EXCLUSIVE : Sierra Leoneans say Schulenberg’s secret letter to UN exposed his bias against ruling government

A secret letter written by Michael Von Schulenberg to the  United Nations ‘ Under – Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, has been leaked to the  international media and Sierra Leoneans say that the contents prove that the  Leader of the United Democratic Movement ( UDM ), Mr. Mohamed Bangura and sections of the press  were right all along to doubt  the UN Secretary General Executive Representative‘s  diplomatic impartiality and professional behaviour  in Sierra Leone. The leaked letter also left no doubt that Schulenberg had some kind of  grudge  for President Ernest Bai Koroma, whom he accused of hostility towards him .



In the letter, according to Reuters , Schulenberg stated : “ There can be little doubt, that the decision by the President to force my early departure will be seen – rightly or wrongly – by virtually every Sierra Leonean as an effort to remove a potential obstacle to his re-election and as opening the door to manipulating the election outcome in his favor”. It came as a huge shock to many Sierra Leoneans this evening that Mr. Schulenberg would virtually see himself as a potential obstacle to President Koroma’s re-election.

Sierra Leoneans who read this statement in the  Reuters story  this evening described  it as unfortunate and disturbing , coming from a diplomat  sent  to Sierra Leone to act as a neutral agent of the UN Secretary General .  They regard the statement  as not only very undiplomatic and unprofessional  but the effusions of a man who had compromised his diplomatic neutrality in a country struggling for political stability  .

Most Sierra Leoneans who spoke with COCORIOKO regarded the statement by Schulenberg as a tacit indication  by the former ERSG that he had problems with President Koroma being re-elected this year. They further described the statement as a shame to Mr.Schulenberg’s  diplomatic credentials because they could be construed as confirmation of the fears of the media that he may have been  working towards a regime change in Sierra Leone .

State House Director of Communications, Unisa Sesay, promptly refutted Mr. Schulenberg’s claims that President Koroma forced his departure. Since January 27, Government had firmly denied having anything to do with Schlenberg’s departure from Sierra Leone. The government described its relationship with Schulenberg as cordial.

According to Sierra Leoneans, the statements confirmed their fears that the Chief of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone ( UNIPSIL )  may have forgotten that he was not in Sierra Leone to determine our choice of leadership or equate his position with  that of the Head of State but to work impartially with  the government, all political parties, civil society groups , women’s groups and other stakeholders to help build and consolidate peace in Sierra Leone.

Also, Sierra Leoneans said portions of  Mr. Schulenberg’s statements in the leaked letter appeared to give the impression that  he was trying to bring a standoff between the UN and Sierra Leone over his recall. He wrote : “I also feel that we should engage the President directly over his sudden flair of hostility towards me before giving in to his request for my departure. ”

Another disturbing  portion of the leaked letter written by Mr. Schulenberg said : “Many Sierra Leoneans (as indeed many among the international community) may see the U.N. as readily caving in to unreasonable and unjustified pressures without making even the slightest attempt to protect the position as the Secretary-General’s representative in this country “. Sierra Leoneans interpreted this to mean that  while falsely assuming that President Koroma asked for his recall, Schulenberg was saying that the UN  should have declined the request and protected his position by keeping him in Sierra Leone.

This leaked letter which will appear in many other international and local media, Sierra Leoneans say,  paints a very uncomplimentary picture of Mr.Schulenberg’s tenure in Sierra Leone and it justifies  calls that the former ERSG’s service in Sierra Leone  be investigated  by the UN to get at the bottom of the matter.

The other situation  that will be of concern to the UN is,  who leaked the letter to Reuters ? It certainly was not done by the Undersecretary For Political Affairs who is an accomlished and very responsible diplomat . This leakage should be thoroughly investigated by the UN. Three months ago,  proceedings of a closed door Peacebuilding Commission Meeting at the UN were  leaked to the opposition media , albeit with a big slant that the UN had warned Sierra Leone about the media attacks on Mr. Schulenberg when in fact all that happened was that some PBC stakeholders had enquired from Sierra Leone’s Permanent Representative, Ambassador Shekou Touray , the reasons for the press attacks on Schulenberg , given how well the UN had acquitted itself in Sierra Leone.

Calls made to the office of the undersecretary last evening did not go through, but we hope to interview some UN officials tomorrow about the matter.

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