August 1, 2019
By Ibrahim Tarawallie
A total of nine hundred (900) Sierra Leoneans will be performing this year’s Hajj in the Holy Land of Mecca, Saudi Arabia as compared to 800 in 2018.
As the fifth pillar of Islam and it is compulsory for every Muslim who has the resources to perform Hajj once in a life time.
Preparations for this year’s Hajj have been very slow as compared to the 2018 process, with little information on what should be done by intending pilgrims to ensure their participation in the public domain.
But Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs, Mohamed Haji-Kella, said the preparation is on course and that they are very much hopeful of a successful Hajj process.
“Again this year we are going to have another successful Hajj. We cannot say at this point whether the experience of the pilgrims will be much better than those last year because it is an individual thing,” he said.
He however, admitted to the lateness in the preparation because of the trend of event, citing the late response from international partners, who usually support the government in the provision of scholarships but assured that everything is practically ready to travel with the would-be pilgrims to Mecca.
“For this year, will be traveling with 900 people to Mecca to perform the Hajj. We did say last year we are going to take 1,500 this year to Mecca but we should be aware that it is our quota,” he stated and pointed out that there are series of determinants in order to meet that number, citing the willingness on the part of people to pay.
He noted that the government has not been fortunate this year to get enough scholarships from partners, as well as people paying on their own to perform the Hajj rites.
Haji-Kella disclosed that from the little support from partners, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Qatar, as well as the Office of the President, a total of 350 scholarships were dished out to needy people across the country, irrespective of their region or political affiliation with 550 paying the required $5,000 fee.
“All the preparations between Mecca and Madina and the three holy places are now set. For the flight, we are going to use Flynas as we did last year to ferry our people to Saudi Arabia. Accommodation and medical are safe,” Haji-Kella noted.
He also disclosed that the issuance of visas by authorities from Saudi Arabia started in Freetown on July 31, 2019 and will be completed tomorrow August 2, 2019.
The Deputy Social Welfare Minister disclosed that after a farewell message from President Julius Maada Bio on Saturday August 3, 2019 at the National Stadium, the first batch of 450 pilgrims will depart the shores of Freetown on Sunday August 4, 2019 for Saudi Arabia with the second batch joining them the following day.
With regards the health status of pilgrims, Haji-Kella said intending pilgrims have completed their medical test and that from the records they have, they are fit to perform the Hajj rites.