The weather in Newcastle, England, was a mixture of rain and freezing temperature as I made my way through the evening breeze to meet President Koroma at his hotel last Thursday following an invitation directly from him while on his way back to Freetown, after a short but useful stay in Europe.
The Head of State was quite warm in his reception and extremely cordial as usual. I was a bit nervous but filled with anticipation as I knew he only requests such meetings when he has something very serious to discuss.
The hotel was modest but quite decent and up to standard, it seems the Head of State wasn’t too keen on staying in anything palatial – demonstrating sensitivity to the plight facing his people. Despite reports that the Head of State was extravagant on his trips abroad, the hotel accommodation reveals quite the contrary, President Koroma is an extremely modest man. I was expecting a grand affair with all the trappings of a Head of State, but it seems the President was only particular in having somewhere to rest over his short stay, and the Hotel’s offering was quite sufficient for him and his entourage. There was no fleet of limousines parked outside the hotel, and unlike other leaders, members of his team made up only a handful of people – in fact, only those whose presence were relevant to his trip.
When my presence was announced, I was ushered in quickly as the Head of State wasted no time in meeting me. With a book and pen in hand, I sensed the president had important things on his mind to discuss. The meeting was one-on-one, as we settled comfortably to chat. No one else was in the room, and the President made me feel much at ease in his presence. The profound expression of thanks from President Ernest Koroma was overwhelming. He unreservedly conveyed his appreciation and gratitude for the fantastic support he has received from me and the Newstime Africa team over the years. It was quite a humbling experience, and an extremely touching one.
I thanked the president in return for the amazing commitment and dedication he has shown in turning around the poverty-stricken environment in Sierra Leone and positioning the country for economic recovery unprecedented in Africa. I told him he has shown good leadership and congratulated him on his recent election victory that saw him clinched a 58% victory: a real mandate from the people, and a clear endorsement by the electorate for the exceptional and remarkable job his government has done over the past five years.
The president said his second-term was going to be about improving the standard of life of his people and he was determined to eliminate lawlessness which was affecting the progress and development of his country. He said he was keen on seeing law enforcement officials taking their responsibilities seriously and perform their duties with the law in mind, and should not be deterred or fazed by bribery or intimidation. The president said he wanted to see a society that was respectful to the laws of the country, and admonished those who are in positions of authority to carry out their work with diligence and impartiality, and be cognizant of the fact that they are servants of the people, and much is expected from them.
Dr. Koroma said his second-term will be different, and calls on all to put their hands on deck to build a new Sierra Leone. The Head of State said he will continue to show political tolerance, but warned those whose reckless ambitions were a threat to state security, that there will be zero-tolerance, and any attempt to break the law will be dealt with firmly.
The Head of State thanked the Sierra Leonean people for the confidence they have reposed in him by electing him for a second time as their president. He reaffirmed that the new term will be about building on the successes of the first Agenda for Change, with a new Agenda for Prosperity.
The Head of State will announce the rest of his cabinet this week, and diplomatic appointments and changes will follow next week. President Koroma has since returned back to Sierra Leone.
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