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NEWS  

BROAD BASE INTERVIEW WITH AMBASSADOR SUMAH IN GUINEA
By Ralph EseDonnu Sawyerr and Joseph Kamanda from Conakry.
May 5, 2010, 17:10
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RK - Our eyes on arrival as we pass through Belview where the Sierra Leone Embassy is located first caught the splendid infrastructural transformation of the Embassy. What is attributed to such development?

SUMAH--The transformation has been the talk of

Conakry in fact Bellview in particular that has extended up to Freetown. What has happened to the Embassy is a positive change syndrome to engulf me and my deputy in addition my administrative staff.


Such structural transformation is bases mainly on three things, namely self discipline, determination and commitment. Self discipline is the ability to privatize ones program geared towards the benefit of the good of the majority rather than self. Determination is the drive to effect positive change. As far as commitment is concern it is the will to deliver that change. In short we all thought it fit to privatized the needs of our Embassy to benefit all and sundry and make it infrastructural enviable, well managed with a positive smile to our visitors on arrival.

ADIKALI FODAY SUMAH: Sierra Leone's Ambassador to Guinea


Massive transformation has been done to the office of the Ambassador, the deputy, Head of chancery and the office of the first Secretary including the lounge and the lobby in particular. I must not forget to mention that this transformation included new office  furniture, electrical appliances and modern communications equipment.

 

No doubt the green white and blue flag is flying high undisturbed, symbolizing our presence and very soon the, Mano River Union flag will also be put up.


RK--With regards human resource and citizen welfare what have you been able to do since taking up office?

SUMAH--  Regrettably the Embassy is not well staff as we are presently experiencing some difficulties with regards putting out information due to lack of an Information officer to adequately inform our people back home and around the world.


Our citizens here must be commended for cooperating with and supporting us, when it comes to national activities EG Independent day, irrespective of political affiliations we all come together as a nation to celebrate. Credit must be given to the Sierra Leone National Union in Conakry that is doing a marvelous job in complimenting our work. They handle most of the problems with citizens and if there is a need that problem is brought up to us for advice and action.


RK-- What are some of the problems the Embassy is normally confronted with?


SUMAH-- Some of the common problems we are face with are returning home our citizens on their own request that have been here for long. Again there are many who no longer wants to go home. We keep educating them on what the Embassy can and cannot do for them. Anyway if there is any need for mass repatriation that can be urgently arranged by government. Most of them also find it very expensive to attend school here although some of these institutions follow our curriculum here. Anyway some modalities are being worked out with these Head of schools.


Above all it is employment as those who are educated find it difficult to get a job as non citizens. A fountain of hope is that Member States of The Mano River Union are currently working out modalities for such possibilities. No doubt they have the right to stay under the MRU and ECOWAS Protocol of Free Movement of Persons and Establishment.


RKWe have information and have experienced it ourselves traveling by road in and out of Guinea that most of our citizens encounter problems with the Guinean security Forces due to the fact that the security Forces do not understand the ECOWAS and Mano River Union protocols.

 

SUMAHComplains of such nature with bitter experiences have often been received However the Guinean security forces poises a lot of difficulties due to the fact that most of them are not properly inform of these rights and protocols even when identity cards are provided.


RK--  What about reports of their involvement in Guinean politics?


SUMAH-- With regards their involvement in Guinean politics, if any, the Embassy is vigilant in providing those information and have advice them accordingly. Those of our people who have residence here for far too long do have and enjoy the right to vote but again some limitations are place on how to behave themselves during elections period. Up to date we have not receive any contrary incident or report.

 

KK-- Guinea is going through a political transformation vis a vis the coming elections. When is that elections?

SUMAH-- The diplomatic circle has been informed that the elections are scheduled for June 27th 2010 and there is no need for us to doubt that. So far the National Transitional Council (NTC) has been inaugurated. Personally as the Sierra Leonean Ambassador to Guinea we are cautiously satisfy with what is going on and we continue to engage our counterparts to keep their promises on delivering the soon to be new republic through the ballot box.

