Press Release on Michael Schulenburg’s Withdrawal
Freetown – Wednesday- 15th February, 2012 – A news item circulated by Reuters, but actually written by Simon Akam, suggesting that the out-gone UNIPSIL boss Michael Schulenburg was chased out of the country through pressure mounted by the President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, can only be seen as part of Michael Schulenburg’s attempt to undermine the effort of the elected government of President Koroma.
The Simon Akam’s assertion that Schulenburg had been expected to stay in Sierra Leone next year, is wishful thinking that lacks no logical foundation as history has recorded that representatives of the UN Secretary-General can be withdrawn at any time as in the case of the Nigerian –born Adeneji and the Tanzanian-born Makowaga. The two gentlemen served as representatives of the Secretary-General during the war years and their withdrawal never ignited any uproar.
The Government of Sierra Leone never declared Michael Schulenburg persona non-grata and therefore to suggest that President Koroma pressured the UN for the removal of Schulenburg is at best guess work made by the author of the article. Schulenburg was a close friend of quite a number of Ministers in Ernest Koroma’s government and it must also be stated that he was accorded respect as the same Ministers cooperate and coordinated with him. Even though the setting up of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) was not his idea, the Minister of Information and Communications brought Schulenburg on board to be part of the creation of the SLBC in President Koroma’s intention to undertake necessary governance reforms and continued to consult with him to enhance an effective and professional national broadcaster.
The problems confronted by Mr. Schulenburg mounted as a result of a misunderstanding that escalated between himself and Mr. Mohamed Bangura, the leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM); a misunderstanding that escalated to a fearsome media coverage. The government of President Koroma in a press release circulated by the Office of the Government Spokesman dissociated itself from the efforts of the UDM leader, even though Mr. Schulenburg himself was unable to counter the allegations made against him by the UDM leader. The point of emphasis is that Mr. Schulenburg was actually withdrawn from Sierra Leone by his own institution, the UN and this was made very clear in a press release dated 2nd February, 2012 and signed by the Spokesperson of the UN Secretary-General. The press release reads:
“Statement attributed to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Peace building Office in Sierra Leone.
The Secretary-General wishes to thank his Executive Representative Michael von der Schulenburg for his excellent service as the head of the United Nations Peace building Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL). Mr. von der Schulenburg, whose appointment is due to expire, will depart for New York on 6th February. The Secretary-General is appreciative of the work Mr. Schulenburg has done in Sierra Leone since 2008 at the helm of UNIPSIL and of the entire United Nations Country Team. He is also appreciative of Mr. Schulenburg’s open and fruitful work with all sections of the Sierra Leonean society including with Political Parties and stakeholders; his effective cooperation with the Peace building Commission and his initiatives in achieving greater donor cooperation and in improving overall aid efficiency for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans.
UNIPSIL and the Country Team will remain closely and assist where possible in fostering elections that are peaceful and credible and will continue to work to enhance dialogue among the major Political Parties”.
The press release quoted above is a clear indication that Mr. Michael Schulenburg was withdrawn by the UN Secretary-General from Sierra Leone and that such a withdrawal was an administrative decision by the Secretary-General himself that has nothing to do with President Ernest Bai Koroma. However, it must be stated that the President finds it strange that Schulenburg untrue complaint distorting the facts, when he himself took a historic photograph with the President on the day he reported about his departure to New York. When the President extended a hand of invitation to visit Sierra Leone in future, Mr Schulenburg actually accepted the invitation with a smile. To attempt to politicize an administrative decision taken by the UN Secretary-General is most unacceptable; for President Koroma neither appoints nor dismisses special representatives of the Secretary-General.Office of the Government Spokesman Ministry of Information and Communications 8th Floor Youyi Building