MRU To Host Extraordinary Summit To End Ebola

Sierra Leone’s President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma and his Guinean counterpart Professor Alpha Conde Tuesday 10 February expressed the urgent need for an Extraordinary Summit of the Heads of State of the Mano River Union in Conakry, Republic of Guinea to intensify the fight against Ebola and also assess the challenges facing the national and sub-regional dimensions of post-Ebola recovery programmes.

The two leaders took this position following the signing of a joint communique climaxing the one-day working and friendly visit of President Conde to Sierra Leone and Liberia. The Guinean leader is also the current Chair of the Mano River Union (MRU).

The purpose of the visit was essentially for the two leaders to engage in an exchange of ideas on the progress made and remaining challenges with respect to the unprecedented outbreak of Ebola in the MRU basin.

President Alpha Conde and his host also noted the need to continue their social mobilization campaigns against cultural and traditional practices that have significantly undermined painstaking efforts by both governments and their development partners in breaking the chain of transmission of Ebola.

Furthermore, the two Heads of State described the continued stigmatisation of their nationals and consequently, the imposition of travel restrictions and suspension of flight services to the affected countries as a distraction to collective efforts in fighting the epidemic. Both presidents agreed that travel and other restrictions imposed on the three worst-hit countries should be reviewed without further delay.

In all of this one sees a clear path and determination to fend off and finally eradicate this dreadful disease. It also shows that African leaders are also anxious to tackle their problems head-on, especially following the signing of three separate joint communiques between Mauritania/African Union and GOSL; Togo/ECOWAS and GOSL and between GOSL and Guinea/MRU. All of these communiques tend toward one direction; to defeat Ebola and address post-Ebola socio-economic recovery. It shows the determination to utilize the double-edged nature of the Ebola outbreak.

Of course, there is no gainsaying about the fact that Ebola is a double-edged sword considering its ugly and positive side effects. Negative, because of its toll on not just the lives of our people but, also its devastating impact on our socio-economic, cultural and traditional practices. It has essentially robbed us of our humanity, an old man with great insight told me in Makeni.

But then the outbreak will end up helping to strengthen our health care delivery systems, it will engender massive awareness in personal hygiene and sanitation and also help to revamp the educational system as clearly mentioned in the presidential broadcast to the nation quite recently.

As he aptly observed during the ensuing press conference at the Presidential Lounge at the Lungi International Airport, President Koroma said that “Until Ebola is defeated in the three worst-hit countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, any national success will be less meaningful and less sustainable,”

This is why I also fervently and unflinchingly welcome the need to convene an Extraordinary Summit of MRU member states to consolidate efforts in the fight against Ebola and also drum up support for swift post-Ebola socio-economic recovery.

Jaramenajara©2015

CHINA-SIERRA LEONE DEEPEN BILATERAL RELATIONS

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Sierra Leone in 1971, bilateral political relations have been increasingly deepened on the basis of respecting and taking care of each other’s core interests and major concerns.

Today, Saturday August 8, 2015, the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China Wang Yi paid a courtesy call on His Excellency, President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma at State House in Freetown. The visit is part of a tri-nation tour of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to assess the Ebola situation in the three worst-hit countries and hold discussions on ensuring a total eradication of the disease and what role China could play in the post-Ebola recovery of the affected countries.

President Koroma and the Foreign Minister exchanged views on post Ebola recovery as well as Africa’s common position on the reform of the UN Security Council, the Boko Haram menace in Nigeria and the Malian conflict, which are posing serious challenges to peace, security and development in West Africa.

The Foreign Minister expressed China’s continued support to Sierra Leone and commended President Koroma for his effective leadership of the national response against Ebola.

He said the visit is to discuss with the government of Sierra Leone on the specific needs of the country in terms of development and also the need to create the necessary independent development to move the country forward.

Mr. Yi’s visit seeks to focus on five main areas – to strengthen Sierra Leone’s medical and public health infrastructure, establish a West African Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which will be based in Sierra Leone, and send more medical personnel; mining and industrial cooperation to focus on processing of mineral products for value addition; Fishing and agriculture to encourage Chinese fishing companies to invest in Sierra Leone; continue to do more in infrastructural development, for instance, the Mamamah Airport; and promote human resource development by speedily kickstarting the construction of the Youth Village.

China has provided substantial support and assistance to Sierra Leone in the form of tangible infrastructural development, including bridges, government buildings, stadiums and roads.

Currently, China-aided infrastructure projects such as Charlotte, Bankasoka and Makali hydropower stations are legion, and the completed state of the art Regent to Kossoh road project, the Bo stadium and even the Siaka Steven stadium are all examples of over 40 years of fruitful and bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

The Youth Village and proposed new airport are landmark projects the Chinese government is helping Sierra Leone to pull off within the shortest possible time.

