Does Niebel’s Visit to Sierra Leone Shortly Before Elections Implies his Endorsement of President Koroma?

Dirk Niebel, the German Minister of Development and Economic Cooperation accompanied by the German Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Mr. Rudiger John and 8 others recently visited President Koroma at his State House office.  This visit has been deliberately misinterpreted by many pro-government news outlets as the German’s endorsement of President Koroma’s second term ambition ahead of the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections.  This is simply because some of those journalists do not comprehend simple diplomatic expressions.

It must be noted that this is not the first time Mr. Niebel has visited poor countries around the globe. Accompanied by a delegation made up of members of the German parliament, business rep­re­sen­ta­tives and representatives of civil society, he paid a three days visit to Liberia in May last year and had fruitful discussions with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Toga McIntosh, and other senior government rep­re­sen­ta­tives as well as visits to projects being conducted as part of Liberian-German development cooperation.   Mr. Niebel took similar tours to Bangladesh, Kosovo and Nepal last year and was in Chili in January this year and in Afghanistan few weeks ago.

Before setting for the West African states of Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso, Dirk Niebel informed the German public of his proposed visit to two of “the world poorest nations” in the following statement:

"Diese Reise führt in eine bri­sante Region – und in Länder, die zu den ärmsten der Welt ge­hören. Umso wich­tiger ist es, diese Staaten nicht aus dem Blick zu ver­lieren und sie in ihrem Be­mühen um demo­kra­tische Struk­turen ent­schlos­sen zu unter­stüt­zen." Über die Ent­wick­lungs­zu­sam­men­ar­beit in Sierra Leone und Burkina Faso leiste Deutschland "auch einen Bei­trag zur re­gio­nalen Sta­bi­li­tät in West­afrika".

Translation:  "This journey leads to an explosive region – and in countries that are among the poorest in the world.  Important of all is that these states shouldn’t be oversighted so that they wouldn’t lose the assistance in their efforts and determination to promote democratic structures.  By supporting development cooperation in Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso, Germany is contributing to the stability of the West African regional”

Commentary: It’s quite clear in the above statement that the Minister is visiting the two countries purely for humanitarian reasons.  As a matter of fact, by the virtue of Mr. Niebel’s position as the Godfather of all German Nongovernmental Organizations who are tirelessly helping poor nations around the globe, he can hardly dish out cash to a foreign government without proper justification.  He can support governments but through provable and reliable scheme that can bring him genuine reports backed by receipts. This is why his delegation always comprised of dignitaries from all works of life including civil society, parliamentarians, non-governmental organizations and private businessmen.  Their presence serves a dual purpose: 1) to represent the interest of the German taxpayers by making sure that their money is being disbursed in accordance with the German constitution, 2) to verify the impact of previous projects in the intended communities. This is why site visits are always part of the plan of action.   

Mr. Niebel’s press team further reveals to the German taxpayers in the following paragraph the appalling humanitarian situations that are prevailing in Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso with special emphasis on Sierra Leone regardless the claims often made by the Sierra Leonean political mouthpieces that the country is now a paradise:

„Sierra Leone und Bur­kina Faso zäh­len zu den am wenigsten ent­wick­elten Staaten welt­weit und be­legen Plätze weit hinten im Index der Vereinten Nationen zur mensch­lichen Entwicklung. In Sierra Leone leben mehr als zwei Drittel der Bevölkerung unterhalb der Armutsgrenze von einem US-Dollar pro Tag. Das Land hat weltweit die dritthöchste Sterblichkeitsrate von Kindern unter fünf Jahren. Es leidet immer noch unter den Auswirkungen des blutigen Bürgerkriegs, bei dem von 1991 bis 2002 weite Teile der Infrastruktur zerstört worden waren. Etwa 70 Prozent der jungen Menschen in Sierra Leone sind arbeitslos oder unterbeschäftigt“.

Translation: “Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso are among the least developed countries in the world and they occupy far back seats in the United Nations Human Development Index. In Sierra Leone, more than two-thirds of the population lives below the poverty line of one U.S. dollar per day. The country has the world's third highest mortality rate among children under five.  It still suffers the effects of the bloody civil war that destroyed large part of its infrastructures from the year 1991 to 2002.  About 70 percent of the Sierra Leonean youths are unemployed or underemployed”.

Meeting with President Koroma in Freetown

Before meeting President Koroma, the Minister stated his vision for the country:

„Zehn Jahre nach Ende des ver­heerenden Bürger­krieges hat Sierra Leone gute Chancen auf eine langfristige Stabilisierung und eine positive wirtschaftliche Entwicklung. Ein wichtiges Thema der politischen Gespräche mit President Koroma ist die für November vorgesehenen Präsidentschafts und Parlamentswahlen in Sierra Leone.“

Translation: "Ten years after the devastating civil war in Sierra Leone the country has a good chance for a long-lasting stabilization and a positive economic development.  An important issue of political talks with President Koroma is the presidential and parliamentary elections in Sierra Leone which is scheduled for 17 November”.

