At the end of the two days AU EU summit for Heads of State in Brussels, His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio engaged Sierra Leoneans resident in the Benelux countries. The president thanked them for the support they have been giving to development efforts in Sierra Leone as the government continues to pursue its national programs.
During this engagement the president underscored the need for a critical mass of right thinking people to keep up their patriotic strides so as to win over those with negative tendencies. “You don’t have to be SLPP; you don’t have to know me, but you have to understand that Sierra Leone is moving in the right direction”, president Bio pointed out.
The President thanked the various sets of communities abroad, recognising that they make their own individual efforts not only to address the welfare needs of their families, but also to give the little they can offer back home to friends and the general society. “That is commendable and I want to, on behalf of all those who have been benefiting from your generous efforts, thank you”, the president told his audience.
He said the country needs support, emphasising that the things the diasporas do will help the country and he further went in to say that there are people that have very good ideas about what the country needs and he invited them to join the process and make things better.
The president expressed his joy by stating that “We are very proud of what you’re doing and we want to be in position to continue to support the efforts that you’re making”. He then went on to highlight some of the successes the government has made, over the relatively short period of time, citing the repeal of the criminal libel law, the repeal of the death penalty, the gender empowerment act, the free quality education and the improvement of the health sectors.
President Bio explained that the disporans have special needs and they have acquired special skills and therefore they require special attention.
“That is why the government is putting together policies to create the enabling environment for those skills to be effectively utilised so that when you go back home you can be able to easily fit into the country”.
The President spoke about his educational polices, pointing out that when he took up office, fewer people had access to education, fewer could read and write, lamenting that such a situation was not good for the image of a country that had the first university in the region.
He said that this negative reality was changing as a result of the determined strides being pursued through the Free Quality Education program which has exponentially increased the number of children who are now attending school with parents able to access their kids’ results on their cell phones, free of charge.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Professor David Francis, in his statement, said his ministry has very good plans for the diaspora and that is the reason the ministry has established the directorate of Diaspora Affairs to look into the welfare and plans of those living abroad.
He said the Ministry is looking at having investment and trade attachés and that recruitment will be extended to the diaspora because recruiting everyone from Freetown and sending them as diplomatic staff is a very expensive venture but he also acknowledged that these were proposals that are still being assessed. He underlined the need for the diaspora to be empowered to promote Sierra Leone in the various countries abroad.
The Sierra Leone Ambassador to Brussels, welcomed all present particularly those that had travelled from various locations including Holland, France, Germany, and Belgium for the support they have been giving and he called on them to continue to promote the country in their various ways.
The members of different organisations appreciated the strong strides of President Bio but also called on the president to give them more support in certain areas pointing out challenges encountered especially in the acquisition of lands for those running charities.