By Thomas Vandi Gbow
Detractors had already alleged on social media that President Dr. Julius Maada Bio’s order for journalists not to cover his meeting with representatives of the Diplomatic Community in Sierra Leone last Thursday, at the Presidential Lodge, was an indictment on his part as diplomats were determined to do him proper dressing down at the meeting.
At least, that was the expectation of detractors posing as the best journalists on social media until the news story on their meeting was finally released from an official source justifying that some journalists indeed covered the meeting.
But no matter the fact concerning that, the meeting between the President and representatives of the Diplomatic Corps of Sierra Leone could be seen as very fruitful and promising because the International Community made its position crystal clear on the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has been handled by the President and his government; supporting the effort of the country in the COVID-19 fight; and the ongoing violence and intimidation in the country, which have the propensity to derail national development.
At the meeting, the Diplomatic Community hailed the President for his government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps of Sierra Leone, Ambassador Ibrahim Habis Ugbada, who appreciated President Dr. Julius Maada Bio for the effort in curbing the pandemic in the country. The diplomat averred that the spread of the virus had been slow in the country because of the President’s outstanding qualities.
Ambassador Ugbada was not alone in showering praises on the President and his government, the Head of European Union (EU) Delegation, Tom Vens, also commended the President for his engagement with the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), noting that they were encouraged by the initiative and leadership shown by the President in creating space for dialogue with CSOs.
Notwithstanding, the Diplomatic Community in no uncertain terms vehemently condemned and continue to condemn all forms of violence, noting that the focus of every one should be on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and to make sure it did not have a further negative impact on society. They also called on all political parties in the country to refrain from violence of all sorts and support the national efforts in fighting the virus.
It is not for nothing that the Diplomatic Community is hailing the President and his government for the effort in fighting the COVID-19 in the country, but the leadership he and his government have so far demonstrated prior to and during the outbreak of the pandemic.
It is on record that prior to President Dr. Julius Maada Bio announcing the index case on 31st March 2020, he and partners had taken preventive measures to forestall the outbreak of the virus in Sierra Leone. The measures included the closure of the country’s air, land and sea and borders, imposition of a ban on worship in churches and mosques, stoppage of public schooling, pronouncement of social distancing, hand-washing, and, most importantly, the proclamation of a state of public emergency nationwide.
With the outbreak of the pandemic, President Bio and his government intensified the fight against the virus with dusk-to-dawn curfew, inter-district restriction on movement of persons and interminent waves of lockdowns to contain the virus.
Despite some murmurings, about how the Government’s COVID-19 Response Team, the latter is utilizing the funds provided by the Government and donors for the COVID fight. However, there seems to be some sanity in expending the funds, especially when disbursing the funds has some bureaucratic bottlenecks attached, thereby releasing allowances and salaries involves a marathon exercise. There are of course many challenges in the COVID fight but the commendations made by the Diplomatic community are a clear indication that Sierra Leone, as a nation, is coping with those challenges by successfully stemming the spread of the pandemic.
As advised by the Diplomatic Community, it is about time all political parties refrained from intimidation and violence of all sorts and support the national efforts in fighting the virus.
The Leader of the National Grand Coalition (NGC), Hon. Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, also appealed to other political parties a fortnight ago to join the COVID fight as it is not about region or tribe but everybody’s business. It’s about time we shrugged aside our political differences and fight the common enemy that is capable of infecting anyone regardless of your political affiliation, ethnicity or region.
Political violence or intimidation of any form is an anathema to national development; it will stand on the way of Sierra Leone moving forward and this could be catastrophic to our generation and generations yet unborn.
As true Sierra Leoneans, let’s for God’s sake put aside our selfishness, greed and thirst for power and work together as a people if only we should develop as a proud nation or become a worldly paradise.
Our development partners, who are investing heavily in our country, would not want to invest in it vainly; instead, they would prefer to see their investments yielding multiple folds. This can motivate them to continue investing in our country with no regret. But if unscrupulous citizens continue to put spanners in the good works of the development partners, because of political prejudice, they will definitely turn their backs against us and such move can exacerbate our abject penury to an abysmal level.
So let’s join the Diplomatic Community to commend the President and his government for their response to the COVID-19 fight, while political parties that have snubbed the COVID-19 fight are expected to hearken to the call of the Diplomatic Community in the name of patriotism and national development.
By Thomas Vandi Gbow