Umaru S. Jah – affected diplomat, Germany
It seems as if the New Direction under the SLPP regime is determined to subject the entire nation and its people into public ridicule and what I will call diplomatic embarrassment by all means necessary.
After series of what many described as a frantic move to humiliate the country’s diplomats abroad, the government is repeatedly making the same diplomatic blunders with scant regard to the civil service code of conduct and by extension, the Vienna Convention to which Sierra Leone is a signatory.
The recent press release confirming the payment of repatriation costs for recalled officers including Ambassadors abroad lend credence to the point I am trying to make here. To put the records straight, I am not against the issuance of the said press release (even though it is not the normal procedure and it provokes public criticisms and resentment) but what it portrays and its implications is my point of emphasis.
We all know that diplomats, after the end of their services, are obliged to return home with their families. But this should be done with due process of what is stipulated in Sierra Leone’s Civil Service Code, Regulations and Rules. This has, and still continues to be the general and normal procedure in the Foreign Service. As seen from recent happenings, those rules and regulations seem to no longer exist given the manner in which over thirty Sierra Leonean diplomats have been recently recalled from their respective Missions abroad.
Instead of using the formal procedure to inform the diplomats about their recall through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the government issued a press release, which was widely distributed on social media platforms, announcing the sacking of all political appointees at Sierra Leone’s Foreign Missions including Ambassadors and Information Attachés. The government only realized what they did was wrong after the issue sparked serious uproar from certain quarters of the general public. Reliable source later confirmed to me that pressure was also mounted on the government from within their caucuses before a formal communication was finally made to the recalled diplomats, informing them about their end of service, and further requesting them to send their repatriation costs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
The repatriation costs were sent to Freetown with detailed information needed for necessary approval by relevant authorities. For the interest of the general public, repatriation cost involves air ticket for the officer in question, the spouse and three children including the shipment of their personal effects in a forty feet container.
Some of us who know about airfares to and from Europe and the shipping cost of a forty feet container understand how much is involved in what the government and some people are trying to make a show out of. The least we are talking about here is over thirteen thousand Euros for officers. As for the Ambassadors, it is even more because they are accorded higher privileges as former Heads of Missions. And having served our respective Missions for several years abroad, most of us are aware of what other officers received for their repatriation after their tenure. Recently, some non-political appointees returned home after the end of their services and all of them received their repatriation costs with no cause to alarm. But the dramatic twist on the issue of recall and payment of repatriation costs for diplomats by the new administration is what beats my imagination.
For example, how can 4,600 EUROS cover the cost of airfares and a forty feet container shipment from Europe to Sierra Leone? One may be tempted to even ask whether this is a mere joke or deliberate attempt to further embarrass our nation and its people in the name of a New Direction.
Like stated in some of the concerns raised by other affected colleagues, we have served our country abroad diligently like any other diplomat and therefore, we demand to be treated like equals.
What is also baffling is that no explanation was made as to why government simply ignored the estimates of the repatriation costs sent to them to facilitate the return of diplomats and their families back home. And in the midst of such embarrassment and mimicry, some people are singing songs of praises to the government for a job well done. But I am afraid, those who are jubilating today might as well be victims of the circumstances tomorrow. On that note, we are calling on the government to please address the issue of repatriation costs now in order to prevent further diplomatic gaffes.