The 2014 National Awards

BY Andrew Keili

Some forty eight years ago, a currently nationally renowned gynaecologist, had just finished his sixth form at CKC and was my Maths teacher in Form 2 at the famous college. Fourteen years ago, whilst working as a team member in

the Cemmats management team running NPA, I came across one of the most diligent messengers I have ever met, who worked for the Ministry of Energy and Power. Late Alhaji Mohamed Turay, a renowned Muslim scholar on MacRobert Street, Bo was a very close friend of my Anglican Bishop father when I was growing up. On Monday this week, I was at State house with Rtd. Colonel Dr James Samba and Brima Kamara, together with 79 other Sierra Leoneans in various works of life and with as varied a status as one can contemplate to receive national honours in various categories.

Dr Samba received the Commander of the Order of the Rokel (COR) in recognition of his distinguished and meritorious service to the State, particularly in the field of Medicine. Brima Kamara’s Presidential medal award was in recognition of 37 years of diligent and dedicated service as a Messenger in the Civil service. Alhaji Turay was honoured posthumously for his outstanding contribution to the advancement of Islam in Sierra Leone.


One could easily see that these awards were greatly cherished by the recipients. Amongs those who reveived the premier award of the Commander of the Republic of Sierra Leone (CRSL) were Dr Samura Kamara , the Foreign Affairs Minister in recognition of his long and outstanding service in the field of Public Financial Management for over 20 years and Dr Bernadette Lahai, the Minority leader in recognition of her distinguished and dedicated service to the State, particularly in the field of Agriculture and Politics.

Dr Samura Kamara had worked as Financial Secretary, Alternate Director to the IMF, Finance Minister and Bank Governor over a sustained period during which there had been a distinct transformation of our financial management systems. Whatever one’s views may be about the current brouhaha related to her tenure of Office as Minority Leader, Bernadette Lahai’s credentials are stellar. Her academic credentials and period of work in the agriculture sector apart, Bernadette is a third term Parliamentarian, has held positions in several parliamentary committees and is the first woman minority leader of any party.

Added to this is her position in the Pan African Parliament a Rapporteur and Chairperson on Energy and Transport as the icing on the cake. General Sir David Julian Richards awarded the CRSL in recognition of his gallant leadership of the British Military intervention in the civil War in Sierra Leone could unfortunately not be at the ceremony.


Rtd. Brigadier Kellie Conteh’s Grand Commander of the Order of the Rokel (GCOR) in recognition of his outstanding contribution towards the Reform of the Security Sector and the establishment of the Office of National Security is well deserved. His role in setting up and administering the Office of National Security and his pioneering work which is now being replicated in many countries has been praised throughout the continent.


This proved to be the year for medical doctors. Apart from Dr Samba, the “three musketeers” of Dentist Mike Rekab, Medical Doctors Ishmael Peters and Patrick Coker-all household names who had a collective professional experience of close to 150 years-had bagged the Grand Officer received the Order of the Rokel (GOOR) for long and outstanding services in their fields of endeavour (in the case of Dr Coker this also included sports)-One bit of trivia-Dr Coker was called DFG (Do for God) for his philanthropic work in carrying out many a free medical service. Someone sitting behind me laughed when it was mentioned that Dr Samba had delivered over 10,000 babies. “Dr Peters has delivered considerably more during his gynecological career including many grey haired people in this audience”, he remarked. It includes those at “Sea” (excuse me for the pawn)!

The President of the Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, Gladys Strasser King’s Commander of the Order of the Rokel (COR) award was long overdue. Apart from her stellar work in the Insurance Industry, she is the first female President of the Chamber and also Chairman of SLIEPA as well as some other private institutions. The young lawyer Sulaiman Kabba was also awarded a COR in recognition of his distinguished and dedicated service to the State, particularly in the Law profession. He is currently Chairman of the NRA Board

Binta Mansaray’s distinguished service to the Special Court did not go unnoticed as was Abdul Salam Noah’s (he of the Dad’s Car centre fame) contribution to the State in the area of Entrepreneurship and Private Sector Development.

