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Gambia, Sierra Leone relationship wax stronger

Nov 14, 2016, 10:39 AM | Article By: Lamin Jahateh

The relationship between The Gambia and Sierra Leone, dating back to colonial days, continues to grow from strength to strength, the Sierra Leonean Ambassador to The Gambia has said.

Ambassador Soulayman Daramy said the sisterly ties between the two West African countries takes renewed momentum with the coming into office of the Gambian leader, President Yahya Jammeh, and his Sierra Leonean counterpart, President Ernest Bai Koroma.

“President Jammeh has been in office much longer than President Koroma, but even when President Koroma assumed power, his relationship with President Jammeh has been excellent from day one,” Ambassador Daramy said in a recent interview with The Point newspaper at the Sierra Leonean Embassy in Bijilo.

“The relationship has been growing from strength to strength since then,” the career diplomat reiterated. 

The two heads of state have had excellent and very cordial meetings and visits.  President Koroma visited The Gambia for about three times and President Jammeh had been in Sierra Leone for Koroma’s inauguration. 

In 2014, President Jammeh donated to President Koroma US$500,000 towards the fight against Ebola, which had been battling the country.

The Gambia is seen as the second home of Sierra Leoneans because the countries share a lot in common.  The bilateral relationship between the two countries is historical; during the colonial days both countries were being administered together by the British. 

As former British colonies, both countries speak the same English and both speak Mandinka, Fula and Aku as local languages.

Successive governments of both countries maintain the relationship but Ambassador Daramy said it has reached an all-time high.

He said:  “One of the unprecedented incidents manifesting the extent of the cordiality and cooperation between the current presidents of the two countries was a telephone conversation they had which was on the Gambia Radio and Television Services.

“This tells you the commitment these two people have to their respective countries, otherwise the telephone call could have been a private conversation, nobody would know about it.”

Achievements at home

Ambassador Daramy said just like President Jammeh, Koroma has registered numerous achievements, both tangible and intangible, in Sierra Leone.

President Koroma’s tangible achievements include construction of roads and other infrastructural developments.

“These are the things that people see and talk about often in daily lives,” he said.  “But of course, there are other things that you don’t see, intangible, but which actually contribute tremendously to the development of a country.” 

He said such intangible achievements of President Koroma include fostering relationship which other developing countries, getting more friends around the world, and creating the enabling environment for people to trade and invest in Sierra Leone.

“Even though people hardly talk about the intangible achievements, indeed there has been considerable development in that area too in Sierra Leone.”

Koroma’s presidency is said to have focused upon rebuilding the country’s national infrastructure after the Civil War, fighting corruption, improving the country’s healthcare system, among other things. 

His administration has garnered praise from international funding organisations as well as business and political leaders worldwide, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair who described President Koroma as “an exceptional president who will lead his country to a bright future”.

Success of the ambassador

On his own side, Ambassador Daramy, since his appointment to The Gambia, has been making efforts to leave no stone unturned in the execution of dual roles: representing the interests of Sierra Leone in The Gambia, and working for the interest of Sierra Leonean community in The Gambia.

For the Sierra Leoneans, he has now brought them together to re-organised and strengthen their union, Sierra Leone Nationals Union in The Gambia (SLENU).

He had presided over a registration exercise to register all Sierra Leoneans resident in The Gambia. 

“We now have a statistical data of all Sierra Leoneans in The Gambia that we can use for development purposes, for both countries,” said Ambassador Daramy, who in 2013 was made the ‘Commander of the Order of Rokel’ in recognition of his long and successful service to Sierra Leone in the field of diplomacy.

He is presently at advanced stage in organising Gambians who had attended university in Sierra Leone into an alumni association.

Since colonial times, Gambia and Sierra Leone has good relationship in the area of education; most senior Gambians studied in Sierra Leone.

“So I am trying to collaborate with my Gambian brothers and sisters to form themselves into an alumni association so that these people can be utilised to further contribute to scholarship in both countries,” the Sierra Leonean Ambassador said.

Home from home

Ambassador Daramy has a message for the Sierra Leonean community in The Gambia:  “This is your home and the only way to live at home peacefully is to abide by the law of the country you live in.  We are not strangers in The Gambia; I have told Gambians that, and I keep telling Sierra Leoneans as well. 

“This is our home and it our responsibility both individually and collectively to ensure that the peace and stability, as well as respect for the rule of law is maintained.  All Sierra Leoneans must respect the rule of law in The Gambia; it is an obligation because this is not a strange place for us.  

“Thankfully, ever since I came here, all Sierra Leoneans, minus the few odd ones, have been law-abiding which also contributes to growing ties with the host country, The Gambia.”