INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: August Highlights From Sierra Leone

Published: Tue 8 Sep 2009 08:30 AM
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R 080830Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
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INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 FREETOWN 000355
SIPDIS
DEPARTMENT FOR AF/W (JHUNTER)
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TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PINR SL
SUBJECT: AUGUST HIGHLIGHTS FROM SIERRA LEONE
1. SUMMARY: Sierra Leone hosted an African Caucus meeting for Bank
Governors and Finance Ministers from around the continent, its
largest conference since the conclusion of the war. The Independent
Media Commission presented its annual report to President Koroma,
who again pledged his support for press freedom. The Justice Sector
Development Program, in partnership with the Sierra Leone
Association of Journalists, trained dozens of media representatives
on judicial reporting. The US Embassy supported the commissioning of
a newly renovated military hospital and announced the reactivation
of the Peace Corps. Finally, new Brazilian and German Ambassadors
presented their letters of credentials as the press heralded
President Koroma's visit to Brazil. END SUMMARY.
KOROMA ASSURES FOOD SECURITY SUCCESS
2. A four-man delegation from the African Union and New Partnership
for African Development [NEPAD] on August 3 met with President
Ernest Bai Koroma. The Minister of Agriculture, Dr Sam Sesay said
the purpose of their visit was to assess and have first-hand
information on agricultural development in the country. Dr Sesay
said the Sierra Leonean government, together with experts, has put
together comprehensive data on agriculture and its related fields in
order to achieve the six percent annual growth rate to alleviate
poverty. He added that government has made agriculture its number
one priority and increased its budgetary allocation.
3. The head of delegation, Prof. R M Mkandawire, said he is proud to
note that the nation is on the "march towards recovery and no doubt
has made a significant impact in the agricultural sector". Prof
Mkandawire commended President Koroma for championing the difficult
cause of alleviating poverty in Africa, as it demonstrates a good
example for other African leaders.
IMC PRESENTS ANNUAL REPORT TO PRESIDENT KOROMA
4. The Independent Media Commission (IMC) presented its 2008 annual
report to President Ernest Bai Koroma on August 7. Addressing the
Commissioner and members of the IMC, President Koroma said that, "We
believe in enhancing freedom of the press, and matters regarding the
review of certain rules will be addressed.... your independence is
guaranteed. You have your rules and regulations; you should make
sure that they are followed."
5. The IMC Commissioner Bernadette Cole commended President Koroma
for protecting the commission's independence, and
also requested the government's consideration in terms of supporting
community radio stations as international funding agencies have
pulled out much of their support. The annual report itself detailed
the activities undertaken by the commission in pursuit of its
mandate.
SIERRA LEONE HOSTS AFRICAN CAUCUS MEETING
6. Sierra Leone was host to the African Caucus Meeting involving
Bank Governors and Finance ministers from around the continent.
Every year, the Chairman of the African Caucus hosts African
Ministers of Finance and Governors of Central Banks to deliberate on
issues of importance to their respective economies. The African
Caucus was the biggest conference hosted by the country since the
end of the war. In his welcoming remarks, President Koroma said that
he was gratified by the developments in the World Bank, especially
the approval of the third chair for sub-Saharan Africa. However, he
said that he is still concerned that the quota and voice reforms are
taking too long to come into effect. In view of this, he urged the
Bretton Woods institutions to speedily enter into force those
reforms already adopted in 2006 and 2008. President Koroma also
expressed concern in financing the wide infrastructure deficit
facing African countries. This deficit is observed in all key
sectors of African economies, such as transport, water, energy, and
information and communication technology. The high transport and
communication costs and the very expensive and unreliable energy
supply have led to a loss of competitiveness in world markets.
JOURNALISTS TRAIN ON JUSTICE SECTOR ISSUES
7. The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), in
partnership with the Justice Sector Development Programme (JSDP),
launched a weeklong regional media-training program on justice
sector issues at the Eastern Polytechnic College in the Eastern
region of Sierra Leone. The training was launched on Tuesday August
18, and will be replicated in Bo, Makeni and Freetown. A total of
219 participants were drawn from the print, broadcast and online
media throughout Sierra Leone.
8. The training was aimed at improving the capacity of the media to
report on justice and to sector issues in order to improve the
coverage and public knowledge, as well as help overcome biases
regarding the judicial system.
US EMBASSY DONATES TO THE MILITARY
FREETOWN 00000355 002 OF 002
9. The United States Embassy unveiled and dedicated equipment and a
refurbished laboratory to the 34th Military Hospital in Freetown.
First Lady Sia Koroma called on the Embassy to train those who will
be using the equipment and interpreting data to better help the
doctors in doing their work. Ambassador June Carter Perry said that
the US Embassy contributes to the fight against disease in Sierra
Leone in many ways throughout the country through programs to
provide prevention education, condoms, anti-retroviral therapy, and
education on how to live a positive life with HIV.
US PLANS TO REACTIVE PEACE CORPS
10. A three-person delegation from the Peace Corps visited Sierra
Leone in early August to hold consultative meetings on the
organization's desire to reactivate the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone.
The delegation paid a courtesy calls to the Ministries of Foreign
Affairs, Education, Health and Agriculture in order to explore
possible areas for assistance. The team also stressed the need to
sign an updated country agreement with the government in order to
begin placing volunteers in country.
NEW AMBASSADORS PLEDGE SUPPORT
11. The new Ambassadors of Brazil, Mr. Jose Fiuza Neto, and
Germany, Mr. Thomas Freudenhammer, presented their letters of
credentials to President Koroma on August 13. While presenting
their credentials both Ambassadors pledged their country's continued
support to Sierra Leone. The President was grateful for the
"numerous contributions that the Federal Republic of Germany has
made towards the development of our country, particularly in areas
such as Education, support of the Anti-Corruption Drive, Poverty
Reduction and Employment promotion for youths."
12. President Koroma also expressed thanks to Ambassador Fiuza Neto
for President Lula da Silva's invitation to visit Brazil. The
President noted Brazil's development strides over the years and how
"Sierra Leone stands to benefit from this remarkable success through
the South-South cooperation initiatives that we are currently
developing."
PRESIDENT KOROMA VISITS BRAZIL
13 In late August, President Koroma visited Brazil in what was the
first trip ever made by a Sierra Leonean leader to Brazil. He
emphasized the need to further strengthen the relationship because
of the striking similarities Africa has with Brazil in terms of
background, environment, and culture. According to the President,
it makes more sense to tap from the Brazilian experience "instead of
those that are far removed from us." While Sierra Leone has not had
ambassadorial relationship with Brazil before, the two countries
have had ties for 35 years. President Koroma's entourage included
the Foreign Minister and Sierra Leone's Ambassador to the United
States.
FEDZER
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