Accessibility links

Britain's Blair Says Farewell in Sierra Leone


British Prime Minister Tony Blair continues his farewell tour of Africa in Sierra Leone Wednesday, the second stop in his three-country tour. The impoverished in west African country is where the prime minister is widely credited with ending a brutal 10-year civil war. Naomi Schwarz has more from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair received a warm reception in Sierra Leone, a country that credits the prime minister with turning the tide in its brutal civil war and bringing an end to the 10-year nightmare.

In thanks, representatives of Sierra Leone's 149 paramount chiefs, local traditional rulers in the former British colony, will name Mr. Blair one of their own at a ceremony in the township of Mahera. In addition he will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Sierra Leone.

As Mr. Blair considers his legacy after he steps down next month, Patrick Smith, editor of British-based Africa Confidential says Mr. Blair may hope people will remember his role in ending the Sierra Leone conflict.

"Sending the British troops into Sierra Leone in 2000 was regarded almost unequivocally as a foreign policy success," said Smith. "Three years later when he sent the troops into Iraq and Afghanistan it has been regarded almost unequivocally as a foreign policy failure. So he probably has a bit of nostalgia for Sierra Leone because of that."

Frances Fortune, with Sierra Leone non-governmental organization Search for Common Ground, says Sierra Leoneans have not forgotten the role the British played.

"England is Sierra Leone's best friend," she said. "Sierra Leoneans are very grateful to the support that the United Kingdom has given to the country to help them deal with the war and the aftermath of the war."

Britain has long had a close relationship with the West African nation founded with British help by freed slaves in the 1700s. Africa Confidential editor Smith says Mr. Blair also has personal ties in the country.

"Blair's own family had strong ties to Sierra Leone. His father was an examiner at the Furrow Bay College, which was one of the earliest universities in West Africa," added Smith. "So I think he has both the national and personal ties to Sierra Leone."

Search for Common Ground's Fortune says Sierra Leoneans hope the new leaders in Britain will continue to support development in Sierra Leone. She says infrastructure, particularly roads and electricity, is still lacking, and this impedes growth.

"If we are going to be able to attract investors we need to tackle some of the very larger issues that are limiting the ability of investors to come here and work effectively," said Fortune.

She said the country is also working hard to combat corruption and poverty.

XS
SM
MD
LG