LET’S ALL BE MONITORS OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE POST EBOLA RECOVERY PLAN

President Ernest Bai Koroma has called on the people of Tonkolili, Kambia and Port Loko districts to be monitors of the implementation of post Ebola recovery programmes launched by government with support from development partners to drive social and economic recovery over the next 6 – 9 months, putting Sierra Leone back on the Agenda for Prosperity pathway and move the country towards a resilient zero.

The president made this call over the weekend during his working visits to those districts to reiterate the message of vigilance to attain and maintain a resilient zero for 42 days after the last Ebola patient would have been discharged from treatment center. During the trip, the president also officially released the largest quarantined of homes, including a whole village – Massesebe in Tonkolili district.

According to President Koroma, government’s post Ebola recovery plan will target four major priority areas – health; education; social protection; and revamping the economy and livelihoods by facilitating private sector recovery and growth.

He informed the people that it was imperative that everyone monitors the implementation of post Ebola recovery programmes to ensure mutual accountability and transparency. This, he said, will help ensure service delivery is effective and maximizes the chances of beneficiaries receiving government’s support to restore livelihoods and enhance private sector recovery.

This latest call by the Head of State reechoes his keynote address during the formal launch of the Post Ebola Recovery “Battle” Plan at Miatta Conference Center, Brookfields on 24th July, 2015. He warned that “seeds must get to farmers; medicines to the sick, educational materials to the pupils.” He went on to note that the post Ebola recovery plan is to ensure that frontlines of the battle get far more of the resources than the backlines. “That must be the guiding principle, for that is what will get this country resilient and our people well-served,” he pointed out.

In view of this, the president disclosed that his next working visits will focus on conducted tours of services and support transferred to targeted beneficiaries to ensure efficiency and real time accountability in the implementation of the recovery plan.

“I call on everyone to get involved to help monitor the implementation of the recovery programme,” President Koroma who has been dubbed the chief social mobilizer, urged.

From the analysis by President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma (informed by the respective briefings of the different Ebola point men in the three districts), it’s quite clear that if the two remaining patients in treatment centers countrywide are discharged without any new positive case, Sierra Leone will soon begin the countdown towards a resilient zero for the next 42 days as stipulated by WHO. The call now is for all Sierra Leoneans to not just support, but also act as monitors of the recovery programmes in order to accelerate government’s quest for prosperity for all citizens.

The president was accompanied on this trip by the British High Commissioner Peter West, DFID Country Representative Marshall Elliot, the Minister of Health and Sanitation Dr Abu Bakarr Fofanah, the CEO of NERC Major (Rtd) Paolo Conteh, the UNMEER Crisis Manager Bintou Keita, the Special Adviser to the President and Ambassador at Large Professor Monty Jones, other senior government officials and State House staffers.

Discharge of last Ebola Patient: the countdown begins in earnest

As implementation of Post Ebola recovery programmes gathers momentum, government is set to begin the countdown towards a resilient zero on Tuesday 25th August.

Mateneh Ebola treatment center is located on the outskirts of Makeni city. It was constructed by the British Army with funding from Department for International Development (DFID) during the height of the epidemic in 2014 and is being run by the International Medical Corps (IMC). Since then the center has admitted a total of 108 patients with 45 survivors.

The last Ebola test result for female patient Adama Sankoh came out negative and she was officially discharged by His Excellency, President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma today (Monday 24 August), marking the beginning of the countdown towards a resilient 42 days without a positive case.

Steven Gaojia of the National Ebola Response Center (NERC) described the discharge of the last EVD patient as a significant milestone in the fight against Ebola as well as the countdown towards a resilient zero.

Delivering the keynote address, President Koroma described the discharge of Adama Sankoh as the last remaining patient nationwide as the beginning of the end of Ebola in Sierra Leone. He said that the outbreak was announced 456 days ago. “Before we get to 42 days, we must stay the course and remain vigilant,” he urged.

The president called on the people of Sierra Leone to continue to call 117 when someone is sick. “It’s a moment we should celebrate and we have to give thanks to Almighty God that we have reached this point,” adding that we should remember the over 3, 500 citizens who had succumbed to the disease in our prayers.

President Koroma also lauded the efforts and support of development partners, health workers, including doctors in the fight to end the outbreak. He also commended NERC and the various DERCs across the country as well as the police, RSLAF, political parties, religious bodies, traditional leaders and all Sierra Leoneans who in diverse ways contributed to the fight against EVD.

