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COCORIOKO » 2009 » October

Archive for October, 2009

Pictorial : UN General Assembly 2009

Saturday, October 10th, 2009
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001jpg   Permanent Representative Shekou Touray meets a guest at his office
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006    Permanent Representative Shekou Toure meets Mr. I.M. Conteh Deputy Ambassador of the Sa. Leone Embassy in Washington DC
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018     The Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sulay Daramy and Minister Plenipotentiary Kabs Kanu outside the Mission
029    From left : Former college mates at FBC now diplomats : Director General Soulay Daramy; Ambassador Bockarie Stevens, Ambassador to the AU Andrew Bangali and Minister Plenipotentiary Wilfred Leeroy Kabs-Kanu
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136  Counselor Kpukumu enjoys a light moment with Information Attache Betty Foray (Now attached to Washington DC) 

Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu
Minister Plenipotentiary
Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the UN
245 E 49th Street, New York, NY 10017
Tel:  (212 ) 688 – 1656 Ext. 18


The Diary of a Sierra Leonean Diplomat

Friday, October 2nd, 2009
Ask any New Yorker or anybody who comes to the Big Apple to work or do business. The end of the 64th Session of the United Nations General Assembly has brought not only nostalgia but yes, tremendous relief . Amidst all the glitter, glitz and glamour of the UN General Assembly , there was one underlying fact underpinning the whole drama : The Assembly brought a lot of excitement, sensation, euphoria and dizzying enjoyment (All the visiting heads of states and representatives of governments from all over the world,all the visitors and all the flurry of activities around town, restaurants, clubs and what-have-you ) but it also brought the city to a standstill.
A city that is always buzzing and moving 24 hours a day was virtually crippled during the week-long jamboree. But the the mystery and beauty of New York. is that it is able to cope with anything , one reason why many people cannot help falling in love with this glamorous and to some, romantic, city. I am beginning to love New York too. I must confess that working or even lingering in New York was one prospect I never relished before because all I had previously heard and read about New York was negative : Everyday and night, TV  news  and newspapers bombards viewers  and readers respectively with gory news of killings, rapes and disasters in New York.The media make it appear like nothing else takes place in New York, except killings, rapes, burglaries, hold-ups and kidnappings. To viewers and newspaper readers, New York is the most dangerous city in the globe, where people die from crimes in droves day and night. .
Come to New York any time of the day.  You do not  see this dangerous spectacle . What graces your eyes instead are hard-working people crisscrossing each others’ paths whole day and night going to work or their normal business ; lovers  holding hands or kissing on the sidewalks; both young and old walking their dogs ; parks full of people relaxing or exercising ; all the construction projects and the hustle and bustle of city life, taxis and buses shuttling passengers here and there. Almost everybody seems to be in a hurry perpetually .And the taxi and bus drivers are so polite and nice.  Almost everything is within reach. There are stores selling almost everything and it is in New York that you find  professions that are now virtually extinct in other places in the First world- flourishing -Shoemakers, coblers, tailors, watch-repairers, shoe-shine boys etc. You can buy British newspapers and African magazines anywhere and in at one part of Manhattan that reminds you of Africa, bitter kola (the African Viagra ), gara , lace , cotton and kenti materials and dresses are openly peddled on the streets. I have met many residents of New York , especially Africans, who have frankly confessed that they will never exchange this city for any other. I travel from New Jersey everyday to come and work in New York, like thousands of  other people and have no regtrets.The metro, bus and taxi services in New York are second to none.
However, the 64th Session of the UN Assembly provided challenges that only resilient New Yorkers can cope with without any crisis. What with security so watertight that there were street closings everywhere, especially around the vicinity of the UN. 1st Avenue from 42nd Street to 48th Street saw closures that provided traffic nightmares . The tunnel underpass from 41st Street to 48 Street was open  passenger cars but was subject to intermittent closures. Trucks and other large vehicles were not allowed  access until the end of each day’s session.
Not even the waterways were spared. Security zones were established and enforced by the U.S. Coast Guard on the East River. These  periodically restricted vessel traffic through the upper harbor near the United Nations Headquarters, from Sept. 20 to Oct. 1. The East River closures were requested by the U.S. Secret Service and were  necessary to protect the President of the United States, U.S. Secretary of State and 130 international heads of state during the U.N. General Assembly located near the East River at East 43rd Street. The security zone includes all waters of the East River from East 35th Street to the Queensboro/59th Street Bridge ( Official announcement ).
To match the closures and traffic nightmare was the irritating noise of sirens of police cars leading different delegations through the choked streets .And some of these delegations moved with break-neck speeds. Indeed, I experienced it first-hand travelling with President Ernest Koroma and his delegation from the airport on his day of arrival and to some of the many programs and engagements of the President in New York. I don’t know why Presidential motorcades have to drive with such speed .My journalism collegues , Presidential Press Secretary Sheka Tarawallie and TV Camera man, Claudius Beckley , told me that it was their daily routine , even in Sierra Leone . Often , I held my breath as the  van carrying us  meandered through honking taxis and other vehicles ,the van itself honking and flashing its lights to demand right of way to keep pace with the rest of the Presidential motorcade. I think one reason for the speed is to avoid being cut off and lost from the motorcade. Many were the close shaves, but then drivers in official motorcades seem to have learnt  the guile and their art well.Now,I understand why the late President William Tolbert and the late Samuel K.Doe’s motorcades used to speed through the streets of Monrovia  in with what appeared to me then to be such dignified haste.  .May be, leaders have so many engagements their motorcades have to move at such hectic pace.
 Also not to be missed were the many demonstrations that rocked the precints of the UN  during the General Assembly. Some were so wild, though behind police cordons, like the one staged by citizens of neighbouring Guinea resident in America on the day their representative of government had to address the General Assembly ( SEE PHOTOS THIS WEEKEND ). Incidentally, the violent and bloody junta crackdown on demonstrations  in Conakry had started two days before that date. The demonstrators carried placards in English and French that called on the Daddis Camara junta to quit and for international intervention in Guinea.,among other demands. There were Iranians , Palestinians, Israelis and Burmese demonstrating too .  I wonder how many of them really captured the attention of world leaders burdened by problems of their own or international organizations skewed towards the General Assembly.
The UN General Assembly is over and  most of the heads of state, representatives of governments, their delegations and other visitors have left and New York has steadily returned to normal. But the talk of the event and the pleasures ,excitement and traffic nightmares that attended it will not be forgotten in a hurry, though New York is used to it.

