“Minister Plenipotentiary, What is that ? ” : A Rejoinder

Written by Jacob Conteh : Editor-In-Chief  of Cocorioko : 

I am at a loss to  understand why a journalist would have problems with the meaning of the title , “Minister Plenipotentiary” .  A  diligent research  would have saved  the time of whoever wrote that article in one of our online newspapers , titled : “Minister Plenipotentiary : What is that ? ”

The first point that should be established is that diplomatic ministers are different from cabinet ministers. A cabinet minister serves his government at home while a Minister Plenipotentiary serves his government abroad. A Minister Plenipotentiary can be either a civil servant or a political appointee.

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, fully explains the genesis and status of this diplomatic title .



According to Wikipedia, “The word plenipotentiary (from the Latin, plenus + potens, full + power) has two meanings. As a noun, it refers to a person who has “full powers.” In particular, the term commonly refers to a diplomat fully authorized to represent his or her government as a prerogative (e.g., ambassador). As an adjective, plenipotentiary refers to that which confers “full powers. Before the era of rapid international transport or instantaneous communication (such as radio or telephone), diplomatic mission chiefs were granted full (plenipotentiary) powers to represent their government in negotiations with their host nation. Conventionally, any representations made or agreements reached with a plenipotentiary would be recognized and complied with by their government.”Historically, the common generic term for high diplomats of the crown or state was minister. It therefore became customary to style the chiefs of full ranking missions as Minister Plenipotentiary. This position was roughly equivalent to the modern Ambassador, a term that historically was reserved mainly for missions between the great powers and also relating to the dogal (city) state of Venice.”

Secondly, other countries have  Ministers Plenipotentiary.  The United Nations Blue Book lists all the diplomats assigned to the UN. If the writer  had taken his time to consult this valuable resource, he would have learnt  that other countries also have  Ministers Plenipotentiary  in their Missions . In some Missions, the Minister Plenipotentiary also performs the duties of Deputy Permanent Representative. I refer the writer to the UN Bluebook.

From my discourse with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Freetown , I learnt that only heads of missions ( called ambassadors ) went through Parliament. Neither the Deputy Permanent Representatives ( also called ambassadors ) in our UN Mission , nor the Deputy ambassadors in the various embassies went through Parliament. This explains why a Minister Plenipotentiary cannot go through Parliament.

In the case of Sierra Leone, I learnt that  the Rev. Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary  because he is Coordinator of   the  UN Committee of 10 , also known as  C-10, which was set up by the AU  to advocate and propagate the African Common Position in the UN Security Council Reform negotiations.  President Ernest Koroma is the Chair of this C-10. I was told that Kabs  needed to have a rank that would enable him to interface  with ambassadors at the UN , as required  by  diplomatic protocol .  According to UN diplomatic protocol,  Kabs would not have been allowed to function as Coordinator of C-10 if he had been given a lesser rank than Minister Plenipotentiary. The writer would have been privy to this information if he had inquired from  legitimate authorities in the Foreign Ministry and State House .

According to an official of the Sierra Leone Mission in New York, Rev.Kabs-Kanu also represents Sierra Leone in the African Union Group of UN Permanent Representatives  and being  that he is an accomplished   journalist with a well-established publication  that promotes the work of the Sierra Leone Government ,  it could be understood why Rev. Kabs Kanu is also serving the Permanent Mission in the realm of Information, which makes sense to me, given  our country’s limitations with financial resources to have a bloated staff.

The Rev. Kabs- Kanu has used his multi-talented gift of an educator and journalist to help put Sierra Leone on the international map.

In the 2012 General Elections in Sierra Leone, the media played a vital role in decimating information.  The opposition SLPP saturated the media in Sierra Leone with tons of misinformation to veer public opinion to their side.  However, there was one man who stood up to the SLPP and made a dent on their deception machinery.  In my opinion, for the re-election of President Koroma and the APC, no person played a more vital role promoting the course of the party and the government in the media  abroad than Rev. Wilfred Kabs-Kanu , Minister Plenipotentiary and publisher of Cocorioko Newspaper.  His laser-focus approach to promoting the cause of  President Koroma, the party and his unflinching support of the government’s policies and programs  pushed him to sacrifice his health and family over the years to write and publish articles that enlightened the public a and the international world about the achievement of the Koroma administration in Sierra Leone.  Unlike other journalists who have veered off the course over the years, Kabs (as he is fondly called) has stayed on course and that has made him the target of innuendoes and hate mail which has not stopped him from his mission. In 1996 when the APC was reduced to a byline in Sierra Leone politics and many had written its epitaph, Kabs was one of a very few journalists who stood by the party and promoted its cause.

In a country full  of jellyfish politicians and journalists who sell their principles and beliefs for political appointments, Kabs is one of those rare Sierra Leoneans who stand for principle.  He started his advocacy for President Koroma  two or more years before the 2007 elections  when many did not want to be associated with the name APC. Although he battles health issues and has a full plate in the Mission , he spends hours every week in his New Jersey home to promote Sierra Leone.  Unlike others in the Diaspora who have a negative outlook on Sierra Leone, Kabs firmly believes that Sierra Leone is moving on the right direction, and that is why he constantly writes and publishes articles that promote the country.  When he found out that the newspaper is not enough to reach the thousands of Sierra Leoneans scattered around the globe, he launched a Facebook account where he allows discussions on Sierra Leone issues.


Although the elections in Sierra Leone are over, the media war is not over.  Some SLPP supporters are still hiding behind computer screens and keyboards to spew venom of hatred about the country and its prospect.  However, with Kabs at the helm of his game, these errant Sierra Leoneans who will rather see Sierra Leone disintegrate into chaos will not succeed in tarnishing the image of our country.  He will continue to publish articles to promote the course of Sierra Leone and hold on to his unflinching support for President Koroma and his Agenda for Prosperity.  My prayer is that the good Lord will continue to shower his blessings and healing power on my friend, my publisher, and the man I admire for his courage, Rev. Wilfred Kabs-Kanu.

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