Sierra Leonean president lauds China’s help in times of need

By Li Ruohan Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/3 19:03:40

Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio Photo: Li Hao/GT

In the eyes of Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio, China has always been "a reliable friend and a brother" that has stood by the country at all times.

"At difficult times when we needed help most, China was there for us. I believe that as a leader, we can only commit to take this relationship to better heights for the benefit of our two people," said Bio.

The 54-year-old president is in China attending the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) on Monday and Tuesday.

In a Sunday interview with Chinese reporters, Bio said he believes the summit is a chance for China and African countries to close ranks against rising protectionism and anti-globalization sentiment.

"I believe that protectionism and unilateralism have no place in a world where globalization is definitely taking a course that is irreversible," said Bio.

"The fact that we are here for FOCAC means China believes in multilateral diplomacy. In a world that is experiencing unilateralism and also trade protectionism, I think that China stands apart as a nation, a world leader to try to bring us together," Bio stressed.

Bio also blasted the accusation that China is a "plunderer" rather than a "partner" of African countries and that its investment in Africa is a form of "neo-colonialism."

"We are not fools in Africa. We know where we want to take our continent and various countries too," Bio said.

The Sierra Leonean president said he regards China and African countries to be in win-win relationships.

"If we did not think it was so we wouldn't be involved in that. So I don't suspect that. I know where I want to take my country, and African leaders are definitely in a similar position. So we are enjoying a mutually beneficial relationship," he said.

Reliable friend

When recalling Sierra Leone's friendship with China since the two established diplomatic relations in 1971, Bio's appreciation of China's aid to the country is apparent.

"On the whole, China has been a reliable friend, brother, and it was of immense help when we had the Ebola outbreak," said the Sierra Leonean president.

In February 2014, an Ebola epidemic broke out in Guinea and later spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia, while other countries also reported cases of infection. The outbreak claimed 3,955 lives in Sierra Leone.

Since the outbreak, China has carried out its largest aid program in healthcare, sending hundreds of ­medical personnel and public health experts to the affected region and training local medical workers on the continent.

"Ebola was one of the greatest menaces faced by our country, and we are thankful to the people and government of this country [China] for coming to our aid immediately," said Bio.

Bio said Sierra Leone was also ­grateful to China for helping in rescue and relief operations after a huge mudslide hit Sierra Leone capital Freetown in August 2017.

Around 500 people are known to have died as a result of the flooding and mudslides that devastated whole communities in and around Freetown.

The Medical Aid Team of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) treated more than 70 people affected by the deadly mudslide and flooding in the nation.

The PLA team also participated in disaster relief and brought more than 100 boxes of drugs, including anti­biotics and anti-malaria medications, together with some 30 boxes of food, drinking water and mosquito repellent to the settlement.

"China has been a reliable partner, and China has stood by Sierra Leone at all times. We want to strengthen that relationship," said Bio.

More to expect

The year also marks the 47th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Sierra Leone, the west African country with a population of 7.4 million.

"China and Sierra Leone have enjoyed fruitful relationships in the past 47 years, our relationship has been tested," said Bio.

Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with Bio on Thursday, and the two leaders agreed to further promote the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries.

Noting that China respects the ­independent decisions of Sierra ­Leonean people, Xi expressed his ­willingness to facilitate mutual high-level exchanges and strengthen communication in sharing governance experience.

The Chinese president also said that China is willing to expand cooperation in fields including infrastructure, agriculture and fisheries, healthcare, education and security.

The bilateral trade volume between China and Sierra Leone in 2017 reached $580 million, a 21.1 percent increase over the previous year, according to the data released by China's ­commerce ministry.

In 2016, a total of 183 Sierra Leonean students studied in China with scholarships, according to China's foreign ministry.

Since 1973, China has sent 256 medical personnels in 19 batches to Sierra Leone and currently 20 medical personnels are in the country to help with local healthcare.

Apart from the current people-to-people exchanges and projects in education, infrastructure, health and trade, Sierra Leone expects more cooperation in technology and innovation sectors with China, said Bio.

Bio said that Sierra Leone is very much looking forward to the new cooperation opportunities in the near future between the two countries.

Xinhua contributed to this story

Newspaper headline: Friend indeed

Posted in: AFRICA

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