By Idrissa Balogun Tejan
News of the death of former French Ambassador to Sierra Leone His Excellency Ambassador Michele Galas reawakens thoughts of Franco-Sierra Leone diplomatic relations with its lasting legacies for which the deceased Ambassador will be fondly remembered.
During his tenure as Ambassador to Sierra Leone, between 1987 and 1991, Franco-Sierra Leone diplomatic relations was vibrant with the establishment of the French Cooperation, a French development agency funded from proceeds of the French Food Aid programme, which funded many socio economic and infrastructural development projects throughout the length and breadth of Sierra Leone.
Among the many projects funded by the French Cooperation were the Mabang Bridge, Bo School of Medicine, Songo-Moyamba road and the French medical boat which provided preventative and curative health care services to residents in the riverine villages along the Bumbeh River. A market was also constructed in Kenema and another in Kambia. Traces of France’s support to the socio economic development of Sierra Leone were very visible and felt by various sectors of society through French Cooperation’s support to education, agriculture, health and youth/community development including women’s empowerment. There could be no under statement of the significance of the French supported development projects in Sierra Leone. The establishment of the Bo School of Medicine in 1989 has contributed in no small way to enhancing health care service delivery in the country through its many courses and training programmes. The Songo-Moyamba road, apart from kinking the Western area Rural District directly to the south-western parts of the country, became the only available route to the provinces when the rebels besieged the Okra Hill route to the provinces. And until its recent collapse, the Mabang Bridge contributed to the socio economic development of Mabang village and its surroundings in the southern district of Moyamba.
Of the many Sierra Leoneans who will sincerely miss the late former French Ambassador Michele Galas is former Honourable Member of Parliament representing Moyamba West I Madame Emma Claye-Simbo. She told We Yone in her tribute last evening that His Excellency Ambassador Michele Galas left lasting legacies in Sierra Leone by which he will be fondly remembered.
She disclosed that French expatriates were brought to Sierra Leone, under the French Cooperation protocols, to construct the Mabang Bridge and work in other development projects. She lauded the initiative of the Medical boat which she also noted contributed immensely to the overall wellbeing of beneficiaries. She also told We Yone that the timber used for the flooring of the bridge came from Panguma in the eastern district of Kenema and that considerations were in the offing for the signing of military protocols which would have made it possible for French ex-servicemen to be involved in the development projects before the overthrow of the APC government on late Joseph Saidu Momoh by the NPRC military junta in 1992.
Indeed a lasting legacy of the late former French Ambassador Michele Galas to Sierra Leone (1987 to 1991) was his initiative to establish the French Cooperation as a French government development agency. An initiative, considered a novelty in French diplomatic relations, which was also replicated in Nepal.
Sierra Leone remembers the former French Ambassador Michele Galas with an appeal to the French government to bring back the French Cooperation.