With barely 167 days left to complete his second and final term in office, Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad would not have put a wager on President Koroma’s no-show at this year’s United Nations General Assembly in New York.
But his conspicuous absence, in what would have been his last appearance as president, caught many by surprise and speculations are rife as to why he snubbed the world stage in what would have been his last official appearance.
Many had expected that President Ernest Bai Koroma would address his colleague heads of state for the very last time as Chairman of the Committee of 10 of the African Union.
While his Liberian counterpart, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was at the General Assembly to deliver her farewell speech to colleague presidents around the world, President Koroma instead sent his Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, Dr. Samura Kamara, to speak on his behalf.
Presidential spokesman Abdulai Bayraytay has defended the decision of President Koroma not to attend the 72 session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
In an interview with Concord Times underline from New York, Bayraytay said: “President Koroma would have loved to be here for his farewell speech but the present situation in the country could not permit him to do so.”
The presidential spokesman said the president’s absence was a as result of the flooding and mudslide disasters which struck the country on August 14 and claimed the lives of hundreds of Sierra Leoneans with over three thousand rendered homeless.
He explained that President Koroma had invoked a level three (3) security status, which means that he has to direct the emergency disaster response in the wake of the twin disasters.
“His absence was not deliberate at all. Remember he was also absent at the UN General Assembly in 2015 because of the devastating Ebola outbreak which claimed the lives of thousands. I think his colleague heads of states will reason with him,” Bayraytay asserted and added that the country’s foreign minister will address the assembly on behalf of the president.
Mr. Bayraytay said he was directed by the President Koroma to hold town hall meetings with the Sierra Leonean community in America to update them on government’s response to the devastating flood and mudslide disaster, support to the National Electoral Commission (NEC) for the 2018 multitier elections and the determination to oversee a peaceful and credible polls as part of his legacies.