 

RK-- How important and strategic this elections with particular reference to Sierra Leone and the sub region?


SUMAH--  Indeed to allay the fears of my people back home. The Guinean politics to some extent is totally different from those in the neighboring countries. In as much as the politics in Guinea can be tense but they can manage the tension among themselves.  Anyway, that is not to say peace or any problem in Guinea will have no serious repercussion in my country. As the Ambassador that is why I say we continue to engage our Guinean counterparts to ensure that the Guinean transition is conducted within the atmosphere of peace, transparency and credible elections. For it is only by so doing that peace will prevail in Guinea and be enjoyed in the sub region.


RKMost people refer to Sierra Leone and Guinea as one people and country, is this not a big problem?


SUMAH-- It does not mean that Sierra Leone is an extension of Guinea , no Sierra Leone is an independent State with the capacity to defend and protect herself but as a next door sister state we all must be of great concern. There is a firm need to transform Guinea through the diplomatic process. As a sister state we keep advising them and sharing our experiences acquired during our own difficult times between 1991 and 2002.

 

RK-- Not withstanding all you have said that modalities have been put in place but what extra effort and mile is the government of Sierra Leone taking to ensure that this crucial Guinean election is fair, transparent, credible and successful?


SUMAH-- Well there is nothing more we can do rather than to offer  our cordial pieces of advise but practically what we are doing is to educate particularly our citizen here to behave  within the laws of this country and as a nation provide additional pieces of advise to the Guinean government through our Foreign ministry and what I would also want to say is that looking at the possibility of political parties cross border collaboration, whereby parties in Sierra Leone can identify themselves with parties in Guinea  in sharing experiences and information on how to embark on publicity campaign, fund raising activities and even the internal administration of these political parties.


No doubt Sierra Leone has vast knowledge and experience in those areas. Another area of serious concern that should be input into the coming elections is the transparency and our expertise in the conduct of such elections by the ballot box.


I think Sierra Leone can boast of the said expertise and it is the envy of the sub region if not the world as far as the 2007 general election s is concern. My president Dr Ernest Bai Koroma being elected through that most transparent process, I think he stands in a far better position for him to extend such help to Guinea.


RKH.E you will agree with me that this is a critical election for Guinea. In that light, what practical foreseen problems have you people looked at that must be urgently addressed?


SUMAH-- Well the first place is the proliferation of political parties. I have been made to understand that the political parties are close to a hundred. So that alone is a big problem in a country with a population of just over 10 million people. The electoral strength of the Guinea is not up to half the number of the citizens, so if the political parties that at the end of the day are going to elect the government are so many in number that no doubt will poise a practical problem for the electoral process.


Secondly is the tribal conflict in Guinea. The politics here is punctuated with tribal hate, though not so large but it can be prominently noticed. I think Guinea being a very big country with over 15 ethnic tribes should heed to good advice coming from the diplomatic circle. Theyshould find a good and pleasing way on how to address these issues.


RK-- What are some of the names of these big political presidential candidates?


Firstly the current Prime Minister Jean Marie Dore is restricted to contest. We have one sellu Jalloh, Sedia Turay, Mamadu sylla and one Prof Alpha Kondeh, as front runners.


RKBig, critical and important elections with regards the funds to conduct this all important elections, where is it coming from?


SUMAH-- Immediately after the death of the late Gen Lansana Conteh, the CNDD Army took over. The International Community after all the condemnation were swift enough to constitute what they referred to as, an International Contact Group (ICG) on Guinea where you have membership of the UN the ECOWAS and the AU as CO Chairs. The permanent members of the Security Council also have some representatives, whom all came together not only to accompany Guinea through the diplomatic process but also to help them on how to conduct a fair and credible elections.


RKWhat is the quantum of money we are looking at?

SUMAH --  With regards the quantum of funds we are looking at US$ 30 Million. So far the International Community through the ICG had made a positive commitment towards that.  The government of Guinea also has her own share of that amount to contribute to. Fortunately even before September 28th last year when civilians were killed the Guinean authorities under the leadership of the leader of the CNDD Capt Musa Dadis Kamara had made us to understand that they have paid their own contribution. So no doubt there are adequate funds for the Transitional process in Guinea.


