Anthony Abdul Karim Kamara, Jnr: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 June 2018:
“The Diaspora is a resource that Sierra Leone can tap into for its development needs,” said retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic. He was speaking for the first time at the House of Parliament in Freetown, during the official State Opening of the Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic.
“In the Diaspora,” said Bio, reside some of the most educated, entrepreneurial and wealthy citizens. Most Diasporas are strongly attached to Sierra Leone to contribute meaningfully to the country’s development, he further noted in recognition of the strong and important role the Diaspora play in Sierra Leone’s economic growth and development.
For the Sierra Leonean Diaspora, such remarks from the President is not only welcoming but reassuring given that the previous ruling All Peoples Party (APC) government under President Ernest Bai Koroma, invoked a constitutional provision, section 76(1) to prevent individuals with foreign citizenship from running for office even though many in his cabinet had dual citizenship.
None knows this better than Hon. Dr. Kandeh Yumkella – former presidential flag-bearer, current Parliamentary leader of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) and Member of Parliament representing Constituency 062 whom the Koroma government sought to exclude from participating in the March 2018 parliamentary and presidential elections.
“As you all know,” said Yumkella, “I have paid a heavy price when the judicial system was used in a predatory manner to hound me out of the country of my birth. We have forgiven those who wronged us, and as they say in the holy books “let the dead bury their dead.”
Yumkella noted that the NGC supports the President’s proposal to “examine the laws relating to dual citizenship with a view to allowing Sierra Leonean Diaspora to fully participate in the politics of Sierra Leone”.
To this end, already the Honourable Leader of Government Business, Sidie M. Tunis, the Honourable Leader of the Opposition – Chernoh Maju (Chericoco) Bah and himself have started informal discussions to collaborate on a bipartisan bill to be placed before this house for consideration, he intimated.
Yumkella has made it a point of duty to fight against the disenfranchisement of Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora and future generations. Recently, on social media, he recognized the Diaspora’s contribution to nation building. “Our Diaspora contribute a lot to nation building. Sierra Leone should follow Ghana’s example and allow them their voting right,” he tweeted from the handle @KYumkella on Saturday, May 5.
The Samu Chiefdom MP further intimated that all political parties will work with the newly approved Minister of Foreign Affairs to grant the Diaspora their voting right and the opportunity to serve their country. “Together the NGC, SLPP, APC and the Minister of Foreign Affairs will jointly work to ensure the diaspora voting rights, and to serve their country in various capacities,” his second of two tweets stated.
Questioned why the Coalition for Change (C4C) was not mentioned on his tweet, he noted that passing any Diaspora bill in parliament will require the participation of all Members of Parliament including C4C, colleagues he holds in high esteem. “They all have a stake in it, “he said.
“I am going to work with you to make sure wed engage our Diaspora. We live in a world where technology has made it possible for the voting right to be extended to anyone, anywhere. It is not hard anymore. Other countries are doing it including Guinea, our neighbor,” said Alie Sajan Kabba, current Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, during his confirmation hearing responding to a question posed by Hon. Yumkella on the Diaspora issue. (Photo: Yumkella and his NGC MP colleagues in parliament).
Yumkella had reminded him that the Diaspora issue is one that affects many including both of them as he called for a multi-party approach to solving it. “It is in our national interest and it is my job to defend, protect, promote our national interest,” Kabba emphasized.
In his closing remarks to parliament, President Bio assured the Diaspora about his government’s commitment to: (i) review the mandate of the Diaspora Office and access its validity (ii) examine the laws relating to dual citizenship with a view to allowing Sierra Leonean Diaspora to fully participate in the politics of Sierra Leone (iii) mobilize highly skilled Sierra Leoneans for knowledge and skills transfer to Sierra Leone through volunteer services or short-term consultancy services or partnership between local and Diaspora professionals organizations (iv) mobilize and leverage Sierra Leonean Diaspora business communities for investment and trade in Sierra Leone (v) develop interactive mechanisms and special incentives for Sierra Leonean Diaspora Business communities and (vi) encourage Sierra Leonean Diaspora to form professional fora abroad.
With support from the Office of the President at State House, the Office of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, colleague MPs and the Sierra Leone Diaspora across the political divide, Yumkella’s dream to ensure Sierra Leoneans their voting right and the ability to serve their nation is about to begin and may come to fruition. Clearly, he would not want to see any Sierra Leonean native go through his experience.
Numerous folks from the Diaspora have confirmed their keen interest in Yumkella’s collaboration with his colleagues to ensure President Bio’s objective is met as it is a win-win Sierra Leone. Supporters of the NGC party at home and abroad, have opined that their leader and MPs continue to stay true to their mantra – “Salone Fors.”
Author: Anthony Abdul Karim Kamara, Jnr |Follow him on Twitter @KamaraAnthony1