Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sierra Leone, Prof. Ekundayo Thompson has on Friday told journalists that Sierra Leone would host the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) conference this November.
He made the above disclosure during a press conference at the IPRA Secretariat on Lamina Sankoh Street in Freetown, adding that the conference would be jointly organised by IPRA and the University of Sierra Leone, with a focus on peace research.
“Sierra Leone will be showcased by this conference and we are expecting to receive some 600 delegates from across the world. Receiving 600 foreign nationals is a monumental task, but with our collective efforts and support from partners, we hope that the event will go on peacefully,” he said.
He admitted that when the USL received a proposal to host the conference, it was hesitantly accepted as the task of hosting such an event was herculean.
He said a lot of work has been done behind the scene to ensure that the conference goes on smoothly.
Prof. Thompson said 500 papers would be delivered at the conference and that they would serve as a repository of knowledge as some would be published, while people, especially the press, would begin to review, assess, discuss, and diagnose them.
He urged media practitioners to take advantage of the conference by writing about peace and the threat to peace, especially as Sierra Leone is currently being plagued by the menace of clique members.
Head of Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, Madam Memunatu Pratt, who also doubles as coordinator of the IPRA conference, said progress has been made with regards preparation for the conference.
She noted that some of peacebuilding organizations, particularly the German Civil Peace Service, had confirmed they would pay for all the souvenirs for the conference.
“The World Bank has confirmed that they are going to pay for the hosting of the event’s cocktail. We have engaged the National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT), which has waived 50 percent of the cost of the Bintumani Conference Centre. The initial cost was one hundred million Leones (Le100m) per day but we will now pay two hundred million Leones (Le200m) for the four days conference,” she disclosed.
She added that IPRA has pledged to provide the lunch for two days, pay for all the international speakers and print the main brochures that would be used at the event.
“As host country, we have an obligation to meet some part of the cost of hosting the event. We have approached government and we are still waiting for them to tell us whether they will leverage the cost for us,” she said.
She disclosed that already, over 534 excerpts have been submitted, adding that over 120 international researchers from Japan, USA, Africa, Israel, and Pakistan have registered and started sorting out their accommodations for the event.
“On Thursday, I received an email from our Embassy in Germany that they have received 25 requests for visas to come for the event. They were asking for confirmation,” she said. She called on donor partners to come onboard and give support to the success of the conference.
Chairperson of the IPRA Conference Committee, Mrs. Bernadette Cole, said media outlets should provide time and space for the promotion of the forthcoming event, adding that government was fully aware of what USL was doing and were providing their support.
Registrar of USL, Sorie N. Dumbuya, said journalists have a major role to play in the forthcoming event and that they could play a great role in making the public understand the activities of the University of Sierra Leone.