RK-- Again, this is a credible elections do you envisage any disturbance by the army, civilian or by any political party that may feel aggrieved during the whole process?


SUMAH-- Politic in Africa, in particular West Africa has the tendency for the fear of political violence. In the Guinean situation the proliferation of political parties is creating a big problem, as it resound the ethnic divide of the elections .As far as the Army is concern from the late Sheku Turay presidency have been very strong in the political activities of Guinea, to the extent that it is very difficult to distinguish between a civilian and a military government.


Anyway, part of the January 15th 2010 Ouagadougou declaration on the reforming of the Guinea Army and the security so from 1958 to now though the Guinean Army is professional but slightly professional within the parameters of a revolutionary type of Army. The new reform they want to introduce is that of reforming the revolutionary Army to a Republican Army. As a Republican Army there would be a central control and command. There is also a need for skills training to be introduced in the Army to provide them with the basic arms of human rights protection, that is to say they must be able to know and understand that human rights prevails above all other rights. The Army is part of the government and if there is any arrest it has to be lawful and the due process of the law must be followed. These are some of the new factors the transforming of the Guinean Army is going to address. It is hoped that sooner or later the Guinean Army will be among those one can find in settled democracy like in Senegal and other West African countries where Human Rights are being observed within the military circles.


RK--- If I should push you further, what practical modalities have being put in place to address any problem that may unexpectedly arise?


SUMAH-- First let me review the January 15th 2010 declaration where the Transitional Activities are being prescribed under that declaration. Firstly any member of the CNDD including Capt Dadis Kamara, the current acting Head of State and all of the Ministers are barred from taking part in the coming elections. The only thing is that a body as been set up known as the Transitional Government and that Transitional government is composed of 34 member. Ten Ministers are drawn from the CNDD, 10 members from the opposition parties and 10 members from civil society. So these members form the current cabinet of the Transitional government.


There is also the National Transition Council that has been inaugurated in Conakry. The declaration called for a 110 member but now we have a membership of 165 thus making provision for all stake holders in the Guinean politics to ensure a peaceful, credible and transparent elections.


RK-- How serious is your opinion and advice taken as Ambassador of Sierra Leone here? SUMAH Practically they do take all friendly countries advice and opinion seriously in particular Sierra Leone that is being respected as a sisterly Republic. Sierra Leone knows how to prevent and contained all these emergencies because we had gone through what they are experiencing now. We pray that come end of June to July a democratically government with a republican statue will be in place.


RK-- Guinea has the National Electoral Commission (NEC) that regulates and conduct the elections. Two months to elections, do anyone feel the political fever in Guinea especially in the capital?


SUMAH--   Well yes I feel and see party political candidates in street rallies in and around Conakry. Even though campaign is not officially declared to start but sensitization is now going on.


RK-- What would any unforeseen political explosion in Guinea, cause the sub Region?


SUMAH-- That is exactly the reason why the International Community continues to engage Guinea. The unfortunate episode of September 28 2009, make it urgent for Guinea to be escorted to democracy. It is as a result of that that the AU and ECOWAS as co chairs  are so concern with the peace and stability of the sub region.. They want to stab  out and frustrate military government to prevail within the African continent. The need for stability security and good governance means Guinea must be engaged strongly. Any explosion that occurs in Guinea is a possibility that it may adversely affect its neighbors, including Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Ivory Coast.


RK-- Let us assume that it did happen what standby security force had been put in place to combat it before it spread?


SUMAH-- The need for a standby force is not there at the moment. The sad event of last September brought up that argument for a group of civil and military prevention force to be on the ground but the said Guinean situation was able to return to normalcy when ECOWAS appointed President Blaise Campore of Bukina Faso as a go between opposition parties and the CMDD. In short there is no need for Guinea to have a peace keeping Force as Guinea is not at war. If any such Force is made to Station in Guinea her neighbors will experience some jittery and that would affect business with international friends in the sub region. No doubt Sierra Leone shares a border with Guinea but she is a responsible government and independent nation that has the capacity to protect her citizens and border and offer good advice.


