Sunday, August 19, 2018 3:52 pm
His extra ordinary popularity cuts across political, tribal and religious lines due to his personality and track record. This has earned him respectability and reverence through out the country. It is, however, his tour of duty in Nigeria, when he was High Commissioner in the 80’s, that stands tall. During this period, he engineered most of the bilateral agreements that, today, the two countries are mutual beneficiaries. He worked with General Babangida and General Abacha, whose regimes helped restored sanity in Sierra Leone during the civil war crsisis. Ambassador Umaru Wurie is currently the Special Adviser and Ambassador- at-Large to President Julius Maada Bio. He spoke to Abubakar Hashim on the regime’s 100 days journey so far and his service in over 20 countries when he was Ambassador
Q: You were Sierra Leone’s High Commissioner to Nigeria in the 80’s, when the war broke out in your country, how was it then and how did you manage the relations between the two countries?
This period was very challenging. It’s been over 30 years ago. Nigeria has been supportive all throughout our war period even before leading the ECOMOG intervention to bring sanity in my country. I facilitated not only military training programs but also educational and technical support, through the establishment of the Technical Aid Corps (TAC) program from which Sierra Leone still benefits today. It was also during this period that a medical school was established in Sierra Leone through assistance from Nigeria.
You have also represented your country as Ambassador in over 20 countries. How has it been with these muitiple accreditations?
I’ve served locally and internationally. Locally, I started with the Ministry of Mines, starting with the Rutile mines. I also served the Magbosi Integrated Agricultural Project and Magbass Sugar Complex. The government realized divideds from these two projects under my stewardship.
Internationally, I served as High Commissioner in Nigeria. During this time, I promoted the image of my county in Nigeria. When the war broke out, I convinced former Presidents Babangida and Abacha to not only provide arms for our soldiers but also for Nigerian soldiers here to fight the war, even before ECOMOG was established.
I also established the Joint Commission in the 80’s which is the platform to promote development activities between the two countries, Today, the commission is moribund and needs to be revamped to strenghten relations with Nigeria. My links to Nigeria are deep-rooted, as my tenure as Ambassador was ground-breaking. Recently, former Nigerian Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar called me when the mudslide disaster occurred, to enquire of my safety.
In other countries I served, including Saudi Arabia, Germany, Italy and others, I retained cordial relations with these countries that proved beneficial and rewarding. It was however in Saudi and Germany that development impacts on Sierra Leone were most felt and up till today, are quite visible like in road projects like Tokeh/Goderich highway, the energy sector and the rest. In Germany, the then Ambassador, Carl Printz was declared Persona Non Grata (PNG) by the then Military Government of the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) of Valentine Strasser. I cemented the frosty relations that, today, has been normalized and much cherished. Within 6 months of my resumption of duties in Germany, an Ambassador was appointed and sent to Sierra Leone. So also in Italy where I served as Ambassador, during which the present Bumbuna Hydro Project Freetown is today benefitting was finalized and outstanding loans worth $300 million cancelled.
When I returned home, I became Director General of the Foreign Ministry, where I embarked on numerous reforms by establishing directorates, with a director equivalents to a Permanent Secretary. I later became Development Secretary, Director General (DG) Mines with reforms in the Mines and Minerals Act. I then left service to become a politician
When you became a politician, you contested for the SLPP Presidential Flagbearer’s position, which was eventually won by incumbent President Bio. How did you react when you lost to Bio?
It was a democratic primary, conducted in an atmosphere of decorum, devoid of violence and intimidation. President Bio won convincingly and got our fullest support, though I had the requisite experience after serving over 20 countries as Ambassador and held high offices in Sierra Leone. However, President Bio will continue to have my fullest support in actualizing the “New Direction” policy to better the vast majority in Sierra Leone.
You are now the Special Adviser and Ambassador- at-Large to President Julius Maada Bio. What are his immediate, medium and long term objectives to re-positioning Sierra Leone along the growth and development trajectory?
His immediate objective is to stabilize the economy, to reduce lawlessness and to attack corruption. These immediate steps will continue as long term objectives, which will translate into Sierra Leone becoming a flourishing and prosperous country. President Bio will succeed in these efforts to make Sierra Leone becoming a medium income country in the foreseeable future.