New CNN video on Lebanese influence on Sierra Leone economy misses the mark

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a Lebanese shop owner in his supermarket in Freetown

CNN Correspondent and fellow Columbia Journalism alum Vladimir Duthiers recently visited Sierra Leone and produced a short video on the Lebanese community there. In the video Duthiers interviews Samir Hassanyeh, President of the Lebanese community in Sierra Leone. Hassanyeh talks about  growing up in the West African country of his birth and how 9000 Lebanese contribute to the national economy.

According to Duthiers the Lebanese are involved in all sectors of the nation’s economy. But most Lebanese in Sierra Leone are traders who sell Fast Moving Consumer Goods like food, electronics, car parts etc. So while the influence on the economy is very real, it is not as diversified as the report claims. What we see in the video is more a reality of where the Lebanese are concentrated–in supermarkets. While this is an interesting take on Lebanese business life, it is an incomplete story. Perhaps conversations with other Lebanese business people in other sectors might have painted a more convincing picture.

Also interviewed in the video is IB Kargbo, Minister of Information who says that the government has decided to give citizenship to Lebanese born in Sierra Leone who until now could not become citizens. Like most African countries the constitution stipulates that only those of “afro-negro” ancestry can gain citizenship. Kargbo says that the President has allowed a batch of 50 Lebanese born in Sierra Leone to be naturalized. What he doesn’t say is that each one of those Lebanese are being asked to pay an extravagant sum of $3000 for that naturalization. An amount citizenship advocate Nasser Ayoub says he will not pay although his efforts in the media raised the cause’s profile.

In short the video is neither here nor there on the Lebanese’s actual participation in Sierra Leone’s economy but for those who didn’t already know that there were Lebanese living in the country now they know.

  • Victor Lewis

    The Lebanese are involved in all sector because they have the capital and the profits from these businesses are promptly deposited in Lebanese and other foreign banks creating wealth for them and those institutions instead of the location where the profits where originally generated. That is not the action of a Sierra Leonean. I think $3,000 dollars is just about right for citizenship. It will raise some much needed capital. They should quit moaning about their birthright and engage with the process as a bona fide revenue creating initiative. They run some of the most profitable businesses so i think it is fitting that they pay for citizenship. Let them inject some of that foreign cash into the local economy.

    • william murphy

      Its an oxymoron to give citizenship of a country to a man who was born in said country. This costs $3000, expensive to say the least and yes we all know that these Lebanese people are mostly people of means and in a lot of cases multi millionaires. That said it would not cost $3000 in administration fees to naturalise someone a citizen, it is unjust and unfair to these people. The government should be compensating them for the discrimination that they have suffered. Having said all that I applaud the government of Sierra Leone for taking these steps historic indeed. I hope this is extended too the Krios, I hope that they will one day allow them to own and buy land ect in provinces.

  • kortoh bah

    Victor Lewis…even the United States does not charge 3000 dollars for citzenship.As a Sierra Leonean I am with them on this one.It is unfair.However it is the leadership of the country whether SLPP or APC (I am indifferent to either) that is completely rubbish.

    • Solomon Kay

      Kortor Bah, Did I say Bah? You should be thankful you are allowed to have one. So just Keep your mouth shut. That is the same way your guinean brothers are treating foreigners in your country.

  • Victoria Sesay

    sorry but $3000 isn’t much at all i don’t even think it is enough. How much does it cost to become an American Citizen? when you think about visa, lawyer, Biometric and USCIS fees etc. and not to mention the amount of time (minimum 6 years from green card to naturalization) and energy it takes. I think a lot of people would be happy if America or the UK were to say that all it took to be a citizen of their country was a single payment of $3000…. i mean i think like always SL is selling itself cheaply.

    • Rodney Mathews

      You the people of Sierra leone you will never change ,all of you want to send your wives to have there kids in europe and america ,to have a decent passport ,why when some one is born in Sierra Leone should pay $3000 ,why to pay for a worth less passport ?
      $3000 in your dreams ,yes american passport or british a gateway to the universe ,wake up and smell the coffee.

  • Nella Davies

    Why should anyone have to pay for citizenship in the country of their birth? If they are Sierra Leoneans by birth, they should not have to pay inorder for their country to recognize them as citizens.