Giving the vote of thanks, Adama Sankoh prayed for President Koroma for long life and good health for his personal leadership of the fight against the receding virus. She also thanked the Mateneh treatment center for their tireless efforts to ensure she survives EVD, adding that she will be the number one messenger to sensitize her people that although Ebola is on the run, vigilance should be the watchword.

Adama called on all citizens to continue to observe health measures of hand washing, safe burial among others. She pleaded with government not to forget Ebola survivors as most of them are now very vulnerable in terms of economic wellbeing.

The discharge and certification ceremony was attended by cabinet ministers, senior government officials, development partners, journalists and stakeholders of Bombali and Tonkolili districts.

By Jarrah Kawusu-Konte

International community extols president’s social mobilization drive against Ebola

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared this morning Sierra Leone as Ebola free at a colourful and well attended ceremony at the Bintumani International Conference Centre at Aberdeen in Freetown.

The ceremony was attended by cabinet ministers, members of parliament, senior government officials, traditional leaders, members and Dean of the diplomatic and consular corps, the media as well as ordinary Sierra Leoneans, including survivors of the evil virus called Ebola.

However, this event could not have come without a price in terms of collateral damage as thousands of Sierra Leoneans, over 200 health workers and 11 doctors lost their lives to the disease.

Furthermore, President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma’s nationwide social mobilization drive for community involvement and ownership of the fight against Ebola made considerable progress to break the chain of transmission of the disease.

The significance of his nationwide social mobilization tours stem from the fact that paramount chiefs, religious leaders, MPs, traditional and cultural society heads, Councilors and other stakeholders accepted and believed his message that they shoulder the responsibility of driving the Ebola virus out of their communities. It was this social mobilization by the president that turned out to be the game changer in the fight to eradicate Ebola from Sierra Leone, and consequently the WHO declaring the country as Ebola free today Saturday 7 November, 2015.

A number of diplomats have commended the efforts of President Koroma in his social mobilization drive for community involvement and ownership of the fight against Ebola culminating to the end of the outbreak today.

Please read below the testimonies of some of our development partners as well as the CEO of the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC):

State House Communication Unit:

QUESTION – Ahead of Sierra Leone being declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization (WHO), what is your assessment of President Koroma’s social mobilization drive in the fight against Ebola?


British High Commissioner Peter West – ANSWER:
I am full of admiration for President Koroma’s leadership and I think an outstanding aspect of that leadership has been his work on social mobilization. From the onset, I knew that President Koroma believes that without the cooperation and understanding of the people of Sierra Leone we will not be able to overcome the disease. Over many months I have travelled with him to every district in this country. In some cases, more than half a dozens times to problematic districts. I have seen him explained, persuade, cajoled and insist on people doing the right things to end the transmission chains. In his recent tours, I have seen his emphasis on building from the lessons we have learnt during Ebola so that Sierra Leone emerges stronger and more resilient with structures which are able to provide the services which the people of Sierra Leone deserve.

As we get to zero plus forty-two, I am proud that the UK along with other international partners has been able to play a full part in this fight against Ebola. But most of all, I want to congratulate President Koroma on a job very well done.

QUESTION 2: Moving forward, you have been very supportive of government’s action in stemming the virus, what areas do you think government should strengthen to equip the response for future outbreaks?

Peter West – ANSWER: I think it’s very important people learnt lessons from this episode. There is more capacity and more qualified people now to deal with this sort of crisis in the future. I think it is important also we embrace those people and those institutions so that there is a stronger structure to deal with this crisis in the future. And I think now in the next few years we are working very closely with President Koroma and his government on a recovery package on six specific areas which the government has set out and to make sure that the country develops and returns to the ambitions set out in the Agenda for Prosperity.

Discussion with WHO Representative – Dr Andres Nordstrom

State House Communication Unit –

QUESTION: Ahead of Sierra Leone being declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization, what is your assessment of President Koroma’s social mobilization drive in the fight against Ebola?

Dr Andres Nordstrom – ANSWER: I think the socio mobilization part of the response possibly has been most important and critical element because not until we really began to reach out to people to engage them, to communicate with the people that we can see the difference. Because we need the people to fully engage and fully also to trust and to also change some of the behaviours. So I think the social mobilization the president has been providing leadership for has been extremely important for this outbreak. I think there is a good platform; there is a lot of good experience and resources reaching out to people in communities that we need to build on to tackle other health problems in the future.

State House Communication Unit

– QUESTION: Dr Nordstrom, how would you describe the leadership of President Koroma?

Dr Andres Nordstrom – ANSWER:
He is really a leader that is providing both inspiration and leadership but also is a person that stays very calm and somebody also you both feel trust with and somebody who you can like as well.

