Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 March 2022:
President Dr Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone is in Hanoi, Vietnam where he held talks yesterday with President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and witnessed the signing of Memoranda of Understanding between some of his government ministers and key ministries in the Southeast Asian country.
After Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Fisheries and Marine Resources and Agriculture signed and exchanged agreement commitments with their counterparts, President Bio engaged the country’s Prime Minister, Phạm Minh Chính, and later proceeded to perform a wreath-laying ceremony at the Mausoleum of the late Vietnamese President, Ho Chi Minh, and at the Monument of Heroes and Martyrs.
The MoU signed by the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Abu Bakar Karim and Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam, was for the promotion and protection of investments and the Agreement for Scientific and Technical Cooperation between the two countries.
It could be recalled that the Vietnamese President extended an invitation to President Bio when they met at the 76th United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2021, praising his ability to maintain political and social stability in the resource-rich West African nation.
The Vietnamese President observed that their relationship with other African countries has been stronger than it was because of their strong and growing bilateral ties, now resulting in more investments and developments in those African countries.
He expressed gratitude to President Bio and his delegation for the visit to his country, adding that this will not only strengthen their already very promising bilateral relations but also enhance the exchange of ideas and experiences with the second-largest rice exporter in the world making billions of dollars every year.
President Bio commended President Phuc for the warm hospitality accorded him and his government officials, noting that since their meeting last year on the margins of the 76th UN General Assembly in New York, his Foreign Affairs Minister has constantly stayed in touch with the Vietnamese authorities.
President Bio added that his New Direction government has focused on human capital development with priorities on Free Quality Education that is already benefiting two million children, healthcare delivery and agriculture.
The experience of Vietnam is similar to that of Sierra Leone. Civil wars turned out to be nightmares for both countries. Maybe the only difference one was fighting a war of cold war rivalry between the communist North backed by China and the then Soviets Union and on the other hand the American backed South Vietnam, that was until 1975 when the Americans decided to cut their looses both in human and economic terms and withdrew their forces, which gave the green light to the North Vietnamese communist forces to marched to Saigon in1975 and overthrow the puppet Western backed South Vietnamese government. One year later North and South Vietnam were reunited and Hanoi was made the Capital for the whole of the country.
According to Stanley Karnow in his book Vietnam A History, the changes the new government brought about created terrible hardship for Vietnamese. “Rebuilding Vietnam have been a stupendous task under the best of circumstances. The war shattered its economy, disrupted its social texture and exhausted its population in both the North and South”. In our case if one may add East and West. More like he was referring to Sierra Leone after the brutal end of the senseless RUF wars. So this invitation by President Xuan Phuc to Bio is an ideal opportunity for Bio to learn from Vietnam which is now becoming one of the fastest growing markets in East Asia and the Pacific region.Just like Sierra-leone, Vietnam is recovering from the wars of the seventies and the 90s. Both are rice consuming and producing nation.
And simlar annual rain fall with rice paddies. And since Bio wants to make Sierra Leone a self sufficient rice producing nation, our country will do well to ask the Vietnamese government for expert advice on rice and cassava production. Lets this be a productive journey, not a wasted journey by Bio and his entourage,which has become a hallmark of his Presidency. Clocking in air miles on behalf of Sierra Leone, but nothing to show for it at the end.