Tuesday, April 10, 2007

President Kabbah Returns Home

His Excellency Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah returned home after a tour that took him to Niger, Senegal and the Gambia.

At Agadez in Northern Niger, the President joined His Excellency Mamadou Tandja, President of the Republic of Niger and Colonel Muamar Ghadafi and other African Leaders to celebrate the feast of Mauloud Nabi.

On the invitation of President Abdoulye Wade, President of the Republic of Senegal and Mr. Louis Michel, Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Assistance in the European Union, President Kabbah participated in the inauguration of President Wade for the second term and took part in the Summit of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Africa and the Caribbean from the first to third of April 2007.

In his intervention at the inauguration of President Wade, President Kabbah thanked his host for the invitation and the kind hospitality that had been so generously extended him and his entourage. He noted that the tenets of Liberal Democracy are cherished everywhere because they underline the freedom of the individual and put the human being at the centre of development. However, countries emerging from conflicts face peculiar problems because the very basis for democratic governance is often destroyed in a conflict situation. It is only after peace had been restored that a government could meaningfully engage in democratic governance. President Kabbah outlined the various measures that his Government had taken to give the people of Sierra Leone greater opportunity for wider participation in governance and to restore some the basic amenities of life, which had been so wantonly destroyed by the rebels. He said Sierra Leone had come a long way and had now joined the community of nations in spite of her many difficulties. Sierra Leone he said, had now moved from a state that was considered failing to a country that was now regarded as a best practice example for moving from violent conflict to the attainment of democracy and sustainable development.

He thanked the European Union for its steadfast support, particularly the EU Commissioner for development and Humanitarian Assistance, Mr. Louis Michel, who had shown extraordinary interest in the development of the country.

On Globalisation, the President observed that the phenomenon had become a fact of life but would benefit all nations of the world only if we develop mutually beneficial partnership between the developed world and the developing countries.

In another engagement, the President had a private audience with Mr. Louis Michel. The two exchanged warm fraternal greetings and engaged in a fruitful discussion relating to the EU and Sierra Leone. The EU Commissioner commended President Kabbah for his statesmanship and the exemplary manner in which he had been conducting the affairs of the State since the end of the war. As a result of this progress, the EU Commissioner revealed that the EU support to Sierra Leone had been increased by €50 Millions from €144 Millions last year to €193.44 Millions this year. The EU Commissioner further revealed that Sierra Leone could access a further €50 millions giving an overall total grant of €250 millions depending on the progress made on the governance front. He invited the President to define the kinds of projects that were of priority to the nation but that the EU was particularly interested in supporting the forthcoming elections, Governance issues and capacity building.
When asked about the prospects for the forthcoming elections, the President reiterated that Sierra Leone had put behind her that long history of electoral violence and that he was now looking forward to a peaceful and violence-free election. He hoped that all parties would regard the elections as peaceful and friendly contest and would stand by the results.
The President, however lamented the impediments to the effective utilisation of development assistance, because of the red tape, the myriads of conditionalities and benchmarks, delays in the disbursement of funds and the tendency for aid officers on the ground to micro-manage the implementation of donor-supported programs. The Commissioner was shocked at these revelations and promised to do his best to cut through whatever impediments that might stand in the way of effective project implementation. He said that was why, he was in favour of continuing budgetary support since this cuts through red tape and gives the government greater flexibility in the implementation of projects. As such, he would propose that 50% of the aid from the EU be channelled through direct budgetary support. He further stated that although relations between the EU and developing countries were largely economic and development oriented, the partnership could be improved by regular political exchanges. It was not a matter to be left primarily to official channels. His Excellency the President and Mr. Louis Michel exchanged personal telephone numbers so that he could reach him anytime to iron out any difficulties that may emerge and that may need clarification.

While in Dakar, His Excellency received in audience Mr. Bernard Huttenmoser, the Director General of Brussels Airlines and Mr. Johan Maertens, the Special Projects Africa, Brussels Airlines called on H.E. the President to discuss prospects for the sub region. His Excellency and the officials discussed the possibility of establishing an internal air service, regional air service and tourist packages destined for Sierra Leone. The officials promised to look into the feasibility of engaging in these activities but expressed caution since SN Brussels was a successor to SABENA Airline.
Mr. Lansana Kouyateh, the new Guinean Prime Minister also called on the President while he was in Dakar. Mr. Kouyateh expressed sincere thanks to President Kabbah for his timely and well meaning intervention in the Guinean crisis. He said that much of the calm that had now returned to Guinea and the fact that the newly chosen cabinet had been accepted by both President Lansana Conteh and the Trade Union Leadership was due largely to him. President Kabbah assured the new Guinean Prime Minister that he would do all in his power to help when ever the need arose. He said that Mr. Kouyateh was someone to be trusted because he had known him for a very long time and had always known him to be dependable. President Kabbah and Mr. Kouyateh later proposed to call a Summit of the Mano River Union from the 21st to the 22nd of April 2007 at which President Yahyah Jammeh was to be invited as an observer.

On his way to Freetown, President Kabbah stopped over for a night in Banjul to confer privately with his friend and brother President Alhaji Dr. Yahyah A.J.J. Jammeh of the Gambia. The two leaders discussed matters of mutual interest to Sierra Leone and the Gambia as well as the Continent of Africa. President Kabbah raised the issue of the Joint Commission which had been established between the two countries for resolving mutual problems and discussing matters of mutual interest to the two states. In response, his colleague agreed that the commission should be reinstated and that measures should be taken to have the first meeting sometime this month. The composition of the commission was to include the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Minister of Trade and the Minister of Tourism. Further discussions covered the provision of services for the improvement of inland waterways through Dutch Company that was engaged in a similar exercise in the Gambia.