SIERRA LEONE, A RISING VOICE
By Cyril Juxon-Smith
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. SamuraKamara, gave one of the most comprehensive briefings on the state’s international relations and the status of her foreign missions quite recently, to the group in Parliament most closely connected to those things – the Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. A striking outcome of this briefing, given to a Committee which serves as sentinel of sorts to Sierra Leone’s foreign affairs, is the fact that this once war-torn nation characterized by the notion of “blood diamonds,” is rising from the ashes, poised for ascendancy.
That UNIPSIL and the Peace Building Commission have been drawing down their operations is a good indicator of stability. No wonder Dr. Kamara told the august gathering, witnessed by the executive cadre at the Foreign Ministry, that Sierra Leone is no longer an object to the Security Council, but in fact a role model to the entire UN system. Thus, instead of being an object for peacekeeping, this nation was now offering peacekeeping troops in support of peace efforts elsewhere in Africa and the world. What a swing!
Committee Chair Augustine Torto, MP, and colleagues listened with rapt attention as the man at the helm of foreign affairs smoothly unfolded the story of a transformative Foreign Ministry strategy, apparently not unconnected to the question of Sierra Leone’s rising voice at the international level. Notably, this nation’s accession to membership of the Human Rights Commission has significant implications for democratic gains at home in Sierra Leone. Additionally, the introduction of a new diplomatic and consular forum can only enhance the attainment of foreign policy objectives at a time we seek to formulate a professional diplomatic service focused on efficiency and economic opportunities; changes championed by a former Finance Minister who says his Ministry is poised to project itself as revenue generating one.
When Hon. Meama Sorba-Stevens thanked the Minister for “a well-articulated review of our evolving international relations” she probably echoed the views of many of the members on that conference table, but also had in mind the Ministry’s strategic plans to achieve the best results for Sierra Leone.
But, there are concerns. For a Foreign Ministry strategy to be effective, it needs to be freely financed, not to talk of important protocol engagements abroad requiring travel financing and high level representation. And speaking of Sierra Leonean candidacies for international positions – something the parliamentary Committee impressed upon the Minister and team, there must be some willingness to invest before we can reap the results. The current President of the Pan-African Parliament, Hon. Bethel Amadi is a beneficiary of such diplomatic outreach. He never walked alone, but had a full team of diplomats, legislators, senior functionaries and the press taking him on a diplomatic campaign tour which targeted several countries, including the Speaker and the President of Sierra Leone. It’s high time we began to think in this light, if this West African nation is to raise its head higher on the world stage.