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Bonino in Sierra Leone, second phase of African tour

In a meeting today with her colleague Samura Matthew Wilson Kamara, Minister Bonino began the second phase of her African tour, which brought her to the capital of Sierra Leone, Freeport, yesterday evening, after having been in Ghana and Senegal last week. She held meetings this morning with the local authorities, and then attended a conference on the death penalty organised by “Hands Off Cain”. In the early afternoon she met with the NGOs active in the area of women’s rights, and will leave this evening for Abidjan, Ivory Coast, for the last leg of this second phase.

Expo 2015: united on agri-food development

“We are working together on many fronts and once of these is the 2015 EXPO, where Sierra Leone will have a stand within the cluster dedicated to the theme of rice”, the minister said, after meeting with her colleague from Sierra Leone Samura Matthew Wilson Kamara. “Agro-food is a sector to whose development we wish to contribute, but there are others that we want to place attention on, and one of those that the minister pointed out to me is that of education and healthcare”, Bonino added, underscoring that this “is the first phase of new cooperation”.

Pleased with the death penalty moratorium

Sierra Leone has made encouraging progress in its democratisation process following the civil war that ended in 2002. The elections in 2012, which were conducted without incident and were judged by observers to be positive, saw Ernest Bai Koroma confirmed as Head of State. The Sierra Leonean government is focusing on the mining, agriculture and tourism sectors to kick-start the economy. Minister Bonino’s mission to the country will also be an opportunity to express her satisfaction with the efforts made to apply the moratorium on the death penalty. Her key appointment for Monday will be the conference on this subject organised by the Hands Off Cain pressure group with the support of the Norwegian government.

Investment opportunities in the mining sector

Turning to bilateral relations, Italy is one of the countries providing financial support to the peace forces engaged in the countries of the region, to the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), and to the World Bank programme for Disarmament, Demobilization, and the Reintegration of former combatants. A bilateral debt cancellation agreement signed in 2007 freed up resources amounting to 40.5 million euros. The principal investment opportunities in Sierra Leone are in the mining, construction, agri-food, fishing and tourism sectors.

Italian Development Cooperation has also been engaged in significant initiatives, especially in the health and education sectors. In the infrastructure sector, 2010 saw the completion of the hydro-electric power station in Bumbuna, our Development Cooperation’s most significant project in the country.

Ivory Coast the second leg

Ivory Coast will be Minister Bonino’s next African destination, with a visit on 13-14 January. The last visit by a representative of the Italian Government (in the person of Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs Alfredo Mantica) dates from 2003. Emma Bonino’s visit will therefore be an opportunity to revitalise bilateral relations.

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