Saturday, October 27, 2007

Call for Irish government to make Sierra Leone a priority

 An Irish charity, the Sierra Leone Ireland partnership has called on the Irish government to make Sierra Leone one of its Programme countries.

The Sierra Leone forum, held at the Mercer Hotel last Friday (October 19) issued a joint statement urging the Irish Government to adopt Sierra Leone as a programme country. They also called on the Irish Government to negotiate bi-lateral aid programmes with the new Sierra Leone Government especially in the areas of education and healthcare. The call was made in recognition of the fact that Sierra Leone is now seeking Ireland’s continued help at a critical moment in its’ development The forum took the opportunity to mark its appreciation of the government’s existing €20 million commitment to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Addressing the forum were Eoin Ryan MEP of the Development Committee of the European Parliament, Nora Owen of the Democratic Institute Washington, and Rev Sahr Yambasu of the Emmaus Project, Freetown - all spoke positively about recent developments in Sierra Leone.

Nora Owen shared her experience as election observer in Freetown at both rounds of the recent Sierra Leone Parliament/Presidential elections. She found a force of 5,000 trained volunteer election workers assigned to the countries polling stations and stated that the election was conducted in an exemplary manner.

Eoin Ryan MEP noted a tremendous sense of hope generated by these elections. He also witnessed “an incredible campaign against any kind of violence” in the vicinity of polling stations.  He warned though that people must see something done very quickly by the new Government or else Sierra Leone could slide back to its’ past.  He said a small local road building/repair initiatives would be concrete evidence of a government breaking with the past.  He recommended that Aid be delivered in a focused drive in specific strategic sectors.  The danger is that because Sierra Leone faces such huge challenges in almost every sector, aid would be dissipated in trying to solve all problems at once.  He recommended that Sierra Leone Ireland Partnership make a submission to the Development Committee of the European Parliament.

Rev Sahr Yambasu expressed his admiration for people’s commitment to exercising their vote even queuing from 5am.  He praised the work of Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a highly accurate record of the history of Sierra Leone and a balanced account of exactly who was implicated in the war.

Attending the forum were what Martin Rowan, Secretary of the Sierra Leone Ireland Partnership (SLIP) referred to as “the most comprehensive gathering ever of Irish stakeholders concerned with the future of Sierra Leone.”  Among the 45 attendees were representatives of The Africa Centre, Appleby Jewellers, Christian Aid, Christian Brothers, Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny, Development Studies Centre Kimmage, Irish Aid, Irish Missionary Union , Methodist Church, Missionary Sisters (Holy Rosary) and Spiritans (Holy Ghost Fathers) and Trócaire

Trócaire News - Call for Irish government to make Sierra Leone a priority