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Exclusive Interview with Foreign Minister Part 2

Exclusive Interview with Foreign Minister Part 2

J B Dauda talks about his vast experience and the nation’s standing with development partners.

Kabs Kanu, Minister Plenipotentiary, this week conducted an exclusive interview with Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hon. Joseph Bandabla Dauda, who was in  New York to attend the United Nations Peace Building Sierra Leone Country Specific Configuration review meetings. It was the minister’s first comprehensive interview given any news media since his appointment in November. During the interview, the minister demonstrated extraordinary knowledge of the issues as will be seen from his answers. He spoke calmly, chose his words well and was very methodical in his responses.

During the first segment of the interview, the minister disclosed that to him, the nation comes first, ahead of party. He said that he accepted his appointment because in all he has ever done in life, the interest of the nation has always been paramount to him. His party, the opposition SLPP took him to task for accepting the appointment and when they wanted him to appear before a kind of disciplinary committee, the minister resigned from the party because the interest of Sierra Leone comes first, ahead of party. Today, Hon. J B Dauda is digging in his spurs as Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Today , we go Part 2 of the interview

Your appointment has been the subject of lots of  emotions from your old party as you have insinuated yourself , but how do you feel about  this decision by President Koroma’s decision to make you  Foreign Minister ?

First of all, I believe the President was looking for somebody with experience in governance so that I could add the wealth of experience I have acquired in my career , having served in two administrations , first the Presidency of the late Joseph Saidu Momoh of the All People’s Congress (APC)  where I rose from Minister of State in the Attorney General’s Office to Minister of Trade and Industry and later on Attorney General and Minister of State and Second Vice-President (1987-1992). I also served in the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) Government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah where I held the portfolios of Minister of Local Government and Rural Development and Minister of Finance ( 1999-2005).

How will these experiences you have enumerated help you perform your job ?

I have been in cabinet for long and I am fully aware of the processes used in the formulation of government policy and as Minister of Finance for over three years, I had an active interaction with the International Community –the United Nations, UNDP, World Bank and many other financial institutions which formed the international community. I was involved in the mobilization of funds locally and internationally for the development of the country and in this capacity coordinated all the economic development of the departments and agencies.

In my new role as Minister of Foreign Affairs, one of my principal functions is to mobilize external resources for our economic development and in doing that also I have to coordinate all international assistance in partnership with the Ministry of Finance ; so my experience at the Finance  Ministry gives me an advantage to carry out that particular aspect of my function .Also, in the peace building process as Minister of Local Government, I was a member of the ministerial committee that actually conducted the disarmament process with the rebels.

We visited the rebel-held territories and spoke to them to give up their arms . We also oversaw at the initial stage the process of disarmament , resettlement and the reintegration of the ex-combatants and when I became Minister of Finance my main preoccupation was to manage a post-conflict economy in which our main concern was to form humanitarian relief which involved the provision of basic necessities like food, medicine, shelter, and the logistics for the transfer of internally-displaced persons to their homes and the resettlement of refugees from the neighbouring countries like Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Ghana. As you can see therefore, I have a wealth of experience which will help me perform my job very well.

With such a vast experience, your job is really well cut, Mr. Minister. Could you enlighten readers about our relationship with our international development partners  ? This has been the subject of a lot of speculation in internet forums  recently .

Our relationship has been reasonably good. Principally, the IMF is the major one , the institution that gives you the certificate that you are managing the economy well so that other development partners may contribute to your development efforts. If you don’t have the certificate, they will not participate and to get this certificate you need to manage well the programs of the IMF. They give you a number of economic and financial targets which you must achieve in a micro-economic stability -you must maintain micro-economic stability .You must have a single digit inflation rate and a relatively stable exchange rate with a very prudent fiscal policy. The government has on the whole managed the economy well, to the extent that we still have a program with the IMF , which is a precondition for securing assistance from international financial institutions and other development partners.

Thank you very much for making this clarification, Mr. Minister. It is good to know that we are performing well, especially coming from a man of your vast knowledge and experience.

More recently, we have embarked upon a huge, vast and unprecedented road construction all over the country which we have funded entirely from locally-generated revenue and this huge expenditure of these development projects has contributed to the rising inflationary rate in the country but in the current review of the IMF the point has been made by the IMF team that we must redouble our efforts at revenue-generation and expenditure control to enable us to finance the very ambitious development projects we have taken in the departments of infrastructure ,agriculture and more particularly the free medical insurance. This is a program we are also funding , giving free medical facilities to lactating mothers, pregnant women and children under 5. That has also eaten substantially into our resources. It is one of our flagship projects which has attracted a lot of people to access medical facilities that were not available before.

How about our relationship with the UK Department For International Development (DFID)? Some detractors online have been making all kinds of claims about our relationship with them.

Whatever claims these detractors were making were false. While the new coalition government in the UK was reviewing its assistance to other countries, aid was drastically cut down and in the case of certain countries completely discontinued. When it came to Sierra Leone, assistance was increased which reflects our good performance in terms of aid utilization from DFID. It also reflects the commitment the DFID has towards Sierra Leone. Again, one can interpret that as an acknowledgement of our efforts at the establishment and sustenance of a democratically good governance, principally in the areas of fighting corruption, staging democratic Presidential and legislative elections in 2007 local elections in 2008 etc. etc. We have the most robust anti-corruption Act in the whole of Africa .All our elections were judged by international monitors to be free and fair and on a special note the outcome of the elections in 2007 in which the opposition won against the incumbent ruling government , leading to a smooth transfer of power ,which is very rare in Africa.

Part 3 to follow …

Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu, Minister Plenipotentiary, Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the UN, New York, NY 10017

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