New Head of Chancery in Germany breaks silence…We will re-brand Sierra Leone in the Diaspora
Sierra Leone’s new Head of Chancery to the Federal Republic of Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Austria, Alhassan Kondeh (in photo) has said one of his main priorities in his new appointment is to help re-brand the image of Sierra Leone in Europe.
Kondeh, in his maiden interview since he took up office in August this year, told Berlin based Journalists, Umaru Jah and Tejan Lamboi, that within his short stay in office, he has realised that Sierra Leone is still being associated with the war even though the country has moved away from that unfortunate past and made enormous progress in building a peaceful and democratic regime.
“We want to let people here know that the war is a thing of the past. Sierra Leone is now an attractive partner to do business with,” Kondeh said.
The Head of Chancery noted that Sierra Leone’s success story, which was recently echoed by no less a person than the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, needs to be effectively communicated to help people understand the rapid transformation taking place in the small West African nation.
Kondeh recalled that to help address this information gap, the Vice President of Sierra Leone, Sam Sumana was recently on an official country presentation trip to Italy to give the current and true picture of Sierra Leone and encourage business people there to invest in the country.
“The VP´s trip was very successful,” he added.
He further noted that in a modest way, his boss, H.E Ambassador Jongopie Stevens, whom he described as hardworking, is also attending symposia and meeting business executives in Germany to sell the potentials of Sierra Leone.
Kondeh however cautioned that the task of changing perceptions about Sierra Leone should not be the responsibility of the embassy and its staff alone. He admonished Sierra Leoneans living in the diaspora to unite and corporate with one another to promote the image of their country.
He described the relationship between the embassy in Berlin and the Sierra Leonean community in Germany as cordial, one that is based on mutual respect and trust.
In September, the embassy in Berlin invited Sierra Leoneans from all over Germany to a meeting to discuss plans for the celebration of the country’s 50th Independence Anniversary. At that meeting, a planning committee was set up to spearhead the preparation and arrangements for the celebrations.
The Head of Chancery noted that such a venture represents a significant milestone in not only bringing Sierra Leoneans closer to the embassy but also involving them in decision-making.
“Working with the Independence Anniversary Committee represents the first step in realising a much more bigger picture. This is not a one-off encounter but rather the beginning of a gradual and sustained process of working with Sierra Leoneans in the length and breadth of Germany to re-brand the image of our beloved country,” Kondeh said.
He further disclosed that the embassy is currently undertaking a registration exercise of all Sierra Leoneans living in Germany to get an up-to-date data that will include their professional qualifications.
“Such an information will give us an idea of the number of Sierra Leoneans living in Germany as well as make it easier for the Government of Sierra Leone to recruit trained and qualified Sierra Leoneans in Germany to contribute to the development of their country,” he stressed.
On measures taken to ensure that Sierra Leonean passports do not land in the hands of foreigners in Germany, Kondeh disclosed that all Sierra Leoneans living in Germany who want to renew their passports are required to get an endorsement from the embassy before forwarding their applications to the Immigration department in Freetown.
“For new applicants not residing in Sierra Leone, the embassy in the country in which they are living should endorse such application,” he added.
Kondeh, who before his latest appointment was Director of Administration, Finance and Consular Division at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Freetown said he enjoys his latest assignment but admitted that he misses Sierra Leone and his family still back home.
He however has a word for his new home.
“Berlin is a very peaceful city. Although there is the language barrier, it has the potential of me enjoying it.”
Umaru S. Jah & Tejan Lamboi, Berlin
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