    • Solomon Kay

      Because their contribution to Sierra Leone is more of corruptions. That is the best reward for them

  • Idrissa Koroma [from Pepel in the US]

    I was born in Pepel and raise in freetown,90% of Libanese migrate to our country to do business,this people don’t owned homes they prefer to rent and took our gold and diamonds over seas for sale and build mansions in their one country. if they asked citizenship today is because Isreal bombard their homes they built in their country from our Sierra Leonean money, they are not supposed to grant citizenship but a secondhand citizen. They are the number one corrupt people in our country let them go back to Lebanon and face the hardship there and stop exploiting our mineral resources in our country.

    • Rodney Mathews

      You are the most corrupt country I’ve ever lived in ,21 year ago you collected from the lebanese to pay for 2 generators ,your government end up paying a debt for rices they took on loan from the UK ,the lebanese have help build your country , now and always you need foreign aid ,because your born corrupt,and racist specially back between 1980 till i left in 1994,you always called foreigners …king fullah or indian or lebanese. so what you bickering about ,if you are loyal to your country ,leave the US .And go back The lebanese don’t run your country ,thanks now to these billions of $ again from foreign countries ,bloody ungrateful ,

      • Solomon Kay

        i just saw this blog. May be it will be helpful if you meddle eastern go back to your country. We never beg you to come to Sierra Leone. I wish you are educated and read about the legacy of your grand fathers or fathers. I live in Canada and I know from first hand that you are one of the most corrupt animals on earth. You are racist. You or your ancestors live in Sierra Leone just because you it is one of the most hospitable countries in the world. We kept you and your corrupt relatives from Israel, from killing you like chickens. Why don’t you come to countries like Canada or the U.S. and establish a business there? Because you are the architect of corruption, you migrated to Sierra Leone. You sit on your big ass every day while Sierra Leoneans do your jobs and in return you said they are lazy. Shame on you.

  • Abu Bakarr Sesay

    Well it seems that the government’s racist citizenship policy is just a reflection of the negative stereotypes that Sierra Leoneans have about their non-black brethren, as shown in some of the previous comments. Stereotypes may be largely true, but is it right to charge an extortionate fee to ALL non-blacks as a sort of penalty for citizenship. Let’s be clear that we are talking about citizenship for people BORN in Sierra Leone. Those wishing to naturalize can pay for the priveledge. I think the UN Declaration of Human Rights says that all people should be entitled to be a citizen of some country. Lebanese-descent people born in Sierra Leone are often stateless.

    And by the way, since when is the United States the role model on which Sierra Leone should base their immigration policies? Especially when we are talking about Lebanese? Just because the person commenting is a diasporan living in the US? How does that make sense?

  • Manu Williams

    $3000 is nothing for them to pay for access to a growing economy worth so much more and when compared to the amount of money they squander from our natural resources daily. I wonder if our government has carefully thought through the implications of granting these immigrants citizenship. If they never helped the economy through all their generations born and grown in SL, why would they suddenly start doing so now?

    • Solomon Kay

      Why did you chose to come to Sierra Leone instead of going to those countries? You dumb!

  • Alex Koroma

    I agree with Manu Williams, they’ve been in SL for generations(exploiting us) how much has our economy actually benefitted from them. The Diamond trade and many of our Salone corrupt offcials allowed them to gain so much economical power and control. I wonder if a ‘Black’ of Sierra Leonean descent born in Lebanon would be granted citizenship? I highly doubt it. Look at what is happening to Africans in Isreal,(right next door to Lebanon).

  • Johnny

    The Lebanese have never really contributed anything tangible in Sierra Leone. All they do is profit from poverty.
    Sierra Leoneans need to rise up and become masters of their own land and destiny and not allow outsiders to dictate to them.
    Lebanese are very good at befriending you with one hand while sucking you dry with the other. This is what they are good at and have perfected it throughout the continent.
    Many of them are nothing more than despicable lechers.

    • HAROUN

      YOUR COMMENTS ARE TOO HARSH.THEY ARE DISPICABLE LECHERS BECAUSE SIERRA LEONEANS MAKE THEM SO BECAUSE OF CORRUPTION. IF THE GOVERNMENT APPLIES THE LAWS EQUALLY,THE LEBANESE WIIL NOT EXPLOIT THE NATION.

      THE ISSUE IS THE CORRUPT AND LAZY SIERRA LEONEAN. THEY NEED TO END THE PUT FOR ME SYNDROME.

