Late last week the BBC World Service reported a somewhat amusing story on their programme Focus on Africa: is Colonel Muammar Gaddafi an honorary Member of Parliament in Sierra Leone?
This question came up when a sitting MP reminded his colleagues of a session in 2009 when Gaddafi was invited to speak in Parliament. On that day an enthusiastic motion was passed to make him an honorary Parliamentarian. The concern last week was whether this had been a binding resolution.
Gaddafi. Photo by BlatantNews.com via flickr (on public domain).
Freetown-based newspaper Awoko also reported the story and even dug up part of the speech from January 2009 when Gaddafi was in Freetown. It was delivered by then Leader of the House Edie Turay and went: ‘with leave of the Hon. Speaker and leave from the Honourable Members of Parliament and with your own concurrence Mr Leader I move that this house assembled here today the first day of January 2009 nominate Col. Muammar Al Gaddafi as Honorary Member of the Sierra Leone Parliament.’
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Gaddafi would have any decision-making power in Sierra Leone, but the possibility seemed to have caused some excitement on a slow Friday morning in Parliament. According to the BBC report by Umaru Fofana, this was debated for some time before deciding that the appointment had not gone through a Parliamentary endorsement procedure and was thus invalid. Honorary titles have been bestowed on several guests and American television actor Isaiah Washington was granted Sierra Leonean citizenship after DNA test showed that his ancestry could be traced back to the West African country.
Gaddafi maintained close political, economic and social ties with Sierra Leone. Last Wednesday the Information Minister Ibrahim ben Kargbo finally spoke out and said that the existing relations between Sierra Leone and Libya would not be affected by Gaddafi’s departure. He sympathized with the Libyan people, but did not criticize Gaddafi. The Ministry is worried about the 4,000 Sierra Leoneans living in Libya, many of them illegal immigrants. Gaddafi employs mercenaries from a number of African countries and there are fears that some among these might be Sierra Leonean.
There are some genuine questions about the fate of Libyan mobile network GreenNet that was supposed to start operations in Sierra Leone soon. The company doing the installations for the launch in Sierra Leone is worried that they won’t be able to recover their money from the Libyan investors.
In neighbouring Gambia, leader Yahya Jammeh is being compared to Gaddafi in his dictatorial ways. The Gambian people have struggled for decades with political and press freedoms.
In Sierra Leone, people continue to protest quietly in their homes.