Kenya has signed seven bilateral agreements with Sierra Leone aimed at enhancing relations between the two countries.
One of the agreements is on the establishment of a joint commission for cooperation, while the six others are Memoranda of Understanding on political and diplomatic consultations, trade and Investment, cooperation in wildlife tourism, gender equality and women empowerment, agriculture, and arts and youth affairs.
The agreements were signed during a bilateral meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Sierra Leone counterpart Julius Maada Bio at State House Nairobi on Monday morning.
A 21-gun salute and a guard of honour was mounted by the Kenya Air Force as part of the visiting president’s welcome honours.
At the meeting, President Kenyatta said the two countries need to strengthen relations for their full potential to be harnessed and used for the benefit of both countries.
President Bio arrived in the country on Saturday night for a five-day state visit upon the invitation of President Kenyatta and was received at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Raychelle Omamo.
On Sunday, President Bio attended the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers at the International Peace Support Training Centre in Embakasi, Nairobi.
The Sierra Leonean leader used the opportunity to thank Kenya for its contribution to his country’s peace.
Kenya is one of the African Union Member States that contributed troops to the then United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) between 1999 and 2006. Kenyan troops were deployed under the KENBATT contingents and five soldiers died in the war.
President Bio read all their names at the event in Nairobi, saying that the history of peace in Sierra Leone would be incomplete without a prominent mention of the soldiers’ “valour and selfless service.”
A Kenyan army officer, Lt. General Daniel Ishmael Opande, served as Commander of UNAMSIL between 2000 and 2003, before he was redeployed to neighbouring Liberia, where he also served as force commander of the UN Mission (UNMIL) from 2003 to 2004. President Bio paid tribute to Lt. General Opande and fellow Kenyans, as well as all foreign nations who took part in efforts to bring peace to Sierra Leone.
“I am particularly pleased, as President of Sierra Leone, to be able to travel to Kenya and formally say ‘thank you’ to the commanders, officers, men and women of KENBATT contingents deployed to Sierra Leone,” he said in his statement.
“To the families and comrades of the fallen, to the injured and those who were deeply scarred by their service to our nation, know today that your sacrifices did not go in vain. If Sierra Leone has today transitioned out of the UN Peacebuilding framework and become the fourth most peaceful democracy in Africa, it is because of the contributions and immense sacrifices of the brave officers, men and women of the Kenya Defence Forces,” he added.
President Bio is expected to grace Wednesday’s Madaraka Day celebrations in Nairobi as the chief guest. On Madaraka (Independence) Day, Kenya commemorates the attainment of self-rule from the British colonial powers.
President Bio further thanked Kenya for its donation of tablets used during the country’s census last year.
“I want to use this opportunity to thank you for the donation of 20,000 tablets and power banks in support of the government’s effort to conduct the Mid-Term Population and Housing Census in Sierra Leone. I wish you and your people the very best as you continue to contribute to regional and global peace and good governance,” he said.
Prof David Francis, the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Sierra Leone said his country hopes to benefit from Kenya’s economic strength.
“Kenya is an economic powerhouse in the East African region and as such, Sierra Leone can benefit from it in the field of trade, investment and other sectors,” he said in a statement.