      LEBANESE ARE SUCCESSFULL ALL OVER BLACK AFRICA, SOUTH AMERICA AND THE CARRIBEAN.YOU DRIVE THEM AWAY, IT IS SIERRA LEONE’S LOSS.

      • Rodney Mathews

        WELL SAID GOOD MAN IS THAT YOU BILLY

  • HAROUN

    lEBANESE ARE KNOWN THROUGHOUT THE WORLD FOR THEIR BUSINESS ACUMEN. THE RICHEST MAN IN THE WORLD , CARLOS SELIM HELU IN MEXICO IS OF LEBANESE HERITAGE. DENYING LEBANESE CITIZENSHIP IS SIERRA LEONE’S LOSS.

    YOU GO TO HAITI,JAMAICA, BRAZIL, TRINIDAD, COLUMBIA, ARGENTINA,VENEZUALA, THE LEBANESE ARE RICH. IT IS ONLY SIERRA LEONE’S LOSS.IF YOU GIVE LEBANESE , CITIZENS,THEY WILL INVEST IN SIERRA LEONE AND BRING IN BILLIONS OF NEEDED CAPITAL. LEBANESE HAVE A NETWORK OF WEALTHY CONNECTIONS OVER THE WORLD.

    I AM UNITED STATES CITIZEN BORN IN SIERRA LEONE, WHY SHOULD WE DISCRIMINATE AGAINST LEBANESE AND DENY THEM CITIZEN. RACISM IS WRONG.

    SIERRA LEONE WOULD STILL BE CORRUPT WHETHER THERE WERE LEBANESE OR NOT.BLAME THE CORRUPT AND LAZY POLITICS FOR ALLOWING FOREIGNERS FOR BRIBING THEIR WAY THROUGH THE COUNTRY.

    DID I MENTION SAMSUMANA ?

  • Johnny

    So I take it from you comments you agree they are despicable lechers?
    I tend to view success by what I do for others, not what I take from them. Each to their own I guess.

    How can you call Sierra Leoneans lazy when the vast majority have to work for a pittance. I’d like to see you work for $1 or $2 a day.
    Lebanese investment has never brought sustainable development to the country and has only ever bled it dry.

    The problem with regards to the laws, the Lebanese would never accept being treated the same as a Sierra Leonean because they have always regarded them as inferior people, and still do.

    You mention racism, stones and glass houses come to mind.
    For what Sierra Leoneans have had to endure over the past century, I consider them to be the most giving and accepting peoples to a fault.
    How many Sierra Leoneans hold citizenship in Lebanon?

    As you say, Sierra Leone is corrupt, does it make it acceptable for the Lebanese to exploit this to the detriment of the nation?

    Two wrongs don’t make a right!

  • nasser ayoub

    my name is Nasser Ayoub.. born In Kono, Sl
    lived in and still salone for more dan 38 yrs
    i read with pleasure wen we r called sometimes
    Lebanese.. i have Been Called Dat several times,
    why? bacuse of my skin colour, Right?
    whereas d guinea, ghana, liberian, nigerian
    can live in salone for 3 yrs, spk krio, and una go
    call am Salone Man, haha.. i laugh, yes.
    my case was Never Abt Lebanese.. I Agree,
    3000$ to be NATURALIZED, is fine, but me
    Born In Salone, should i be Naturalized?
    no way.. its my Birth Right. i Blv i Should Be
    A CITIZEN.. only because im Not BLACK,
    im Deniyed it.. i rest my Case.

    • Jumpa

      With English like that I’m surprised you managed to find your way to this page. You can’t write Krio either. If I was in charge I’d have you promptly deported on general principle of lousy grammar.

  • HAROUN

    IN A CAPITALISTIC SOCIETY LIKE SIERRA LEONE, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE LECHERS,DESPICABLE, VORACIOUS AND RAPACACIOUS BUSINESS PEOPLE. IF IT IS NOT LEBANESE, IT WILL BE , CHINESE, I NDIANS OR WHITE PEOPLE AS LONG AS SIERA LEONEANS DO NOT HAVE THE CAPITAL TO INVEST.

    RACISM AND HATRED BEGETS NOTHING. SIERRA LEONE IS A GREAT COUNTRY WITH AN ABUNDANCE OF RICHES. bECAUSE OF GREED AND INCOMPETENCE, SIERRA LEONEANS HAVE DESTROYED A WONDERFUL COUNTRY.

