Mrs Aminata Conteh is a United Kingdom based Sierra Leonean, who has a passion for her home country. She is a Charity Worker who has used her wealth of experience as a social worker to benefit many youths, especially in her home borough of Harringey in Wood Green, North London. She is the originator of the popular Sierra Leone Excellence Award, seeing the necessity to give recognition to hard-working Sierra Leonean youths who rose up to the challenges of rebuilding the home country torn by a wicked civil war. She bares her mind as to what she foresees as the nation’s future with the general election only few days away. Enjoy her interview. Interview by Fatai Ogunribido
Question: Please Madam, can you introduce yourself ?
Answer: My name is Mrs Aminata Sese Conteh.
Question: For some years now, your name has featured prominently as a very important personality in Sierra Leone affairs in the United Kingdom. What do you do?
Answer: Thank you. I am a youth empowerer and the Chief Executive of Active Children and Youth Center(ACYC), a London based youth Charity Organization. It was formally called African Children and Youth Organization but due to pressure that many non- African children are getting more and more involved in our activities, the Board management decides to spread our activities beyond African Children. Hence the new name by Active Children and Youths Center.
Question: What are those things that you do to empower the youths that you engage in your activities and how long have you been doing this?
Answer: The project for Active Children and Youth Centre started in 2005 when a group of black parents in Haringey Borough, London expressed concerned about the increasing level of poor educational attainment of black children in the borough.
We thought about a way forward to turn around these children and started to organise activities aimed at giving them counseling and motivation towards positive actions. The youths then were responding and we decided to make it a normal event gathering more youths and turning their life round positively. Later, many parents from different backgrounds willing to gain from the project came forward with their children who were offered educational and emotional supports and meeting these their parents expectations.
When we started, we managed to obtain funding from different sources to run short-term projects, which were successfully delivered. Over the years, our projects have steadily multiplied and are being accessed by the local community and schools. Children we have worked with and their parents are giving excellent feedback and are hoping that the projects continue to grow.
Our work is fully in line with the government’s agenda for children and young people as outlined in “Every Child Matters”
Question: Please could you tell us about Sierra Leone Excellence Awards
Answer:The idea of the Award came up as a result of the need to recognise those who had contributed in one way or the other to the new beginning and new emancipation of Sierra Leone after the long fought war. We needed a new beginning and many young and old Sierra Leoneans were involved in the new beginning.
We thought there was the need to motivate them and encourage them more so that they can understand that their efforts at a newly engineered Sierra Leone are recognized. The Award has come to stay and we are happy to tell the world that we have held the Award for two consecutive years in Sierra after its first two years in the United Kingdom. It is now the best recognized Award for Sierra Leoneans both home and in the Diaspora and all are already engaging in it. Thanking God it has come to stay.
Question. Tell us what you think about the coming Saturday Election 17 Nov 2012-11-13
Answer: It is going to be a keenly contested election with Sierra Leoneans once again choosing their next leader. At least, 85% of Sierra Leoneans will be very happy and excited with their positive decision to vote for the right president and cabinet ministers and councillors.
Question .Why do you say Sierra Leoneans will be very happy with their positive decision on the day
Answer: Sierra Leoneans in Sierra Leone and the Diasporas have witnessed a major transformation in the past four years. The ruling APC government in power has touched the heart and soul of every Sierra Leonean since assuming in power in 2007. The facts are there for all to see about the new developments and transformation of our country. So the result is obvious because a winning team is always required to continue its winning streak in the nation to complete what had been started.
Question. We understand you are frequently visiting Sierra Leone doing your NGO’S work. Please brief us a little bit on what has made you to be positive about the ruling government as coming out on top.
Answer: I have just given you a little bit of my positive feeling above that the present government will win. The country has transformed in the past years. There is an unbelievable crave for Sierra Leone by the World community with many investor visiting the country in search of investment.
The current leader, his Excellency Dr Ernest Bai koroma has turn the head of the World towards our country making it to run as a viable country. The facts are there. I am not a politician and many of this good progress made in our country are visible on the streets.
Many jobs have been created in the country for our young people. Many youths who have been previously left alone with no hope especially in the capital, Freetown are now having things to do. Things will get batter with time and so, this government needs more time to get things much better than it is. The foundation has been laid and needs to be built on. Many of the youths are now working for the mining companies in the provinces living happy and fulfilled.
Question: We have been following events since the election campaign in Sierra Leone started, especially on line. Please tell us why we see so many women excited wearing red even with the the menfolk.
Answer: The ruling APC is a national party. It is a party for many mothers who trust in the newly designed agenda for Sierra Leone as a coming great nation.
So what is happening is that all women trust the party. Many past leaders of the political party always have women as motivators and give them due noniour and respect. The past leaders always listen to the women. Women played an important role during the war.The president and all ministers work hand in hand with the women. So, the colorful scenes are only to show Sierra Leone women solidarity to the present government. In the next years, there are signs that women will play an important part and so the work has started now with the women.
Question: What do you think has been the strength of the President Koroma in the past few years of his government?
Answer: I think a very good team. He has carefully chosen his team and the team has worked hard to compliment all his efforts.
The honor should be given to many members of his team; Hon. Joseph Sam Sesay Min of Agriculture, The finance Minister Dr Samura Kamara, Hon Alhaji Alpha Kanu, Hon Dr, Richard Conteh, Hon I.B Kargbo minister of Information and Technology. Chief of STAFF Mr. Marah Big thanks to the Chairman and his team Especial Ms Kadiatu Sesay and Mrs Harriett Open Government Initiative (OGI), all have performed wonderfully well to compliment President Koroma.
Question: My last question; Are you a politician and do you belong to any political party, especially have you got any affiliation for APC?
Answer: I am not a politician. I am a youth empowerer and motivator. As a thin-thank executive, I always want to see progress in people’s lives and so I should belong to where such good work could be achieved. My goal is to help and support some individual who don’t have hope in their life to give them hope for their further well-being
Question: Lastly, What is your message to all Sierra Leoneans as we face an election weekend, especially those reading your interview?
Answer: I want to urge all Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora to please pick up their telephones to call home and motivate people to go and vote. Call all your family members and friends and tell them it is essential to vote in the election. Your vote is your power. It is a civic duty. Go out in your thousands and vote. Be fair and don’t be carried away by sentiments. Your vote is your power ans so, go and cast it. Remember to be proud of what happened in the past four years. Good foundations were laid. We all must build on it. Wishing you all good luck.
An group picture taken during the annual Sierra Leonean Excellence Awards.