April 8, 2016 By Mohamed Massaquoi
China is growing rapidly as a leading world power. The Asian giant has created an indelible mark in the history of Africa and Sierra Leone in particular. Most developed countries consider China, the second biggest economy in the world, as a great partner, not least in times of challenges. With its booming population and advancement in technology, many Africa countries have aligned China for strong diplomatic ties in exchange for mutual benefits.
In light of the above, it was very strategic move by President Ernest Bai Koroma to have appointed a humble and friendly politician to represent Sierra Leone in China, not least because Sierra Leone is in the recovery process after the deadly Ebola outbreak.
China has always lent a supportive hand to Sierra Leone; they were here with qualified medical practitioners and equipment to fight alongside the government in tackling the deadly Ebola.
Therefore, the appointment of Hon. Alimamy Petito Koroma by the president is a clear manifestation that the government of Sierra Leone attaches great importance to its relationship with the Peoples Republic of China.
This decision has been widely welcomed by Sierra Leoneans from all walks of life, who believe in the new ambassador.
Hundreds of Sierra Leoneans were in Parliament on Tuesday, 5April, 2016 to witness the approval of the indefatigable personality as the new ambassador to China.
Both sides in the House commended Petito for his good work while serving as Minister of Trade and Industry and later Works, Housing and Infrastructure.
For more than 20 years, Hon. Alimamy Koroma worked for peace in Sierra Leone even during the gruesome civil war, while serving as secretary-general of the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone.
Despite risk to his personal safety, Koroma served as a bridge between the government and insurgents, urging the warring parties to seek reconciliation.
His non-violent approach draws on the country’s inherent values of religious tolerance to recognise common humanity and seek lasting peace.
Born into a Muslim family before later converting to Christianity, Ambassador Koroma was uniquely positioned to tap into the good relations that have existed between religious groups for decades. He launched the Inter-Religious Council in 1997, positioning the organisation as a mediator between the two sides. But the Inter-Religious Council’s high visibility came with a cost. Some Sierra Leoneans were enraged by the Inter-Religious Council’s policies of nonviolence and reconciliation, and, in January 1999, several members were attacked. Although they subsequently recovered, this incident reminded Koroma and other member of the Council that when they spoke for peace, they risked their lives.
The Inter-Religious Council’s hard work finally paid off in 1999, when its tireless mediating helped to broker the Lomé Peace Accords. In Koroma’s view, however, the work was just the beginning of moving the country forward.
Koroma and the Inter-Religious Council focused their efforts to sustain a lasting peace through a series of programmes addressing child warfare, sexual abuse and AIDS.
Koroma became part of the government and turned his energy to working with the Sierra Leonean president to redress structural causes of the civil war. In October 2007, Koroma was appointed to serve as Minister of Trade and Industry by President Ernest Bai Koroma. Since Koroma had played a key role as former general-secretary of the Christian Council of Sierra Leone, he shifted his focus to begin working from the perspective of the government to establish a sustainable peace. The global food crisis in 2007-2008 warranted creativity and Koroma delivered, securing rice from India, allowing the next harvest season to continue without widespread hunger. From 2010-2013, Koroma served as the Minister of Works, Housing, and Infrastructure.
At the height of improving infrastructure in the country, everybody was taken by surprise when President Koroma, who trusted him so much under his Agenda for Change programme, sacked the resilient son of Mambolo in the Kambia district.
There were report that the affable politician was sacked because he openly pronounced his intension of vying for the position of flag -bearer in the forthcoming delegates conference for the ruling party. But despite his sacking, he remained a faithful member of the ruling party or fiercely loyal to the president.
A political commentator in the country referred to Petito as a political genius, smart, docile but astutely focused.
President Koroma on 13 March, 2016 again appointed him as Ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China.
Hon. Alimamy P. Koroma comes in with a wealth of administrative and political experience, having served in two key ministries. He is currently the APC Chairman in Kambia District, and chairman of the committee appointed to spearhead the ultra modern party office in Makeni.
The position of Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to China was last held by Ambassador Victor Foh, who was later appointed Vice President.
As China is a strategic partner to Sierra Leone, my take is that the appointment of Hon. Koroma is timely and significant to the development of Sierra Leone.