Sierra Leone Diaspora: The Battle from Within

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In the begining there were good intentions………..

There is a serious power struggle going in within the Salone diaspora over the issue of an Office for Diaspora Affairs that has been established under the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. When I came back from New York I got a call from a friend of mine asking me if i wanted to participate in a team whose goal would be to lobby for the creation of an office of presidential affairs. I asked him who else was on the team, more detail of what we were trying to get accomplished and what was expected of me. I agreed to join the team because I felt that such an office was necessary and i’ve long been apart of the school of thought that we need to bring all the able bodied Sierra Leonean professionals back home.

We met several times discussing and formalizing agenda for our meeting with the president and delegating responsibilities. The night before the meeting we all stayed up practically all night working on the presentation. One of the team members, spent $1000 of her own money to fly to Sierra Leone and she stayed up all night to develop a mock website to show the president. We were united in our belief that we were doing the right thing and that everyone would benefit. We wanted to create a door to the diaspora right from the government i.e the president himself.

We got all gowned up (cause it was africana friday and we wouldnt have it any other way). I had met the president several times before but that was before he was HIS EXCELLENCY…I’ve been quite candid about my love for THE CHOCOLATE ONE. Anyway, he had on a white gown and he looked so delish and you can best believe that I told him he looked very nice in his gown. He smiled….i was going to wink at him and blow him a kiss as well but i thought that might be too forward….hehehe…..We went on and did the presentation highlighting some of the many initiatives that people in the diaspora had tried to put together for the sake of salone’s development and the benefits of sanctioning an office whose focus would be on the diaspora. His face lit up when one of the team members talked about a skills bank & database of Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora. The president acknowledged that he was impressed that we had taken the Initiative to present him with this idea and that we should go ahead with the planning.

Anyway the meeting ended about 20 minutes in…..we shook hands with him…and it felt so good. The president’s reaction was positive and receptive so it made us feel that the lack of sleep from the previous night was well worth it. Now on to a celebratory lunch at Cafe De La Rose on Howe Street and drinks at Atlantic later on in the evening.

About a week later, we had another scheduled meeting with the president….We got to the office not as well dressed as the first meeting but equally as fresh. We waited and waited and waited where else but in the waiting room. The hour of the meeting came and went and we were still waiting. Ah ah wetin appin den don foget we ba??

I went to my often mentioned Uncle Soulay still SCOPE or protocol officer to the president…I looked at the agenda and we weren’t on the list. I walked out went to the president’s PA and he assured us that we were indeed going to meet the president. We regrouped in front of the president’s office a little dazzled, luckily we caught a glimpse of Uncle Alpha (Alpha Kanu that is, newly nominated Minister of Presidential Affairs formerly APC party spokesman) he also reassured us that we would be seen after the minister of education and the minister of finance had been sworn in.

We went back to the waiting room….15 miutes later some dude comes into the waiting room and asked us to follow him “Diaspora group…please follow me”. He escorted us down stairs to a conference room. As soon as we began to walk down the steps I knew that he had mistaken us for another group…he told us to wait in the conference room. I was like are you sure we’re the group u’re looking for? He said yes “Are u not the group from north America diaspora?” “I said yes but there is another group that is responsible for planning the inauguration ball that isn’t us” He was about to leave us but I was stern with him reiterating that he had the wrong group and that we were scheduled to see the president. Finally one of our team members leaves heading back up stairs in search of the Personal Assistant…also known as the president’s younger brother who is SUCH A HOTTIE…If you think the president is hot his brother is lickalicious…OH WOW!!!

Thankfully, the PA confirms that we do indeed have a meeting and offers us his office as a waiting room. We sit there waiting and Alpha Kanu enters into the waiting room. “Ah Vickie, you never called me, u know your auntie Abie is in town. We’re going to Port Loko for the 40days” “I came to the house after the funeral but there was nobody there” “You have my numbers but here they are again and your auntie Abie’s”. A little chitty chat here a little chitty chat there.
He reassures us we will be seen soon and disappears out of the office.

