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Edmonton: Ebola problem inspires ‘Mano River Union’ response

By  | 3 August 2014 at 08:22 | 2277 views

Guinean, Liberian, and Sierra Leonean residents of Edmonton, Canada, came together on Saturday August 2, 2014 to brainstorm and decide on concrete contributions toward the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease now troubling their respective home countries. Clearly a replication of the tri-partite spirit of West Africa’s regional body, the Mano River Union, this Edmonton initiative sets out to explore different options in alleviating the suffering of Ebola survivors and collectively join ongoing efforts to stop its spread.

The discussions lasted over two hours, and were anchored by John Gaye, president of the Liberian Friendship Society of Canada. His counterparts Messrs. Cherif Diallo president of Edmonton’s Guinean community, and Kemoh Mansaray president of the Edmonton Sierra Leone Canada Friendship society, helped out as co-chairpersons. Dr. Sullay Kanu, secretary-general of the Sierra Leonean component also volunteered as scribe for this unprecedented meeting.

Suggestions which came from the floor were diverse; including a public rally and street march to increase public awareness in the city, seeking material assistance from city council and the provincial government of Alberta, and starting a series of community drives to raise relief funds. The meeting set up a nine-member committee, comprising the three presidents and two members from each of the three associations (Guinean, Liberian, and Sierra Leonean). This body will decide on the finer details of the various suggestions and co-ordinate their implementation. Ms. Theresa Johnson and Mr. Osman ‘Ous Boy’ Bangura both volunteered to join the committee as Sierra Leonean representatives.

The street march is planned for Thursday August 7, 2014. Participants are invited to rally at 10:00 am at Churchill Square. Apart from its city centre location, the square is also where Edmonton Mayor, Don Iverson, and his municipal government is based. Marchers, preferably wearing white T-shirts as a show of solidarity, would then walk westward through the main streets of Edmonton, and on to the grounds of the Legislative Assembly where the provincial parliament seats.

The three executives, Diallo, Gaye and Mansaray, are also tasked to continue consultations with their respective memberships, in a bid to help sustain and intensify the campaign as a common front. Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are members of the regional organization Mano River Union and this meeting probably marks the first time ever that their national interest groups in Edmonton have formally come together for a common goal.

The meeting was held at the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers in northeast Edmonton. Some people, including Mr. Cherif (pronounced ‘Sheriff’) Diallo, even brought their little children with them, indicating a hurried response to a very serious situation. Monsieur Diallo earlier struck a somber note as he introduced himself. “This Ebola disease has actually killed someone I know, a friend” he said. Diallo added that he hails from Macenta, a town where some of the earliest cases were reported in Guinea.

To stress the matter and urge people into a diversified mode, one Liberian lady Winifred Kollie likened the crisis to a fire burning out of control.” We all have to play our parts facing this problem. Whenever there is a fire, some would shout to alert people while others would actually fight to put it out.” This was her own simple way of asking that members go all out in all ways possible. “To me, Ebola is a global emergency” Ms. Kollie summed up.

Photo, left to right: Cherif Diallo, John Gaye, and Kemoh Mansaray. Dr. Sullay Kanu is seated far right.