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Sierra Leone President reaches out to the Opposition with unexpected visit
By Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Apr 4, 2009, 22:22
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I have just finished a telephone chat with His Excellency the President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma. Since he became President of Sierra Leone in September 2007 uptil today, President Koroma has never refused a request from me to speak with him. Tonight's phone call I placed to him was no different. He took my call and listened to what I wanted to say. I initiated the telephone call because I wanted to directly speak with him and personally tell him just how PROUD I was today to be a Sierra Leonean.
I had already expressed the same sentiments of my PRIDE to be a Sierra Leonean to the Young Generation (YG) Leader of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), Mr. Mallam Janneh and his team. What President Koroma and the YG members did today in Freetown will go down once again as another of the events that make Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans so unique.
As I just told my President over the telephone, these are the days that make me so hopeful for the future of this my beautiful country. I was not present in Central Freetown today but my team of ace journalists will be filing the full reports of President Koroma's walk around Freetown. That walk was followed by the President's visit to the SLPP HQs to say he was sorry for what happened during his ongoing tenure as President and to promise SLPP Youths that no one found culpable by the upcoming UN-backed Independent Inquiry will be protected by his Government.
As you await the report by Sierra Leone's ace journalistic team, you may view below a few of today's photographs. The rest, including photos of marketwomen spreading their 'lappas' for Ernest Koroma to walk upon, will be uploaded later by my team.
May God Bless Sierra Leone.
Filed by Sylvia Blyden from Freetown at 22:22GMT
President Koroma, who had spent about two hours prior walking the streets of Freetown WITH NOT A SINGLE BODYGUARD, suddenly materialised at the Opposition SLPP's Headquarters where he met the Young Generation branch of the Party holding a meeting to discuss the Joint SLPP-APC Communique that was signed in Freetown last Thursday. He was simply dressed and asked if he could join the YG Meeting. With deference for his position as President, the YG Leader, Mallam Janneh swiftly placed him at the center of the High Table. In this Photo, President Koroma is shown addressing the Young Generation members for the Western Area. He expresses deep sorrow for what happened at the SLPP Party Offices and promises the YG members that not a single person found culpable of violence by the upcoming Independent Inquiry, will be protected. He expressed deep remorse and assured the SLPP that as long as he was President, no-one will ever again lift a single stone and hurl it at the SLPP Headquarters let alone invade it with violence.
The YG members listened keenly to the President as he spoke inside the damaged and vandalised Conference Room. The policemen seen at the back of the President are those currently stationed as guards at the SLPP Headquarters. As stated earlier, President Koroma entered the compound with ONLY HIS DRIVER driving his personal Jeep with the President seated all alone in the back seat. He walked all around Freetown today with not a single bodyguard in tow. Just him and his driver.
Mallam Janneh, the SLPP's elected Young Generation Leader and the President are shown sharing a High-Five after Mallam Janneh makes his own speech welcoming the President and assuring him that the SLPP Youths would take him by his word that no-one found culpable will be protected. Mallam then jokes with Ernest Koroma that if there was no peace in Sierra Leone, the SLPP would not be able to take over from the APC at sharp 12 come 2012. To this, Ernest Koroma retorts jokingly that since he was going to do two straight terms, Mallam should prepare to wait until 2017 and find a slogan for the 2017 Elections and forget about the 2012-Sharp12 slogan. It was during the exchange of banter that the two men slapped each other's hands.
As a further sign of commitment to the newfound peace between the SLPP and the APC, Lawyer Mohamed Sheriff Esq. of the SLPP's Young Generation Branch proceeds to serve a glass of ice cold water to the President who heartily gulps it all up in smiles. As stated earlier, the policeman shown in the photo was a part of those detailed to protect the SLPP Headquarters. Prezzo Nesto was there on his own with not a single bodyguard or support staff. Even his driver was waiting downstairs in the parked Jeep. It was just the President alone in a room full of SLPP Youths inside the SLPP's Headquarters. Sierra Leone is a unique and blessed land!
President Koroma informs the SLPP Youths that he has already instructed the APC Secretary General to invite John Oponjo Benjamin, the SLPP Chairman, to be the APC's Special Guest of Honour at the APC's upcoming National Convention slated for next weekend. President Koroma said John Benjamin was his friend and so he wanted John Benjamin to make a Special Speech on behalf of the SLPP at the APC's National Convention. He jokingly said he telephoned John Benjamin as he was entering the SLPP Headquarters to tease his friend that he was going to take over the Party Offices with friendship. He then said he wanted all SLPP Youths as from today to stop seeing him as the APC President but as the President for all Sierra Leoneans. He reiterated his promise that as long as he was President, no-one will ever lift a finger again against the SLPP HQs. He further reiterated his assurance that no-one who would be found culpable of committing any break of the Law by the proposed UN-backed Independent Inquiry, will get protected. He stated very firmly that when his Government would have finished dealing with the perpetrators of violence against the SLPP Headquarters, it will send a strong enough message that Ernest Bai Koroma was President for all in Sierra Leone
Afterwards, there was much jubilation with prominent SLPP Youth Leaders singing and dancing with Ernest Koroma all the way down the four floor of stairs. In the background immediately behind the President is the BBC's Umaru Fofana and SLAJ President who rushed to the HQs but found the impromptu visit now concluded
President Koroma, having fully assured SLPP members of their safety is all covered in smiles inside the compound
A prominent SLPP Youth Activist and Young Generation member, Abubakarr is shown sharing a 'binding' Peace shake with Prezzo 'Nesto.
Ernest Koroma is shown walking out of the SLPP Headquarters surrounded by SLPP members and Young Generation members. Before leaving, he once again restated that no stone will be left unturned to get to the bottom of the violence and punish the perpetrators who invaded the SLPP Headquarters and vandalised it.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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