It was a novel affair here in Edmonton as eleven Sierra Leoneans were sworn into executive offices of the Sierra Leone Association of Alberta, Canada. This was the first time that officers took a personal oath openly, making a formal pledge to serve the community. Also, there was no fee to attend the event, and dinner was served for free.
The occasion took place on Saturday 4 February 2017, at the Northmount Community Hall in Edmonton. It was not only well attended but also graced by a host of dignitaries from sister African communities. According to the organizers, invitations were extended to the Cameroonian, The Gambian, Liberian, Nigerian, Ugandan,the Kenyan and Zimbabwean communities here.
This new team is the eighth executive committee since the association was formed in 1990. Its members are:
1. Kemoh Mansaray, President (second consecutive term)
2. Sansu Kamara, Vice-President
3. Theresa Goba, Secretary-General.
4. Kai Ngegba, Assistant Secretary-General
5. Martha Sellu, Social Secretary
6. Jalikatu Clarke, Assistant Social Secretary
7. Matilda Kamara, Financial Secretary
8. Idriss Bundu, Treasurer
9. Rebecca Nunoo, Auditor
10. Kelvin Kamara, Youth Coordinator
11. Harrison Collier, Assistant Youth Coordinator
The new team will run the affairs of the Sierra Leonean community here, for the next two years.
The inauguration itself was a follow-up to elections held on Saturday September 24, 2016. The lead organizer of those polls was Dr. Abu Conteh, as chief electoral commissioner. An environmental biologist and university lecturer here, Dr. Conteh led a working committee that was tasked with finding ways to get more Sierra Leoneans actively involved in community affairs.
One of its recommendations was to improve the way that the organization was run and make it more accountable and transparent. Kemoh Mansaray had already been using media apps to network with members and this may have complemented the commission’s efforts. Other key recommendations by the working committee were the drafting of by-laws and the setting up of an electoral commission that will run elections smoothly.
The said working committee did so well that Dr. Conteh was again chosen to lead the electoral commission that it helped create. The commission ran the elections successfully. Dr. Conteh’s academic credentials and attitude have endeared him to compatriots in this community. As a result, members overwhelmingly voted Dr. Conteh as Community Man of the Year 2016. He was a lecturer in the science department at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, before he moved to Canada a few years ago. He has several research papers to his credit, some already published in reputable scientific journals.
Last Saturday, Dr. Conteh was at it again. This time he was clad in his academic regalia; dressed to suit the occasion as he sought to put finishing touches to his team’s handiwork. The erudite but jovial academic was centre-stage as co-organizer of the swearing-in ceremony. After the executive members had been sworn in, Dr. Conteh gave a speech in which he expressed delight on behalf of his team of volunteers. “
"We are truly pleased and proud at the progress made by our beloved association and the community as a whole, “ he announced. Then he went on to trace the path to Saturday’s event. “We had quite a challenge but with your help, we have been able to come this far,” he concluded. There was loud applause from the audience.
Dr. Conteh acknowledged the important roles played by the respective members of the working committee, the by-laws committee, and the electoral commission. He also lauded the cooperation of former executives of the association, especially Mr. Momoh Magona-Kallon who was interim president before Kemoh Mansaray’s first term as president.
To the new team, Dr. Conteh was blunt. He reminded members about their sworn duty. “If you fail to perform, according to the by-laws and the wishes of your electorate, you will be voted out in the next elections,” he said. He encouraged people to continue to work with the executive team, just as he urged the new executives to be diligent. “Decisions without implementation are only as good as your wishes,” Dr. Conteh noted.
Indeed, Dr. Conteh had his impact even on the way the inauguration was organized. There was as much level-headed protocol injected into the affair as there was the flashy pageantry that used to define such transitions of community power. There was no staff or mace as a symbol of office. Yet, Dr. Conteh and his team improvised and put together a set of documents related to the historic September 2016, electoral process. At the appropriate time that Saturday evening, the manila envelope served as a ‘mantle of office’. Dr. Conteh handed the package over to Kemoh Mansaray soon after he (Mansaray) took his oath. “We hope this would serve as a beginning; so the association can consider having a distinct symbol of office,” Dr. Conteh smiled. His jest was greeted with cheers.
Among the many highlights of the evening was the association’s show of gratitude to people who have been helping the community in various ways. Certificates were awarded to deserving community members for the voluntary contribution of their time, effort and expertise. Also, many of the womenfolk were dressed in colourful Africana; thanks to the generous gesture of one of the new executive team. Vice-President Sansu Kamara told the Patriotic Vanguard that she had ordered the textile as a campaign promise to her female supporters, in the run up to the elections.
Asked why she was not wearing the colours herself, Sansu explained that there was hitch in the importation from overseas. “I had to go without myself because a promise is a promise,” she said. Instead, she turned the PR hiccup to her advantage and settled for a gown set in the national colours of Sierra Leone. “I thought that I might as well wear green-white-and-blue, rather than cry over a slight disappointment,” she grinned. It seemed to have worked for the better. Sansu’s Ashoebi-clad supporters danced heartily with her, as their new vice-president made a dramatic entry into the hall, to be sworn in. It was quite a sight; the euphoria, the music, and all.
Outgoing vice-president Alfred Magona also made a speech, to mark the formal end of his term of office. In his statement, Magona expressed delight at the pace at which the community is evolving. He assured the community that the association is in good hands, with Kemoh Mansaray at the helm.
“Having worked with Kemoh, I have faith in his love for this community and desire to make it grow and prosper.” he said. “However, Kemoh cannot do it all by himself; he needs the active participation of each and every community member.”
Kemoh Mansaray also spoke, expressing thanks to people who have been helping the association in various ways. He urged members to put God first in all their affairs. The president promised to work with his new team, in continuing the work he’d been doing with the previous executive committee. “We may not be able to achieve all our set goals; but with your cooperation we can be very successful,” he affirmed. He reminded members that they are all ambassadors of Sierra Leone. “Let us do what we can to raise the bar for Sierra Leone,” Mansaray pressed.
The Working Committee members: Dr. Abu Conteh (Chairman), Mrs. Mariama Nallo, Mr. Mohamed Jalloh (aka Wanduni), Mr. Sheku Kemoh Sesay, and Mrs. Edith Sam.
The By-Laws Committee members: Dr. Abu Conteh (Chairman), Mrs. Theresa Saffa, Dr. Gibril Sillah-Kargbo, Ms. Jami Saffa, and Mr. Walter Munde.
The Electoral Commission members: Dr. Abu Conteh (Chairman), Mrs. Mariama Nallo, Mr. Mohamed Jalloh, Mr. Prince Thorpe, Mr. Dominic Kanu, and Ms. Juliette Max-Peters
To begin the formalities, Mr. Minkailu Kamara led Islamic prayers while Mrs. Ina Kamara led Christian prayers. Former president, Mr. Abdul Kareem Kamara led Islamic prayers (photo) and Pastor Amara Bangura led Christian prayers at the conclusion of the inauguration ceremony.
Then it was party time, with the newly sworn-in Youth Coordinator at the controls. Doubling as deejay, Kelvin Kamara pumped the stereo and people danced and socialized until the small hours.
Members of the new executive. Outgoing vice president Alfred Magona is third from right. Incoming president Kemoh Mansaray is first from right.
Guests at the event
Dr. Abu Conteh (right) handing over the symbol of leadership to new president Kemoh Mansaray.
Leaders of other African communities in Edmonton at the event.
Dr. Gibril Sillah Kargbo, a prominent community leader, receiving a certificate of appreciation from Madam Sansu Kamara.
Female members of the association wearing Ashoebi donated by Madam Sansu Kamara.