By M.B. Jalloh, Press Attaché, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States
The Sierra Leone Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has made several moves in projecting the image of his country in the Arab World.
As a seasoned politician and now a shrewd diplomat, H.E Ambassador Alhaji M. S. Kargbo is extremely good at rebranding his country to the admiration of his counterparts and Sierra Leoneans residing in the Arab World who are very proud of how he is representing their country with the desire to reach out to individuals, institutions and other entities that could be beneficial to Sierra Leone in terms of national development.
Ambassador Kargbo’s penchant for engaging institutional authorities led to his courtesy call on the Rector of the Islamic University of Madina in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia early this week. During the official visit, he had some fruitful discussions with the Rector, Dr. Prof. Ibrahim Bin Al Obaid and other authorities of the University.
Rector gives gift to Amb. Kargbo.JPG
The Ambassador who was accompanied by the First Secretary, Salamu Koroma, Accountant and Translator, Abdul Rahman Jalloh and Information Attaché; expressed thanks and appreciation on behalf of his Mission to the University authorities for accepting his request to visit them to discuss issues that would pave the way for more Sierra Leoneans to gain entrance to the University and the possibility of providing technical assistance to Islamic institutions in Sierra Leone in the not-too-distant future.
Addressing the Rector and a cross section of Lecturers, Ambassador Kargbo paid a special tribute to the University Rector, University Staff, Professors, Administrators, and all those who are contributing in diverse ways in giving the opportunity to Sierra Leoneans and other Africans to study various disciplines in the University over the years.
He recalled the names of Sierra Leoneans who studied in the University of Madina, including the late Chief Imam, Founder and Spiritual leader of Basharia Mission in Sierra Leone, Sheikh Imam Bashar Sankoh Yilla (late), Mohamed Alie Bah, current Minister of State in the Vice President’s office, Sheik Abubakar Conteh, Senior Lecturer at the Freetown Teachers College and Missionary for the Muslim World League, Dr. Ibrahim Jalloh, Supervisor of Missionaries for the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowment, Guidance and Daâwah in Sierra Leone, Sheik Sulaiman Hamid Kamara (late) one time Country Representative of the Islamic Heritage of Kuwait and Proprietor of Umar Bin Al-Khattab Islamic Institute in Freetown, Sheik Sidia Sillah, Former Missionary and Principal at the Ansarul Secondary School in Kono District and currently Head of Chancery at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Tehran, Iran, Sheikh Sallah Janneh, Missionary and Imam based in the United Kingdom and many other Islamic scholars that are contributing immensely to the spread of Islam in the country.
Students presenting gifts to Dr. Kargbo
Ambassador Kargbo also encouraged the University Rector and other University authorities to open their doors for more Sierra Leoneans to be enrolled in the University which he said will have positive impact on Islam in Sierra Leone.
“Many years back, Sierra Leone had just a few Islamic Scholars, but today, we have hundreds of them across the country because of your efforts in educating Africans to spread Islam abroad,” the Ambassador pointed out.
He maintained that if Sierra Leone could be proud of having many Islamic Scholars today, it is because of the scholarships the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under the current Monarch, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his predecessors has offered Sierra Leoneans to study in various Universities in this Kingdom, including the prestigious Islamic University of Madina.
Amb. Kargbo surrounded by his staff receives warm welcome in Madina
The Envoy stressed that Sierra Leone needs more Islamic scholars because, according to him, “the country is predominantly Muslim and most people have no access to Islamic institutions because they are very few”.
He therefore appealed for more scholarships for Sierra Leoneans to study at the Islamic University of Madina and other Universities and institutions in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“We will also appreciate your technical assistance to the few Islamic institutions, including the Magburaka College, we have in Sierra Leone in order to raise the standard of Islamic education,” the Ambassador pleads to the Rector and other University authorities that were present during the courtesy call.
In his response, the Rector of the University thanked Ambassador Alhaji M. S. Kargbo for acknowledging the role of the University in educating many Sierra Leonean Islamic Scholars over the years and promised that they would continue playing that role in order to strengthen the bilateral relationship between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Sierra Leone.
The Rector assured that they would consider his appeal to open the University doors for more Sierra Leoneans students, including short courses for Government functionaries and to provide technical assistance for Islamic institutions in Sierra Leone.
“As an Islamic country, we believe in helping countries that have strong Islamic values and respect for Islam,” the Rector said. “Many Sierra Leoneans have gone through this University with flying colours and that is the reason I think we should encourage more people from your country to study here.”
The University Chief encouraged the Ambassador to continue paying similar visits to the University whenever necessary and assured that all his appeals will receive the active attention of the University authorities as a way of cementing the bilateral relationship between the two countries. The Rector concluded by commending African students in the University, especially students from Sierra Leone. He described them as “peaceful and law –abiding.”
Other University authorities, including the Vice Rector, Dr. Prof. Abdul Rahman Bin Raja’ Allah Al Ahmadi who doubles as the Dean of Post Graduate Studies and Scientific Research commended the Ambassador for his diplomatic approach and quest for his country to have more Islamic scholars and Islamic institutions. They also commended him for the visit and the special interest for his nationals at the University. They reiterated the stance of the Rector on all the appeals that were made by the envoy before their meeting ended.
