Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 August 2018:
840 Sierra Leoneans will be joining over two million Muslims from across the world, embarking on their holy pilgrimage to Mecca this week.
State House media reports says that president Julius Maada Bio was at the Siaka Stevens Stadium in Freetown yesterday, where he addressed the pilgrims and wished them a safe journey and blessed return.
The contingent leaving Sierra Leone for Mecca is comprised of 828 pilgrims and 12 members of the Hajj Committee and medical team.
Deputy Minister of Social Welfare – Mohamed Haji Kella, said that of the 473 scholarships awarded to pilgrims, 50 were granted by the President, 25 by the Vice President and 15 were awarded by First Lady – Mrs. Fatima Bio.
Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, who supervised the Hajj planning and management process, said that upon receiving the mandate from President Bio to lead the preparations, he decided to set up a 15-man committee that eventually ensured that the process was transparent and open.
Dr. Jalloh also stated that despite the limited time they had, the committee was able to deliver on their mandate and therefore thanked them for their patriotic service to the nation.
“Preparations for this year’s Hajj was late because of the elections but with dedication, the committee was able to meet their timeline. This year’s distribution process was open, inclusive and transparent and because of that our government was able to secure twenty-eight additional spaces for the first time ever,” he said, adding that the Bio administration was working with the Government of Saudi Arabia to increase the country’s quota from 800 to 1,500 next year.
President Bio said he was pleased with the manner in which the selection process was done across the country, noting that it represented all shades of interest in the country.
He said the Holy pilgrimage was an important aspect of Islam, and for which his government had placed utmost seriousness to the process and ensured that all those qualified to travel were able to do so.
“Hajj is a very sacred pillar of Islam and one which every Muslim will love to observe. The challenges we face as a nation are enormous but what we have done to ensure that those who are qualified go to perform the ceremony.
“This is a testimony of what the New Direction stands for. This year, we are proud to say everyone will travel and no one will stop at Youyi Building or Lungi Airport as was done last year,” said president Bio.
The president also mentioned that with this achievement, his government was able to change the face of the Ministry of Social Welfare, from one that was known for disorderly behaviour and corruption allegations, into a more responsible ministry that is capable of handling any challenge. Hence the result of a well-planned Hajj this year, he said.
He lamented that Sierra Leone needs the favour of God to put an end to the turbulent moments the country has experienced recently; and asked the pilgrims to pray for the government and people of Sierra Leone.