By Sorie Fofana.
Arriving in the Russian capital, Moscow, for the first time, in the middle of winter could be a very nauseating experience. If one relies on Western media report about Russia, one would easily conclude that the country is in ruins.
I got a different view of the capital city of Russia after my brief stay in Moscow this week. I was fortunate to be part of a high-powered Government of Sierra Leone delegation to Russia, headed by our dynamic and consummate chief diplomat, Dr. Alie Kabba.
On arrival at Domodevo Airport in Moscow, we were received by Sierra Leone’s enthusiastic Ambassador to the Russia Federation, Mohamed Yongawo. Ambassador Yongawo is a highly-respected man within the Russian diplomatic community. The Sierra Leonean community in Russia also loves him because of his commonsensical approach to issues bordering on the welfare of Sierra Leoneans in Russia.
Meeting With Sierra Leonean Students
On arrival in Moscow, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Alie Kabba met with a cross-section of Sierra Leonean students studying in the Russian Federation. The meeting took place at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Moscow.
The spokesman for the students read out a litany of concerns which they want the New Direction government of President Julius Maada Bio to address. Some of their concerns include the late remittance of their scholarship allowances, the extension of visa for continuing students, change of courses and the repatriation of their luggage after completion of their courses etc. Most of the Sierra Leonean students in Russia study Medicine.
After listening attentively to their complaints and concerns, the Foreign Minister, Dr. Alie Kabba informed the students that President Bio’s key priority in the New Direction administration is Education. He said the Education Ministry this year got the highest percentage of budgetary allocation never seen in the history of Sierra Leone.
Dr. Alie Kabba informed the students that even though President Bio inherited a bankrupt economy, he has been very busy fixing it. He said that salaries for public workers are now being paid promptly and government is addressing other key priority areas like healthcare delivery, electricity supply and the security of the state.
Dr. Alie Kabba assured them that, their concerns will be forwarded to His Excellency the President for his prompt and gracious intervention.
Meeting With Russia’s Foreign Minister
Dr. Alie Kabba was in Moscow on the invitation of the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov. Before leaving Freetown on Sunday, Dr. Alie Kabba informed newsmen that the essence of his trip to Moscow was to “deepen and strengthen friendly ties with Russia for the mutual benefits of our two countries and peoples”.
At a meeting with the legendary Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Sierra Leone’s Foreign Minister discussed a wide range of bilateral and multilateral issues, and outlined opportunities for Russian investment in key priority sectors in Sierra Leone. At the end of a closed-door meeting between the two Foreign Ministers, a press conference was convened by both men in Moscow.
It is a well-known fact that Sergey Lavrov is the most experienced Foreign Minister and the second-most influential Foreign Minister in the world.
At the joint press conference, both the Russian Foreign Minister and his Sierra Leonean counterpart promised to work together to deepen both bilateral and multilateral ties.
President Bio wrote a special letter to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin which was hand-delivered to Lavrov by Dr. Alie Kabba for onward delivery to President Putin. President Bio is expected to pay a state visit to Russia in August this year.
Meeting At The Federal Service For Military-Technical Cooperation
Dr. Alie Kabba and delegation held very fruitful discussions with the leadership of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation. A team from Sierra Leone’s Defence Ministry was in Moscow in July last year to explore areas of technical assistance from Russia.
Dr. Kabba’s visit to Moscow has opened several windows of opportunities for Sierra Leone especially in the area of bilateral cooperation.
A Visit To The Industry And Trade Ministry
Because of the very tight schedule of Dr. Alie Kabba, Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Rev. Abraham Sesay-Jones met with the Director for Africa in the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation, Sergey Nosov. Both men exchanged very useful information and agreed to form a Joint Trade Mission that will explore areas of possible collaboration.
Rev. Abraham Sesay-Jones and the Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Economic Planning, Dr. Chakanda were very articulate in explaining the mandate of their different Ministries and the need for Russia and Sierra Leone to deepen bilateral ties in the areas of Agriculture, Fisheries, Health and Sanitation and Telecommunications.
The trip to Russia has opened new windows of opportunities for Sierra Leone to attract Direct Foreign Investments from Russia. There are two major Russian companies currently operating in Sierra Leone. One of them is Vimetco Holdings which is mining bauxite in Mokanji. More of such big Russian companies are expected to visit Sierra Leone very soon.
All said and done, the trip to Russia was a huge success. Thanks to President Julius Maada Bio for opening new doors of bilateral cooperation with major countries like Russia and China.