Commentary:  About the forthcoming elections in Sierra Leone, the minister further issued to president Koroma a very strong diplomatic warning on behalf of the German government and taxpayers whose monies are being used to fund development projects in Sierra Leone, that only free, fair and transparent elections can be accepted.   The message also goes to the Sierra Leonean community including the nefarious writers who are deliberately misinterpreting him and misinforming their readers about the German government’s position regarding November 17.

"Wir hoffen sehr, dass die Wahlen im November friedlich, fair und transparent verlaufen. Ein demokratischer Wahlprozess wäre ein weiterer Meilenstein auf dem Weg Sierra Leones in Richtung Demokratie. Stabile demokratische Verhältnisse sind eine wichtige Voraussetzung auch für die weitere wirtschaftliche Entwicklung des Landes".

Traslation: "We hope that there will be peaceful, fair and transparent elections in November. A democratic election process would be another milestone in the direction of true democracy in Sierra Leone. Stable democracy is an important prerequisite for further economic development of the country".

Commentary: The minister further pledged in the flowing paragraph support of the German government to help eradicate youth illiteracy and unemployment in Sierra Leone with the sum of six million Euros to be disbursed over a period of three years.  He believes that the country is still unstable considering the number of youths living without payable jobs. This amount shall be disbursed to boost the ongoing youth empowerment projects.  What is important to be noted however is that the fund is to be disbursed over the next three years and NOT in “November” this year.

"Ich habe Staatspräsident Koroma versichert, dass Deutschland weiterhin ein zuverlässiger Partner Sierra Leones bleibt. Wir müssen besonders den jungen Menschen im Land eine Perspektive bieten, weil die weitaus meisten von ihnen keine oder nur geringfügig Arbeit haben und damit nicht in der Lage sind, den eigenen Lebensunterhalt zu verdienen. Wir wollen nicht, dass diese Situation den noch jungen Frieden in Sierra Leone gefährdet. Deshalb stellt Deutschland für die nächsten drei Jahre noch einmal sechs Millionen Euro zusätzlich für das bereits laufende Vorhaben zur Beschäftigungsförderung von Jugend­lichen zur Verfügung. Ich bin überzeugt, dass wir durch dieses Vorhaben zur weiteren Stabilisierung des Landes beitragen. Wir investieren in die Jugend und damit in die Zukunft Sierra Leones",

Translation: "I have assured President Koroma that Germany remains a reliable partner to Sierra Leone. We need to offer young people in the country more perspective, because the vast majority of them do not have jobs and therefore are not able to earn their own livelihood.  We do not want this situation to threaten the fledgling peace in Sierra Leone.  This is why Germany will make available over the next three years another sum of six million euros in addition to the ongoing project to promote employment for the young people in the country. I am convinced that we are helping to further stabilize the country through this project; we invest in young people – and thus in the future of Sierra Leone".

Commentary: Mr. Niebel also visited the Minister of Mines, Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray, and expressed to him the importance of his ministry in the effort to rebuild post war Sierra Leone. He pointed out to him in the following sentence that the country’s mineral resources should be utilized appropriately to develop the country, and most importantly, the poor voters should be given their own share.  

"Eine transparente und verantwortungsvolle Verwendung der Einnahmen aus dem Rohstoffsektor birgt für Sierra Leone enorme Entwicklungsmöglichkeiten. Wichtig ist aber, dass die gesamte Bevölkerung von einer solchen positiven Entwicklung profitiert",

Translation:  "A transparent and accountable use of revenues generated from the miniral sector is a tremendous opportunity of growth for Sierra Leone. But it is important that the entire population benefits from such a positive development".

Before leaving for Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the minister rounded his visit to Sierra Leone by visiting some BMZ funded projects at the outskirt of Freetown.  

Who is Dirk Niebel?: Born in the German economic hot spot of Hamburg on 19th March 1963, Dirk Niebel, the then Secretary General of the Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP), became Minister of Development and Economic Cooperation on 28 October 2009 in a CDU/CSU/ FDP coalition government.  Before becoming Secretary General of FDP, he headed many German-foreign collaborative initiatives mainly in the Middle East and he has no record of foreign political interference.  Therefore, Mr. Niebel cannot go out of his way to concretize the foundation of electoral frauds by endorsing any government or political party before elections.  The Germans are too civilize to do that. Let us accept Niebel's visit as a pure humanitarian gesture.

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Othman Sheriff
About Othman Sheriff 46 Articles
Born and raised in Kenema district, eastern Sierra Leone, Othman Sheriff began practicing journalism during his school days as a youthhood hobby. After studying mass-media and communication, Sheriff is now the Editor in Chief and CEO of Critique Echo Newspaper. While tirelessly using journalism as a tool to place his country’s socioeconomic and political landscape under a magnifying glass, Sheriff is deeply involved in community development projects. Over the years, Sheriff has formulated and implemented billions of Leones worth of development projects with funds from Europe and USA. He is chiefly focused on community infrastructural development and economic resuscitation projects, fostering interethnic, interreligious and sociocultural cohesion among the young population in Kenema district. He is a member of many international peacebuilding initiatives including the United Religious Initiative (URI), International Association of Educators for World Peace (IAEWP), Intercultural Leaders Network and Youth Solidary Fund program of the United Nations Alliance of Civilization (UNAOC)

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