Interview with CEO of NERC Major (Rtd) Paolo Conteh

State House Communication Unit –

QUESTION: Ahead of Sierra Leone being declared Ebola free by the WHO, what is your assessment of President Koroma’s social mobilization drive in the fight against Ebola?

CEO NERC – ANSWER: I think the president’s own contribution particularly in the area of social mobilization was key to the fight. I say so for two reasons because in terms of social mobilization it is not only about the message, it is about who carries the message – the messenger – and in President Koroma you have a good messenger because when he speaks people listen. People are drawn to him. So his contribution in my view was immense and I think it helped. He took the message to every district and I was with him.

He went around the country; spoke to paramount chiefs, religious leaders, tribal heads and so on. So I will say his contribution was immense in particularly social mobilization, getting the message to people to listen and do the right things.

SHCU©2015

Despite the challenges, Sierra Leoneans are paying attention

Despite the current socio-economic challenges facing the country, majority of Sierra Leoneans are paying attention to the efforts of the government to turn things around for the betterment of everyone. Even in times of trails and difficulties, our people have shown the capacity to keep their eyes on the ball; they had shown resilience during the Ebola epidemic that almost brought the country to its knees.

At a recent emergency pre-cabinet meeting, His Excellency the President, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma said that if we were able to fight and defeat Ebola, we should be able to put up a fight that will turn around the economic fortunes of the country. I cannot agree more with the president. Sierra Leoneans have shown resilience time without number. Our recovery after the war in the 1990s to early 2000s is a case in point in support of our capacity to fight back and come out strong which eventually endeared the country to many multi-lateral organizations like the UN, IMF and World Bank. Sierra Leone was affectionately singled out as an example of a post-war country that recovered in record time.

There’s no gainsaying that the Ebola outbreak disrupted every aspect of life, and economic growth particularly, was hit like a thunderbolt. Considering the deadly nature of the virus and the horrific narrative accompanying it, it wasn’t easy to break the back of the disease. But with perseverance, determination and resilience, Sierra Leoneans, led by their result-oriented leader, embarked on a massive social mobilization campaign for community ownership and responsibility of the fight against Ebola, which ultimately led to victory against the stubborn virus.

Similarly, if this engendered spirit of ownership and responsibility were replicated in the current economic conditions, it would not only bring an end to the economic crisis, but will accelerate growth in almost all sectors. It would be logical therefore to draw an inference that effective engagement of people would create effective and practical ways of proffering solutions, hence, reiterating the president’s call to look at practical ways to minimize the challenges facing the country.

The recent policy measures adopted by government have been a topical debate in almost every quarter of the population. These comprehensive measures have captured a significant proportion of public imagination concerning government spending and have led some sections of the public to liken President Koroma to the Tanzanian President, John Mogufuli, fondly called the “Bulldozer”. Like Mogufuli, Koroma is determined to cut unnecessary expenditure, shrink the number of overseas travels and put stringent measures in place to turn around what many knew was one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Such public display of prudence is bound to be a lasting legacy of President Koroma’s leadership to restore equitable and sustainable economic growth in this country.

Unfortunately, the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), in a press release issued on Thursday October 6, 2016, blamed the current economic slowdown on what they described as “lack of vision…and mismanagement of our economy” by the government. Apart from the fact that the APC assumed the mantle of office on the eve of the global financial crisis, with high commodity and oil prices, affecting almost every country on earth, the Ebola epidemic and a slump in iron ore prices have had their own devastating impact on the country’s economy as the SLPP itself admits.

Recently, the IMF, in an end-of mission press statement, described the economic reforms undertaken by the Government of Sierra Leone as largely on track and largely successful. “The economy proved resilient in the face of two major exogenous shocks: the Ebola epidemic and collapse of iron ore prices and associated loss of production in 2014 – 2015,” the fund said in its press release issued on September 27, 2016. What does the SLPP mean by “…it is deceitful for this government to wilfully blame our economic woes on the EVD…”? So is the IMF also “deceitful” for praising the economic reforms undertaken by the Government of Sierra Leone?

The World Economic Outlook (WEO) published a few days ago by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) presents IMF economists’ analyses of global economic developments, issues affecting advanced, emerging, and developing economies like ours. The global economy is expected to slow to 3.1 percent in 2016 before recovering to 3.4 percent in 2017. However, risks to the outlook remain and include uncertainty regarding the impact of the UK Vote in favour of leaving the European Union (Brexit), weakness in aggregate demand and investment and low commodity prices.

