As a member of Sierra Leone’s delegation to the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, I attended the landmark bilateral meeting on the margins of the Session at the UN Headquarters in New York on September 28, 2015 between President Ernest Bai Koroma and the President of China, Mr. Xi Jingping.
The bilateral meeting was requested by the Chinese President. It was not even at the behest of President Koroma for anybody to create the impression that President Koroma forced the meeting to push the Mamamah International Project.
Also, at no time during the meeting did Presidents Koroma and Jingping discuss any debt of $ 315 million for the project .
Our media need to be responsible and stop distorting stories . I cannot understand why our media love to change the narrative whenever there is a news event involving the APC Government, especially news that deal with national development.
According to Mamba TV, “While IMF urges Sierra Leone Government to abandon the debt-heavy airport project in favor of economic recovery oriented projects, the government looks elsewhere to China for $315 million debt for the project.” This is completely false.
The long and short of the matter is that the Chinese President assured President Koroma that he will do everything to ensure that the Mammamah International Airport project continues , but at no time did he say that it was at the expense of a $ 315 million debt for Sierra Leone .
Nobody who attended the meeting left the conference hall with that impression. Why would there have been all that jubilation from the Sierra Leone delegation , of which I was a part, if this flagship project was going to continue at the expense of another debt for our country ?
I even interviewed President Koroma at his hotel after the meeting and he was delighted and went on to explain all the benefits the new airport will bring to the people of Sierra Leone. He said nothing about a debt to complete the project.
President Koroma is in compliance and good standing with all our international donor and development partners, including the IMF , World Bank and DFID.
For the benefit of Sierra Leoneans who care for the truth, I am reproducing my coverage of the bilateral meeting between Presidents Koroma and Jingping . Nothing was mentioned about a $315 million debt as Mamba TV is claiming.
One wonders why Mustapha Wai did not crosscheck the fact with President Koroma or Transport and Aviation Minister , Mr. Leonard Balogun Koroma before publishing it .
Sierra Leone is our beloved nation and we should stop distributing false information that will jeopardize the image of the country or the precious relationship between our country and its development partners and stakeholders.
LEEROY WILFRED KABS-KANU, MINISTER PLENIPOTENTIARY , PERMANENT MISSION OF SIERRA LEONE TO THE UN , NEW YORK
READ MY COVERAGE OF THE BILATERAL MEETING BELOW :
Chinese Leader Jinping Unveils Impressive Development Package To Help President Koroma Transform Sierra Leone
By KABS KANU
The bilateral meeting between Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma and the President of the People’s Republic of China Xi jinping on the margins of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York yesterday ended with joy unspeakable as the Chinese Leader unveiled a very impressive development package that will see the emergent world economic giant, China, help President Koroma transform Sierra Leone.
The socio-economic package announced by the Chinese Leader at Conference Room 6 of the UN Headquarters sent the Sierra Leone delegation composed of President Koroma, Foreign Minister Dr. Samura Kamara, Information Minister , Mr. Alpha Kanu, Finance Minister Dr. Kelfala Marrah, Transport and Communications Minister Mr. Leonard Balogun Koroma, Trade Minister Ms. Mabinty Daramy , Youth Minister Mr. Alimamy Kamara , ambassadors , diplomats and other officials beaming with joy. Also present were the Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations, Mr. Vandy C. Minah , the Director-General of the Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Andrew G. Bangali and the Deputy Ambassador
The package includes the continuation of President Koroma’s flagship program–The Mamamah International Airport -which the delighted Sierra Leonean Leader says will help unlock the prosperity of the country. Convinced about the profound socio-economic benefits of the Mamamah International Airport project, which he described as “a flagship project we have been waiting for since Independence over 50 years ago”, President Koroma appealed to the Chinese Leader to help Sierra Leone save the project from collapse from the difficulties that have now arisen over the continuation of the project . President Koroma highlighted the disappointment that this difficulty will generate after it had been extensively publicized and got the Sierra Leonean people excited about the socio-economic potentials of the proposed new airport.
