By M.B. Jalloh, Press Attaché, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States
H.E Siray Alpha Timbo is Sierra Leone’s first resident Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with multiple accreditations to the Gulf State of Qatar and the Republic of Turkey. He arrived in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi to assume duty on Wednesday, 27th August 2014.
Ambassador Timbo presented his original Letters of Credence to His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoumn, Vice President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of Dubai on 5th November, 2014. He recently presented his credentials to the leaders of Qatar and Turkey; giving him the full powers to operate in these countries.
Prior to President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s appointment as Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the fine gentleman was the Special Envoy of His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone to the UAE, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Middle East from 2009 up to the time of his appointment. He also served as the Chairman of the Presidential Implementation Committee on Investment and Development (PICID) in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) and Middle East.
Before his appointment as Ambassador, he was the Chairman and Commissioner of the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) – a position he held from 2008 – 2013. As Chair and Commissioner of NATCOM, Mr. Timbo embarked on restructuring the Commission in terms of personnel, focus and policy direction.
He and six other Commissioners collectively advised the President on matters of telecommunications, television and wireless broadcasting services. Envoy Timbo who is also the Proprietor and Chairman of MJ Motels in the provincial towns of Makeni, Port Loko and Kabala from 2005 to date is widely known in Sierra Leone as an established Architect running a very successful architectural firm, IDEAS Limited – a firm which largely influences the national infrastructural landscape as evidenced in many projects, including, SLTU, NASSIT, RITCORP, Banks, Hotels, Hospitals, Cooperate Offices, among many others.
I sat down with him recently in his Mushriff District Office in Abu Dhabi where he spoke in a one-on-one interview about his diplomatic work, his vision for Sierra Leone and other activities of his Mission. Below are excerpts of the interview.
- B. Jalloh (MBJ): Ambassador, how it feels serving your country as a diplomat in the UAE and other countries you are accredited to?
Ambassador Timbo: First and foremost, I wish to express my thanks and appreciation to His Excellency the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma for reposing confidence in me to represent my country as a diplomat in this part of the world. It is one of the greatest challenges in my life and I’ll do my level best in representing my country diplomatically in order not to disappoint His Excellency who gave me the opportunity to serve my country as a diplomat. To me, it has always been a pleasure to represent my country at all levels, including my days as a foreign student in Romania, when I used to cater for other Sierra Leonean students in that country.
M.B.J: Could you explain about your diplomatic mission since your appointment as Ambassador to this part of the world?
Ambassador Timbo: Well, it has not been an easy task, but with great determination, resilience and love for my country and people, I have made significant strides in making a better representation of my country here in the UAE and the other countries I have been accredited to as Ambassador. I have presented all credentials to all the Heads of State in whose countries I am serving as Ambassador. In effect, my diplomatic job has started in earnest and only the sky will be the limit in my determination to ensure that Sierra Leone benefits from her diplomatic relations with the countries I am serving as her Ambassador. That is why I am having sleepless nights engaging politicians, diplomats, business communities, religious groups and many other organizations to exploit the chances of bringing them on board to contribute to development in my country.
M.B.J: You have served here as the nation’s Ambassador for over two years now. How can you describe Sierra Leone’s relationship with this Gulf- Oil rich nation?
Ambassador Timbo: I can say it’s very cordial. Let me tell you, Jalloh, since the presentation of my credentials to all the countries I am serving as an Ambassador, I have been wielding my diplomatic authority to break new grounds, initiate ideas that would woo investors and experts to do business with my country and much has been achieved in that direction. My relationship with authorities in the countries I am serving as Ambassador is very healthy and excellent. Through this relationship, I have been able to lobby various business communities to explore the investment potentials in Sierra Leone; especially in the areas of tourism, agriculture, fisheries, health, education and other sectors contributing to the socio-economic development of my country. With time, Sierra Leoneans will start realizing the good diplomatic job I am doing on their behalf.
M.B.J: What about your relationship with other African Ambassadors here in the UAE?
Ambassador Timbo: Well, everything is pretty fine with my relationship with other African Ambassadors in the UAE and other countries I am serving as Sierra Leone’s Ambassador. We usually meet as African Diplomatic Corps and discuss issues and problems typical of Africa and try to proffer solutions or suggest the way forward. Of course, the interaction between us African Ambassadors is quite encouraging because we all have a common goal – which is to make good representation of our respective countries and lobby for development in various forms.
