(NEW YORK, NY) September 27, 2011 – His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma accepted The Africa-America Institute’s African National Reconciliation and Peace Award on behalf the People of The Republic of Sierra Leone at AAI’s 27th annual Awards Dinner Gala on September 20 in New York City.
The award recognized the remarkable strides that Sierra Leone has achieved in almost 10 years since the end of a brutal civil war that killed and maimed thousands and virtually destroyed its formal economy. In a tribute to Sierra Leone’s tremendous progress, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised Sierra Leoneans “for their spirit to make change for the better”.
“Each time I visit Freetown, I see evidence of the achievements,” said Blair. “To me, there’s no doubt that Sierra Leone is a country on the move and it gives me immense pleasure to congratulate President Koroma and his people on their incredible journey so far.” His charity The Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative is heavily engaged in promoting good governance and sustainable economic development in Sierra Leone and across the African continent.
Once considered “the worst place on earth,” Sierra Leone has become an exemplar in the region for post conflict transition, and for improving its delivery of maternal health care services, resulting in the reduction of both maternal and infant mortality rates.
“Since the end of a devastating civil war, the people of Sierra Leone have demonstrated resilience in the face of major suffering and embraced reconciliation and rebuilding” said Mora McLean, AAI President and CEO. “AAI is delighted to honor them with this prestigious award.”
More than 250 distinguished U.S. and African business, philanthropic, academic, political and diplomatic leaders gathered to recognize African achievement at the event. AAI also honored Sierra Leone’s Minister of Health and Sanitation, the Honorable Mrs. Zainab Hawa Bangura with the AAI Distinguished Alumna Award for her commitment to democratic governance and transparency.
The gala featured remarks from critically-acclaimed actor Jeffrey Wright, chair of the gala’s Sierra Leone Business Investors Committee, on bolstering investment in Sierra Leone. Wright is co-founder of Taia Lion Resources, a socially responsible mining company in Sierra Leone.
New York Public Radio Special Correspondent Femi Oke emceed the gala. Corporate sponsors include Chevron and Tiffany & Co. Sierra Leone superstar band Bajah + The Dry Eye Crew provided the evening entertainment.