    STOP THE BLAMEGAME AND LET US LOOK AT OURSELVES FOR THE REASON FOR OUR FAILURE. THE LOSS OF THE LEBANESE WOULD BE A DISASTER FOR SIERRA LEONE. THEY NEED TO BE ENCOURAGED AS CITIZENS OF SIERRA LEONEAN. THEY HAVE AN EXTENSIVE NETWORK OF CAPITAL ACCUMULATION FROM SOUTH AMERICA , MIDDLE EAST, EUROPE AND AFRICA.

    AS FOR MR AYOUB, SIERRA WILL EVOLVE, ALL THESE LAWS WILL BE CHANGED.

    MR JOHNNY, SIERRA LEONE HAS BEEN INDEPENDENT FOR 50 YEARS. HOW CAN YOU SAY LEBANESE WILL NOT ACCEPT BEING TREATED ON PAR WITH SIERRA LEONEANS, iF WE WERE ABLE TO FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE? ARE THE LEBANESE THE JUDGES AND MINISTERS?

    GIVE ME A BREAK

  • bongo man

    The Arabs were the first to enslave our people in Africa. To this day in arab countries such as Mauritania, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, etc. we black people are considered as slaves.
    Unlike the Europeans who have openly apologized for their role in the enslavement of black people, the arabs have never openly said they are sorry for enslaving black people.To this day,it is very common for arab children to insult black men and women who walk the streets of many cities in arab countries by openly pointing their fingers and calling us slaves. Black people are also likely to be discriminated upon in the hotels in arab capitals.

    We Sierra Leoneans should not forget our history. Why is that almost all commercial activity in Sierra Leone is dominated by the lebanese? This is why. The Lebanese who came to Sierra leone in the 1890s were given preferential treatment by Britain, the colonial power. As a way of keeping Sierra Leones under control,it was a deliberate policy on the part of Britain to facilitate Lebanese commercial activities through easy loans from banks.Obviously, the lebanese were very happy to be given this monopoly in commerce. Sadly, nearly 50 years after independence, Sierra Leoneans who are in business still find it very hard to get loans from banks. Banks still prefer to do buiness with the Lebanese.

    Above all, many lebanese owe their allegiance not to Sierra leone but to arab countries. So, I do not understand why we should reform our constitution. I dont think black people have been given citizenship in Lebanon.

    • Dimo

      Bongo man., are you tanzanian!??..let me tell you one thing iam half lebanese and half african (rwanda) what ur saying about lebanon should be concidered from experiance! have you been to lebanon!? you sound dumb to me.,,why would a Black man go to lebanon for what to survive huh! then why are lebanese out of lebanon!! dude use ur common sense..you cant blame a country of not having experiance on outsiders investing and doing business in their country and blame them of what they never did!?..u should accept that you on ur own country cant be succesful yet villagers from south lebanon come with no education make a better living..now that is what you should ask urself..am i dumb or am i racist..people like you will alwayz have hate no matter what you gain in this world..am proud to speak as a BLACK LEBANESE..i believe my dad did not meet people like you to make me as iam a mettise..thank you..

  • HAROUN

    Bongo man , How can the Lebanese owe allegiance to SIerra Leone If you do not treat them as full citizens even when they are born in the country. Lebanese are all over the world doing business sucessfully, not only in Sierra Leone. If they leave , Sierra Leoneans will lose.

    Banks loan Lebanese because they honor debts. You do business with Sierra Leoneans , they rip you off ,even your own familly members. You can ask many diaspora Sierra Leoneans.

    our issue is the Sierra Leonean mindset, not the Lebanese. If the Lebanese were to leave today, the country will be disorganized , years later.

    The Lebanese are not in politics, Blame our selfish politicans for the country’s state of affairs.You do not want to compare our nation with Egypt and the other repressive Arab nations. They have not known democracy.

  • Monica Tucker

    Is it not time for Sierra Leoneans to take responsibility for the state of our nation? We are constantly blaming Lebanese for being corrupt. Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves why is it that our country is so corrupt that even our universities are not free from corruption; why you cannot literary get anything done in the country without bribing; why we cannot get water in our homes; why we cannot get good medical? Is it down to Lebanese people?