PICTORIAL : President Ernest Koroma unveils his government’s achievements to Sierra Leone UN staff in New York

Thursday, October 1st, 2009
One of President Ernest Koroma’s engagements while he was in New York last week  to attend the 64th Session of the United Nations General Assembly  was a meeting with staff of the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the United Nations and Sierra Leoneans working at the UN. This important meeting took place at the Sierra Leone Mission on East 49th Street on Friday September 25. The session was very productive in that the President appraised the UN workers with current developments in Sierra Leone.
The President , who rode from his hotel with the Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the UN, Ambassador Shekou Touray, was met on arrival at the Mission by the Deputy Permanent Representative for Political Affairs, Ambassador Rupert Davies , Minister  Plenipotentiary Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu, the Head of Chancery Mrs. Margaret Jah-Matturi and other diplomatic staff of the Mission.
Before the meeting commenced, the members of staff of the Mission were introduced to President Koroma by Mrs. Jah-Matturi while Sierra Leoneans employed in the UN were introduced by Dr. Ibrahim Yansaneh, Head of the International Civil Service Commission. United Nations, New York.
In his address to the crowd of Mission and UN staff , President Koroma  said that his government inherited a ridiculous 5 megawatts  of electricity but the new All People’s Congress (APC)  government has increased it to 20 megawatts .He informed the gathering that his government had done the final pre- commissioning phase  of Bumbuna .Sierra Leone, the President continued, paid US $5 million towards the completion of Bumbuna, in addition to donor support and “so we are part and parcel of the completion of Bumbuna “. The President further informed the diplomats that Bumbuna will be fully commissioned in October, but he warned that Bumbuna alone will not solve the country’s energy problems as it will only provide 50 megawatts when Freetown alone needs 60 megawatts to be fully electrified .The President however disclosed that during the commissioning of Bumbuna in October, his government will also launch Phase 2 of the electricity project .The government will secure US $ 650 million to provide a further 300 megawatts of electricity and the government will pay the loan back in seven years.  “We have firm commitments from donors and by the end of December, we will commission 2 more hydroelectricity projects”  .He promised that in 5 years, energy will not be a problem in Sierra Leone.
President Koroma said that his government has now  made Agriculture its No.1 priority . His government, he stated, inherited a 1.6 million dollars allocation to agriculture but said that he  increased it to 7.7. and now to 9.9 as in the Maputo Declaration. “We have also signed the  the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) compact document before I left Sierra Leone and through this we will be able to get agricultural donor suport. That is a big achievement because that is where our potential lies for employment, wealth creation and foreign exchange “, he affirmed. To the applause of the diplomats, President Koroma declared that his government was working towards agricultural self-sufficiency “and we will be able to stop importing rice by 2012”. Again, the President warned that agriculture by itself will not do it without road construction .”We have revived most of the projects we inherited and work has started on the Freetown-Conakry Road “. The President also spoke about the Lumley-Tokeh, the Kenema-Koindu  and Lungi-Port Loko road projects and that early next yar, the Bo-Bandajuma and Mano River road projects will start. “Through all these projects, we will handle youth employment “, he disclosed.
President Koroma also informed the diplomats that his government was firmly committed to good governance , political tolerance and promotion of zero-tolerance to corruption . He spoke about the 2008 ACC Act which has now given the commission prosecutorial powers. “In terms of doing business, Sierra Leone has now been ranked 6th best in West Africa and we are ahead of the other Mano River Union countries”, he said. There were more cheers in the room when President Koroma further announced that Sierra Leone now has helpers in the persons of former British Premier Tony Blair ,who is now one of the country’s goodwill ambassadors and billionaire George Soros . An excited President Koroma then added : “We have made a lot of progress ;some will be evident now and some will not be evident until after some years. “
The President also apprised the audience about the November 18-19 Donor Confrerence in London during which support will be solicited for his AGENDA FOR CHANGE Initiative. “Before the conference, the government will hold a trade and investment forum where the opportunities available in Sierra Leone will be unveiled. We will try to raise as much support as we would .Our target is US $2.2. Billion dollars. We have received commitments from donors and we still have gaps so we will make more road shows to expand our donor base.”
President Koroma thanked the Mission Staff and everybody else for the support being given to his government and their hard work. The President assured them that he has been following all their activities . “Let us all work together to effect the change we all want in Sierra Leone “, the President urged .
The vote of thanks was given by Mrs. Linda Musa of the UNDP.