A Review of Sierra Update’s Special Edition
If New Africa magazine is being regarded as the authoritative pan-African magazine, then without any attempt at word-mincing the “Sierra Update” magazine of which Sorie Sudan Sesay, the Press Attaché at the Sierra Leone High Commission in Britain is the Publisher/CEO, should be rightly called the pan-Sierra Leonean magazine. (Photo: Mohamed Sankoh, One Drop)
In just 31 pages, from “Voice of the Sudanese” to “The Rise and Rise of Lady Felicia”, the special edition does not only present Sierra Leone as an attractive place now open for business but packages the country in such a way as to lure investors to the country. The publisher whets the reader’s appetite in his “Voice of the Sudanese” with a beautiful sentence: “…Within three years of the President’s rule, we have seen massive and dramatic improvements in all sectors…Sierra Leone needs a dedicated leader with high level commitment to take the country forward. And so far we have seen that in President Koroma… (Page 3)”. Such a declaration is a classical quality of a nationalistic salesman telling the outside world that Sierra Leone is no longer the place where the Foday Sankohs, the Sam Bockaries et al are still lords but a country which now has a committed and dedicated leader who is trying his very best to make Sierra Leone once again wine and dine at the tables of decent nations.
As soon as the reader begins to salivate, s/he is at once being served the first course of the banquet in page 4. In this article, titled “3 Years On! What A Progressive Turn-around (sic)”, the magazine does a synopsis of the achievements of President Ernest Bai Koroma’s rule within three years. Here, through a potpourri of terse and staccato sentences, the reader is guided through a journalistic presentation of the major achievements of the current Sierra Leonean Head of State. The achievements are so mouth-watering that when the article ends with “…A modern generating plant is being installed at the Kingtom Power Station. This will help in the supply of steady electricity to the city,” the reader does not get the “fifth finger licked” feeling but that of the Dicksonian Olive Twist’s feeling of asking for more.
And that Dicksonian feeling is being satisfied in the next article. In this article titled, “Democracy By Popularity Party Politics in Sierra Leone”, the reader is taken down memory lane. Through a sort of Chinese box narrative, the magazine does a political situation report, so to write (sorry, I’m not speaking), of how it was, how it is now, and how it might probably be in the future with President Koroma at the helm. Within three pages, coupled with sharp high resolution photos, the reader is taken on a conducted tour of President Koroma’s outreaches to the opposition. What comes out clearly in this article is that: President Ernest Bai Koroma is not a vindictive leader but one with so much love and compassion in his heart that he is willing to let bygones be bygones in the interest of co-existence and peace.
And before that could be digested, the reader is being served a meal that is a mixture of hot and cold, which left them with the feeling of whether they might not get running stomachs after eating it. Breaking one of the journalistic conventions of the Inverted Pyramid formula the article: “The Transformation of Freetown”, starts with a sort of “it could be recalled” pattern. But after that “soft lead”, the reader is given blow-by-blow information on how the Freetown City Council is transforming the capital in preparation for the country’s 50th Independence Anniversary in April next year.
The next two articles give indepth analyses of the strides made by the Ernest Bai Koroma-led APC government in the area of agriculture. In these articles, through the fusion of facts and figures, the reader is being guided on a conducted tour of the present government’s “Tractorization” process nationwide. And also realises the premium which the President places on agriculture in his strive towards partial food self-sufficiency in Sierra Leone.
On page 15, the magazine tries to dispel the often repeated misinformation which normally tries to fuse the All People’s Congress (APC) of Siaka Stevens with that of President Ernest Bai Koroma’s. In this article titled “President Koroma scores high marks in human rights”, the reader gets it from the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone himself, Edward Sam, that Sierra Leone’s human rights record has improved immensely under President Koroma. And that the government of President Koroma is a respecter of democratic tenets.
The following article titled: “African Minerals: Another step forward”, is a soft-read. As it shows the benefits the people of Sierra Leone are going to get from the company called “African Minerals Limited”, which will be mining iron ore in the northern parts of Sierra Leone. But if the reader scratches the surface of this article, s/he will see the sub-text, which is: the government of Ernest Bai Koroma has put in place good Minerals laws that will see the people of Sierra Leone getting advantages from their God-given wealth.
On page 18 the only Guest Writer in the entire edition, Nanette Thomas, in the tradition of Michael H. Hart gives certain criteria of “What Makes An Effective Leader”. And for her, President Ernest Bai Koroma has all the qualities of a good leader. According to her, “EBK [Ernest Bai Koroma] is transforming Sierra Leone gradually, and very soon his name would be recorded in the Guinness Book of Life as the President who turned Sierra Leone into a modern state…” And on page 19, the reader is taken on an expedition on the efforts made by the current government to increase local revenue so that the country will shy away from the mendicant status inherited by President Koroma.
From page 20 to 23, efforts made so far by President Koroma to increase Sierra Leone’s stature at the international stage are being portrayed. While articles such as “All Hands On Deck” (page 24) and “Agenda For Change In Liverpool” (page 25) show how the President’s emissaries are propagating their country’s potentials and also rebranding Sierra Leone with style.
One of the two Qs and As in this edition under review gives an insight into President Koroma’s unblemished character through the eyes and minds of his Chief of Staff (COS), Dr Kelfala Marah. Titled “Chief Of My Conscience & Servant Of All”, in this piece Dr Marah tells the world that President Koroma is, “…a thorough personality, very thorough. He listens very well, and takes careful notes as and when required. What is intriguing is that he generates enormous respect and can be technical too…He thinks big… He listens to advisers… [and] He is full of energy (page 27)”. This statement definately ties with the sublime attributes given to President Koroma by Nanette Thomas on page 18. Put in its right sub-context: President Ernest Bai Koroma is a good and committed leader ordained by God and not the usual accidents of history as it used to be in the past. What is awesome about this Q and A is the last but one answer given by Dr Marah, which seems to have been streamlined in the David Diopian optimism as portrayed in his poem: “The Vulture”. Like the “hope which will be reborn under our bright steps”, as stated by Diop in that poem, so does Dr Marah believe that the destination of Sierra Leone under President Koroma, “can only be brighter. I strongly believe [he] will continue to turn things around…Development is not an accident; it is a deliberate effort on the part of national leadership and fellowship (page 27)”
After that Diopian optimism by the State House Chief of Staff (COS), Dr Kelfala Marah, the magazine epilogues the rebranding package of Sierra Leone with infotainment, featuring one of Sierra Leone’s nationalistic female musicians. Lady Felicia’s “rise and rise” from obscurity to stardom is portrayed through an interview with one of Sierra Leone’s celebrated cartoonists, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla aka De Monk. From page 28 to page 30, coupled with three beautiful pictures, Lady Felicia’s meteoric rise to stardom is revealed. So when the interviewee ends with “I think every woman must make a lasting friendship with the mirror,” the reader is left with a philosophical taste in his/her mouth as s/he closes the magazine.
In a nutshell, the “Spring 2010 special edition” of the Sierra Update magazine calls for celebration as it shows that its Publisher/CEO, Sorie Sudan Sesay who is the Press Attaché at the Sierra Leone High Commission in Britain, is a potential ambassador for his country. The magazine also shows that those before him at the High Commission were merely on working vacations, as he has shown the real role of a Press Attaché. When I visit Britain this December on my planned “cooling off”, I will surely invite Sorie Sudan Sesay for dinner because he has been at the fore amongst his fellow Press Attachés who have been rebranding Sierra Leone in the Diaspora. So let’s raise our glasses and toast to the health and long life of Sierra Update magazine.
By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)
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