Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 September 2022:
Yesterday’s inauguration of newly elected president Ruto of Kenya at the Nairobi national stadium was going well until President Ruto welcomed and paid tribute to visiting Heads of State, but omitted the name of Sierra Leone’s president. One of Ruto’s aides had to point to President Ruto that President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone was among the visitors, before he could be acknowledged.
Even worse, Ruto pronounced Bio’s name incorrectly, to the embarrassment of Sierra Leone’s president.
Fo many Sierra Leoneans, such an embarrassment is unheard of at the highest level of State protocol, and there are calls for Sierra Leone’s minister of foreign affairs to take full responsibility for this huge gaffe.
But some political analysts say that Ruto’s snobbery of President Bio is connected to President Bio’s mishandling of recent deadly riots in Sierra Leone and the labelling of former President Koroma’s APC party as a terrorist group, responsible for organising the riots.
Former President Koroma was in Kenya (Photo above) supervising presidential and general elections in the country when riots broke out in various parts of Sierra Leone. There is immense political sympathy and professional respect between the newly elected Kenyan President and former president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma.
But writing on Twitter yesterday, President Bio sounded upbeat, and put on a brave face to the Kenyan fiasco. He said: “Today, I joined other Heads of State and Government at the inauguration ceremony of President William Ruto in Nairobi, Kenya, in demonstrating Sierra Leone’s commitment to promoting Pan-Africanism and democracy. Congratulations once again, President Ruto and the people of Kenya”.
A political commentator in Sierra Leone wrote: “Disgracefully, disgraceful! Just been informed by the BBC reporter in Kenya that even a seat was not provided or made available for Mungo Park (President Bio’s new nickname for his all too frequent travels abroad) during the just ended inaugural ceremony of president Ruto in Nairobi, Kenya. Sources from the event planning team had this to say after the event, “how can they provide seating accommodation to an uninvited guest or even acknowledge him at the peak of the event when they haven’t extended any iota of invitation for him to grace the well-attended ceremony by some of the big names in the continent”. Even the uninvited guest was not properly acknowledged, and his name was wrongly pronounced.”
This is what Reverend Kabs Kanu, Editor of Cocorioko said about President Bio’s most embarrassing moment:
“The fact that I worked as a diplomat in a very senior capacity for 9 years makes it even more possible for me to spot out the anomaly and shame . I know how the system works. Protocol officially compiles all the names of invited guests to such a big occasion. There is no way they could have omitted President Bio’s name from the list the President read from if he was invited. The president does not write his own speech. It is not one person that writes the president’s speech. It is teamwork. Even we in New York also used to do the compilation and help in writing of the speeches. How could the new president have omitted President Bio’s name from the list of invited guests the new President acknowledged from his speech?
“And look at what the President said: he did not say he omitted to mention President Bio’s name. If he did, he could and should have apologized because it is a grave protocol and diplomatic blunder . The new president rather said he had just been reminded that “our friend and brother from Sierra Leone “also attended . Why did he not say “I omitted to mention the name of an important person we invited”? And he went on and completely mispronounced President Bio’s name.
“I worked for the Foreign Affairs in a very senior capacity for 9 years and we here in New York, State House and the Foreign Ministry in Freetown worked together in everything, even in preparing statements, speeches and talking points of the president and misters . We made sure that the talking points were well produced and rehearsed to avoid blunders etc. How could we have prepared a presidential statement and completely omitted one of the names of the invited presidents ? Somebody here or in Freetown would have picked it up that the names were incomplete.
“We received special training on our appointments about how to make sure that we did everything right in protocol and diplomacy. We were taught that in diplomacy, you cannot even say mistakes are negligible because even a 1% mistake would hurt the president or the country. Rather, we were told ” mistakes were a no no ” No mistakes. Not a single nuance that would raise any red flag . Nothing. I am sure other governments gave their State House and Foreign ministries the same training on protocol.
“This is a big embarrassment. No way to patch it up. And the Kenya president did not even treat Bio with respect during his explanation. He treated our President just like a common guest. I am sure the cocktail will taste bitter in President Bio’s mouth today.
“And let me tell you who will take issue and be hurt most : The wife. Wives do not take lightly their husbands being slighted in public , let alone be embarrassed . Whenever we go out, my wife quickly notices if I have been disrespected even in a speech where my name is mentioned, and she demands immediate correction. When somebody fit to be my daughter repeatedly referred to me as Kabs , she had somebody go to remind the speaker immediately to refer to me as either Rev. KABS Kanu or Mr. Kabs Kanu. That is what wives do. They get hurt more when the husband is not treated right.
“The whole incident should be investigated by both the Kenya and Sierra Leone State Houses , if SLPP spin masters ( and mistresses ) are absolutely sure that the President was really officially invited. There was a major goof somewhere.
“The new Kenya President did not help matters when he tried to rectify the snob. He should have apologized that he did not name one of his invited guests. Saying that he has just been told that President Bio too was present was very disrespectful to our president and our country. He said it as if he did not know that President Bio was invited.
“Poor SLPP spin masters and mistresses. You are ruling an intelligent Sierra Leone at a new era when knowledge and understanding have increased due to a combination of Information Technology and social media. The intelligence of our people has become sharper than normal and today people read even body languages , tones of voices and even nuances of statements. This is no longer the old era of passive participants. Today, everybody, even the palm wine tapper at Leymbema Village, is an active participant in the decoding of social media communication and nuances . You can no longer fool even him.
“President Bio endured a very embarrassing day in Kenya today. People would seem inclined to believe from the interpretation of what happened at the Kenya stadium that the name of an uninvited guest was forced to be mentioned in the presidential introduction of the invited guests.”
Vickie Remoe, publisher, blames the Kenyan President for this presidential embarrasment. Writing on her Twitter feed, she said: “I hope a strongly worded memo will be sent from our Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Kenya’s cuz you don’t treat a Head of State like that. Whether you like President Bio or not he represents the people of SierraLeone and is deserving of respect and all protocols!”