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You are here: Home/News/Article/US ambassador to Sierra Leone: “I want to change the war image of Sierra Leone”

US ambassador to Sierra Leone: “I want to change the war image of Sierra Leone”

Published date:
Saturday, 25 December 2010

The United States Ambassador to Sierra Leone H.E Micheal Owen has said in Freetown that one of the things he would like to do is to change the war image people still have of the country in the United States.

Ambassador Owen made this statement during an interview with Awoko at his Leicester office.

He said “One of the things that I have already noticed is that in the US there is still a certain image of Sierra Leone that sort of coincides with the civil war. People still sort of view Sierra Leone as a violent sort of unstable country to a certain extent.

One of the things I want to do is change that image of Sierra Leone in the US, because certainly the war was devastating; but Sierra Leone has made a lot of progress since 2002 and they are really moving in the right direction. So we want to make sure that American and especially American companies know that and understand that there are great opportunities for investment here so we gonna be trying to bring American companies here to Sierra Leone so they can see the situation on the ground and see the opportunities and we would like to work with the government of Sierra Leone to promote delegations from Sierra Leone to go to the US and also promote the business opportunities here to American businesses.”

Asked whether Sierra Leone still qualifies for AGOA the Ambassador said “Yes, Sierra Leone does. Sierra Leone unfortunately has not been able to use AGOA very much yet but I think as the economy continues to grow and if you branch in the other areas of business that’s a tremendous opportunity … Sierra Leone is flly eligible for AGOA.”

Questioned what help America will be giving for the crucial 2012 elections the US Ambassador said “Well we are working with the other donor partners to put together a comprehensive program that would support the institutions that would be really running the elections, the National Elections Commission the Political Parties Registration Committee the various parties themselves, Local Councils and so we are still putting together our programs.

But one thing that we especially want to focus on is supporting the NEC in helping to register people to vote who have been under registered in the past especially rural areas women, young people, people with disabilities have not registered to vote as much as other people in the past and so we would like to help them and support them in that; and we would also be looking at bringing in organisations in the US that have a lot of experience in monitoring and observing elections like the National Democratic Institute the Carter Centre and so we gonna be focusing on that and I would just say into a sort of a sidelight to this the recent bye-elections in Kono I think went off very very well, I think everyone was satisfied that there was very little violence, things went smoothly and I think that’s a tribute to the NEC, and the PPRC as well as all the political parties that took part and the local councils there. So I think that’s a good sort of sign for 2012 that things can go on well.”

On his impressions about Sierra Leoneans the Ambassador said “Well first of all I would say people are very hospitable I have gotten great welcomes everywhere I have gone I made really a point of trying to get out of Freetown as early as possible and not just go to other major towns but really see villages and the countryside, and so I have been up to as far as Kailahun even a little ways beyond Kailahun. I have been to the North a little ways beyond Kabala. One thing you notice is that the war really was devastating, there is a lot of destruction especially in the East.

I saw villages where every single building was destroyed during the war, roads are in a very bad shape, institutions like health clinics and schools were largely destroyed, so there is really a lot of ground to make up but on the positive side I think there is tremendous potential I mean the agriculture potential is enormous when you see how little land is under cultivation, there could be a lot more land under cultivation, when you look at the mineral deposits Sierra Leone has … you know Sierra Leone can be a wealthy country, they’ve now found oil and gas offshore so I think there is a tremendous potential here and its exciting time to be here because things are moving in a very positive direction.

I would just say one of the nicest sights I have seen since I have been here you know I remember reading before coming here that during the war … ofcourse the schools were mostly closed children didn’t go to schools – now everyday when I’m driving on main motor road or on Regent street you see hundreds of children in their school uniforms, I think that bodes well for the future.”

Questioned on how he is looking forward to his 3 years tenure Ambassador Owen said “Well as I said I am excited about all the things that are happening now it’s moving in a very positive direction. Just a few of the things we are doing – as you know we brought back the Peace Corps we now have 37 volunteers we’re hoping to expand that pretty rapidly over the next couple of years, we’ll be up to around 90 to 100 by next May and we hope to expand beyond that.

The Ambassador also disclosed “We’re also increasing our Aid program we want to work on boosting agriculture and especially helping farmers to be more commercially successful in terms of getting their crops to market … processing their crops and adding value. We’re doing work on health care especially maternal and child health care … of course the new free health care program is quite important.

He also revealed their interest and commitment to the military saying they “are working very closely with the Sierra Leone military in terms of training and also providing equipment.

You know ten years ago there were UN international peace keeping troops here in Sierra Leone to try to bring an end to the war. Now not only are those troops gone but Sierra Leone is actually contributing peacekeeping troops in the UN mission in Sudan that is something I think people should really be proud of and we’ve had some discussion that perhaps they might deploy peace keeping troops in other places so that’s an area where were trying to support the military.”

Lastly Ambassador Owen expressed his opinion on what he sees as the biggest challenge for Sierra Leone. He said “I think one of the biggest challenges is … I mention all of this mineral wealth, oil and gas, you see unfortunately so many countries in the world that have minerals or oil and gas and unfortunately the benefits of that (proceeds from the oil and gas) have not come back to the country they’ve gone out of the country … these are huge projects to develop – these resources – so it’s very important and a challenge for Sierra Leone to make sure it’s done in a very transparent and fair way, so that the revenue from that comes back to Sierra Leone and benefits all Sierra Leoneans. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges.”

“ Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of the Sierra Leone's bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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