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NEWS : Local News  

In Sierra Leone, First Lady Hosts Nelson Mandelaís Wife
By Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Aug 13, 2009, 17:24
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The First Lady of Sierra Leone, Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma has yesterday August 12th 2009 played host to the distinguished wife of the great African Statesman and former President of South Africa, Mr. Nelson Madiba Mandela. Madam Gracia Mandela is in Sierra Leone leading a two-man delegation as the Advance Group for the countryís African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) country specific team.

Sia Koroma welcomes Gracia Mandela to State Lodge

First Lady Sia Koroma welcomed Mrs. Gracia Mandela to her auspicious State Lodge residence where she treated her distinguished guest alongside other prominent Sierra Leonean women to a wonderful lunch.

Prior to the Lunch, the two distinguished African ladies had held closed door discussions following which the other Sierra Leonean women were invited to a lunch discussion.

The two African women walking on the Red Carpet

Speaking during the open lunch, First Lady Sia Koroma expressed her deep admiration for Mrs. Gracia Mandela who remains the only African woman to have had the privilege of being the First Lady in two African countries. She was first the wife of the late President of Mozambique, Samora Machel and numerous years after President Machelís death, she remarried again, this time to the South African President Nelson Mandela.

"I admire you for being the fantastic person you are but most of all for how you have used your visibility on the global stage to promote issues of importance to our continent such as Gender activism, the plight of child soldiers and of refugees and war displaced people; The international awards and accolades that have been heaped upon you are well deserved and it is a honour today for me to be hosting you here," First Lady Sia Koroma stated.

Madam Nelson Mandela safely ensconced in her seat

Mrs. Sia Koroma went on to tell Mrs. Nelson Mandela that although Sierra Leone had suffered from decades of bad governance, the ongoing rebranding efforts by her husband were slowly but surely yielding fruit."Things are not as gloomy in Sierra Leone as they once were; the picture is not as gloomy as it might be portrayed in some quarters," Sia Koroma stated adding that as a Nation, Sierra Leoneans would be looking forward to "learning" from Mrs. Gracia Mandela about the experiences she had gained during her many years of advocacy and her APRM work.

"We want to learn from you about the best practice to employ that will move Sierra Leone forward much faster," Sia Koroma stated. In response, Mrs. Nelson Mandela informed that she had done quite some research into Sierra Leone before she arrived in the country and she had learnt a lot about the work that was being done by the First Lady Sia Koroma.

Mrs. Sia Koroma and Mrs. Gracia Mandela exchanging compliments about how much each one admired the other

"I want to use this opportunity to publicly commend you for using your professional experience into service for Sierra Leone. I am so impressed with how you have used your position as First Lady to transform yourself into an advocate for activism," Mrs. Mandela told Sia Koroma adding that it was "easy to sit at State House and be comfortable and relax but it takes strength of character to transform your time at State House into efforts to yield positive benefits for the citizens you and your husband are serving".

"Thank you for being who you are and for the role you are playing in Sierra Leone as the Mother of the Nation," Mrs. Mandela ended her response to First Lady Sia Koroma.Earlier, prayers were offered by Hon. Elizabeth Alpha-Lavalie from Bo District who is also a member of the Opposition in Parliament whilst the distinguished Sierra Leonean women present were introduced to Mrs. Gracia Mandela by Mrs. Linda Koroma, the Deputy Secretary General of the Mano River Union. The guests included the wife of the Honourable Vice President, Kadia Sam-Sumana, the wives of Government Ministers and Parliamentarians, the President of 50-50 Group, Mrs. Harriet Turay and a handful of other distinguished Sierra Leonean women including this writer.

Hon. Elizabeth Lavalie saying Prayers before Lunch

A toast was made to the health of Nelson Mandela and Mrs. Mandela assured the gathering that she would transmit to the African sage the fact that women in Sierra Leone wished him well. She assured that this was just the start of a long term relationship she planned to have with Sierra Leoneans henceforth as she would be making trips to the country that would last much longer than the current two-day trip. She explained that following this Advance Mission, she would be coming with a much larger team of experts and consultants who would travel into deep remote parts of Sierra Leone in their data collection.

Also present at the Lunch was the Chairman of the countryís APRM Governing Body, Dr. Osman Gbla alongside Dr. Afeikhena Jerome, the Coordinator of one of the pillars of the APRM Headquarters in South Africa who flew in with Mrs. Nelson Mandela.The occasion was climaxed with photographs and lots of fun and laughter. More reports on some of the thoughts of Mrs. Gracia Nelson Mandela with respect to the role of women in Sierra Leone and her perceptions of rebuilding a post-conflict Nation will be published in subsequent editions of this newspaper.

A Group Photograph of the First Lady and some guests

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

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