The Republic of Sierra Leone State House

  • President Koroma and his Nigerian counterpart, President Buhari

  • President Ernest Bai Koroma with President Xi Jinping of China

  • President Obama hosts President Koroma at the Oval Office

  • U.N. Special Event Luncheon

PRESIDENT KOROMA MEETS AND WELCOMES PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS
dAt State House today, President Ernest Bai Koroma welcomed 39 Americans who are in Sierra Leone as the first batch of Peace Corps volunteers after a break of about 15 years caused by the 11-year civil war. "This is a great moment for us, showing a significant improvement on the ties that have existed between Sierra Leone and America, ties that started before colonialism, before independence, through independence unto the post-independence era only severed by the war," the President said.

The Head of State noted that even before Sierra Leone became a crown colony under the British,

American missionaries were already in the country helping in various sectors, including health and education, " and immediately after independence, America provided us with peace corps; peace corps that went to remote areas and helped our people in education, agriculture and general development."

He recalled that he was one of a good number of people that were fortunate to have gone through the educational system with the help of Peace Corps. "We had peace corps in primary school, and peace corps taught us in secondary school. They inspired us; they inspired a good number of our people," he explained, noting that many Peace Corps even went to the extent of developing personal relationships with the locals, relationships that have lasted through the years. He noted that even at one point a former peace corps volunteer had become US Ambassador to Sierra Leone.

President Koroma lauded the very idea of a peace corps programme, calling it "a great move by one of America's greatest Presidents", in apparent reference to the programme's initiator, President John F. Kennedy. He said as a country, Sierra has had its own share of tough difficulties, particularly going through the war, "but your presence here today shows that we have come a long way in our peace building and economic transformation efforts, and it shows that America is with us in this."

To the volunteers, President Koroma said he believed they have a great history to preserve in following the footsteps of their predecessors in representing America to the ordinary Sierra Leonean. He said they were coming in at a time when his government is in the middle of implementing the 'Agenda for Change' which aims at transforming the country for the better, citing the priorities placed on the improvement of energy supply, agricultural productivity, road infrastructure and social service delivery. He admitted that both the educational and health sectors had been in terrible states that needed remedies, which the government had been tirelessly working to address; and that the coming of the Peace Corps could just add the needed impetus in the collaborative efforts to change the situation.

The President, while noting that the people of Sierra Leone will be happy and are eager to welcome the peace corps, said their volunteering is laudable, "it's a great sacrifice on your part, a great sacrifice to develop humanity and to develop Sierra Leone."

President Koroma thanked the President, Government, and people of America, through the US Embassy's Chargé d'Affaires, Glenn Fedzer, "for associating with our development efforts...". In acknowledging the manner in which the volunteers were all dressed in traditional Sierra Leonean attire, the President said in Krio "una kushe kushe; una kaboh" before concluding with, "let's all continue with the spirit of friendliness and brotherhood."

First to address the volunteers earlier was the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Minkailu Bah, who wished them a "fruitful, productive, and rewarding saty in Sierra Leone."

In his statement, the Deputy Head of Mission and Chargé d'Affaires of the US Embassy in Sierra Leone, Glenn Fedzer, said, usually in diplomatic language officials talk of figures of monies donated "which could only be illusions if offered by foreigners who do not leave the comforts of their countries to be with the people being supported, to share and work with them." He recalled that those volunteers who had worked in Sierra Leone before "have special love for Sierra Leone, and have not forgotten about Sierra Leone," part of which led to efforts to revive the programme "and under the leadership of President Koroma, Sierra Leone is putting its past behind it." He thanked the volunteers for putting aside the comforts of their careers in the US to help the people of Sierra Leone, saying in Krio "Gi dem some weeks, den go talk Krio" as they "work as real friends to build a peaceful, perfect Sierra Leone – we all know it's possible."

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Zainab Bangura, said she believed the peace corps would make a great impact in Sierra Leone in the promotion of "peace, growth and prosperity", while paying tribute to the former American Ambassador to Sierra Leone, June Carter Perry, in seeing the programme through.

In giving the vote of thanks, the Peace Corps volunteers' director expressed his delight at the manner of appreciation demonstrated by different people for the return of the volunteers, and that they were pleased to re-establish the linkage after a lapse of so many years.

"We have come, hoping to make a difference to the students and the communities. We have also come with humility; we have come to teach and also to learn," he maintained, noting that the value that Sierra Leoneans place on the family and their ability to endure adversity are some of the qualities the volunteers would learn and take back to America. "For most Sierra Leoneans, the peace corps volunteer would be the only American they'll ever meet... We hope to show by word and by deed the best that America can offer," he decalred, while stating that at the end of their tenure they would take a piece of Sierra Leone back with them: "Sierra Leone will not only be a small country in West Africa, but will be remembered as a lovely place inhabited by lovely people. They will become Sierra Leone's best ambassadors in America.... We look forward to working together in promoting peace and development."

PRESIDENT KOROMA ACCEPTS BIRIWA COMMISION REPORT

Also today, the report of the Commission of Enquiry, headed by Hon. Justice Abdulai Sheikh Fofana, to look into the conduct of Paramount Chief Alhaji Madeseray Sheriff II of Biriwa Chiefdom, Bombali District, and to determine whether his conduct has been of a kind subversive to the interest of good governance, was presented to President Ernest Bai Koroma at State House.

Presenting the report, in the presence of Vice President Sam Sumana, Justice Fofana said the commission was set up in consonance with the laws of Sierra leone, in tandem with the 1991 Constitution, and that the notice of his appointment as Chairman and Commissioner together with two Assessors was published in the Sierra Leone Gazette. He revealed that 14 witnesses submitted 49 allegations, all of which were carefully looked into and recommendations made. He said the report was divided into three parts: the evidence, the findings and the recommendations, noting that "it will be of value to public servants engaged in chiefdom work and to judicial and law libraries."

He thanked the President for giving him the opportunity to serve his country in this capacity.

Accepting the report, President Koroma thanked Justice Fofanah and team for diligent service to the nation, the government, and the people: "I knew it was a very difficult responsibility; but with people of calibre like you, I knew you would discharge the responsibility with the kind of professionalism and impartiality expected." According to the President, his government would always adhere to the due process of law, a cardinal principle, "and at the end of the day, the truth will always come out."

He said he had accepted the report as presented, government will look into it and subsequently release a white paper to the effect. The President ended by saying, "once again I thank you for the great sacrifice. Please be ready to be called upon for any future service in this country."

The Chairman and his two Assessors, PC Massa Yeli Tham II and PC Alimamy D Y Koroma, were earlier led in audience by the Minister of Internal Affairs and Local Government, Dauda Kamara, who said that the commission was set up following a petition he received from Biriwa limba chiefdom and in consultation with the Ministry of Justice.

THE PRESS SECRETARIAT

STATE HOUSE

07 JUNE 2010

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