Zainab Bangura and our foreign relations

20 August 2009 at 06:20 | 623 views

By Pa John Baimba Sesay, Freetown.

The ability of a country to sell its image at the international scene may be one key tool for re-branding the image of that country. Take Sierra Leone as a case study, it reached a level when we were referred to as a ‘failed state’ and that was very bad for us.

We suffered at the very hands of our brothers as a result of what they thought was a revolution. That revolution was not a welcomed one since it led to the destruction of lives and property.

But we embarked upon efforts to change that image and perception that the world once had of us; we saw the peaceful transition of our country from one democratic regime to another; we saw how the people’s power protested against the powers that be by rejecting a ruling party for an opposition party whose plans and objectives were not very well known by the people.

That is how we have transformed ourselves from a bloody nation to a peaceful one, from a donor driven one to a nation that is at it best trying to stand economically on its own and from a nation that had the scares of a civil war on its conscience to a nation that has almost forgotten about those scares.

We have also seen how we have made undertakings that we should re-brand the image of this country and this; we are doing gradually since ‘Rome was not built in a day’ as said to me by then Opposite Leader Ernest Koroma in 2006 at the House of Parliament.

We are progressing and we are making strides; I definitely will not succumb to claims that we are not moving as a nation. We are!!!

Let us look at latest developments in country like the African Caucus meeting held in the country which saw the arrival of African Ministers of Finance and Bank Governors.

This is encouraging and an indication that we are a stable country that could host more meetings of such natures. The hosting of that meeting in Sierra Leone should be seen as having tremendous benefits to Sierra Leone. It will not only showcase our potential as a country in terms of investments and tourism, but will also go a long way to increase on the donor confidence on Sierra Leone.

Let us also look at the efforts aimed at peacefully resolving the longtime Yenga issue with our neighboring sister republic, Guinea, and let us look at the vast improvement in our foreign relations.

This is why I want to commend the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations. This is as a result of Sierra Leone good diplomatic moves in ensuring that we maintain our good relationship with our sister countries and even other countries at the international level.

Today, we have seen the maturity she displayed in handling the Yenga issue – working and lobbying behind closed doors within the sub-region just to achieve an amicable solution.

If the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is to have tremendous influence to help rebuild the economy of the country through particularly tourism, it is the idea of Zainab. And I think we’ve got to give her that credit rather than pulling her down as its evidenced in some frustrated folks.

Even the most critical mind would attest to it that when Momodu Koroma was Minister in charge of Foreign Affairs, not all was well; the SLPP tried in one way or the other but there was a lack of commitment the part of the SLPP to improve on the image of the country at the international front.

I am not making any political comparism here, but its good to give credit where it is due – at least we have to be nationalistic.

Zainab Bangura has made a difference in this direction. She has scored some political goals and that deserves some commendation to her.

Let us look at how she has successfully turn the faces of our foreign missions and even the ministry’s headquarters which was an eyesore not only to the local public, but that former dilapidated structure tells a lot about the country internationally.

That beside, through her relentless efforts, she had been able to establish three other missions for the country – Brazil, Senegal and Kuwait.

Zainab Bangura has a very decent track record both locally and internationally and it is that reputation that is helping her take the country the direction it is heading towards now.

She has a good relationship with Transparency International and has also worked with UNDP.

Zainab Hawa Bangura has got several international awards, as well as local for her outstanding role in the promotion of human right issues, good governance and accountability in society. She has visited the Oval Office once when she met with then President George Bush. She was a key player in the 1996 Bintumani Conference which called for a return to democratic governance for Sierra Leone.

She was a social activist during the difficult period when Sierra Leone was ruled by the military boys; she began the campaign by raising awareness among women.

She co-founded Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) in 1995, after establishing the Women Organized for a Morally Enlightened Nation a year earlier. She is a crusader against corruption and no wonder that she founded the National Accountability Group after the elections of 2002 and this group was aimed at checkmating corruption. She was a vocal figure against the civil war in Sierra Leone

She has been an influential figure in the present government and she has as a matter of fact being at the forefront in the Public Relations aspect for Sierra Leone. As a foreign Minister, she has always been out there to ensure, the image of this country is portrayed well and proper.

It was no mistake that President Koroma retained Hawa Bangura in the Foreign Affairs Ministries and I am of the view that today, the President must be saying ‘yes, I am well pleased with her’.