About a month ago, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Corporation, Honourable Dr. Alie Kabba had posted on his Facebook page that: “Our new diplomatic mission in Kenya, will serve as our gateway to East Africa. Pleased to note that the team is excited and ready to promote the core priorities of the New Direction. The Bio administration is strategically focused on increasing Sierra Leone’s global footprint as we seek to attract foreign direct investment through robust economic diplomacy.”
Situated at 57 Gigiri Court off UN Crescent, Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya, the new Sierra Leone High Commission in Kenya is now the first Kenya, as its mission was upgraded from a consulate to a full High Commission by the current government of President Maada Bio.
Meanwhile, the Sierra Leone diplomatic mission in Nairobi also serves as permanent representative to the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).
Furthermore, according to research conducted by this writer, UNON, the UN headquarters in Africa, was established by the General Assembly in 1996. The office is headed by a Director-General, at the Under-Secretary-General level, serves as the representative office of the Secretary-General in Nairobi and performs representation and liaison functions with permanent missions, the host-country and other Governments, and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations in Nairobi, as well as other organizations of the United Nations system in Kenya; facilitates cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations; provides administrative and other support services to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat); provides joint and common services to other organizations of the United Nations system in Kenya, as applicable; and manages and implements the programmes of administration, conference services and public information and provides security and safety services for United Nations staff and facilities in the United Nations Office at Nairobi.
Resident at 158 Mimosa Drive off Mimosa Road, Runda, Nairobi, His Excellency Peter Joseph Francis- Sierra Leone High Commissioner to Kenya and Permanent Representative to the UNON, UNEP and UN-Habitat, during an exclusive interview with this writer on the phone from Nairobi said it is obvious that taking up a new mission is fraught with several challenges.
The High Commissioner HE Francis confirmed that he arrived in Nairobi, Kenya on 13th October 2018, to start working as representative of Sierra Leone in Kenya and several UN Agencies. He said the upgrading of Sierra Leone Mission to Kenya from a consulate to a High Commission has now seen successes including getting a bigger office space in Nairobi with other four (4) offices now available for attaches.
HE Peter Joseph Francis also said that the mission was able to get the offices up and running by establishing relationships with Kenyan Foreign offices. He said by so doing, he paid courtesy calls to several missions in Nairobi.
On 5th December 2018, HE Peter Joseph Francis confirmed that he presented his letter of credence to the Kenyan President, HE Uhuru Kenyatta, and two (2) days after on 7th December 2018, he did a courtesy call on the UNON office in Nairobi. He said, he was further advised to do a formal letter to the Special Representative of the UN in Nairobi, because, according to him, “the UNON plays a very important role in Africa.” He said he also paid a courtesy call on the Kenyan Institute of Management.
In addition, HE Peter Joseph Francis said he was able to do a follow-up on the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference that attracted over one hundred and sixty (160) countries and over seventeen thousand (17,000) participants including from Sierra Leone. The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, according to research done by this writer, was held on November 26th– 28th 2018, and was co-hosted by Kenya, Canada and Japan. The conference harnessed the potential of our oceans, seas, lakes and rivers to improve the lives of all, particularly people in developing states, women, youths and Indigenous peoples. It also served as a platform to leverage the latest innovations, scientific advances and best practices to build prosperity while conserving our waters for future generations. The conference also captured concrete commitments and practical actions that can be taken today to help the world transition to the blue economy.
On his relationship with the Kenyan government thus far, HE Peter Joseph Francis said that the President of the Republic of Kenya, HE Uhuru Kenyatta had invited him on a special meeting and had introduced him to the Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto, and key Kenyan cabinet ministers and other heads of key Kenyan government institutions to ensure that there is proper working relationship between Kenya and Sierra Leone. He said, he is also working on getting other diplomatic missions and UN agencies onboard so that they can support the Government of Sierra Leone (GOSL) and the programmes enshrined in the New Direction manifesto of President Julius Maada Bio.
Dilating on his relationship with the Sierra Leonean Community in Nairobi and other countries assigned to his diplomatic station, HE Peter Joseph Francis said he is working on bringing Sierra Leoneans together. As a result, he confirmed that the embassy has opened a database and is now doing registration of all Sierra Leoneans in Nairobi and Kenya at large.
In conclusion, the Sierra Leone High Commissioner to Nairobi said during this festive season, he ensured that Christmas cards and greetings were sent to all Sierra Leoneans in Nairobi, and particularly Sierra Leonean soldiers serving in Somalia. He said, this is why today Wednesday 26th December 2018, the embassy and staff are hosting Sierra Leonean community in Nairobi on a lunch to create room for dialogue and friendship between compatriots. Reporting by Abdul Malik Bangura