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Sia Nyama Koroma and the Task Ahead

May 25, 2015 By Gabriel Benjamin

Sia Nyama Koroma, President, African First Ladies Peace Mission
Sia Nyama Koroma, President, African First Ladies Peace Mission

The African First Ladies Peace Mission (AFLPM), the umbrella body of wives of African Heads of States and governments was formed in 1995 after the United Nations’ Conference on Women in Beijing, China, with a view to building a culture of peace and promoting harmony on the continent. The initiative was taken by the First Ladies of Nigeria, The Gambia, Benin, Uganda, Lesotho and Burundi.

The Peace Mission has championed support and services to victims of conflict, with particular focus on women and children around the continent. The mission also has the mandate to play a supportive role to the African Union (AU), regional organizations such as Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), Southern African Development Community (SADC) and national governments in fostering peace and mitigating conflicts on the continent.

The defeat of Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan in the March 28 presidential election by Maj. Gen. Muhammad Buhari, has altered the leadership of the Peace Mission. The first casualty is the wife of outgoing President Jonathan, Mrs. Patience Faka Jonathan. Mrs. Jonathan was elected President of the Peace Mission at its 7th summit in Abuja in July 2012, and her tenure would have expired in July 2015 when a new president would have been elected.

Since she will cease to be Nigeria’s First Lady on May 29, when her husband will hand over power to President-elect, Gen. Buhari, Mrs. Jonathan has to quit as the Peace Mission President two months before the expiration of her tenure. This has paved way for the emergence of a new president to lead the Mission.

While many believes that the Peace Mission should have naturally instructed Mrs. Jonathan to hand over to Mrs. Aisha Buhari, the wife of the president-elect on May 29, who may later be considered for re-election after the expiration of Mrs. Jonathan’s tenure later in July, it appears this is not going to happen. It should be remembered that in 2010, Mrs. Jonathan took over from Mrs. Turia Yar’Adua, wife of late President Musa Yar’Adua, following the death of her husband.

An emergency summit of the Peace Mission was summoned last week for the purpose of electing a successor. According to Mrs. Jonathan, the move was to avoid any leadership vacuum in the organization as it happened in 2010 when her predecessor left office without handing over, to ensure that the organization maintains its current momentum, and to ensure effective mechanisms are in place to guarantee seamless takeoff for the incoming leadership.

Although Sierra Leone’s First Lady, Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma, could not attend the emergency 8th summit in the Nigeria capital, Abuja (she was represented by Prof. Khadija Hamdi, the First Lady of the Saharawi Democratic Republic), the baton to pilot the affairs of the Peace Mission for the next two years was handed over to her, as she was unanimously elected the new President by the First Ladies in Abuja.

The new AFLPM president has a solid background in the health sector. She is a graduate of Bio-Chemistry, and bagged a post graduate degree in Synthetic Organic Chemistry. A close scrutiny of Mrs. Koroma’s credentials and antecedents indicate she will be as good, if not better, in many respects as her predecessor.

The new AFLPM president, whose country is among those worst hit by Ebola, has been busy with various Ebola sensitization and prevention programmes across the country. She has had several meetings with stakeholders on how to get financial support to defeat Ebola. In a recent meeting, Mrs. Koroma said “the virus has had a very devastating effect in Sierra Leone and the sub-region. We have lost women and children as they have been dying and that has had an adverse effect on the country”. This is a serious concern to her.

As said in her acceptance speech, read by Prof. Hamdi, “In this regards, in the near future, we will call for a meeting of the new executives of this organization and make all necessary efforts to see we continue in the good works as was done by the outgoing leadership. We will materialize all the objectives we have for this organization.” Since Mrs. Jonathan has worked so hard to make sure everything is provided for her successor to work with – a functional secretariat, a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O), separate accounts for dues and donations, Mrs. Koroma must make good use of these legacies and further consolidate on them.

Despite the huge responsibility of repositioning and taking the Peace Mission to enviable heights, Mrs. Koroma is not new to the challenges facing African women and children. During the 7th summit of AFLPM held in July 2012, titled, “The African Woman: A Voice for Peace”, Mrs. Koroma raised concerns about the current status of women in Africa, and their contribution to peace, security and development on the continent. “I hope to create a platform for African women to perform an integral role both in the prevention, resolution of conflicts and the sustainability of development and prosperity,” said Mrs. Koroma. The opportunity to make her dreams of creating a peaceful Africa has presented itself.

With her vast knowledge on issues pertaining to the welfare of women and children, including sexual and reproductive health of women, gender empowerment and promotion of girl child education in line with the UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008), and practical steps, she’s expected to do well.

In the past, she had demonstrated she can make things happen. If you consider her various women’s empowerment projects, such as refurbishing a dilapidated Hospital in Mattru Jong, Bonthe, establishing educational project called First Lady’s Attitudinal Change in Schools, and awarding scholarships to deserving girls in primary, secondary and tertiary Institutions, with specific attention to marginalized and disadvantaged children, then there is no doubt she would use her new position to further the interest of women and girls.

As president of AFLPM, Mrs. Koroma can for example push for the establishment of women’s university to help train the girl child in health sciences, engineering, business and entrepreneurial skills.

Also, having participated in the formation of various peace groups and conferences – the Bintumani 1 and 2 Conferences during Sierra Leone’S 11 years civil war and the signing of the Lome Peace Accord, Mrs. Koroma’s experience will be further needed to restore lasting peace and political stability in Africa’s troubled countries.

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