    I live in Rwanda, a country like Sierra Leone that went through a horrible period yet still they have a different outcome from us. A country with vast natural endowment yet still we continue to live in poverty. Is it down to Lebanese people? It always amazes me how some of us from the diaspora present ourselves during our short visits to Sierra Leone. Standing on the side line, you just have to laugh as in most cases we are so detached from the situation in our country. Some people even see themselves as being superior just because they are coming from a far away country. With our towels hanging around our necks and water bottles in hand, speaking through our noses you wonder where Prince Charles left off. Surely that kind of attitude is not caused by Lebanese instead it is caused by our own deep down insecurity. How many Sierra Leoneans travel into Sierra Leone using other countries passport? How many times I have heard people say – a dae go na embassy for get visa for go Saleone….The reason? because they want to be seen as Brit/ American/German… you name it. Please let us give chance to people who have right to be Sierra Leoneans become Sierra Leoneans. DO ONTO OTHERS WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE OTHERS TO DO ONTO YOU. The next time you or your family member apply for citizenship in a far away country, please remember someone in your beloved Sierra Leone is asking for the similar opportunity

    SL is the country with fertile land yet we import everything including onion, tomatoes and you name it. Is it because of the Lebanese people? Corruption is not a one way street rather its a two way activity – the giver and the receiver. If I ever think of bribing a Rwanda government official, I am pretty sure the consequences of my action for both my organization and me as an individual will surely keep me in check. The development of a country is not dependent on one person rather a whole nation. Let us stop looking for scape goats and ask ourselves – what and how we are contributing to the development of our country? Blaming Lebanese for corruption in Sierra Leone is not an excuse for not giving people born in Sierra Leone citizenship. Let us in all our accusations remember what it felt like when we lived in other countries without rights of citizenship and what it felt like when we were given citizenship.

  • HAROUN

    WE ARE LAZY AND DEPENDANT PEOPL. ALL WE DO IS TO BLAME. WE DO NOT WANT TO TAKE THE INITIATIVE AN WORK HARD TO DEVELOP OUR NATION. WE JUST WANT TO BLAME OTHERS. WE CAN WORK TWO JOBS IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY BUT NOT OURS.

  • Idriss

    Idriss
    Why does the Lebanese in Sierra Leone need to become citizen?
    Their present state has given them better right and status that an
    ordinary Sierra Leonean citizen does not have. The only reason a
    Lebanese would want to have a citizen right is for him or his community
    to be able to enter into politics, and as a result, end up becoming
    rulers by the use of their money power.

    We all know the class
    system that exist in the African countries with Lebanese business
    community. Making them citizens will in the long run introduce
    underground apartheid in Sierra Leone. I have know Sierra Leoneans who
    have lived in Lebanon, worked and studied their with their wife, ended
    up having children there and their kids were refused to be given any
    status, let a lone citizenship.

    I think if our government is to
    grant any foreign national citizenship, they should first check their
    country of origin if they practice the same. If not, citizenship should
    not be granted. It is just like the international standard, if you
    impose a visa restriction towards any country, it automatically applies
    to you.

    I have heard of stories of racism been subjected to Sierra
    Leoneans in Lebanon, including half cast or mulattoes of Sierra Leonean
    decent being heckled on the street calling them slaves another racial
    epithet things that are not done to the Lebanese in Sierra Leone.

    All Lebanese whether born or immigrated to Sierra Leone have no loyalty to Sierra Leone but Lebanon.

  • Jumpa

    Rodney Michael, why change your name to Rodney Mathews?
    Judging from your comments you certainly have a hatred toward Sierra Leoneans.

  • Solomon Kay

    Nice words. Educate these idiots

  • Solomon Kay

    If the passport is worthless, why do you cry for $ 3000. If you don’t need it, shut up. You need it because you are stateless. God bless Isreal

  • Solomon Kay

    if it is too much to pay, let them go back. simple. But they will never go because, they know what they are going to lose

  • Solomon Kay

    I have often asked few of them that I have a discussion with that what are they really doing in Sierra Leone? They sit on their asses whole day while Sierra Leoneans do their dirty work and the reward is they are lazy. If they think they are not achieving anything in Sierra Leone, let them go back to Lebanon. These stateless animals.

  • Solomon Kay

    No body ever asked you guys to come to Sierra Leone. You are vultures. When your grand fathers knew there was a industrious country called Sierra Leone, they packed their blue bags and came here. You can go at anytime you want. We don’t need you. We are done with corrupt countries. Leave us in our corruption. You Pinky!