Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) countries which ultimately influenced the Council’s decision to call on Member States of the Union to end the sea, land and air blockade as well as desist from stigmatizing EVD affected countries.
Attached herewith is Ambassador Kamara’s statement :
STATEMENT DELIVERED BY AMBASSADOR OSMAN KEH KAMARA DURING THE EMERGENCY MEETING OF AFRICAN MINISTERS OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS ON THE EBOLA EPEDEMIC IN ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA ON 8th SEPTEMBER, 2014.
Excellency, Chairperson of the Executive Council,
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission,
Honourable Ministers of Foreign Affairs of African Union Member States,
Commissioners of the African Union Commission
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Colleague Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives to the African Union
Representatives of International Organizations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My Delegation would like to thank you for the excellent manner in which you have led and continue to lead this important Executive Council Meeting. We have no doubt in your ability to direct this meeting to a successful adoption of an appropriate decision that would streamline the interaction of member states of this union with Ebola affected countries.
On behalf of the Government and People of the Republic of Sierra Leone, I would like to thank the Government and People of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia for hosting this meeting. Similar appreciation goes to the African Union Commission for organizing this very important meeting. Permit me Excellencies, Distinguished delegates to convey profound apology on behalf of my Minister of Foreign Affairs who is unavoidably absent due to prevailing circumstances in my country but has designated me to represent him.
This meeting is long overdue. It is high-time the African Union Commission ceased to remain silence on border closures, flight cancellations following the outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the West African Sub-region. Conceivably, if there was in existence a mandatory framework document for Africa’s integration and solidarity, an obligation would have compelled some countries to examine the consequences of isolating and stigmatizing Ebola affected countries and their respective citizens. This Council has the wisdom and competence to adopt a befitting statement on the implicit sea, land and air blockade against Ebola affected countries by some member states of our Union and prescribed containment measures designed to sustain African solidarity. It must be noted that the vision for integration and Africa’s solidarity are intergenerational inheritance – locked, stocked and barreled in the very first paragraph of the preamble of the Constitutive Act of this Union. We have a responsibility to protect, preserve and bequeath these undiluted noble ideals to successive generations.
A little over a year ago, the United Nations Security Council in a presidential statement removed Sierra Leone from its Agenda as an object for consideration and hailed the country as a “storehouse of lessons” on how to transform war into durable peace, stable democratic governance and the path to economic development. This accolade came after the World Bank had branded Sierra Leone as one of the fastest growing economies in the continent with a growth rate of 14%. Indeed, the country was poised to attain a middle level income by 2030 based on United Nations’ projections. These facts illustrate the level of achievements in political and economic transformations in the country over a period of twelve years after the formal declaration of an eleven year internecine conflict. Suddenly, the extraordinary and unprecedented Ebola epidemic emerged first in Guinea, spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The affected countries in West Africa must not be isolated on the perceived notion that these countries are localized for Ebola virus disease. Several years had elapsed (between 1976 to 2014) when the first outbreak of Ebola virus was reported in East Africa. Several thousand miles equally span the two regions. It is prejudicial to impute responsibility on interactions with affected countries for possible occurrence of the disease in another country without scientific justification. In my opinion, the current Ebola epidemic should be viewed as another clarion call to humanity that no society is immune from calamity.
Quite apart from its devastating human impact on civilians and healthcare workers most of whom are women, the epidemic should also be considered as a critical development issue with far-reaching economic implications for the affected countries which is estimated to be in the billions of US dollars. This is based on the fact that in Sierra Leone for instance, the main agriculture producing region is the epicenter of the disease. At the moment Government fiscal revenue is primarily devoted to the fight against the virus which is seriously impacting on the budgetary resources of the country. The decrease in internal as well as intra-regional trade due to numerous restrictions on movement of people coupled with a decline in foreign direct investments (FDI) flows due to decrease in export earnings may result to exchange rate depreciation in the country. These are serious concerns which this Council should take into consideration in adopting a response to the epidemic.
In this respect, my delegation implores this Council to call on member states of this Union to end the sea, land and air blockade against EVD affected countries and institute containment measures in addition to WHO recommendations for travelers from affected countries; adopt an effective mechanism to mobilize resources in collaboration with the international community to secure curative vaccines for the treatment of the disease. The African Union Commission to join affected countries in the fight against the Ebola virus and in particular to reach-out to Africa’s largest commercial entities for financial contribution to the $600,000,000 which WHO and the UN Secretary-General announced as the amount required to procure vaccines for the treatment of Ebola virus disease.
Meanwhile, Sierra Leone is making frantic efforts to contain the spread of Ebola virus disease. In addition to the formal declaration of State of Emergency following the outbreak of the epidemic, Government has established a task force for the containment of the disease which is effectively headed by his Excellency President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma. As a country, we have substantially reduced the initial challenges of fear, denial, ignorance and misinformation that surround the outbreak of the virus. What we are confronted with now like other affected countries is addressing the fight against Ebola in terms of treatment centers, training of contact tracers and surveillance officers, social mobilization, logistics and equipment that are required. Three days ago, the President received twenty additional ambulances and mobile bio-safety labs procured to boost the fight against Ebola virus disease. The ambulances are fully fitted to carry contagious Ebola patients and generally designed to enhance the country’s capacity to improve on existing laboratory operations, provide emergency preparedness options and boost rapid response to outbreaks and hazardous events. These developments followed the approval of over $18 million dollars as weekly incentive to health care workers for a period of three months.
These are efforts which member states of our Union should complement rather than impose draconian measures against us. Is this the Africa we want in fifty years? – If I may borrow the metaphorical phrase of ‘‘Africa Vision 2063 Agenda’’! These actions certainly exposed the fragility of Africa’s solidarity and its coveted integration agenda. In the last few days, there have been growing condemnations by world leaders: UN Secretary-General, some former African Heads of State, Civil societies, Pan-Africanists, UN Specialized Agencies as well as the European Union on the isolation of affected countries.The Presidents of Ghana and African Development Bank are the latest leaders to add their voices to the condemnation list, and yet silence of the African Union Commission on this matter is unexplainable. In fact not a single member of this Commission has made a symbolic visit to the affected countries like the President of the African Development Bank, the UN System Coordinator for Ebola, the Director of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to name just a few. Paradoxically, whilst some of our continental brothers and sisters have shut their doors against us, states from other continents are welcoming us in droves. Just four days ago, the Peoples’ Republic of China received over thirty students from Sierra Leone to pursue advance education in various disciplines.
Let me conclude my intervention by expressing appreciation to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the World Health Organization, the African Development Bank, the Republics of Gambia, South Africa and other bilateral and multilateral partners for their invaluable financial and logistical supports to Government’s efforts in the fight against Ebola Disease. Sierra Leone is equally gratified with the efforts of the Government of the Republic of Ghana for coordinating UN relief efforts to the affected countries. Finally, I hereby express my heartfelt condolences to the families of victims of this deadly disease, and also commend the efforts of our gallant local and international healthcare workers as well as “The Sierra Leone Presidential Task Force on Ebola” for their fastidiousness in responding to the spread of the dreaded disease.
I thank you for your attention.