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CHINA IS NOT A FOE, BUT A TRUE FRIEND TO SIERRA LEONE

March 2, 2021

By Soko Kai-Samba, National Secretary General, Sierra Leone China Friendship Society-chinahousesl@gmail.com

L-R: President Xi Jinping of China and President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone.

On Thursday, February 26, 2021 Sierra Leone received a consignment of 200,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine donated by the Government of the People’s Republic of China to support the Sierra Leone’s vaccination campaign. The vaccine comes at a time when the Government is contemplating on the need to vaccinate about 1.6 million of her vulnerable citizens. In fact, Health authorities in Freetown have said the vaccine will “play an important role in preventing and containing the COVID-19 in the country.” Unfortunately, the moment the news of the said consignment was aired by the AYV Television in Freetown, some social media critics and other armchair patriots opened a bazaar to peddle their myopic thinking about the COVID-19 vaccines. Irrespective of the sincerity of the Chinese Government to give a helping hand to the people and Government of Sierra Leone, these critics went out of their way to insinuate that the Chinese government is trying to spread the corona virus through the said vaccination programme. I am aware of some conspiracy theories about the pandemic and the use of the vaccine such as those from Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of the Christ Embassy IN Nigeria, President John Magufuli of Tanzania, Minister Louis Farrakhan of the USA, President John Mahama of Ghana, Former Vice President Dr. Nevers Mumba of Zambia and other eminent opinion leaders across the globe. And I think these critics are inciting other people based on these conspiracy theories. But their argument begs the questions, what evidence do they have for such presumptions? What bad things have happened to other people who have used the vaccine elsewhere? Why are other African countries clamoring for the vaccine? These criticisms are very much unfair, not only to the Chinese government who have used their country’s taxpayers’ monies to support a needy country but to the majority of Sierra Leoneans who are interested and willing to be vaccinated against the dreadful pandemic. Come to think of it, nobody has said the vaccine is compulsory; that they will be enforcing it against the will of the people. In fact, this first consignment is primarily for Healthcare practitioners and the aged. I’m pretty sure our Health Authorities have done due diligence on the potency of the vaccine before sanctioning its importation into the country, so the fuss around the use of the vaccine is as unnecessary as it is as mischievous. Mark you these vaccines are currently being distributed in many other African countries including South Africa, Ghana and other our closest neighbour, the Republic of Liberia. Have we forgotten so soon that China was the first superpower country that came to the aid of this country during the Ebola epidemic? Has anybody ever complained about the drugs and equipment that were donated by the Chinese government during that Ebola scourge? Why do we want to castigate our most revered and sincere friends on the assumption of their detractors? Why not make reference to the 50 years of unbroken friendship between Sierra Leone and China rather than to the prejudices of other people against the Chinese people. Mark you “a reputation of a thousand years depends on the conduct of a single moment” (Seneca). China’s reputation in Sierra Leone has from the unset been always beyond expectation. China is a friend indeed…

To minimize such unwarranted comments therefore, the Author would encourage the Ministry of Health and Sanitation itself to take the leading role in popularizing the use of the said vaccine rather than leaving it entirely in the hands of the Ministry of Information and Communications.

Since the start of the marriage between the China and Sierra Leone, China has offered Sierra Leone so much in-kind and in-cash, including but not limited to Debt relief, Technical Assistance (training doctors and farmers, and educating Sierra Leonean students in China), Development assistance amounting to millions of dollars annually, War (providing military training, Patrol boats, Communications equipment, residential apartments for the Naval wing, military hardware etc.), and assistance to contain and end the Ebola scourge which included personal protective equipment, medical personnel, mobile laboratory and even money in cash. Bilateral cooperation in economy, trade, fishery, health and military has also been of reciprocal benefits to both countries. Why would a friend with such an impressive reputation with readily available tendencies to always give a helping hand wants to destroy a PEOPLE they have always supported? Thankfully, those unsubstantiated comments are coming from a few ignorant social media critics who do not understand what China has been and is still doing for the people of Sierra Leone. I only hope that those unfounded comments are not being machinated by those who see China as a threat at the global stage, otherwise why would a Sierra Leonean even imagine that China is a foe? The truth is, China is a friend indeed…

At a ceremony to open the Chinese-built Kambia bridge in 1978, Late President Siaka Stevens exclaimed “China is indeed our best friend”. At a reception organised in honour of the Minister of Forestry Yang Zhong in January 1986, Late President Joseph Momoh praised the Chinese government and thanked them for maintaining a win-win friendship with Sierra Leone. In 2004, Late President Ahmed Tejan Kabba at the State opening of Parliament appreciated the bilateral relation between Sierra Leone and China, and thanked the Chinese people for extending their hand of friendship to Sierra Leoneans. During his visit to China in 2017, former President Ernest Koroma said “China is a dependable friend to Sierra Leone”. In August 2018, thanking President Xi Jinping in Beijing for inviting him to China and the warm hospitality accorded him and his entire delegation, President Julius Maada Bio expressed gratitude to the Government and People of China for the numerous supports China has given Sierra Leone, especially in difficult times, and said China is a true friend with a difference. Clearly, one would see that since 1971 when Sierra Leone and China established bilateral relation, all the Presidents of the country have corroborated the fact that CHINA IS NOT A FOE, BUT A TRUE FRIEND TO SIERRA LEONE.

To this end I say to Sierra Leone ‘Jai Yo!’ 加油

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