After the meeting, which lasted for a few hours, the Ambassador was taken on a conducted tour of the University campus together with Embassy Officials that accompanied him. Most of the University Departments and other facilities were visited and a lot of explanations were made by University lecturers at the various departments and facilities.
The visit of Ambassador Alhaji M. S. Kargbo did not end with his engagement with the Rector and authorities of the University; he also met with Sierra Leonean students at a hall in down town Madina to assure them of Government’s support and to know how they were doing with their studies.
In his address to the students, the Ambassador assured that the Government of His Excellency President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma would do everything to make them much comfortable during their studies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. “Your Government at home cares for you and that’s why I am here to interact with you to know your needs,” the Ambassador assured.
He encouraged them to study hard and graduate with flying colours in order to add the number of Islamic scholars back home. “Many of your compatriots at home who are now authorities in Islam went through this University and I hope you too can emulate their success stories,” the Ambassador said.
He encouraged them to complete their studies and go back to Sierra Leone to contribute to national development through the propagation of Islam in the nook and cranny of the country. “Sierra Leone needs more Islamic institutions because we have more Muslim population in the country, but this can only happen if we have more Islamic scholars,” the Ambassador said.
“So my expectation is that when you graduate from this University, you will go back home and contribute to the development and spread of Islam accordingly.”
Ambassador Kargbo also briefed the students on developments in Sierra Leone. He told them about the recent devastating effects of the flooding on thousands of people and properties following a heavy downpour that left at least five people dead and over five thousand homeless. He said the Government was very proactive in responding to the needs of the flood victims. “The Government has already launched a Flood Response Account with the aim of raising enough money to build permanent structures for the victims,” the Ambassador disclosed.
He also assured that Government is in full control of the deadly Ebola fight and that the forty-two days countdown for Sierra Leone to be declared Ebola free by the World Health organization has begun. “There is no need for you to panic because it is only a matter of time when our country will be declared Ebola free and the post-Ebola Socio-Economic Recovery plan will begin,” he assured the students, who were eager to know what is happening back home.
The Envoy extolled President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma for making great strides in championing magnificent national development across the country. He admonished the students to continue to be law-abiding and embrace themselves as one family.
“You have come here to learn and return home to share with your people the knowledge you will acquire here. To achieve this feat, you have to be tolerant, law-abiding, peaceful and God-fearing,” Alhaji M. S. Kargbo cautioned the students.
He also promised to visit institutions that have Sierra Leoneans and engage them to know about their problems, if there are any, for possible solution to be proffered.
Responding on behalf of the student body, the Secretary General, Mohamed Badamasi Sahid expressed thanks and appreciation to the Ambassador for leaving his tight schedule at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Riyadh to visit them in Madina.
“We know the Government cares for Sierra Leonean citizens everywhere in the world and that is why you are here to address us as Sierra Leoneans,” the Secretary General said on behalf of his colleagues.
He also praised the President for the great development strides he has made in the last seven years, his approach towards ending the Ebola fight in the country and the recent efforts by Government to help flood victims.
In his brief statement, the President of the student body, Saada Sowe assured the Ambassador that they will remain to be law-abiding, peaceful and tolerant until they complete their studies and return home. He noted that at no point in time had any Sierra Leonean students been reprimanded for lawlessness or any wrongdoing.
Speaker after speaker expressed gratitude for the Ambassador’s visit and say his meeting with the University authorities is “a big booster for us.”
“We are very happy for the visit and we believe that President Koroma made no mistake in appointing you as our Ambassador,” the students enthused. Presentation of gifts as a sign of appreciation by both the University authorities and the students climaxed the visit.
Observers say; Ambassador Alhaji M. S. Kargbo’s visit to Madina just epitomizes his relentless efforts to strengthen the bilateral relationship between Saudi Arabia and Sierra Leone through education and shrewd diplomacy. They added that, it’s also a manifestation of how he really cares about Sierra Leoneans residing in Saudi Arabia.
The Ambassador’s religious background, combined with his diplomatic and political finesse have made him a household name among Sierra Leoneans in Saudi Arabia and this can justify the reason why president Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma asked him to represent Sierra Leone in this all-important leading Islamic country, said a Sierra Leonean teacher in Riyadh.
Ambassador M. S. Kargbo’s visit to the Islamic University in Madinah, an institution primarily built by late King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in the 1960’s to be a fountain for imparting knowledge of the true Islamic teachings to Muslims around the globe, has demonstrated his deep concern about the current and future status of Muslims in his country in terms of their religious awareness and the true recommended Islamic conduct.
Speaking in a brief interview after the visit, the Ambassador described it as “very successful” and in his view, Muslims, being of the highest percentage in the overall population of Sierra Leone, should be role models of good conduct and law-abiding citizens in every aspect so as to portray a flawless Islamic image. Implicitly, he alluded to Islam as the best way of life, if practiced according to the noble Islamic teachings.
Ambassador Kargbo is aware of the fact that perfection is a virtue difficult, if not impossible, to attain. However, he admonished and strongly encouraged his nationals engaged in Islamic studies to be a good reflection of the true Islamic image when they return home to teach and further enlighten their Muslim brothers and sisters on Islam.