SEPTEMBER 1, 2014
Former Inspector General of Police Brima Acha Kamara recently assumed duty as Sierra Leone’s Ambassador for Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire. Sulaiman Momodu met him at the Sierra Leone Embassy at Congo Town in Monrovia and asked him about his new role, the Ebola outbreak, and his future plans in this exclusive interview.
Q: Sir, let us start with your new assignment. When did you take up assignment in Liberia?
A: Well, I presented my credentials to Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on 1 July 2014.
Q: You were the Inspector General of Police in Sierra Leone up to 2010. What were you doing after you left that office up to your appointment as Ambassador?
A: I was a private citizen. For 30 years I was in the police force. After 30 rough years I was sent on Leave in 2010 and was engaged in personal activities until my reappointment as Ambassador.
Q: You have been in office as Ambassador for about two months now. What are your impressions about Liberia?
A: It is too early to give any impressions but Liberia is a sister country; whatever happens to us will have an effect on Liberia. From statements with high ranking officials they view our relationship as a very special one. But for the border, Sierra Leoneans and Liberians are one people and there has been cooperation at the local and international levels. The current leadership continues to cement that relationship.
Q: How do you see your transition from the police force backdrop where orders are given and one has to obey, and that of being a diplomat, a role that requires you to be very careful about you say and do?
A: You have the same clients – the people of Sierra Leone and the people of Liberia. I used to have as clients the Government, the press etc. Similarly when you are here you have similar clients except for a very differences, it is almost similar.
Q: In the police force you take instructions. A commander once told me in an interview that there is no democracy in the force. You don’t ask questions like: “Who wants to go to the war front?” You take orders. How different is your role from giving orders to being very mindful about what you say and do as a diplomat?
A: The force I led was different. It was not that traditional force. I opened up the force and made sure communication flows from bottom to top, top to down and across, so there were a lot of changes that we instituted, breaking down a lot of barriers so it is not a question that you just take instructions and you don’t ask. That was not the police force that I led.
Q: What experience as former Inspector General do you bring to your new assignment?
A: Well, I have been involved in security. We put in place the Mano River security structures, so I have been working across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea even with the confidence building security sector where security officers discuss border security. And even when I was in the Criminal Investigation Department when we were investigating matters we used to use Interpol so there has been a lot of liaison between the security sector of Sierra Leone and Liberia and of course I have worked with some Liberia Inspector Generals.
Q: Do the police officers you have been working with in Liberia still recognize you?
A: Some of them have moved on, but as I continue to be here I will ensure that I have interaction with my colleagues because once a police officer always a police officer, and besides security issues are very important so we have to work collaboratively.
Q: What is your focus or priority as Ambassador? What would you like to see done?
A: My focus here – a diplomat – is to continue to develop the relationship between Liberia and Sierra Leone so that nobody has any hidden agenda or confusion, because where there is no communication there tend to be confusion. In the fight against Ebola for instance we share experiences. We also make sure that we share knowledge and to make sure the borders are safe and quiet.
Q: Ambassador, you assumed duty during the present Ebola outbreak. Do you now think that you took up duty at the wrong time?
A: No. Not at all. I came at the right time.
A: Because when there are problems that is where we come in to at least work together and we have been working together, mind you there are hundreds of Sierra Leoneans living in Liberia. We have been holding a series of sensitization meetings with our compatriots on Ebola and to know from them how Ebola has affected Sierra Leoneans living in Liberia. They have not been adversely affected.
Q: Are there reported deaths of Sierra Leoneans living in Liberia from Ebola?
A: There are very few. From the latest Ebola update, there are 13 Sierra Leoneans reportedly suspected of Ebola. I don’t have a tangible number of deaths but if there are, they are very few.
Q: Sir, I keep on receiving calls from Sierra Leoneans who want to go back home but the border at Bo Waterside is closed. Have you heard about these stranded Sierra Leoneans?
A: No. I have not heard.
Q: Are you saying the border is not closed?
A: We are told that the border is not closed. But Liberia has quarantined certain counties. From Monrovia to the border about two counties are quarantined, so definitely it will affect the movement of people.
Q: But is the Sierra Leone border open?
A: Yes, officially.
Q: Reports I am getting is that people are not allowed to cross the border.
A: We must experience these inconveniences. People should not expect that in this time of emergency they will have their freedom like before, even in Sierra Leone there is no free movement. Kenema and Kailahun have been quarantined. This is just an interim measure; we went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and they categorically told us the Bo Waterside border is not closed.
Q: I have spoken with a number of Liberian Bureau of Immigration officials and they say the border is closed.
A: Yes, but that is a temporary measure if you want to control the spread of Ebola that is why I said the border is not officially closed, but because of the containment measure we have to face certain inconveniences.
Q: You are not a health expert, but in your view we already have an Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. I was in Sierra Leone recently during a tour of Mano River Union countries. Do you think closing porous borders will help to contain the Ebola virus?
A: Well, I won’t say you have to close your borders because there must be some movement of people.
Q: If you yourself want to travel and they stopped you, what would you do?
A: If I want to travel I will travel.
A: Mind you I am a diplomat (LAUGHS). I have diplomatic immunities.
Q: As we wrap up this interview, what are some of the common issues you address here at the Embassy?
A: My predecessor did a very good job and Sierra Leoneans and Liberians are one people; there are intermarriages etc so we do not have a lot of issues except for some compatriots who come to us and say they are stranded.
Q: Sir, if people are stranded that is a serious issue.
A: No. Some of our compatriots leave Sierra Leone and come to Liberia and then come to us and ask for assistance to go to Ghana for instance.
Q: You mean they want air ticket?
A: Yes, they want us to pay for them. Is that not deliberate? Is that not begging? If you have no money, just go back home.
Q: I understand you also cover Cote d’ Ivoire. I always go to Abidjan. I was there in July this year and met the president of the Sierra Leonean community there one Daniel Musa. I understand a consul has been appointed. Have you visited Cote d’Ivoire in your new role?
A: I took up my new role and presented my Letters of Credence about two months ago. This is the parent station so I have not been there yet. The consul will be there and I remain here.
Q: But do you want to go to Cote d’Ivoire?
A: Not really. Now everybody is focused on Ebola.
Q: Did you ever anticipate your appointment as Ambassador ?
A: No. I gave a lot to my country and retired when I am not too old, so I still have a lot to contribute and the president gave me this role. I see it as a result of my stewardship as the Inspector General of police who contributed to the peace in the country.
Q: Any public message to President Koroma?
A: I admire him because of his courage, his leadership and he wants to bring all Sierra Leoneans together.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: I leave it to God.
Q: Any plans to aspire for any political office?
A: No, no, no.
Q: Any political ambition?
A: No. I am content with what I have. What happens later I leave it to God. I am very content with where I am today.
Concord Times: Ambassador, thank you very much for your time.