A remarkable display of unity and support unfolded on Tuesday 15th August 2023 as some Sierra Leoneans residing in the United Kingdom and Ireland embarked on a spirited march through the heart of London.
The purpose of the march was to express profound gratitude for the achievements of His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio and to fervently endorse his unfolding national vision.
Organized under the banner of “United 4 Salone,” this collective of patriotic Sierra Leoneans represents a diverse cross-section of the country’s political landscape. Dr. Sheku Fofanah, one of the leading organizers, describes “United 4 Salone” as a coalition of open-minded individuals committed to “reshaping Sierra Leone’s image by highlighting its endearing and commendable aspects”. Dr. Fofanah underscores the shared duty of all patriotic Sierra Leoneans “to counter the misinformation propagated on social media and to promote a genuine portrayal of the nation”.
The weather was bright and welcoming and the atmosphere was infused with inspiring speeches, captivating banners, thought-provoking placards, and passionate songs, leaving an indelible impression on immediate onlookers with the prospect to capture the imagination of many more watching from afar.
Marchers gathered in substantial numbers at the southern end of Westminster Bridge just steps away from the imposing spires of the historic British Parliament. Chants, songs, and dance animated the crowd as they traversed the bridge, culminating in their arrival at Downing Street. As they marched, the route was adorned with vibrant banners bearing President Bio’s image and images and messages of progress in Sierra Leone.
A letter penned by “United 4 Salone” was eloquently read aloud in front of Whitehall by Ibrahim Braima, a young postgraduate student at the University of Central London. The letter decried the confrontational tactics and inflammatory statements employed by partisan actors seeking political power, highlighting the detrimental impact on democracy and national tranquility.
While acknowledging the importance of spirited political competition, the letter emphasized that responsible leadership should prioritize national harmony and economic prosperity. It expressed disappointment with the lack of adherence to a Peace Pledge by the losing candidate in the 2023 Presidential election, urging all leaders to uphold the rule of law and maintain civility.
The letter criticized statements aimed at destabilizing the country’s democratic processes and questioned their compatibility with accepted norms. It highlighted the tragic consequences of such rhetoric, including loss of life and property. Despite these challenges, the letter acknowledged the June 2023 elections as free, fair, and peaceful.
The sentiments conveyed in the letter received unanimous endorsement from a diverse array of speakers representing various cities including Birmingham, Wales, Manchester, Bristol, Reading, and London. The speakers also highlighted the captivating beauty of Sierra Leone, its welcoming inhabitants, and the rich history of the country.
The collective plea, echoing the sentiments of the letter to the British Prime Minister, implored the Rt. Hon Rishi Sunak and the British government to bolster Sierra Leone’s development initiatives as outlined in President Bio’s Vision, encompassing his prominent Big Five development priorities for the nation.