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.