By LEEROY WILFRED KABS KANU -MINISTER PLENIPOTENTIARY AND COORDINATOR OF C-10 : PERMANENT MISSION OF SIERRA LEONE TO THE UN, NEW YORK, USA
Sierra Leone is a post-conflict nation struggling to rebuild her social, political and economic institutions. It must not be forgotten that we went through 11 years of one of the most deadly wars in history. With the kinds of total destruction visited on her infrastructure and institutions by one of the bloodiest wars in human history , there is no gainsaying the fact the country should still face daunting challenges and it is going to be a monumental task to rebuild and reconstruct. For the UN Secretary General to praise progress we have so far and to mention some of our challenges, which President Koroma himself acknowledges , and then advice us not to be complacent about them was natural. That careful balance of praise and caution against complacency comes with the Secretary General’s job . There is no hint from the transcripts that Mr. Ban Ki-Moon was trying to castigate President Koroma for anything, but oh, la la. Some people will never change . The words had hardly fallen from the Secretary General’s mouth before President Koroma’s detractors ran away with them to the social media to concoct that the UN Secretary General had chided President Koroma for his leadership.
MR. BAN KI-MOON : HE ACKNOWLEDGED THE GREAT PROGRESS WE HAVE MADE BUT ADVISED AGAINST COMPLACENCY
We , Sierra Leoneans , have to stop being political miscreants and vicious messengers of doom . Though the advent of the internet has brought new dangers of the promotion of falsehood , with its creation of political demagogues, pseudo-journalists and social and political miscreants who enjoy the self-imposed licence to distort reality at a whim , we should love our nation enough not to delight in spreading destructive, false, imaginary , delusive and dangerous information about our President, leaders , government and the country.
The UN Secretary General ‘s duty in Sierra Leone was to attend the closing of the UN’s peacekeeping and peacebuilding mission . He did not come to Sierra Leone to engage in politics. As a matter of fact, the Secretary General’s functions are apolitical and non-partisan. Except there is manifest evidence of the violation of international law and security and fundamental human rights , the Secretary General cannot chastise the sovereign Head of State of a sovereign country. It is out of protocol for him to do so. The UN respects and upholds the fundamental principle of state sovereignty.
I wonder why some of our people are so ignorant about international diplomacy. Is it because of the perception that majority of our people are gullible that some of our political and social actors and commentators take liberties to distort stories ? The UN Secretary General ‘s duty is to encourage and empower heads of state diplomatically to carry on their functions of addressing the welfare of their people.It is not his duty to upbraid them for what is going on in their countries. He cannot also takes asides with or against the opposition. The Secretary General is the number one diplomat in international relations and his interventions and statements should carry no hint of overt and covert support for political competitors. A seasoned, highly experienced and well-trained diplomat. Mr. Ban Ki-Moon is the jewel in the UN system and his handling of international matters is a subject of commendation from all spheres .
Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, further to his credit, is also a man who loves Sierra Leone . He loves other nations as well, but he is particularly impressed with the strides the country has made socio-economically and politically since the end of the civil war in 2002. He also has profound respect for President Ernest Koroma, by virtue of the President’s commendable efforts to address the welfare of the Sierra Leonean people, but it is not his duty to sing President Koroma’s praises in public, without acknowledging our challenges . He owes us no duty not to highlight areas where we need to pay attention. He does it to all other nations. It is his job, but he is not a politician. He has to be clearly seen as playing a neutral role. That was why Mr. Ki-Moon deliberately avoided pandering to politically-motivated questions during the press conference as could be seen from the transcripts.
Mr. Ki-Moon highlighted some of the challenges facing our country to encourage us to continue addressing them and not to be complacent. , as is his responsibility. In fact, the headline that any serious, self-respecting and credible journalist would have written from this event would have been : “UN SECRETARY GENERAL ADVISES SIERRA LEONE NOT TO BE COMPLACENT” . His message was directed at the Sierra Leonean people, since he knows that the onus to rebuild Sierra Leone rests on the shoulders of every Sierra Leonean. There is nothing to show from the Secretary General’s language that he was indirectly or as his detractors are putting it, “diplomatically attacking President Koroma ” .
All the statements made by the UN Secretary General in Sierra Leone , including the transcripts of his press conferences , have been made available to COCORIOKO and other media by the UN Information Service . We are going to publish them for people to see the extremes some of our people can go to distort OR TAKE OUT OF CONTEXT stories to try to defame or embarrass the President and the country for political gain.
The key statement that detractors of the government are taking out of context was the response made by the UN Secretary General to the question by a journalist about whether the UN was satisfied with the country’s leadership and human rights record. We are presenting below the question and the Secretary General’s response to demonstrate how some Sierra Leoneans are adept at taking people’s words out of context and misinterpreting them . Also, we are demonstrating how much some of our people are good at eliminating the good and the favourable and concentrating only on what they construe to be unfavourable. Note that in his response , Mr. Ban Ki-Moon offered words of commendation . He said : “You have made great progress in terms of establishing peace and security, in terms of providing free health medical services and good education, gender empowerment… ” . He acknowledged that Sierra Leoneans have made great progress. However, note that President Koroma’s detractors are making no mention of that. That is not important to them, because that was not what they were looking for.They were looking for the negatives. Note also that after praising our progress , which was a direct answer to the question of whether the UN was satisfied with the country’s leadership, Mr. Ki-Moon then went on to encourage Sierra Leoneans not to be complacent. He then outlined challenges that we must not be complacent about and that need to be tackled . Tell me, dear reader, where that constituted an attack on President Koroma’s leadership ?
We have to stop putting words in the Secretary General’s mouth . It is unfair to the Secretary General and to us all as a people. We have to learn to stop deliberately taking people’s statements out of context to satiate our partisan proclivities.
HERE IS THE TRANSCRIPT :
Q: The UN is moving from peacebuilding to development in the county so is the UN satisfied with the country’s leadership and our human rights record?
SG: Mr. President and I are fully in agreement that, while this is something to be commended and celebrated, the fact that you are moving from a UN political mission to a UN development process, this does not give any reason to be complacent with this current situation. There are still many challenges. You have made great progress in terms of establishing peace and security, in terms of providing free health medical services and good education, gender empowerment – but there are still many, many more important challenges. Still half of your population lives under the poverty line, still there are many women and children dying from preventable diseases. These [are] needless deaths, we have to prevent this. You have to educate people. You have to enhance the capacity of your people. You have to put more foundation of the rule of law and also [do] more to protect and promote human rights and particularly those of vulnerable people, women and girls and small minority groups. Therefore, it is very important that the President and the government and the people work together to promote further democratic process, including human rights. I have emphasized the importance of gender empowerment. Women should be given at least equal opportunity, if not more than men.