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Of State Protocol

Of State Protocol

I watched the protocols during the recent State Visit to the United Kingdom, of the South African President Jacob Zuma. It was an interesting and spectacular event as only the British know how to do such things with Pomp and Pageantry. The visiting President and his wife, (the British press kept stressing on the phrase “his third wife”) were met on arrival by His Royal Highness Prince Charles and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall, the former Camilla Parker-Bowles. They were then driven to London to the Horse Guards Parade where Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh were waiting. (Photo: Dr. Sama Banya)

After formal introductions the visiting President and the Queen rode in a State Coach, followed in the next coach by Mrs. Zuma and the Duke of Edinburgh. They were led and followed by a detachment of the Household Calvary. The distinguished visitors stayed at Buckingham Palace as guests of her Majesty. For emphasis let me repeat that it was a state visit.

Her majesty gave a state banquet that evening at the Palace in honour of her South African guest and party. Meetings followed next day with the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and investors. Those visits usually last no more than three days because of all that they involve.

In 1980 I accompanied the then President Siaka Stevens on an official visit to the United Kingdom as guests of the British government. We were met at the Airport by one of the Queen’s Lords-in-Waiting who welcomed the President on behalf of her Majesty. The Foreign and Commonwealth office then took over and we drove in a motorcade to London’s prestigious Claridges Hotel, usually reserved for foreign heads of government. We had a full and interesting week’s programme including a meeting and lunch with the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. We also had lunch with her Majesty the Queen at which was present her sister, Princess Margaret. At a private ceremony the Queen invested Sheki with the insignia of Grand Commander of the Order of St. Michael and Saint George, GCMG. Again I must emphasize that ours was an “official visit as guests of the British Government, hence the proceedings were different .

I have recalled both above incidents because of the unnecessary way in which those around our President tend to present his contacts with Royalty or with his colleagues, other heads of state, and government. I have said it often that Ernest Koroma does not need cheap propaganda. He possesses all the attributes of a charismatic leader who is endevouring to leave his mark as a successful leader. He is his own best PRO; witness his recent visit to the Kailahun district. No words or description from Sheka Tarawally could have substituted what Ernest did for himself. I am sure this is what he does everywhere, so away with affectations and flattery especially when it is to impress poor us citizens.

By the way, at the Downing Street lunch I sat on the left hand side of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher while President Stevens sat on the other. Across the table were Dr. Abdulai Conteh our Foreign Minister and his British counterpart Lord Carrington. During the meal, the Prime Minister who had been engaged with the President for most of the time turned round to me, as if to make conversation. She asked who I thought was going to succeed our President. I replied that in Africa, most of our leaders either stayed on until they dropped dead or were pushed over by the military. To my utmost horror she immediately turned to Sheki and said, “Mr. President, your minister tells me that most African leaders hold on to power until they drop dead or are pushed over. Which option do you plan?” I said silently to myself, “Now, there goes your portfolio smart kid!”

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