By Pasco Temple & Kabbs Kanu :
A team of Eight Sierra Leone Government officials from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) unit and a Government Minister led by the Chief of Staff of State House Dr. Richard K. Konteh has arrived in the United States of America (USA) to prepare for President Ernest Bai Koroma’s planned engagements in Town Hall Meetings with Sierra Leoneans in different parts of the United States of America including Washington DC, Maryland, New Jersey and Connecticut, before attending the 68th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.
The advance team which comprised State House Chief of Staff Dr. Richard K. Konteh, Minister of Youth Affairs Hon Almamy Kamara, MCC- unit Sierra Leone Coordinator Mr. Mahmoud Idriss, MCC Program Manager Mr. Amadu Massally, two Economists Mr. Wilbourne Showers and Ms. Memuna Fornah, Social inclusion and Gender Expert Ms. Nafisatu Jalloh and Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff, Mr. Almamy Conteh arrived at the Embassy of Sierra Leone Friday September 13th, 2013, where they held consultations and further briefed Ambassador Bockari Kortu Stevens about their mission.
According to State House Chief of Staff Dr. Richard K. Konteh, “we will be having technical workshops at the MCC building in Washington DC, hold consultative meetings with the Sierra Leone Diaspora in Washington DC Metro Area, Philadelphia, Boston and New Jersey to update the Sierra Leone Diaspora on the compact Development process between Government of Sierra Leone and the MCC; and also to establish a platform and channel for engagement and dialogue between the MCC unit and the Diaspora.
“We are also here to engage with the MCC as part of the process to develop our compact. It will help develop our problem analysis which will then lead us to the consultation, which President Ernest Bai Koroma is going to lead.
“The meetings in Maryland and New Jersey will be jointly held by the MCC – unit and President Ernest Bai Koroma, while the MCC unit will hold the other two meetings with the Sierra Leone Diaspora in the two other States.
“When President Ernest Bai Koroma engages Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora, he will give them first – hand briefing about what is happening back home in Sierra Leone.
In addition, an open forum like this will facilitate the opportunity for Sierra Leoneans living in the Diaspora to make their own input in an all – inclusive and participatory manner.”
Responding, Ambassador Bockari Kortu Stevens welcomed Dr. Richard K. Konteh and delegation to the United States of America and in particular to the Embassy of Sierra Leone and said MCC is happy with what we as a government is doing.
He updated the Chief of Staff and delegation on progress made on arrangements and said all plans are now set for President Ernest Bai Koroma’s arrival.
In December 2012, Sierra Leone was one of a group of selected lower income countries that became eligible for the Millennium Challenge Corporation [MCC] ‘Compact’ grant funding after passing 12 out of 20 benchmark indicators in the area of Ruling justly, investing in Citizens and Economic freedom.
According to Mr. Mahmoud Idriss, Coordinator MCC Coordinating Unit, “the MCC is a United States Government funded agency that form strategic partnerships with countries that have met certain criteria in the foregoing areas to combat poverty and promote sustainable economic growth through private investments.”
He disclosed that the grant is dependent on identified projects, with clearly defined and rigorous stepwise process that a beneficiary Government must follow in other to access the funding.
One of the preliminary steps in the compact development process, is the appointment of a Core Technical Team that will form the Millennium Challenge Coordinating Unit (MCCCU) supervised by the office of the Chief of Staff to undertake the compact development process.
Before their arrival, two special assistants (Mr. Foday Mansaray and Mr. Ajibu Tejan Jalloh arrived in the USA and paid a Courtesy call on Ambassador Bockari Kortu Stevens and Embassy staff.