Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – Yesterday, during the official launch of the 50th -anniversary celebration of the Mano River Union (MRU), at its edifice on Spur loop, in Freetown, the Deputy Minister of Planning and Economic Development (MoPED), Jonathan Titus Williams (PhD), revealed that the MRU has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with FIFA, the world’s governing body for football, to establish a state-of-the-art facility in Sierra Leone’s Malema, in Pujehun.
Noting that Malema holds historical importance as it is the location where a pivotal peace agreement was signed, the minister disclosed that a team from MoPED has already conducted an advance visit to Malema, engaging with local chiefdom authorities.
“The authorities have warmly granted our request for 100 acres of land to be allocated for this transformative project,” said the deputy minister, adding that to kick-start the development process, MoPED has formally requested the Ministry of Lands to provide surveyors who will conduct land surveys and complete the necessary documentation.
Emphasizing its significance in the field of sports within the sub-region, Mr. Williams further disclosed that the Malema facility, besides being a sports training centre, will feature a trading centre and hotels, envisioning this as a hub for international football matches. Underscoring the unifying power of football, he mentioned that it transcends political and ethnic boundaries, making it a potent tool for fostering unity and reconciliation.
In her address, the Secretary-General of the MRU, Ambassador Maria G. Harrison, pointed out that the celebration is a milestone commemorating the Union’s objective to establish a strong economic foundation for lasting peace, friendship, freedom, and social progress among its member states.
“The theme for this year’s celebration is “Strengthening the Culture of Peace and Regional Integration for Sustainable Development,” she said.
According to her, despite challenges, including civil wars, the Union remains committed to its original purpose, focusing on trade promotion, agriculture, and mutual peace and security.
She furthered that the MRU actively oversees various regional projects, including resource governance, women cross-border trading, forest conservation, and infrastructure development, to promote regional peace, security, and economic growth, expressing gratitude to member states and development partners for their continued support.
In a statement delivered on behalf of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the principal country program officer, Atanga Felicitas highlighted the longstanding partnership between the AfDB and the MRU in various domains.
She explained that “The AfDB has supported the MRU with technical capacity building projects and regional components of investment projects in MRU member countries. Some ongoing projects include the Post Ebola Recovery Social Investment Fund (PERSIF project), MRU Road Development and Transport Facilitation project phase III, and the Building Inclusive Business Ecosystems for Stabilization and Transformation in the Mano River Union (BI-BEST) project, which focuses on empowering women cross-border traders in Sierra Leone and Liberia.”
“Despite some implementation challenges in specific projects, the AfDB expresses its commitment to supporting the MRU Secretariat in achieving economic development, gender equality, and social progress in its member countries,” said Madam Felicitas, committing continued support to MRU in line with the AfDB’s mandate.
During the event, key representatives from member countries and sub-bodies of MRU gave their contributions, stressing on strengthening of peace and integration for sustainable development.
Key highlights of the day’s celebration include a float parade and the presentation of a token to Madam Harrison, by the Sierra Leone Scouts Association (SLSA). PSN/4/10/2023