Big and small nations all stand to be affected by this but the IMF has already recommended that countries need to rely on all policy levers—monetary, fiscal and structural—to lift growth prospects. Just yesterday the British Pound tumbled to lowest level against the dollar since 1985. This year, the US dollar index also hit a five month low.

According to the World Economic Outlook, “Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economies continue to struggle with lower commodity revenues, weighing on growth in the region. Nigeria’s economy is forecast to shrink 1.7 percent in 2016, and South Africa’s will barely expand. By contrast, several of the region’s non-commodity exporters, including Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Senegal, are expected to continue to grow at a robust pace of more than 5 percent this year.” The Monetary Policy Statement issued by the Bank of Sierra Leone following their Q3 2016 Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting on September 28, notes that, in spite of the weak global economic environment, especially low commodity prices, real GDP growth is projected at 4.9 per cent in 2016, up from an earlier projection of 4.3 per cent. The MPC concluded that there is potential to further diversify the economy from ongoing investments in the agricultural sector, as domestic output was still below its potential.

But in all of this, one thing that gives some of us comfort is the fact that Sierra Leoneans are paying attention. They understand and appreciate the developmental and transformative efforts of this government since 2007. They know that the roads today are far better than 9 years ago; they know that electricity generation and distribution is far better than 9 years ago; Sierra Leoneans know that there has been considerable improvement in agricultural production and value addition. We all know that marine and fisheries sector is making tremendous contribution to the GDP more than ever before. A lot has happened on the legal landscape insofar as access to justice is concerned and the ordinary man and woman are paying rapt attention to the work of the Legal Aid Board.

In addition, it is good that the SLPP has found time to “rub some tongue” (a Mende saying) on the current economic challenges facing our country. It’s a good thing to find time to weigh in on our country’s socio-economic melancholy, especially when they are only well known over a decade now for infighting and political bickering. But then the people are paying attention to all this and many still believe the SLPP is unfit to serve as an alternative for now. They still don’t have a clue as to how to run their party let alone a whole country in a world plagued by recession.

President Koroma expresses hope of bright days ahead in his traditional New Year message

In a national broadcast on New Year’s day, President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma has expressed hope of bright days ahead for Sierra Leone, saying that the new year “has come upon us with the assurance of an economy on the path to full recovery.”

He pointed out that every citizen must be commended for the sacrifices and adjustments they made in order to overcome the challenges facing the country. “…from the fisherman at Funkia to the farmer at Buedu; from the petty trader at Abacha Street to the bike rider in Pujehun and our compatriots in the Diaspora – Sierra Leoneans have shown great resilience and have been at the forefront of discussions and actions to turn this country around,” the president said.

He thanked the people of Sierra Leone for their support in rolling out the recovery priorities as well as in returning the economy back on the pathway of the pre-Ebola era and pre-drop-in-iron-ore-prices days.

In 2014, Sierra Leone was hit by the twin shocks of the slump in iron ore prices in the world market and the Ebola outbreak, which we already know reversed the gains made as one the fastest growing economies in the world. With help from the international community and the personal leadership of the His Excellency the President through his social mobilization drive for community ownership of the fight against, what many described as a “horrific” virus, the country triumphed.

During this period, President Koroma showed great and remarkable leadership and he always had the backing of the people. Sierra Leoneans endured huge challenges but were determined to support their leader in fighting Ebola as well as the economic difficulties the country is facing, which I’m sure the president has already promised to review by mid 2017. He added: “…we will review the austerity measures we are implementing and we will reassess the progress we have made under the Recovery Priorities to determine where we are and to define our new actions going forward.”

The president said that although Sierra Leoneans have shown the world their ability to pull together in times of adversity as well as to succeed against all odds, he urged his countrymen to approach national issues with nonpartisan lenses; “…we must adopt the imperatives that put Sierra Leone first in our actions.” The Commander-in-Chief noted that the destinies of Sierra Leoneans are bound together and their “fortunes intertwined” and, therefore despite tensions that may arise between aspirants seeking political office, he encouraged all and sundry never to lose sight of the fact that Sierra Leone is bigger than everyone; “is it bigger than every group and every political party.”

He called on citizens to pay attention towards the development programmes and act as monitors of the implementation of projects in chiefdoms, constituencies and districts.

In the foregoing one clearly sees that President Koroma is setting the tone and mood of the next general elections in terms of appealing to the better nature of Sierra Leoneans for peace, development and a sense of patriotism. He is not oblivious of the challenges that lie ahead in the country’s transition as a viable democracy. He takes on them head on by appealling to the better nature of all Sierra Leoneans because after all, we owe it to posterity to stay together, work together and build our beloved country together. By and large, the speech is forward looking and full of optimism for the land that we love.