Foreign Affairs Minister Receives Warm Welcome
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the West African State of Sierra Leone, Mrs. Zainab Hawa Bangura on Monday, December 7th, 2009 was accorded a tumultuous welcome by her staff following her return from this year’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Mecca.
In her statement delivered in the Conference Room of the Ministry, the acting Director-General, Mrs. Khadijatu Bassir said her colleagues are delighted to welcome the Minister back home, describing her as a dedicated and hardworking person. Mrs. Bassir reaffirmed the willingness of her staff to unreservedly support the Minister in achieving her goals as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
She paid tribute to Sierra Leone’s religious tolerance by citing the prevalence of inter-marriages between and among the various religions. She concluded by calling on Allah to guide the Minister in her commitment to serve the country in support of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s “Agenda for Change”.Â
In her response, the Honourable Minister, Zainab Hawa Bangura thanked her staff for the tremendous support while reassuring them of her commitment to serve Sierra Leone and President Koroma with loyalty and dedication. She maintained that undertaking the pilgrimage was a call from God, noting that the pilgrimage has further rekindled her faith and provided her with the enlightenment that would make her place Sierra’s Leone interest above anything else.
Mrs. Zainab Hawa Bangura however seized the opportunity in rebuffing newspaper allegations that she has a hidden political agenda set to contest the presidency against her boss, as well as graft over the illegal sale of rice in connivance with the Indian Government.
As expected of a Haja, the Minister reassured that she holds no grudge against those peddling such insinuations against her with the aim to besmirch her personality. She rather called on her audience to pray for her detractors so that God may forgive them. “I have no grudge against them as the trumped-up allegations against me while I was on Hajj have only succeeded in spiraling my commitment to serve President Koroma and the people of Sierra Leone with all the energy I can muster”, the Minister said amidst invocations of Allahu Akbar (meaning God is great in English) from the audience.Â
The Minister was flanked on the high table by her deputy, Mr. Vandi Chidi Minah and Member of Parliament Honourable Dr. Mathew M. Teambo, among others. The vote of thanks was moved by Mr. Al-Hassan Kondeh, Director of Administration and Finance.
In a related development, the Sani Abacha Street Market Women (a group of women traders) also called on the Minister at her Conference Room on the 6th floor and presented her with a wall clock as a gift for successfully undertaking this year’s pilgrimage to the holy land as well as what they described as “her invaluable support to women’s issues”.
Speaking on behalf of her colleagues, the Public Relations Officer, Mrs. Fatu Conteh said even though they have not paid a visit to the Minister since her appointment, they are very much familiar with her support for women to achieve their aspirations in a country largely dominated by men. “Madam Minister, you have our support at all times as we believe in you, and will continue to pray that God will guide you through success”, Mrs. Conteh said.
The Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Zainab Bangura responded by thanking the market women for what she described a “surprise gift”.Â She reminded them that they are a pivotal force to reckon with as they play a very important role as traders in the informal sector of the country’s economy. She encouraged the women-traders to explore learning opportunities, indicating that this would further empower them to assert their economic independence.Â The Minister also indicated that the traders should consider pooling their resources together so that they can firmly take their economic destiny in their own hands by trying to establish a cooperative bank they themselves can manage.
The Sani Abacha Women (as they are commonly called) were earlier introduced to the Minister by Mr. Alusine Yilla at the Asia Division in the Ministry. In attendance were Mrs. Khadijatu Bassir and Ms. Fatmatta Dao, acting Director-General and Special Assistant to the Honourable Minister respectively.
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