The Sierra Leone National Union (SLENU) in The Gambia celebrated the 49th Independence anniversary on Tuesday April 27th 2010 at the Stadium Hostel grounds in Banjul in grand style.
The celebrations were modestly coordinated by the Interim Executive of SLENU headed by John Sesay as Interim Chairman, Alhaji Karim as General Secretary and Mohamed Musa as Financial Secretary.
The free cultural show which attracted scores of Sierra Leoneans resident in the Gambia saw performances by the Freetong Players (a cultural group based in The Gambia), Sengbeh International cultural dance troupe, Hupanda and ‘Brains’ a local comedian.
With financial (twenty two thousand dalasis) and moral support from the S.L.High Commission the executive also raised an additional seven thousand one hundred dalasis from groups like the SLTA, APC, SLPP, ASLEM, Tonkolili Descendants and individuals like Mrs Christiana Kamara and Abdul Allen Bangura. The Sierra Leonean Lebanese Community in the Gambia also contributed soft drinks and water for the celebrations. Altogether with thirty four thousand dalasis the Interim SLENU Executive was able to feed and fete their compatriots satisfactorily.
Speeches were made by the first secretary in the High Commission Mrs Fatmata Kargbo who spoke about attitudinal change; a Muslim representative spoke about empowerment of SLENU and a Christian representative spoke about unity among Sierra Leoneans.
Questioned about what generally were their problems in The Gambia the SLENU Interim Executive members told Awoko that these mainly had to do with residential permits, refugee status and jobs. Although things were not rosy they said, yet they were able to live at least an average life with little or no trouble from the Gambian authorities (immigration included).
With regards to cooperation from the High Commission and High Commission staff the SLENU Executive members intimated that there was “no problem”. When they have serious problems they said the High Commission steps in, for example on issues of fatal illness. On other issues like arrests or death the executive members say they try to solve the problem by themselves.
Questioned about the effect of the absence of a High Commissioner, they praised the work done by the Head of Chancery Mr Lungay saying he has functioned well but they also stated that however “it will be nice to have a High Commissioner.”
The last High Commissioner to the Gambia was H.E. Foday Yumkella appointed by the SLPP and was first recalled in December of 2007. He finally left in September 2008. Since then the Gambia has never had a High Commissioner. This makes it four months less than two years. It should be noted that the Gambia and Sierra Leone had established relationships of nearly two hundred years (infact 11 years short of 200 years). History has it that twice the Gambia was governed from Sierra Leone starting from as far back as 1821. In 1843 the Gambia and Sierra Leone were separated only to be joined again. And on November 28, 1888 the Gambia was again separated from Sierra Leone.
The non appointment of a High Commissioner is being viewed in diplomatic circles as a snub to the Gambian President and his country. Otherwise why would President Koroma appoint a new ambassador to Kuwait where we never had an embassy and leave The Gambia? The interpretation is obviously because we do not attach any importance to the country.
This is a bad attitude because when you consider the historic ties between the two nations, the local names and first blood relations existing, the sacrifices in hosting our compatriots during the rebel war, then one wonders why? Moreso the fact that now Sierra Leoneans so desirous can obtain a Gambian passport without outrightly discarding the Sierra Leonean passport indicates the level of open friendship that the Gambian government wants to maintain with Sierra Leone.
The question therefore arise – are we so ungrateful to our natural kin? Do we forsake old relationships for new ones? Are we so commercial in our relationships that we prefer Kuwait for example to Gambia? Should President Koroma snub Professor Alhaji Dr, Yayah A.J.J. Jammeh in this way?