By Alpha Jalloh
AYV International Exclusive Interview
The First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Her Excellency Dr. Fatima Maada Bio joined over 2,000 specially invited guests from Great Britain and from all around the World to attend the Royal Funeral of the late Queen, Her Majesty Elizabeth II, which was held at the Westminster Abbey in London.
In an exclusive interview, AYV International spoke to the First Lady about the funeral, the legacy of the Queen, and the future of Sierra Leone and Britain relations.
H.E Dr. Fatima Bio explained that she had represented the President and People of Sierra Leone at the Royal Funeral. She told AYV International that she was stepping in for her husband, the President H.E Dr. Julius Maada Bio, who was unable to attend due to difficult travel schedule.
The first lady sought to clarify comments by people on social media that were critical about her representing the president, with some commenting that the Vice-President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh should have represented Sierra Leone at the funeral. The first lady said that she had been specially encouraged by King Charles’ office to attend the ceremony.
The first lady noted that the vice president had to stay in Sierra Leone to lead government business in the absence of the president.
Dr. Fatima Bio also shared her thoughts on what she considered as a “well-organised funeral service” for the Queen. She described the funeral as a historic ceremony, befitting Queen Elizabeth II. The first lady noted that the ceremony was conducted in an atmosphere of solemnity and dignity.
The First Lady talked about her special relationship with the Queen and King Charles which began in the United Kingdom. She expressed her profound admiration for the Queen, her generosity, guidance, dignity, understanding and respect.
She also talked about the support she received from the United Kingdom under the leadership of the late Queen when she sought asylum. In light of her history and connection to the United Kingdom, Dr. Fatima Bio said she wanted to pay her respect to the late Queen.
At the funeral ceremony, the First Lady had a brief interaction with the Rt Hon James Cleverly MP, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, who has connection with Sierra Leone, as his parent – Evelyn Suna Cleverly came from the country.
The First Lady talked about her interest in working with the minister, nothing that she looks forward to welcoming the minister in Sierra Leone to continue the unique relationship between Britain and Sierra Leone.
Dr. Fatima Bio re-echoed the excellent relationship between Britain and Sierra Leone, a partnership between the two countries based upon shared values and common interests.
Dr. Fatima Bio’s message to Sierra Leoneans was that she will continue to work in her capacity to support the President but also to represent the interest of the country. She encouraged Sierra Leoneans to learn from the Queen’s quality of humility, hard work, patriotism, and dedication to service to country.
After the funeral, Dr. Bio safely landed in the United States of America to join her husband, the President Dr. Julius Maada Bio at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
The first lady was received by Ambassador Fanday Turay and Consul George Hamilton.
Dr. Bio entered the U.S after she attended Her Majesty the Queen’s burial in London. She will host a reception celebrating the translation of Sierra Leone’s formal expression into a United Nations resolution – International Cooperation on Access to Justice and Remedies for Survivors of Sexual Violence.
Her Excellency will also grace the Fashion 4 Development’s Annual First Ladies Luncheon to celebrate the unprecedented cooperation between diplomacy and fashion for the greater good of women and children worldwide.
The development of Africa is paramount and this is the agenda for the Africa First Ladies Peace Mission which is one of the powerful side events Her Excellency will be part of. They will be strategizing on operationalizing the roadmap for development in Africa.
There is the UNFPA side event, also the all-important Sierra Leone’s resolution on the “World Day for the Protection and Healing of Child Dignity”.
Her Excellency is at the forefront in women’s empowerment and the campaign to protect and educate our children. This is because it’s an integral part of the Presidents Human Capital Development drive.
There are several bilateral meetings, to connect Sierra Leone’s profit and not-for-profit organisations initiatives to potential partners. Her Excellency is due to depart the US on Sunday 25th September.