Akiwande Josiah William Lasite received the Officer of the Order of the Rokel (OOR)-to the loudest applause, in recognition of his dedicated and distinguished service to the development of Education in Sierra Leone.

I was particularly pleased that foreigners who had distinguished themselves in positively projecting Sierra Leone were being honoured. . These included Gary Schulze in recognition of his tremendous contribution to the development of Education and the History and Culture of Sierra Leone-He has had a lifelong association with the National Museum. Having been amongst the first group of Peace Corp volunteers to Sierra Leone in 1962, he was responsible for recently bringing the authentic picture of Bai Bureh to the museum.

Peter Christian Andersen bagged an MOR in recognition of his distinguished service to the State, particularly in the field of Communication and the establishment of the Sierra Leone Web website. Sherene Ranasinghe a non Sierra Leonean received an award for her diligent and dedicated service to the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the United Nations.
I was particularly moved by the story of Rev. Deborah Freeman who received an award for her outstanding contribution to the State, particularly in her Philanthropic work in the Moyamba District. Her two children were killed during the rebel war, she embarked upon philanthropic work. She runs a nursery school with 63 children, a primary school with over 200 pupils and orphanage for 30 children. Hassan Gibateh, aged 101, who had been a teacher for over 70 years “walked” to receive his award.  Petty traders were honoured as in previous years.

Alhaji Alusine Kargbo (alias Obama) got a Presidential medal in recognition of his long and dedicated service as a trader.  Disability does not mean inability. The single leg amputee sports association (SLASA) got a presidential medal in recognition of their service in the promotion of Amputee Sports and for representing Sierra Leone abroad.

I cannot end without relating the story of a prisoner, Kamanda who was asked to recommend 14 Prisoners for release. He diligently identified 13 and a 14th, leaving himself out. Obviously it was too late to recant and he was taken back to his cell. The moral of the story? –Andrew Karmoh Keili won an award as Grand Commander of the Order of the Rokel in recognition of his distinguished service to the State, particularly in the fields of engineering and Politics-strange combination? Not really, as we Engineers are now getting much more involved in socio-political issues. I can assure you the Engineer in the following story is a thing of the past-An engineering student is walking along when a fellow student arrives on a new bicycle. Impressed, he asks, “Where did you get this beautiful bicycle from?” “Well,” the second engineering student says, “A couple of days ago I was just walking along when this gorgeous blonde pulls up, hops off the bike, rips off all her clothes, and says ‘take what you want’.”The other engineering student nods and says “Good choice. The clothes probably wouldn’t have fit.” I can assure you we now have more astute “social skills”.

Seriously speaking though, yours truly was truly pleased for the award, albeit humbled. Part of my citation read:

“Mr. Andrew Keili is an accomplished engineering and management executive with over 37 years of experience in positions of responsibility in private industry, public institutions and consultancy work. His considerable involvement in the formulation and review of miscellaneous government policies, technical feasibility studies, project management, technical training and corporate planning has given him substantial experience in Sierra Leone’s infrastructure sectors and has made him acutely aware of sustainable development issues for the country. He has initiated, advised upon and reviewed Government policies for various sectors. On the political front, Mr Kelli was a failed aspirant for the SLPP Presidential flag bearer position for the 2012 elections. He has contributed immensely to policy and planning matters within the party and was Chairman of the Party’s Policy, research and manifesto Committee and is still a major stakeholder in the party. “

I am sure other recipients will have people they are grateful to. I am grateful to many with whom I wish to share my award. I am certainly grateful to my colleague Directors at the Engineering company we helped found some 20 years ago, two of whom-veteran Engineers are past recipients of awards, my colleagues in the Institution of Engineers, people with whom I have worked in various Institutions on whose Boards I have served-Nassit, EcoBank etc. and past colleagues in the National Policy Advisory Committee and other bodies that have accorded me the opportunity to serve my country. My party colleagues have also accorded me the opportunity to serve my party which I will continue to serve diligently whilst being hopeful that whatever problems we may have at present are ephemeral. May brighter hopes and kindler things be our portion as we look to visions of a larger good.

Ponder my thoughts.

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