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Sierra Leone flag flies over Edmonton, Canada

By  | 30 April 2017 at 08:54 | 2733 views

Thursday April 27 was literally Green-White-and-Blue day for Sierra Leoneans in Edmonton, Canada.

The city’s mayor, Don Iveson, proclaimed the day as “Sierra Leone Independence Day.” Then, soon after his declaration was announced at Edmonton City Hall, members of the Sierra Leonean community hoisted the green-white-and-blue flag; just outside the building. City Councillor Mike Nickel graced the occasion, as a representative of the mayor.

Councillor Mike Nickel read out the proclamation on behalf of the mayor. Then, he presented the framed certificate of proclamation to Kemoh Mansaray, president of the Sierra Leone Association of Alberta. The certificate was signed by Mayor Iveson and “Dated this 27th day of April, 2017.” The document reads:

WHEREAS, on April 27, 1961, Sierra Leone became an independent nation from Britain,

AND WHEREAS, Sierra Leoneans all over the world commemorate the anniversary of this date, to celebrate their cultural heritage,

AND WHEREAS, the Sierra Leone Association of Alberta is a non-profit organization that promotes multiculturalism in Edmonton and around the province,

AND WHEREAS, Sierra Leone Independence Day will provide Edmontonians with an opportunity to learn more about Leonean culture and history,

THEREFORE I, Mayor Don Iveson, do hereby proclaim April 27, 2017 “Sierra Leone Independence Day” in Edmonton, Alberta’s Capital City.

It all started on the main floor of City Hall in downtown Edmonton. It was mid-morning, during a weekday. Yet, there was a sizeable presence of compatriots and well-wishers of Sierra Leone to witness the occasion. Formalities began with Christian and Islamic prayers led by Mrs. Patience Paris and Mr. Dominic Dawud respectively.

Dressed in a traditional print frock, with a matching head-tie, Mrs. Paris began by describing April 27 as a blessed day; praying for the people of Sierra Leone. She gave thanks and praise to God; praying for both Sierra Leone and Canada.

"We pray that You continue to guide us in this land that you brought us; that we may able to be doers of your work," Mrs. Paris interceded.

In turn, Mr.Dominic Dawud also prayed for both countries. He thanked Canada for granting Sierra Leoneans safety and security, and for providing opportunities here.

Dawud hailed Canada as warm and welcoming. He prayed for peace and harmony in both Canada and Sierra Leone asked God to grant many fruitful days to come.

Kemoh Mansaray then made a speech in which he traced the history of colonialism in Sierra Leone. He went beyond British rule that ended in 1961. His chronicle went as far back as the 15th century when Portuguese traders arrived in present-day Sierra Leone. Mansaray highlighted an earlier epoch of Sierra Leone’s history when indigenous people governed themselves.

"Long before the British came, indigenous people called the country Ro-Marong" the association president noted.

Mansaray described the past 56 years as eventful for Sierra Leoneans. He lamented Sierra Leone’s 11-year rebel war which spurred the migration of Sierra Leoneans to Canada and other countries. The community president also commented on the more recent Ebola crisis; describing both periods as unfortunate chapters in the history of Sierra Leone.

Next to take the floor was the president of the women’s wing of the Sierra Leone Alberta Association, Martha Yei Caulker-Mbayo.

She rose to the occasion with zest. The women’s leader relished the event, describing it as auspicious and remarkable. Wearing a white gown, with a green-white-and-blue scarf draped on her left shoulder, Mat-Mat (as she is fondly called) wowed her audience.

"To Edmontonians, this is just another day. But to Sierra-Edmontonians, this is a day we will always cherish. We will ever be grateful to the city of Edmonton; this city, our city, the winter city, The City of Champions."

Loud applause filled the hall as she went on. She urged compatriots in and outside Sierra Leone to reflect on their lives.

"Let us think about where we came from, what we have achieved, what we can do, and where we go from here."

Mat-Mat acknowledged the hospitality of the people and government of Canada; especially to Sierra Leoneans now living here.

"May the people of Canada find shelter wherever they find themselves," she prayed.

To the city of Edmonton, she said: Despite being named the winter city, we love you Edmonton."

The women’s leader expressed similar sentiments about womenfolk in the Sierra Leonean community here. She thanked them all for the work they have been doing.

"Women, we rule the world, even though we sometimes are unrecognized."

To the children, she urged them to listen to their parents.

’Get the best education you can; as that is the key to unlocking the world," Mat-Mat advised.

The formal proclamation was immediately followed by the flag-raising ceremony. It was outdoors in the cooler weather of the province of Alberta. Together, Kemoh Mansaray and Mat-Mat slowly hoisted the green-white-and-blue. Many people took pictures, some shot amateur videos. Then everybody rallied around the flag post. They sang the national anthem, as the green-white-and-blue flag fluttered overhead.

There was yet another lighthearted moment earlier; inspired by Councillor Mike Nickel. Just before he handed the certificate of proclamation over to Kemoh Mansaray, the councilman announced that April 27 was his birthday too.

"Well, this might surprise you. This is not just your birthday; today is my birthday," Councillor Nickel beamed.

"I am 52 years old today; and still kicking."

People clapped and soon there was a loud chorus of the traditional Happy Birthday song.

Nickel then made a short speech, once the birthday singing ended. He began by describing Canada as a nation of immigrants. The councillor said his own father moved to Canada in the mid-1950s; a migrant from war-torn Germany.

Sharing one personal anecdote, Mickel recalled his childhood days and how his mother had responded to a basic question he kept asking about diversity.

"My mom told me that if we were all the same we would all have the same weaknesses," he said.

"God made us different so we would be stronger (together) - because we are different, "Nickel quoted his mom.

The councilman concluded:

"And that’s what diversity kind of means to me."

Thursday marked exactly 56 years since Sierra Leone became a sovereign nation in 1961. Before that the country had formerly been a colony of Britain; for over 150 years. Britain’s flag, the Union Jack, has since been replaced by the Sierra Leone national flag that was hoisted outside Edmonton City Hall that day. This flag has three horizontal bands; coloured green, white, and blue.

The green band represents the country’s agriculture, its mountains, and the natural vegetation.

The white is for unity and justice.

The blue stands for the sea and the natural harbour in Freetown.

Kemoh and councillor Nickel

Sierra Leoneans in Edmonton proudly displaying their flag. Kemoh is third from left, front row

Muslim prayers led by Dominic

Sierra Leoneans rally around the flag in downtown Edmonton

The proclamation

Mrs Paris leading in Christian prayers