By Foday Mansaray, Somerset New Jersey
Authorities of the Franklin Town Council, Police Chief, State legislator and other dignitaries gave an astounding welcome to the President of Sierra Leone, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma on Saturday, September 24, at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel, Somerset, New Jersey. Flanked by state police, secret service and a heavy presence of plain-clothes police from the Franklin township police department, the people’s President arrived at Hilton Hotel, where many Sierra Leoneans had converged to welcome him.
The President and his delegation arrived late afternoon on Saturday, September 24, from New York. His high-powered delegation includes: Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Hon J B Dauda (Jam-boday), the Chief of Protocol Mr. Sulay Mana Pukumuh; Presidential Aide-Brian Gilpin; Hon. Alhaji Alpha Kanu, Political Affairs Minister; Ambassador to Ghana, H. E. Ousman Yansanneh; Ambassador to Ethiopia, H.E Andrew Bangali; Deputy Ambassador to the United States, Alhaji Ibrahim Conteh; Ambassador to Kuwait, H.E. Ibrahim Kamara (Osoya), Hon. Buya Kamara; Parliamentary representative and APC Chairman Northern province. Resident Minister Northern Province, Allie Kamara (WASCO); Hon Chernor Jalloh (Cheri coco), Member of Parliament and head of Mines and Mineral policies in the house of representatives (parliament of Sierra Leone),Hon Sulamai Sesay member of Parliament, Former SCOPE to President Koroma and presently, Director of International Affairs at the foreign Ministry, Ms. YVONNE Togoe, Personal Assistant, Office of the President Mr Alusine Kamara, Director of Communication- Office of the President, Mr Unisa Sesay, and Mr. Agibu Jalloh, National Director of Political Affairs and Personal Assistant to the Minister of Political Affairs. Razia Bash-Kamara Presidential Reporter and Photographer, Mr Claudio Beckley.
Other dignitaries with the President from the Sierra Leone mission in New York were Mrs. RasieTimbo –Kargbo, Deputy Permanent Representative and Ambassador, Political Affairs to the UN; Deputy Permanent Representative and Ambassador Legal Affairs to the UN, Mr. Sorie Ke-Kamara, Secretary to the UN permanent representative, and the Minister Plenipotentiary, Rev. Lee Roy Kabbs-Kanu, who is a resident of Somerset and former high school teacher in the township.
The Double-tree Hilton of Somerset new Jersey Hotel Lobby, which was well-decorated with Sierra Leone’s green, white and blue and the United States red, white and blue, many Sierra Leoneans and friends of Sierra Leone gathered to give president Koroma a big welcome. Among those gathered were the president’s classmates at Boys School, Magburaka - CLASS OF 71 – that included Pastor Emanuel Kuyateh, Alpha Aziz Nabe, Martin K. Bangura, Mohamed M. Koroma and Abib Maxwell. Also on hand were the president’s sisters: Mrs. Florence Turay, and Ione Koroma (from Texas); Mrs. Admire Sesay from Freetown, Elizabeth Koroma from Maryland, and many APC members and supporters from all across the US.
Dignitaries on hand from the township to receive the president were Mayor Brian Levine – referred to as the people’s mayor by Sierra Leoneans in Somerset – was at the forefront to greet and welcome President Koroma and his delegation to his township. The mayor in his welcoming remarks thanked President Koroma for taking time out of his busy schedule to see Sierra Leoneans in Somerset, New Jersey;
Rep. Upendra Chivukula, State legislator and deputy speaker of the New Jersey House of Representative. A onetime councilman at-large and Mayor who served for many years before heading to Trenton, Rep. Chuvukula has been a longtime supporter for the Sierra Leonean community on social issues, especially during the migration of Sierra Leoneans to the township of Franklin in the late nineties;
Councilman James Vassanelle, a man who has played host and championed a lot of issues for Sierra Leoneans. He played a pivotal role in the celebration marking Sierra Leone’s 50th anniversary;
Mr. Rajiv Prasad, Councilman At-Large, Deputy Mayor, was another instrumental figure during the proclamation at the township’s commendation ceremony marking fifty years of Sierra Leone’s Independence.
In his remarks, the deputy mayor recalled the role played by his colleague (one of us) Mr. Alex Mansaray when they both served in the township planning board.Mr. Rajiv Prasad, stressed the importance of community supported initiatives. The deputy Mayor thanked the President and his delegation, and requested the President to consider opening a consul office to serve the Sierra Leonean community. The deputy Mayor noted that the Sierra Leonean population is estimated to be 9% of the township 62, 000 residents.
Councilman Vassanella presented an award to the President in line with the recognition given by the Africa-America Institute’s African National Reconciliation and Peace Award on behalf the People of The Republic of Sierra Leone at AAI’s 27th. annual Awards Dinner Gala on September 20 in New York City, for his leadership. Councilman Vassanella also informed the President of the proclamation given to the Sierra Leonean community which he said is a legacy that will continue every year.
The President graciously accepted and thanked all the officials, the cheering and enthusiastic crowd, and all who came from near and afar to welcome him. The president and his delegation were escorted to their hotel rooms by Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the United States HE Bockerie Stevens, the secret service and detectives from the Franklin Township police department.
Later in the evening a dinner was held in honor of the President, which was attended by two members of the Franklin township council and the mayor. One of the attendees, Councilmen Philip Cramer- representative of the 4th district, represents a huge block of the Sierra Leonean community around the Hempstead Garden, off Route 27. Councilman Cramer extends his thanks and appreciation to President Koroma and the community for inviting him to meet the President. Councilman Cramer reiterated that his office is open to anyone seeking assistance and guidance on community related issues. Councilman Cramer also thanked HOPE SALONE organizers for the back to school book drive which he pledges to facilitate support for funding on future events
The dinner ended around 2am.The President and his delegation departed around midday on Sunday to Boston and continued on his four-state tour of the United States of America.
What a weekend to remember!!!!