Salone News

A chat with Sierra Leone’s first resident ambassador to Turkey

5 August 2020 at 15:20 | 1557 views

Sierra Leone’s first resident Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey, Mohamed Hassan Kaisamba (photo), took leave of President Bio last February at State House in Freetown. Since then he has been settling down in that country. One of our Special Correspondents, Alpha Lebbie, talked to him recently. Excerpts:

Alpha Lebbie: Mr Ambassador, you have been in Turkey for a very short period. Please tell us how it has been for you since you travelled here to essentially open Sierra Leone’s first diplomatic mission in the Republic of Turkey.

Mohamed Hassan Kaisamba: I arrived in Turkey in early March 2020. A few days after, the entire country was in complete lockdown for several weeks, due to the Covi-19 pandemic. It was indeed a very challenging time. No offices were opened and virtually everything was at a standstill. We however did not despair; my staff were incredible. We used that lockdown period to brainstorm on many issues. It gave us a lot of time to think about our mission and the work ahead of us. Also, we are grateful for the continuous support we received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, in particular the African Division staff were very helpful and provided us support whenever they were able to do so, given that they were working under lockdown modalities.

The Foreign Ministry, through the African Division, facilitated my presentation of Letters of Credence on 14th July 2020. This was an important day in my official assignment in Turkey. My meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the presenting of my credentials officially signaled the commencement of my job as Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey.

In addition, we have also received a lot of support from other African missions in Turkey. It was indeed reassuring that, in the early days of our stay in Turkey, we had some diplomats who provided us with information which proved very useful in helping us cope effectively.

Indeed, the past months have been challenging, but they also gave me and my staff the opportunity to learn more about this beautiful and historic country.

AL: Please tell us what you see as your priorities in this job

MHK: As you may be aware, the mandate of the Embassy of Sierra Leone in Turkey is to articulate Sierra Leone´s foreign policy and interests and increased visibility of Sierra Leone in the Republic of Turkey. The Embassy also works to enhance cooperation and collaborative engagements between individuals and the public and private institutions in the Republic of Sierra Leone and in the Republic of Turkey.
Our priority is to work with the Republic of Turkey for the mutual benefit of our two countries. We appreciate the huge potential for Sierra Leone to tap from the opportunities available in Turkey and we also consider as important the reality that Turkey’s trade credentials in Africa are on the increase. We know Turkey and African countries’ bilateral trade rose to $23.8 billion in 2018 from $5.5 billion in 2003, while Turkey’s exports jumped by 579% to $14.4 billion in the same period, and this has been increasing every year. We are keen to tap into this potential and increase our trade volumes with Turkey. My objective is to project, promote and protect Sierra Leone’s interests and image, while enhancing diplomatic engagements with the Turkish government, investors, and entrepreneurs to contribute to economic transformation, promoting economic cooperation, international trade and investment.
You may also know that the government of Sierra Leone under the leadership of Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio continues to pursue a disciplined economic management path. Despite all the economic challenges, the President and his government have prioritized investment in human capital development as the bedrock of the administration. Accordingly, the government has launched the Free Quality Education program as its flagship development project, in addition to scaling up investment in healthcare and making quality healthcare delivery both accessible and affordable to all Sierra Leoneans. In line with these economic and development priorities I and my team will actively seek opportunities and best practices in Turkey with a view to encouraging the appropriate harnessing, adaptation and application of resources towards transforming Sierra Leone to a middle-income progressive nation. Of special interest will be Turkey’s comparative advantages in the sectors of energy, education, security, defence, tourism and agriculture.

AL: What challenges do you envisage as you embark on your diplomatic journey in the Republic of Turkey?

MHK: As I said earlier, this is a brand new mission. Everything we are doing is basically from scratch. I continue to rely on the support of my experienced diplomatic team and the constant support we are receiving from the rank and file of the staff from the Sierra Leone Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Madam Nabeela Tunis, has been great and we are grateful to her for all the support we continue to receive.

I envisage that resources may be a challenge as we progress. Our government inherited perhaps the most challenged economic situation in modern times. Given these realities and coupled with the challenge of COVID-19, I am not oblivious of the realistic hiccups in the flow of resources to fully realize our work plans. Being the show-room of Sierra Leone in the Republic of Turkey, the realization of our set goals is hinged on the financial capacity of our Embassy to engage in and roll out public diplomacy. For instance, the hosting of presentation sessions, seminars and work-shops etc; in a bid to promoting the country’s economic national interests with regard to attracting foreign direct investment potentials and business opportunities to Sierra Leone, would require funds.

AL: Mr Ambassador, COVID-19 continues to ravage the world. Can you please tell us about the current situation of COVID-19 in Sierra Leone? What precautionary measures or steps are you taking in your embassy for the staff?

MHK: As you may be aware Sierra Leone reported its first Coronavirus index case on 30th March 2020. Though there has been an increase in cases, I am pleased to report that due to the spontaneous reaction of the governments, the pandemic continues to be under serious control.

Before the virus struck, our President Dr. Julius Maada Bio was on the right trajectory when he declared a State of Public Emergency and the closure of our borders. This was done to contain the virus from entering the country.
Now that it has been confirmed, the safety rules and compliance have been pursued vigorously. Curfew continues to be in place from late night to early morning.
It has not been a very easy journey, but the smart leadership of President Bio, and lead by the National Corona Virus Emergency Operations Center has ensured control of the pandemic. It has been a difficult journey, with Sierra Leoneans making a lot of sacrifices and working closely behind the government. As a nation, we have endured border closures, a three-month shuttering of our airport, ongoing national state of Public Health Emergency and periodic countrywide lockdowns—all aiming to control the potential spread of the virus. Plans for additional treatment centers, for both mild and severe cases, are in the works.
Following the outbreak of the virus in Turkey, the government of the Republic of Turkey declared a State of Emergency and ordered the closure of schools and universities throughout the country and banned all public gatherings and imposed a curfew.
I thank God that, to my knowledge, no Sierra Leonean in Turkey so far has been affected.
In line with national guidelines, our mission continues to adhere to strict social distancing guidelines and protocols. All our staff and visitors are strictly encouraged to adhere to all precautionary measures and government COVID-19 guidelines.

AL: Mr Ambassador, what message do you have for Sierra Leoneans resident in the Republic of Turkey?

MHK: My message to every Sierra Leonean in Turkey is simple and direct: We are here to serve you, seek your interest and to encourage you to partner with us in projecting the image and best interests of Sierra Leone in Turkey.
The embassy is open to all Sierra Leoneans and my team is at your disposal at all times. Please visit the embassy, as we look forward to welcoming you with open hands.

AL: Is there any thing else that you may want to mention?

MHK: Let me just thank you for your time and maybe use this opportunity to say to everyone that Sierra Leone is a beautiful, peaceful, thriving democracy, ready for business and investment. If it is tourism you are after, perhaps we are one of the few nations in the world that can boast of three seasons : summer, summer and summer.

May Allah guide and bless our beautiful country, Sierra Leone

Thank you.

Comments