July 9, 2015 By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)
If Station Manager of Radio Democracy 98.1, Mrs. Asmaa Kamara James, has any ambition to become the first female President of Sierra Leone one day, she does not need to hire a Chief Campaigner because she’s already got an influential volunteer.
The Chief of New England Ville community, Chief Mammy Kamara, moved the audience to loud applause at the formal opening ceremony of Radio Democracy new studio building at New England Ville on Tuesday 7th July 2015, when she called on the Government and people of Sierra Leone to entrust Asmaa with any position of trust because ‘she deserves it’. And that’s just not an ordinary audience.
“When I first met her I said to myself: ‘is this the Asmaa?’. She’s a young but wonderful woman. Asmaa is a true democrat and she’s honest. With the construction of this new studio building she has proven that she can accomplish great things. So give Asmaa any position she wants, even if it’s the Presidency,” said Chief Mammy with amazing conviction.
Chief Mammy said because of her belief in Asmaa and the work she was doing she went all out to help her secure the piece of land in New England Ville community which now houses the new studio building.
Setting the stage for what turned out to be a tribute session rather than a launching ceremony and birthday celebration, speaker after speaker heaped praises on Asmaa and her team for the ‘wonderful work’ they have done.
The Chairperson of the occasion, Mamadi Gobeh Kamara- who has been a source of inspiration to Asmaa- aimed to impress rather than scare the men when she declared:
“Let me quickly warn the men present here to keep their jealous pride locked up in their pockets because today we are here to acknowledge that when the opportunity is presented to women- we deliver.”
She recalled that Radio Democracy was nurtured and breast fed by a remarkable female Sierra Leonean broadcaster, Miss Hannah Foullah, “but 18 years later today we are here to equally acknowledge the achievement of another remarkable young lady- Mrs. Asmaa Kamara James”.
Equally, the President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Kelvin Lewis, said obviously the mantle of leadership of running the radio station has passed on from a phenomenal woman, Miss Hannah Foullah, to Asmaa.
“But, on behalf of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, let me register our pride in having Asmaa as a member, and congratulate you for this remarkable achievement. Today you have written your name in the annals of 98.1. The history of Radio Democracy will never be complete without a mention of your name,” Lewis said proudly.
The SLAJ President described the opening of the new studio building as a very important event for broadcasting in Sierra Leone.
“This is because the erection of a building sends a few messages. It sends the message of permanence, which sends a message of security which gives the feeling of stability and makes the statement that 98.1 is here to stay forever by the Grace of God,” Lewis said.
Similarly, Chairman for the Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG), Ransford C. Wright, making reference to a quote by T.E. Lawrence which says: “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible,” described Asmaa as a go-getter and a dangerous woman because she dreams with her eyes wide open!
Furthermore, Wright referred to the achievement of Asmaa and her Radio Democracy team as a celebration of women’s achievement, youth empowerment, team work and self-confidence.
For the CEO of NERC, Rtd. Maj. Alfred Palo Conteh, Asmaa is a young but strong and determined woman with a great team behind her.
“Today is a remarkable day in our young democracy. At 18 years of age, Radio Democracy’s contribution to peace and democracy in Sierra Leone cannot be overemphasised.
“For us politicians you give us the platform to respond and give our own side of the story, especially when we are wrongly accused, while other radio stations lock themselves up after castigating us and we are not there to defend ourselves. We may be politicians, but we also have rights and families too,” Palo said.
The World Bank Sierra Leone Country Manager, Francis Ato-Brown- who fell in love with Radio Democracy since he was posted to the country almost three years ago- said no subject is big or small for the station as everything matters to them. He said Radio Democracy also gives the public the opportunity to know the movers and shakers in the country as they are held accountable on a daily basis.
Equally the Board of Directors of Radio Democracy commended Asmaa and her team for upholding the standards and vision of the station.
“The success of Radio Democracy is a lesson Sierra Leoneans can learn from- that we can all rally around the development of our nation irrespective of our differences. Many people have come and gone but the vision of the station to uphold democracy, the rule of law and good governance remains,” said the Board Chairman, Mohamed Sillah.
He continued: “But we have not been carried away by our successes. We aware that we should continue to maintain high standards and provide the space to hold government, powerful persons and big businesses accountable to the public.”
Joe Hindovei Pemagbi, Country Officer for Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), whose organization has provided crucial support to Radio Democracy in the last three years, recalled that 18 years ago the station represented ‘the only ray of hope and the most potent evidence that Sierra Leone’s trajectory to sustainable peace and development was unstoppable’.
“Today, the station provides an alternative voice for the voiceless devoid of political, religious and ethnic affiliation. That’s what participatory democracy is all about. So it is my pleasure and honour to congratulate Radio Democracy for this milestone in OUR lives. I say OUR lives because we at OSIWA consider ourselves as part of this station as they strive to promote open society values which we at OSIWA stand for. These values include freedom of information, access to information, accountable governance across the board – government, citizens and even NGOs,” Pemagbi said.
Meanwhile, Asmaa humbly thanked God ‘for the strength, courage and guidance throughout my leadership thus far, as it has not been an easy one’. She also thanked her husband whom she described as the unsung hero behind her achievements. She paid special tribute to her team of dedicated and promising young journalists, to fallen colleagues and to those who have moved on to other institutions.
Finally, she specially recognized with plaques the three pioneers of Radio Democracy: Dr. Julius Spencer, Ambassador Allie Bangura and Hannah Foullah.