In his measured response which was replete with assurances , the President of China promised President Koroma what amounted to a new commitment by his country to ensure that the project restarts in earnest as soon as possible. This assurance drew a loud applause from the Sierra Leone delegates. But the Chinese Leader did not stop there. He went on to announce a wide-range of areas in which China will intervene to help the much-awaited recovery from the Ebola scourge and the socio-economic transformation of the country.
The development package President Jinping announced will include assistance in revamping the health care system ; sustainable industrial development which will continue to focus on natural resources development, human resource training ; more government scholarships and expanded bilateral training; infrastructural development, especially roads and electric power; restart of the Tonkolili Iron-ore project that will help the country’s industrialization ; encouragement of Chinese companies and institutions to engage in rice production , fishing and other agricultural projects to ensure food security; Climate change and support for Sierra Leone’s and by implication , Africa’s position, in the United Nations Security Council Reform , where President Koroma is the Chairman of the Committee of 10 African States ( C-10).
In his response, President Koroma thanked President Jinping for the great gesture he had shown to Sierra Leone ‘s development endeavors. He also thanked China for her strong and speedy response to the Ebola outbreak which helped to galvanize more international effort to help the country eradicate Ebola. President Koroma said the Chinese President mentioned key areas where his nation wants to help Sierra Leone that will strengthen the socio-economic status of the country. President Koroma said the results of this bilateral meeting alone has made the whole UN General Assembly a big success for Sierra Leone.
While also thanking the President of China for his country’s support to the Military Hospital, President Koroma said that China’s promise to help Sierra Leone industrialize will aid the diversification of the country’s economy. He also thanked the Chinese Leader for what he described as his great understanding in the Mamamah Project , which he described as the project that is capable of transforming the country .
President Jinping commended the strong leadership that President Koroma exhibited to help bring the ebola outbreak virtually to an end in Sierra Leone.
The two Presidents promised to continue to strengthen the socio-economic cooperation between the two countries.
By KABS KANU :
Sierra Leone’s President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma was a very delighted man in New York last evening as his flagship Mamamah International Airport Project is destined to be continued after all.
In a historic bilateral meeting between President Koroma and China’s President Xi Jingping, held on the margins of the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters yesterday , the Chinese Leader promised his Sierra Leonean counterpart that his country will ensure that the airport project is continued . The Sierra Leonean Government had faced difficulties that would have jettisoned the project.
In the bilateral meeting , President Koroma made a strong appeal to the Chinese President for help in keeping the project from collapse. He told President Jinping that Sierra Leoneans had waited for the project for over 50 years since Independence and they would be very disappointed if it was not completed after all the publicity it had received and the excitement it had generated among the people. The Chinese leader responded with a firm assurance that his nation will do everything to help Sierra Leone continue the project , which drew a big applause from the Sierra Leone delegates.
At his hotel in Manhattan, COCORIOKO asked President Koroma how he would characterize his feelings about the announcement. Obviously in jolly mood and smiling from ear to ear , President Koroma responded that he was very delighted and that it was a tremendous relief, because the Mamamah International Airport Project has the potential to unlock the prosperity of the country.
The Sierra Leonean Head of State said that when the airport project is completed , it will attract a huge volume of visitors which will boost tourism and trade. “You cannot measure the success the project will bring”, he emphasized .
The President said that the new airport will bring abundant economic opportunities to the citizens of the country. That was why he told the Chinese President that for Sierra Leone the result of the bilateral meeting was the highest point in this year’s UN General Assembly.
Evaluating where Sierra Leone was at the moment, President Koroma said it was a win-win situation . “The IMF and the MCC ( Millennium Challenge Corporation ) are on board to help us . And now, the Chinese .So it is a big relief” , the President revealed.
President Koroma renewed his commitment to continue to bring sustainable socio-economic and political developments to Sierra Leone.
The airport will add to the magnificent legacy of national developments that President Koroma will leave Sierra Leone when his term expires.