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Edmonton: Diaspora party executives call for national unity

By  | 1 May 2018 at 02:29 | 3295 views

Canada-based leaders of the three biggest political parties in Sierra Leone on Saturday 28 April 2018 attended a soiree in Edmonton.

It was hosted by the Sierra Leone Alberta Association; to mark Sierra Leone’s 57th independence anniversary. Ansu Kaikai, Hamid Munir Kamara, and Mustapha Turay, respective chairpersons of the Alberta branches/chapters of Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), All People’s Congress (APC) and National Grand Coalition (NGC) had the same patriotic message for Sierra Leoneans.(See photo left to right: Hamid, Mustapha and Ansu).

Invited to speak, they appealed to compatriots everywhere to unite and work for peace and progress. They all denounced ethnic and regional divisions. Sierra Leone gained independence from Britain on April 27, 1961. However, SLAA moved this year’s commemorative dinner-and-dance to the next day, Saturday. The event took place at the Portuguese cultural centre; with Patricia Sesay and Osman Gasoama as MCs. Harrison Collier, assistant youth coordinator of SLAA, doubled as deejay.

Representatives of several other African communities graced the occasion. Ange Kadima (DR. Congo), Regis Vusango Charumbira (Zimbabwe), Jibril Ibrahim (Somalia), Muru Khamisi (Uganda), Dr. Habiba Mohamud (Kenya), and Thomas Bumbeh (Liberia) were all invited to take the floor during formalities. They each congratulated Sierra Leoneans on their nation’s independence anniversary. The Ghanaian community was represented by Reverend Nicholas Ameyaw. He spoke much later, delivering the keynote address.

Messages from these special guests were all quite cordial, even fraternal. There was rousing applause as Bumbeh greeted his hosts. “Me Salone people dem, oona kusheh oh,” the president of the Liberian community hailed. For his part, Khamisi shared fond memories of his interactions with Sierra Leoneans in this city. “I love Sierra Leoneans and one of my favourite artistes is Rogie (folk singer S.E. Rogers),” the guest from the Ugandan community said. “I like the song My Lovely Elizabeth,” Khamisi added. Dr. Mohamud noted that she considers herself an African first; as she announced plans to run for a seat in the federal parliament of Canada next year.

Sansu (left) and Clarke

A delegation of Sierra Leoneans living in neighbouring Calgary also attended the event. It comprised two executives and three other members of the Sierra Leone Descendants Association of Calgary (SALDAC). They are SALDAC President Betty Tenga, Vice-president Alikali Tarawali, Jose Tenga, Khadijatu Janneh, Amie Porter, and Nyima Kamara.

Sharon of GROW and Kemoh

In welcoming guests, SLAA assistant social secretary Salimatu Jalikatu Clarke paid tribute to the pioneers of what has evolved into SLAA today. Mrs. Clarke praised them for coming together and petitioning the Canadian government to resettle Sierra Leonean families here during the war. Clarke thanked the Acquah, Bollo-Kamara, Kareem Kamara, Augustine Marah, and Clarke families (her very own) for their respective contributions to the Sierra Leonean community in Edmonton and in Canada as a whole.

Young Sierra Leonean

Gradual Rising of Women (GROW), an Edmonton-based organization was represented by Sharon Rusike while Solid Rock international Ministries’ Pastor Glory Blamo attended the dinner and dance on behalf of his church. These two organizations got special recognition from SLAA. It was for their generous contributions to the association’s fundraising drive in aid of victims of last year’s mudslide in Freetown. A thank-you plaque was presented to Rusike on Saturday night; to show Sierra Leoneans’ appreciation. SLAA had made a similar gesture to Solid Rock International Ministries at a thanksgiving service hosted by the church in February this year.

The Keynote speaker Reverend Nicholas Ameyaw is founder of the Church of Pentecost and former president of the Ghana Association. A senior consultant with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, Rev. Ameyaw observed that “peace is not cheap” as he reflected on the war that ravaged Sierra Leone around the turn of last century. “Let us hope that peace becomes the centerpiece for Sierra Leone,” he said.

Opening prayers were led by Pastor Glory Blamo (Christian) and Dawud Dominic (Islamic). Then came the singing of the national anthems of Canada and Sierra Leone; led by Children of Sinkunia Development. After the opening formalities, Pastor Amara Bangura blessed the food and dinner was served.

SLAA president Kemoh Mansaray delivered the vote of thanks to conclude formalities. He acknowledged guests; as he thanked partners and well-wishers of the Sierra Leonean community here. The president thanked Solid Rock Ministry, Sinkunia Development Organization, GROW, the Alberta NDP government, and other key stakeholders. He assured them of the commitment of his team and the entire SLAA membership to make the most of all the support it receives. “We as Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora have a huge role in transforming our country," Mansaray said. “We can influence governments by our progressive actions, especially when we set good examples ourselves.”

There was a second aspirant to the Canadian parliament among dignitaries at Saturday’s event; apart from Dr. Mahmud. He is Brian R. Gold, a university instructor. Gold and Mahmud both seek nomination for the same constituency, Edmonton-Griesbach. Also, they both work for the University of Alberta. Gold works in the department of history and classics. Dr. Habiba Mahmud came to the soiree with her husband Ahmed Noor and 11-year-old daughter Hayam. Both aspirants belong to Canada’s Liberal party.