One of President Ernest Koroma’s engagements while he was in New York last week to attend the 64th Session of the United Nations General Assembly was a meeting with staff of the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the United Nations and Sierra Leoneans working at the UN. This important meeting took place at the Sierra Leone Mission on East 49th Street on Friday September 25. The session was very productive in that the President appraised the UN workers with current developments in Sierra Leone.
The President , who rode from his hotel with the Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the UN, Ambassador Shekou Touray, was met on arrival at the Mission by the Deputy Permanent Representative for Political Affairs, Ambassador Rupert Davies , Minister Plenipotentiary Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu, the Head of Chancery Mrs. Margaret Jah-Matturi and other diplomatic staff of the Mission.
Before the meeting commenced, the members of staff of the Mission were introduced to President Koroma by Mrs. Jah-Matturi while Sierra Leoneans employed in the UN were introduced by Dr. Ibrahim Yansaneh, Head of the International Civil Service Commission. United Nations, New York.
In his address to the crowd of Mission and UN staff , President Koroma said that his government inherited a ridiculous 5 megawatts of electricity but the new All People’s Congress (APC) government has increased it to 20 megawatts .He informed the gathering that his government had done the final pre- commissioning phase of Bumbuna .Sierra Leone, the President continued, paid US $5 million towards the completion of Bumbuna, in addition to donor support and “so we are part and parcel of the completion of Bumbuna “. The President further informed the diplomats that Bumbuna will be fully commissioned in October, but he warned that Bumbuna alone will not solve the country’s energy problems as it will only provide 50 megawatts when Freetown alone needs 60 megawatts to be fully electrified .The President however disclosed that during the commissioning of Bumbuna in October, his government will also launch Phase 2 of the electricity project .The government will secure US $ 650 million to provide a further 300 megawatts of electricity and the government will pay the loan back in seven years. “We have firm commitments from donors and by the end of December, we will commission 2 more hydroelectricity projects” .He promised that in 5 years, energy will not be a problem in Sierra Leone.
President Koroma said that his government has now made Agriculture its No.1 priority . His government, he stated, inherited a 1.6 million dollars allocation to agriculture but said that he increased it to 7.7. and now to 9.9 as in the Maputo Declaration. “We have also signed the the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) compact document before I left Sierra Leone and through this we will be able to get agricultural donor suport. That is a big achievement because that is where our potential lies for employment, wealth creation and foreign exchange “, he affirmed. To the applause of the diplomats, President Koroma declared that his government was working towards agricultural self-sufficiency “and we will be able to stop importing rice by 2012”. Again, the President warned that agriculture by itself will not do it without road construction .”We have revived most of the projects we inherited and work has started on the Freetown-Conakry Road “. The President also spoke about the Lumley-Tokeh, the Kenema-Koindu and Lungi-Port Loko road projects and that early next yar, the Bo-Bandajuma and Mano River road projects will start. “Through all these projects, we will handle youth employment “, he disclosed.
President Koroma also informed the diplomats that his government was firmly committed to good governance , political tolerance and promotion of zero-tolerance to corruption . He spoke about the 2008 ACC Act which has now given the commission prosecutorial powers. “In terms of doing business, Sierra Leone has now been ranked 6th best in West Africa and we are ahead of the other Mano River Union countries”, he said. There were more cheers in the room when President Koroma further announced that Sierra Leone now has helpers in the persons of former British Premier Tony Blair ,who is now one of the country’s goodwill ambassadors and billionaire George Soros . An excited President Koroma then added : “We have made a lot of progress ;some will be evident now and some will not be evident until after some years. “
The President also apprised the audience about the November 18-19 Donor Confrerence in London during which support will be solicited for his AGENDA FOR CHANGE Initiative. “Before the conference, the government will hold a trade and investment forum where the opportunities available in Sierra Leone will be unveiled. We will try to raise as much support as we would .Our target is US $2.2. Billion dollars. We have received commitments from donors and we still have gaps so we will make more road shows to expand our donor base.”
President Koroma thanked the Mission Staff and everybody else for the support being given to his government and their hard work. The President assured them that he has been following all their activities . “Let us all work together to effect the change we all want in Sierra Leone “, the President urged .
The vote of thanks was given by Mrs. Linda Musa of the UNDP.