A couple more minutes of waiting and we get ushered into the president’s office. Leaving all bags and cellphones in the security room…..Inside…the president…and Alpha Kanu…the president announces that we will be working under the ministry of presidential affairs, and the office will be located in state house, the president also added that he wanted to send out a team of government officials and one or two individuals on our team to send to the diaspora to spread the word that he wants Sierra Leoneans to come home (I wont tell u the boo boo that I made in the office)….Finally uncle Alpha adds that sanctioning the office is a great idea and that other African countries have already initiated similar efforts. We agree that we will continue working with Alpha Kanu. We shake the president’s hands and leave the office. Uncle Alpha leads us out of the president’s office and shows us where the Diaspora office will be.

No celebratory lunch at Café De La Rose today but we are very happy with ourselves.

Spreading the Good??? News

After a couple days and some brainstorming of the best way forward…we begin to draft a letter to the diaspora to inform them of what had happened. A letter is drafted including the minutes from our first meeting with the president posted on several discussion groups and on the soon to be state house run diaspora office website. We all expected for there to be the usual surprise and maybe a couple dissenters of “Oh why didn’t u tell us etc…”, but I had no idea that the response would turn to personal attacks and name calling of those of us who had given up our time to further this effort.

On a certain online group….SALONE DISCUSSION on YAHOOGROUPS & (which I had subscribed too over a year ago but had to undo subscription due to too many emails) and COCORIOKO News….certain individuals have begun to take personal shots at us.

According to our best critics, we the “Diaspora 5” more or less stole the idea of the diaspora office from the Sierra Leone Diaspora Network, presented it as our own, took credit for certain diaspora efforts such as the non functioning Dollar-A-Day Initiative, and claimed to be representing the diaspora. Along with many other some relevant mostly not issues that have been raised.

Let’s get personal

First off, let me make it clear I am not intimidated, moved, or shaken by the comments of those who believe that they are the chosen representatives of Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora. Additionally I have no respect or care for the opinions of Sierra Leoneans who have the finances and freedom to come to Sierra Leone but have not done so in over 20 plus years. Just because you belong to a Sierra Leonean led organization in the diaspora does not mean that your opinions matter. No one myself included can claim to have legitimacy over representing the Sierra Leonean people where ever they may be. Most of all I have no respect for individuals whose largest contributions to Sierra Leone are online in discussion forums and who lack the courage to actually come on the ground and do something. ALL TALK AND NO ACTION MEANS I DON’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT WHAT U HAVE TO SAY. And you did not bring or coordinate Angelina Jolie’s visit to Sierra Leone….she was already coming and y’all jumped on the band wagon and tried to usurp the entire effort. You also did not plan or create the Sierra Leone Investment Forums, you simply bought tickets and begged your little DFID friends to let you come and partake. Lastly, you are not representing anyone in the diaspora but those who subscribe and belong to your organization. When you actually do something for Sierra Leone besides furthering your resume and using us as a ticket…then we can talk

To those of you who are disgruntled, I understand why….you feel like you should be given credit for all you brilliant ideas and contribution to the sanctioning of this office. Okay fine….If you want credit….Come and get it….Credit costs $2000 on British Airways but I’m sure you can get it cheaper elsewhere.

To those who matter

The only Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora who matter to me are those who put our dear beloved country above their personal agendas. Those little known Sierra Leoneans who may or may not be actively participating in any online discussion but who care about the real issues and are always open minded about how to make change. I want it to be known that those of us who decided to come together to lobby for the Diaspora office were doing so for the betterment of us all. We saw the opportunity and we had access so we took it. We did not claim to be representing any groups or organizations…we represented ourselves…i.e….Sierra Leoneans recently returned to and working in Sierra Leone who think that the government should do more to encourage other Sierra Leoneans to come home by making the transition easier….i.e provide them with necessary information, opportunities, and incentives.

Everything is very granular right now and besides the sanctioning of the office we are still in the very early stages of structuring this effort. If you do have ideas, suggestions, or comments on how we can move forward, please visit the website (http://www.anewsierraleone.org/). I personally am looking forward into making this effort a tangible reality and assisting those who want to come back home realise that dream. Thank you for listening….or is it reading 🙂

  • JC