From the Editor’s Keyboard

Our Cabinet Ministers, Diplomats and Other Government Officials

By  | 13 January 2013 at 21:46 | 2670 views

Today we put aside the Humpty Dumpty series for the more urgent series on our cabinet ministers, diplomats and other senior government officials. This series is very important because it helps our people and friends in the international community to see how our government is performing its role or roles and thereby assess things for themselves.

In our last installment we examined three cabinet ministers and we must say the response from our readers was tremendous. Today we are going to examine three of our senior diplomats: Mr. Edward Turay, our High Commissioner in Britain, Mr Bockarie Stevens (Ambassador to the United States and Brazil and High Commissioner to Canada and to some Caribbean countries and finally Mr. Shekou Touray, Sierra Leone’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations in New York.

But before we present the three gentlemen, we would like to make some general comments about our missions abroad. The first thing that comes to mind is lack of communication. Even though there are press attaches in most of our missions, they (attaches) have not been able to do their job very well even though the majority are quite competent simply because the Ministry of Information in Freetown has not realized that no press attache will be truly functional without a strong link with local and international media. In Western countries, government officials are always in touch with the media and there are usually strong links between the two sides. Sometimes a telephone call or an email message to an editor or publisher create magic; sending a press release is not enough, they are usually dumped or deleted quickly because the human touch created by a telephone call or a warm email message is not there. We hope the new Information Minister will do things differently and try to forge a link with editors and publishers at home and abroad. It is not a question of money, it’s a question of MUTUAL RESPECT AND RECOGNITION.

The other issue is budget constraints in our missions or lack of sufficient money to put it plainly. But that will depend on how the economy does. Most of our diplomats cannot do certain things because of lack of funds. This is something the Foreign Minister and the Finance Minister should sit together on and find a solution.

Now to the three diplomats:

High Commissioner Edward Turay (top photo).

Eddie Turay (as he is commonly called in Sierra Leone) is a senior lawyer that had his education in Britain at a time when there was no talk of a law school at the University of Sierra Leone (50s and 60s). He has a law office or chambers in Freetown and has served his country and people for many years as a private lawyer.

But Eddie is mostly known as the politician from Sanda in Bombali district, northern Sierra Leone. He had been a Member of Parliament for many years and was a political rival of the legendary Sanda politician the late Thaimu Bangura. Both of them were strong APC men but Thaimu later broke away and formed a political party called PDP-Sorbeh together with the late Dr. Sheka Kanu and the late Musa Kabia (they were not happy with the way former president Momoh was marginalizing Temnes in the APC). Eddie stayed and today he is one the most senior, if not the most senior party member (in terms of longevity of service). In fact he was at one time leader of the party(1996) and presidential candidate. He lost the leadership to Ernest Koroma later on. Both men had a fight in court but all that is now history. Both men are good friends now and the president considers Eddie as an elder brother, friend and adviser.

Eddie is very friendly, jovial and chatty if you meet him for the first time but beneath all that is a warrior and fighter, very good at politics and not afraid to speak the truth even if the heavens come down. But the role of diplomat seems to have mellowed him down these days. He is a non-nonsense character and doing a wonderful job in London, coordinating and actually initiating many investor conferences. We now have a British-Sierra Leonean Chamber of Commerce in Freetown and we are sure Eddie was behind that among other achievements.

Eddie has never been a cabinet minister even though he is eminently qualified to be one, to the surprise and amazement of many Sierra Leoneans. He is simply not interested.

Ambassador Bockarie Kortu Stevens

Ambassador Bockarie Stevens, known as Sir Bockay to friends, is the nephew of the founder of the ruling APC in Sierra Leone, the late Siaka Stevens. He, like High Commissioner Turay in London, is also a very friendly character who tries to mix with all sorts of people (that sometimes causes problems for him but he does not seem to mind). He regularly attends functions organized by supporters of the opposition SLPP party to which he is invited to the discomfort of diehard supporters of the ruling APC. He always maintains that he is Ambassador of all Sierra Leoneans.

He has been a government official (Ambassador to Guinea, etc) for many years before relocating to London, UK, where he lived and studied in a sort of exile after the overthrow of the APC in 1992 until his appointment as Ambassador after the APC returned to power in 2007.

He has been doing tremendous work attracting American and Canadian investors to Sierra Leone while attending numerous meetings and signing numerous agreements with World Bank and IMF officials.Again, like the mission in London, it will be difficult for the world to know his achievements without a serious coordination between the Ministry of Information in Freetown and the press attaches on one hand and the Ministry of Information and editors and the publishers at home and abroad on the other.

He seems to have a very heavy work load, taking care of the US, Canada, Brazil, etc. Three big and powerful countries. In fact Sierra Leoneans in Canada have been calling for their own High Commission in Ottawa to ease Sir Bockay’s work load and attract more aid and investors in Canada to Sierra Leone. It (the establishment of a High Commission in Canada) will also strengthen the APC branch in Canada and create serious engagement between Sierra Leonean professionals here and the home government.

Ambassador Shekou Touray

Not much is known about Ambassador Touray, our Permanent Representative at the United Nations in New York before and after his appointment, except that he is a Sierra Leonean and a UK-trained lawyer. He is a total mystery to many Sierra Leoneans (some of them even say he is a Guinean probably because of the way he spells his last name). This confusion is made worse by the fact that he is a quiet sort of person that does not like to talk about himself or say or do anything not related to his job.

We however hear that he is a very efficient administrator and immensely comfortable within New York’s diplomatic circles. Some people say however that he needs to be more aggressive defending Sierra Leone at the UN and meet more Sierra Leoneans socially in New York and surrounding areas.There is a strong rumour that somebody wants his job and is doing everything possible to get it, but that is normal among Sierra Leoneans.

Well, that is all for now. Next week we shall look at three senior government officials, directors or heads of what are known as parastatals in Sierra Leone.