Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 July 2018:
A serious and embarrassing row broke up two months ago, between the newly elected government of president Julius Maada Bio and the country’s diplomatic staff based overseas, following the government’s public announcement that all diplomatic staff were effectively out of work and must return home.
But since then, and after much protest by the diplomatic staff about the nonpayment of their end of service contractual entitlements, their differences with the government appeared to have been settled.
But it seems both sides are now locked in bitter disagreement over what has been paid and arrangements about the return home of the diplomats, who say that the full cost of their repatriation have not been met. There is standoff.
The government says it has paid the reasonable cost of their return and will not be held responsible for any further financial liability pertaining to their return home.
And last weekend, a letter was sent to all diplomats by the Director General of Foreign Affairs, giving then twenty-four hours notice to return back to Sierra leone. The letter has not gone down well with the diplomats. (Photo Above: President Bio left, and foreign minister Alie Kabba who must now resolve this impasse, which is fast becoming a national embarrassment).
This is the collective response of the diplomats to the government, written by the country’s Ambassador to the USA – Bockarie Stevens:
Dear Director General
We write to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated 29th June 2018 relating to the recall of Ambassadors, Deputies and Attaches.
Our attention is particularly drawn to the paragraph relating to the payment of salaries for the month of June and to state that if this proposal is implemented there will be consequences to the affected group in particular, and the country in general.
- The emphatic claim in the letter that full repatriation funds have been given to all Ambassadors, deputies and attaches remains a disturbing reality that will continue to inflame feelings and give rise to unnecessary drama surrounding this whole issue.
- The Issue of giving tight and unprecedented instructions deadlines that all the affected diplomats should return to Sierra Leone on or before the 30th of June 2018 which is less than 24 hours from the receipt of your letter renders such instructions virtually impossible to go by.
- Your further instructions for the ambassadors as heads of mission to handover to our respective Heads of Chanceries all properties belonging to the respective embassies by the 30th June 2018 at very latest is a recipe for confusion as all the affected persons are legitimately at their posts awaiting their full repatriation packages.
- That our salaries/allowances for the month of June will be received in Freetown that the cut-off date for salary entitlement to all the diplomats is on the 30th June 2018 and beyond this cut-off date, the affected diplomats will be on their own and doing so at their own peril. For us, we see such developments as a constructive abandonment of the affected diplomats and more or less to their fate as destitute and homeless persons including their family members.
Given the foregoing, the implications of going by your decisions/instructions would be tantamount to the following:
1.That the ministry/government has constructively abandoned their diplomats and ignored the laid down rules and regulations of the Sierra Leone Foreign Service code, rules and regulations governing the posting of diplomatic staffs and their withdrawals at the end of their tour of duty.
- Secondly, all the affected diplomats regardless of their financial commitments by law to pay monthly rents to their landlords/landladies should be abrogated at the risk of their officially being complained by such persons to the host countries, Ministries of Foreign Affairs in the first instance; and in the second instance being sued to court as debtors who are about to flee their host countries without settling their financial obligations, not only to the landlords or landladies but also to their bankers, domestic servants, utility companies- electricity, gas, water, telecommunications companies and to the school authorities for our children school fees.
The consequences of such actions from Sierra Leonean diplomats will not only tarnish the reputations of the affected diplomats and the country but would also have the effect of damaging or complicating the already existing good bilateral and multilateral ties between our country and our countries of accreditation.
Meanwhile we still maintain the instruction given to us to remain at our different posts whilst awaiting our full repatriation packages in a letter of recall dated 30th April 2018 from our president, His Excellency Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio. We are also inclined to strictly adhere to the provisions of the law i.e., the Sierra Leone Civil Service Code, Rules and Regulations.
Having outlined the likely consequences of such decisions contained in your letter under reference, the affected diplomats are left with no choice but to bring such developments to the attention of our host countries as a pre-emptive action against the unavoidable reports that our creditors will be making against us for immediate settlement to the Foreign Ministries of our respective host countries.
We would like to assure you Mr. Director-General that the, affected diplomats have no intention to run away from their financial and legal obligations to their creditors- landlords/landladies, domestic servants, suppliers of goods and services, bankers and medical/health service providers.
We will stay the course until we fully settle the debts owing to our creditors in order to save our reputations, that of the president whom we are representing as his personal representatives in our different countries of accreditation. Over and above, the overall image of our country, Sierra Leone.
In the light of the above we are therefore appealing to your good consciences for a review of this decision and kindly request the payment of our salaries and allowances for the month of June 2018 which we have earned and duly ours as per our employment and conditions of service.
We wish to further appeal by reminding all concerned that the postings and withdrawals of diplomatic staff are governed by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular Relations of 1961, as well as by our own local diplomatic law and the Sierra Leone Foreign Service Code as stated in chapter 9 of Sierra Leone Civil Service Code Rules and Regulations.
Please accept Mr Director-General the assurances of our esteemed consideration.
Ambassador Bockarie Kortu Stevens