New Jersey seethed with excitement and enjoyment at the weekend as Sierra Leoneans celebrated the 49th Independence Anniversary of their beloved country. The Fourah Bay Community Foundation and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) staged thrilling parties that were well-organized, jam-packed and full of fun. The Fourah Bay dance was held at the Firehouse at Pinegrove Avenue while the SLPP dance took place at the Chinese Community Centre at Elizabeth Avenue, also in Somerset. Sierra Leoneans travelled from different states in Continental America to attend the two occasions.
At the Fourah Bay dance, the Guest of Honour, Sierra Leone’s Minister Plenipotentiary to the United Nations, Hon.Â Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu (in photo), made a brief speech in which he said that he was bringing greetings to the people of New Jersey on behalf of the President, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and the Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the UN, Ambassador Shekou M. Touray, as well as the staff of the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the UN. He told the jammed hall that Sierra Leone was celebrating the Independence Anniversary at a time when good news had started coming out of the country. He noted that in the immediate past, all that people heard about Sierra Leone were bad and distressing news. “However, today, we are gratified to be receiving some wonderful news from our motherland. Sierra Leone, under the progressive leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma, is making impressive strides to carve a different image from the Sierra Leone of the past”, he emphasized.
The Minister pointed to the free health care delivery system for women and kids which President Koroma will launch on Independence Anniversary Day April 27, which he said was the first of its kind in West Africa. He told the rapt audience, some of whom cheered , that President Koroma saw the need to put an end to the country’s dishonorable distinction of having the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world.
Minister Kabs-Kanu also told the audience that another first Sierra Leone has scored is that she now has the best human rights record in West Africa. Sierra Leone, he revealed (amidst cheers ) was now the only country in West Africa that has no political prisoners and “We have the most free press and media in the sub-continent with over 30 newspapers, most of them criticizing the government but none of their editors are suffering any backlash or persecution from the government.Â “
The Minister told the revellers about the Sierra Leone National Action Plan For Women that was launched at the UN almost two months ago and which will be signed by President Ernest Koroma and become practicable in Sierra Leone, thus providing much-needed empowerment and advancement opportunities for women and girls. Amidst cheers mainly from the female audience, Minister Kabs-Kanu said the women are about to have the rights they never enjoyed before in Sierra Leone and he jokingly warned those men who love to beat or abuse their spouses or women that Sierra Leone is on the verge of becoming a tight place for them.
The Minister advised the people not to heed the propaganda against the government being peddled in certain online and print newspapers, designed only to tarnish the good image of the President, his ministers and the country. He emphasized that the government of President Ernest Bai Koroma was doing its best to improve the living standards of the people, as a result of which there is electricity in the country now, with the much-delayed Bumbuna Hydroelectricity Project completed. He also pointed to the program the government has launched to make pipe-borne and safe water accessible to all Sierra Leoneans.
Minister Kabs-Kanu told the audience about the road construction and other infrastructural developments that have been embarked upon by the government and said that if given a chance, President Koroma will ensure that Sierra Leone has one of the best road network systems in West Africa, under his AGENDA FOR CHANGE program.
The Fourah Bay community and their guestsÂ enjoyed a lively and interesting dance which was attended by an array of distinguished personalities of New Jersey, including Messrs Lamin Alharahim, Foday Mansaray,Â Busari Savage, Tamu Bangura, APC’s Brima Bangura (BB), Sana Talsmith,Â Amadu Alharazim, Hardy Gabisi,Â Sallu Alghali, Aliru Bakarr, journalist and teacherÂ Shekou Dauda Bangura, Pharmacist Dr.Abdul Rahman Kamara of SARBEH fame;Â the teacher Dr. John Samba;, New Jersey Nurses Association Chair, Madam Madina Rahman, Jarata Savage, Khadi Sillah,Â Kuntumi Savage,Seraji Deen , Alima ColeÂ and a whole battalion of top New Jersey activists .Also present was the Vice-Chair of the new APC NA Branch, Mr. Sallieu Conteh , who travelled from Boston.
DJ ‘Pass Ah Die ‘ kept revellers on the floor constantly with a delicious mixture of African, Reggae, disco and pop music.
An appreciable crowd came to celebrate with the Fourah Bay Foundation, an attestation of the valuable role the Fourah Bay community was playing in New Jersey.
The crowd sang the National Anthems of Sierra Leone and theÂ United States. The whole hall exploded with cheers when the popular dramatist of the 1970s and 1980s Songhai Theatre fame, Mr. Busari Savage,Â sang the Sierra Leone National Anthem in Krio.
The Minister andÂ Mr. Foday Mansaray, the mortgage banker and businessman who is a staunch member of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC), were also given an impressive welcome when they appeared at the SLPP Dance, which the Minister attended to promote President Koroma’sÂ Politics of Inclusion and Political tolerance.Â The UN -based minister was well received by top-notch SLPP officials like the President of the New Jersey Branch, Mr. Jerry George, former SLPP NA Vice-Chairman, Mr.Sallu Saidu (Sparko);Â Dr. Marda Mustapha;Â the Publicity Secretary of the SLPP NA, Mr.Alpha Saidu Bangura; Mr.Jaiah Kallon, Mr.Lansana Jasabe , Mr. Morie Siaffa Toegondo,etc.etc. In fact, by the time the Minister arrived, the President of the New Jersey Chapter of the ruling APC,
Alhaji Allie Badara Kamara had already arrived at the SLPP dance with some of his officials.
The atmosphere at the SLPP dance was friendly, relaxed and all-embracing, attesting to the fact that despite political differences, Sierra Leoneans are one people who may express bitter views about each others’ political beliefs but are notÂ divided by politics. Mr. Jerry George took both Minister Kanu and Mr. Mansaray to the high table and he introduced the minister to the audience, which cheered. Mr. George said that whether one was SLPP or APC, we are one family.
In discussions with top SLPP officials including Mr. Jerry George, Mr. Toegondo, Dr. Marda Mustapha, Mr. Alpha Saidu, Mr. Jasabe and others , the Minister Plenipotentiary said he had come to the dance to demonstrate that President Koroma’s governmentÂ has nothing against the SLPP andÂ was determined to promote political tolerance and multi-party democracy in Sierra Leone. He noted that Sierra Leoneans were one people who should not be divided by politics. The SLPP officials equally expressed encouraging sentiments that regardless of our different political attachments, Sierra Leoneans were one nation and one people and there was no need for divisions and rancour.
The Minister told the SLPP officials that he gave the SLPP dance the same priority as the Fourah Bay Dance but he stressed that he had to be at the Fourah Bay occasion first because he had to deliver a statement.
The party ended peacefully and Sierra Leoneans and foreign guests dispersed to their homes praising what had been a memorable Independence Anniversary Dance.
More interesting highlights and pictures of the two occasions to come later in the week!