By: Aja Musu Bah-Daffeh
President Ernest Bai Koroma of Serra Leone held his first ever Press conference in the Gambia at the State House in Banjul on the 1st of December 2017.
It was an opportunity for the country’s media both online and local, together with international correspondents stationed in the country, to talk to President Koroma on issues related to the Gambia and his country, Sierra Leone.
Responding to a question regarding what the Gambia can learn from the Serra Leonean experience, since they were also involved in such crisis, President Koroma responded that Serra Leone has come a long way in bringing her people together, despite the crisis.
He continued: “When you are guided by the fact that you have no other country but the Gambia, you must focus on moving ahead and the issues of the past should be forgotten and the lesson of the past, learnt. You should start to work together and also knowing that the leadership is committed to building the nation and giving hope to the people.”
He expressed that in Serra Leone they had institutions like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was set up for people to tell the truth about what had happened; that when moments like this present itself, people will have the opportunity to easily forgive and forget.
President Koroma stated that the political landscape should be made open and when there is a level of sincerity coming from everybody, the best thing to do is to just move on. The fourth President of Serra Leone said he is optimistic that the Gambia has a lot of new hope and all that the people have to do is just to move forward.
Concerning the rampant migration of African youths to the Mediterranean Sea, he said the migration is not only limited to the Gambia, but to his country Sierra Leone and the rest of the continent with many youths currently returning home; that the forces of the EU are foreseeing how they can work together as regions, to ensure that they minimize the uncontrolled migration that is happening, as migration cannot be stopped by anyone. “I think the problem is for all of us to work together to build our local capacity, create opportunities for our young people, to officially engage them to become productive. Some of them live the countries out of ignorance and some of them are just convinced with false hope,” he said.
President Koroma the Father of two, affirmed that this is not a question for the Gambia but the rest of the continent; that they are now working on to how to collaborate to improve the communities, to develop Africa and to make it more attractive for the youth to stay and utilize its resources.
President Koroma said what ‘‘our two countries need to do is to invest in the youth by giving them the right education and skills, and open up our economies so that everybody will be engaged.’’ He continued that they have to come up with ways of discouraging illegal migration where lots of youths lose their lives.
“It is a fact that Africa has natural resources. But having the resources itself will not give Africa wealth but rather we should translate the natural resources to wealth and this involves a lot of processes such as investment and capital,” he said.
He said what Africa has to do is to develop internal capacity, train her people, build their health capabilities and attract foreign direct investment in order to translate natural resources to wealth, that will be meaningful and productive.