Letter to editor

Sierra Leoneans in Kenya are not happy with diaspora office

5 September 2009 at 02:16 | 1077 views

By Emmanuel Turay, in Nairobi, Kenya.


If President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s dream of tapping Sierra Leonean expertise in different fields of study abroad and encouraging such experts to go back home and add their own blocks in rebuilding and rebranding the image of the country is anything to go by, then Sierra Leoneans in Kenya have expressed dissatisfaction over what they described as diplomatic negligence on the part of government officials visiting the country.

Sampling the opinions of most fellow countrymen I met in the Kenya mainly stationed in Nairobi lauded HE’s initiative in engaging the diaspora for a new Sierra Leone as a step in the right direction with a view to enhancing the millennium development goals.

But this vision of the President, according to most Sierra Leonean professionals I spoke to here, is a bit problematic. Sierra Leoeneans here are of mixed feelings on if President Koroma will succeed in this drive with such chameleon politicians around him engulfed with nepotism, greed, selfishness and above all corruption.

Sierra Leoneans in Kenya consider themselves part of the diaspora and as such they believe they have meaningful contributions to make towards the development of our battered economy which has led to the establishment of the diaspora office so as to work towards linking them from the Diaspora to different business opportunities, agencies, ministries, and departments in the country.

Sierra Leoneans in Kenya express dismay that this vision is being implemented in theory rather than practice as they feel ignored and neglected by even their own government officials from the country, not to mention the Salone consulate office in Nairobi.

Members of the Salone community here in Nairobi are eager to meet with their government officials during their stay or stop over in Kenya but all their efforts proved futile as their schedules will not "permit" them to meet with their fellow countrymen. This attitude on the part of the government officials according to the Salone community here do not reflect the ‘change of attitude’ the president has being echoing.

‘They always consider us as beggars… especially in Africa… but after all we are more learned and responsible than some of these so called government Ministers or officials…’ one senior Salone expatriate complained.

"In fact the consulate office here refuses to take our calls after identifying yourself as a Sierra Leonean and not a business man," commented a student on study leave.

Most Sierra Leoneans in East Africa are mostly expatriates for various UN agencies and other international agencies with only a few students. I believe the expertise of these set of intellectuals could go a long way in enhancing our vision of changing Salone.

Imagine the head of UNEP here is a Sierra Leonean who participated in the Bumbuna environmental research and in my dialogue with him expressed a lot of concerns about the programme’s sustainability considering the environmental consequences or impact.

Sierra Leoneans in Kenya I spoke to are of the opinion that this mentality of fellow countrymen seeing those from the diaspora as threats to their offices should be set aside if we are to make this diaspora dream come true. Why is the diaspora office mainly concerned about Sierra Leoneans in America and Europe and not those in Africa? This mentality has to change.

Not all that glitters is gold. The Diaspora office should not only concern itself with those they think are bringing business because most of these "businesses" leave our people mostly the youths, unemployed and sometimes the market is flooded with old or expired stuff.

The office needs to also encourage strategic planners of the economy, environment, etc… but instead you ignore those coming with their education or degrees. Why?

If Salone is to achieve this change then we must learn to appreciate and accommodate each other as patriots. Let’s don’t consider ourselves as threats to each other’s office saying…’you wan can take oba mi office..’ then you resort to witch hunt, sabotage, etc.

This is the reason given by most Sierra Leoneans refusing to go back home to offer their services to the nation for fear that they may be seen as a threat to those half baked and corrupt civil servants. This is a practice all over Sierra Leone; try to prove me wrong and I will show you concrete examples even in the present Koroma Government.

It is also necessary that the diaspora office should delegate part of its responsibility to the foreign missions or embassies. For instance, a data bank of Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora should be created to facilitate these functions or linkages.

Let our concern be Salone…let’s put the nation first… interact with experts in Africa. They have the experience and African solutions to deal with our issues. Don’t run away from your countrymen and women, you are their servants so the closer you are, the more participatory your government will be. That will make it democratic.