M.B.J: How cordial is your relationship with Sierra Leoneans residing in the UAE and the other countries you are serving as Sierra Leone’s non-resident Ambassador – is it cordial or not ?
Ambassador Timbo: Well, I have the penchant for always loving my country and people. One of my official duties here is to protect the interest of fellow Sierra Leoneans and to serve them whenever they need me. I often engage with the Sierra Leone Nationals Association in the Emirates (SLNAE) headed by Ibrahim Talleh Bah to discuss issues affecting them and how we should all work together to make our country proud. We always discuss a range of issues that have to do with our country. They are also giving me the full support I need to carry out my mandate as an Ambassador. They are indeed great compatriots and true patriots. What I always tell my Sierra Leonean brothers and sisters is to be always law-abiding, peaceful and industrious so as to portray a good image of Sierra Leone and enable them help their people and country as well.
- B. J: How is your work load like?
Ambassador Timbo: It’s not easy representing your country as a diplomat in more than two foreign countries. To say the fact, the work load is not easy, but with great commitment, patriotism and the confidence the President has reposed in me, I’ll do my best not to disappoint my country or the President who has sent me on this diplomatic mission.
Besides, I’m used to hard work back home and that is what I’m replicating here to justify why the President chose me as his Envoy in this part of the world. Some of my colleagues provoke me as a workaholic, but I’m not bothered by their provocation (laugh) because naturally, hard work is part of my blood and I have never failed in any of my endeavours in life.
M.B.J: Ambassador, you have talked about wooing investors to go and invest in your country. What gains have you made in that direction?
Ambassador Timbo: As a key player in the Sierra Leone private sector before my appointment as an Ambassador, I think I have the knack to convince investors to do business in Sierra Leone because we have a lot of business potentials. You will be surprised to learn that many investors have expressed interest in doing business in Sierra Leone and pretty soon, I’ll be travelling with some of them to Freetown to do feasibility studies to determine which sectors they will invest in.
One of our policies as a government is creating a favourable and friendly business environment that will attract more foreign investment. We were on track until the Ebola menace struck and reversed all the gains we made during the first term of His Excellency, the President. So, to bring the economy back on track, I think we need to convince more investors to invest in the private sector and create job opportunities for young Sierra Leoneans. And that is exactly what we are doing and we have made a lot of progress in that direction. I’m very much determined to achieve this feat because the President is counting on me to use my knowledge and experience in the private sector to woo investors in this part of the world.
M.B.J: Talking about being a key player in the Sierra Leone private sector, what impact have you made in that sector?
Ambassador Timbo: I have been engaged in the private sector since I returned from Romania after I had qualified as an Architect. My first assignment was to establish an architectural institution together with partners called IDEAS Partners. It is one of the most recognized architectural companies in Sierra Leone that has successfully handled contracts for both government and private institutions, including NASSIT Offices and Shopping Malls in Bo, Kenema and Makeni cities in the provinces. Examples abound in the construction of ultra-modern buildings we have served as architects. Through that establishment, we have contributed immensely to nation-building by creating employment for Sierra Leoneans, paying tax to government, training workers, among others. We are an indigenous company Sierra Leoneans should be proud of for what we are doing for our country.
M.B. J: I am sorry for being personal; but due to curiosity, I would like to know if you had ever worked in the diplomatic field before?
Ambassador Timbo: To put it straight, I’m qualified and certified Architect with many years of experience in the profession. I studied at home and abroad to become an Architect and I have never regretted my decision to study the profession. But make no mistake; I am a born diplomat by virtue of my disposition, compassion and love for humanity which I’m exhibiting at work.
M.B. J: Mr. Ambassador, before I leave you, do you have any advice for Sierra Leoneans here in the UAE and back home?
Ambassador Timbo: I want to encourage fellow Sierra Leoneans here in the UAE and back home to support His Excellency, the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma – the father of development in Sierra Leone. All we need is to unite and work as one people; because we as a government cannot succeed without their support and concerted effort to make ‘Mama Salone’ a paradise for all. At this juncture, Sierra Leoneans need to unite their rank and file more than ever. Irrespective of our many differences, development and stability of Sierra Leone should be a paramount concern to all Sierra Leoneans of all walks of life.
- B. Jalloh: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview you on the issues you have dilated on, Your Excellency.
Ambassador Timbo: You are always welcome, Mr. Jalloh. Welcome to the Emirates, enjoy your stay and have fun.
Amb. Timbo (right) granting interview to Saudi based Press A ttache