Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 January 2020:
Former President of Sierra Leone – Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, yesterday hosted Mr. Michael von der Schulenburg who is the former Executive Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Sierra Leone, at the Koroma Residence in Makeni City.
Mr. Schulenburg served in Sierra Leone from 2009 to 2012, during what has been described as a politically difficult period of the former president’s time in office, which saw numerous violent clashes between supporters of the two main parties – APC and the SLPP.
Mr. Schulenburg is visiting Sierra Leone on the invitation of the current president Dr. Julius Maada Bio, who last week awarded Mr. Schulenburg with one of the highest national honours bestowed on the country’s citizens.
Speaking on his arrival in Makeni City yesterday, Saturday 25th January 2020, to a warm welcome from former President Koroma, Mr. Schulenburg expressed appreciation for the former president’s decision to graciously agree to meet him, as he had requested the meeting at a short notice.
Mr. Schulenburg said he had driven all the way from Freetown to meet the former president in Makeni, as a sign of the abiding respect and deep admiration he has for Former President Ernest Koroma.
Mr. Schulenburg said that it is no surprise that the former president is being utilized so well by the International Community, given his credentials built whilst he was in office.
Mr. Schulenburg emphasized the need for continuous dialogue among Sierra Leoneans, and reminded of how Africa has a very unique cultural system of conflict resolution, known as ‘Palaver Hut’ which encourages and promotes dialogue.
Former president, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma (Photo – left and Schulenburg right), said his doors in Makeni will always be opened to Mr. Schulenburg, as he thanked him for his visit.
Koroma expressed hope that the peace, stability, sustainable development and the very admirable practise of democracy which Sierra Leone as a country, had come to be known under his leadership when he was President, will continue to serve as the hallmark of governance with which Sierra Leone should be associated.
Former President Koroma agreed with Mr. Schulenburg on the importance of political dialogue, and used the opportunity to reiterate what he said has been his position since leaving the Presidency, after serving his constitutional two terms.
“As I stated in my Handing Over Notes to H.E. President Bio and which I have re-stated at every opportunity since then, I am always ready to assist in any way possible to promote peace, unity and development in Sierra Leone,” Former President Koroma told Mr. Michael von der Schulenburg, as he personally escorted his guest back to his vehicle for his return to Freetown.
Last week, President Dr Julius Maada Bio awarded Michael von der Schulenburg the ‘Grand Commander of the Order of the Republic’, “for his exceptional contribution to sustainable peace and democracy in the country”, according to State House.
Mr Schulenburg’s appointment by the UN Secretary General in 2009 as Executive Representative for the organisation’s first fully Integrated Peace Building Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), was aimed at promoting the UN’s activities in the country, providing development assistance, humanitarian aid and assist in political and institutional reforms, and conflict resolution.
Receiving his award at State House, Mr Schulenburg said that he is both honoured and excited to be a recipient of the prestigious ‘Grand Commander of the Order of the Republic’. He said that the recognition is the greatest honour he has received throughout his life, and said that Sierra Leone is one of the few countries in the world that has been successful in its peacebuilding process after a long bloody civil war.
“This is a great honour and a sign of confidence from a people and a government and for which I and my family are proud. Sierra Leone is on the right track and I wish you all the best and successes for the future,” he said.
President Bio congratulated Mr Schulenburg on receiving the award, saying that it is of no surprise that he deserves the honour for his contributions to peacebuilding in Sierra Leone. He said that the former UN diplomat came to Sierra Leone at a critical period, and yet was able to support the country’s democratic process for which Sierra Leoneans are grateful.
Former president Ernest Bai Koroma is now leading efforts to rebuild and reform his opposition All People’s Congress Party (APC) as leader and chairman of the party, after its defat at the polls in March 2018.