When Sierra Leone is mentioned in the international arena the image that comes to mind is a war torn country with horrific legacies and poverty. However, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Zainab Hawa Bangura has promised to change this appalling image.
At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press conference at Gloucester street yesterday, the Minister informed journalists that she intends to change this image.
In an elaborate presentation, the Minister painstakingly explained, “when I was appointed [as foreign affairs minister] I went to parliament [where] I disclosed my theme for my term in office which is ‘active diplomacy in a changing world’.
She explained that the world in which we operate in is changing extremely fast and you have to move with it, stating “if you sit and expect something [to happen] then you are in trouble. The world is moving so fast and you have to move with it.” She emphasized.
The Foreign Minister explained, “I disclosed my four strategic plans with them, the first of which is ‘increased donor relation and development and resource mobilization’ pointing out that “we have very limited donor base, we can count the people who support our budget, in a country like Tanzania they have 30 my target is to increase donor support to have more donors coming in,” she explained.
My second agenda, she said was “trade and investment,” while the third is peace and security- stating that “if you do not have security you would not have economic growth” her fourth strategy was “sub regional, regional and international cooperation,” she said.
Mrs Bangura said the reason for the media conference was because they want “people to understand what the specific role of the ministry is … according to the gazette of 30th April 2008.” Highlighting what the gazette read, she said “the mission statement develop policy and programmes to govern relations with foreign countries and international organizations geared towards projecting the strategic interest of Sierra Leone through foreign policy; signing of all bilateral agreement with representatives of foreign government and international organizations; promote and advocate for assistance for Sierra Leone from external sources; dissemination of Sierra Leone government policies overseas, relations with diplomatic and consular corps accredited to Sierra Leone; collaboration with relevant government ministries and national and international organizations and institutions.”
“90% of our job is out of Sierra Leone,” she said, “we deal with people, every communication that comes into this country comes through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs irrespective of which we are the one who directed it even from President to President it comes through our Ministry.”“Every communication, every relationship, every interaction from every government agencies to another government should go through our ministry. The Foreign Affairs are the one that deals with the outside world. Other government do not recognize other communication if anybody wants to access money through any government it has to go through the Foreign Affairs,” she explained. The Minister continued, “most of the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) are controlled and managed by foreign embassies overseas so even with the US USAID is under the state department so they make the decision who do we give money, how much do we give them. So it is my colleague across the world that makes the decision, so they only recognize the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nobody can access their resources, or support without going through the relevant Ministries of Foreign Affairs and that is how it works in the international world.” She said. “The Ministry of foreign affairs is the one that deals with the world, because it is governed by the Vienna Convention. There is a convention that governs country dealing with each other it is through that we deal with each other. The President is the one who gives me direction, you open the door and at the end of the day you go out there and do what he has asked you to do,” she pointed out.She urged Sierra Leoneans to start to look to colleagues and the country at large positively.