RKYour Excellency,some people may still not be satisfy and comfortable. What if against all odds explosion takes place, would the Guinean people trust the Guinean Army to handle it without them seizing power?


SUMAH-- That is a very strong question that I would not answer diplomatically but honestly. A problem in Guinea is view as an internal problem and it is therefore the right of the Guinean government to put the situation under control. With regards what you say that the Army is power conscious, let me give you this cautious assurance. Military government has no place anymore in Africa, so they may come but who is there ready to do business with them? The wind of change that is now blowing in Africa is a democratic wind of change and not that military wind. When the CNDD came they thought some big countries will start doing business with them but on the contrary they were engaged to the part of democracy.


RK-- Now for the fever question. Where is Capt Musa Dadis Kamara, as there is wild speculation that he is under arrest somewhere?


SUMAH(Smile) He is recuperating in Bukina Faso and as far as I know he is not under arrest and is free to go any where of his choice. Again as far as I know and believe he is a guest of President Blaise Campoire, the mediator of the Guinean conflict and there is no news to the contrary.


RK- If you say he is a free man and a guest of BLAISE why is he not speaking to the media. One would assume the contrary?


SUMAH-- On if he is allow to speak concerning the coming Guinean elections? Definitely the answer is a big NO. That responsibility has already been assigned to the Acting Head of State Gen Sheku Bah Konateh.


RKIs he part of the consultation process leading to the general elections?


SUMAH--  I do not say they dont consult with him. I believe they do consult with him but as to what level that is left with the Guinean authority. The long and short of the matter is that Capt Dadis Kamara is not putting himself or any of his CNDD member as a presidential or parliamentary candidate.


RKWhat are the reaction of Guineans with regards his absent on the ground?


SUMAH-- All I would say is that the Guineans have moved forward with their political activities since he left the country. That is not however to say there is no sympathy or remembrance of Dadis. The only thing is that the majority of  the Guinean people believes, that it is now time for their country to join the International Community to move Guinea towards development and a stable democracy.


RKDo you know anything of his health situation?


SUMAH--  I believe he is responding to treatment and there is no news to the contrary. We have not got details of his daily activities but I have heard him speak of late during the joint statement with Konate and Blaise Campore.


RK-- What is the public opinion about him vis a vis Guinean's future politics?


SUMAH-- Capt Dadis Kamara was a factor in the Guinean politics and I believe he is still the Chairman and technically the Guinean Head of State. As far as the transition process is concern those responsibilities are no longer with Capt Kamara He remains a factor but maybe a non participatory factor in the transition process.


RK-- Is his absent of any significant to the people of Guinea. Definitely not all Guineans would want him out?


SUMAH-- I wont say he is of no significant as he still have family, colleagues and came from one of the minority ethnic tribes (The Foresters).


RK-- Since, Dadis and his colleagues have been barred from taking part in the elections SUMAH -- what financial or otherwise provisions have been made for them after elections?


SUMAH-- Well I cannot pin point or say clearly that such and such a provision have been made for them but as he has still been recognized as technically Head of State of Guinea , no doubt I thing some provision for his after welfare has been put in place.


RK-- Has any condition been place on Dadis, with regards returning to Guinea after the elections and a newly democratic government in place?

 

SUMAH-- We do not know of any condition being place on him other than he is not participating in the coming elections.


RK-- Guinea has for long been ruled by the military do ECOWAS or the AU think that any elected civilian government could be given the peaceful chance to rule?


SUMAH-- The message for any Army government is loud and clear internationally. YOU ARE NOT WELCOME. Thus the transitional Programme in Guinea is not only for conducting the elections per say but also to reform the Guinean Army and security of the State. That is transforming them from a revolutionary Army to a republican Army. A republican army is that which is place under control.


RK-- Any idea whether your diplomatic activities are being covered by the press back home?

 

SUMAH-- No except when you people take it to come and meet us on the ground here in Guinea. Definitely we are finding it difficult to inform on our activities.


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

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