Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 April 2016
The sale of the Sierra Leone flag of convenience to anyone with cash, including North Korea, is a policy that the Obama administration will not take too kindly – and quite rightly so.
No matter how cash strapped and desperate the Sierra Leone government is to balance the books, helping North Korea or any other country for that matter, to burst UN sanctions is plain wrong.
And one would have expected discussions at State House on Wednesday, between president Koroma and the American Secretary of State for the Navy to include this issue.
This is not the first time in the last couple of years, that ships carrying Sierra Leone’s flag have been intercepted on the high seas conducting illegal activities, such as people trafficking and oil smuggling.
Sierra Leone has a very poor international image. The poor people of Sierra Leone do not need politicians to do anything that further damages the country’s reputation abroad.
According to report from Sierra Leone State House, the United States Secretary for the Navy – Ray Mabus, met with president Ernest Bai Koroma on Wednesday at State House in Freetown. He was accompanied by the US Ambassador to Sierra Leone – John Hoover, and other embassy staff.
Mr Ray Mabus is the 75th Secretary of the Navy of the United States, and has occupied the position since 2009.
Welcoming the delegation, president Koroma is said to have used the opportunity to thank the United States for their contribution in the fight against the unprecedented Ebola outbreak.
He informed Mr Mabus and team about the challenges Sierra Leone is facing in the maritime security sector.
He said that Sierra Leone is losing $40 million in the fisheries sector every year, and therefore welcome proposals to improve the country’s maritime security.
The president acknowledged the assistance the country has received from America in helping Sierra Leone’s maritime sector, yet certain systems, he said, are not functioning well.
Koroma requested more radars and boats, with the capability to help secure the country’s territorial waters, as well as curb illegal activities along the coast line.
Ray Mabus promised to work with the government of Sierra Leone to set up what he referred to as a National American Strategy, similar to what has been established in Gabon. This will be aimed at stamping out illegal fishing and other activities in the country; and also help to upgrade the country’s navy and build its capacity.
Also in Freetown last week to have a polite chat with president Koroma about his proposed new international airport costing over $400 million, despite over 80% of Sierra Leoneans unable to access drinking water and electricity, was the new World Bank Regional Director for Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone – Henry Kerali.
Meeting president Koroma at State House, Kerali was quite blunt, in response to question about the government’s proposed Mamamah International Airport.
“At this point in time, there is no economic justification. There are other priorities that the government has to deal with. We have other comprehensive post Ebola recovery programmes that the government is seeking support from development partners, and this comes at a high priority at this point in time. When the economic justification is proved, it may well be economically justifiable,” he told the president and people of Sierra Leone.
But he is supportive of the need to further develop the country’s existing international airport at Lungi, which is yet to reach its full potential and capacity.
In the last ten years, the World Bank has spent more than $10 million to help redevelop the airport at Lungi, though the government has failed to provide sound strategic management of its facilities and services.
Speaking in Freetown, the World Bank chief said that he will soon provide financial support for the improvement of the country’s dangerous ferry service, which transports air travellers arriving at Lungi to mainland Freetown.
He also spoke about World Bank funding for a road improvement scheme, from Lungi airport to the ferry terminal and at Kissy Dockyard; as well as construction of new ferry terminal stations at both ends of the ferry service to improve travellers’ experience and safety.
“We are exploring the possibility to finance a project that will supply the two ferries and also finance the infrastructure needed for the landing of those ferries. There will of course be other feasibility studies related to the transport sector to see what is needed for the future,” Said Kerali.