Actually, this is a tribute I had wanted to write immediately after the funeral of my brother, friend, mentor, and boss, His Excellency, the late Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the Arab United Emirates ( The UAE), Siray Alpha Timbo, who met his appointed time and ultimate destiny on 17th April, 2017.
However, owing to the shock that engulfed my being and the pain and grief that permeated every nerve in my structure, it was almost certainly impossible for me to have clear thinking or marshal any thoughts about the Late Ambassador Timbo. For me, his sudden demise was a personal loss in every sense of the word.
As I navigate through the many years of my journey with the Late Ambassador Timbo, and as I try with still a blurred vision to recollect the many bumps and curves and the green pasture he and I traversed, I humbly appeal to the reader to bear with me for the possible inconsistency they might observe in my narratives.
I was actually shocked and terrified by the news that the cold hands of death snatched Ambassador Siray Alpha Timbo from us as a nation. It was the greatest shock in my life ever since I realized myself as a grown-up.
As staff of the Sierra Leone Embassy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I had the urge to return home and register for the 7th March, 2018 national elections. Ambassador Timbo also travelled to Sierra Leone for the same purpose and eventually registered in his birth place of Rokulan in the Bombali District. The last communication I
had with him was when he texted me in confidence that he was travelling to Senegal but didn’t disclose for what reason he was travelling to that country. I had no foggiest idea that he was at his death’s door when he sent me that confidential text.
MY RELATIONSHIP WITH AMBASSADOR TIMBO
As a start, I would like the reader to know that my relationship with late Ambassador Timbo spanned for nearly two decades. He and I first met in 1998 when I was working for The Independent African Champion Newspaper.
Realizing that I was one of the editors for the paper, he would occasionally invite my late colleague and intimate friend, Mr. Mohamed Daudis Koroma, (then Managing Editor) and myself to his office to counsel us on how we should conduct ourselves as young journalists in the profession.
He always advised us repeatedly to stop publishing stories that would tarnish the image of the country abroad as they would scare foreign investors to do business in the country. Thus, to the late Mohamed Daudis and me, Timbo was not just an elder brother; rather, he was an advisor, a friend and a mentor. He was extremely kind and generous to me beyond imagination. He would do whatever it would take him to help me excel in my profession. It was his burning wish to see me reach the top of success ladder.
What is more, since late Ambassador Timbo and I established those strong brotherly and friendly ties nearly twenty years ago, he was never incommunicado with me. Even during my many years of stay in the United States, he would often call me and email me to ensure that I was doing alright. He was indeed exceptionally a true brother and an intimate friend to me. Another good thing he did for me was introducing me to the large Timbo family at home and abroad; some of whose members I have come to be very close with over the years.
Shortly after his appointment in 2014, he wrote an official letter to the Minister of Information and Communication through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation requesting that I cover his entire diplomatic jurisdiction. The letter was approved and consequently, other Sierra Leone diplomatic missions in the region: Kuwait and Iran replicated what the late Ambassador did and their request for me to cover their activities were also granted by the Ministry of Information and that gave me authority to officially cover the entire Gulf States but resident in Saudi Arabia. Since then, I have enjoyed working with those Embassies and I have gained much experience as a result. I travelled extensively with Ambassador Siray Timbo, meeting with Heads of State, Government Ministers, Members of Royal Families in different Arab States over the past two years.
TIMBO: THE BORN DIPLOMAT
Diplomacy is usually a course taught to potential officials who would have the State honour to represent their country in the outside world. First and foremost among the lofty objectives behind teaching such a significant course is no doubt to ensure that appointed diplomats are well-versed not only in diplomacy but also in international relations so that they would interact smoothly with the numerous foreign officials they would meet along during their diplomatic journeys.
Since his appointment by His Excellency, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma as an Envoy to The United Arab Emirates in 2014, Ambassador Siray Timbo, although an architect by profession, proved beyond any shed of doubt that he was a born diplomat. Shortly after his appointment as the first Sierra Leone resident Ambassador to the UAE, Sierra Leone’s Permanent Representative to the International Renewable Emergency (IRENA) and non –resident Ambassador to the State of Qatar and the Republic of Turkey, H.E Timbo proved his diplomatic skills to the host UAE Government and the existing Diplomatic Corps. As a result, he was honored with an invitation to meet the President of the United Arab Emirates a couple of months ago, His Excellency, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan who took the opportunity of his meeting with Ambassador Timbo to enquire about Sierra Leone in terms of governance, natural resources, and the secret of the religious tolerance Sierra Leone has been enjoying all along.
Perhaps it is worthy to note that, prior to Envoy Timbo’s appointment to that exceptionally rich and extraordinarily well-built Gulf State; little was known about Sierra Leone by both the Government and the people of The UAE in general. In his capacity as Sierra Leone’s envoy to that rich Gulf State, Timbo made sure that he marketed Sierra Leone using his God-given diplomatic skills in the best possible fashion. Through his fast but meaningful diplomatic moves in his first year, Ambassador Timbo had the opportunity to meet with key ministers in The UAE Government such as: The Ministers of Energy, Finance, Education, other senior officials, to name but a few. Also, he had the opportunity to meet with a number of potential investors. It is worthwhile to note that such meetings have indeed been very fruitful because a good number of UAE businessmen have visited Sierra Leone with the purpose of either starting an investment process or making feasibility studies for possible future investments in Sierra Leone. All these moves come as a result of the efforts exerted by the patriotic born diplomat, Siray Alpha Timbo.
The late Ambassador Siray Timbo and I paid two official visits to Turkey, first to present his credentials to President Tayyip Erdogan as the new non-resident Envoy to the Republic of Turkey, and recently (few days to his death) to meet with certain Turkish officials and investors for matters of national concerns.
Astonishingly to me, each time we met a Turkish official, Ambassador Timbo would manifest his diplomatic acumen and prowess as if he were groomed not only as an architect but a highly seasoned diplomat. He would treat whatever topic on the table with such an impressive in-depth knowledge and professionalism to the admiration of his Turkish hosts. He indeed gained and enjoyed the respect of each and every official he had the opportunity to meet and interact with. His Consul General in Ankara, Sozer Ozel and Honorary Consul in Istanbul, Aziz Ihsanoglu worked with him briefly but they admired him for his patriotism dedication and efficiency to duty.
As a result of Ambassador Timbo’s meetings with Turkish officials, shortly after his departure from Turkey a couple of days ago, a heavy weight Turkish business tycoon visited Sierra Leone for him to see with his naked eyes what business opportunities he could embark upon in not-too-distant future. During the visit of this Turkish VIP, he had the opportunity to confer with Sierra Leone’s President, His Excellency, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, the Foreign Minister, Dr. Samura Kamra and the Energy Minister, Ambassador Henry Macualey. The Late man’s exemplary performance in the diplomatic circles convinced me that indeed President Dr. Ernest Bai Korma made no mistake in reposing confidence in him to serve his country in a diplomatic mission before his death.
For the records, it is worthy to note that late Ambassador Timbo would invariably ensure that concerned officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation here in Freetown were thoroughly briefed about all his diplomatic moves and interactions with foreign officials wherever and whenever such interactions took place.
TIMBO: THE PHILANTROPIST AND SOME OF HIS PLANS BEFORE HIS DEMISE
Among his pending plans, Late Ambassador Timbo wanted to retire from public service after a couple of years when he would have been 60. He told me recently in Ankara that he had been in almost certainly non-stop public service since he returned from Romania after his graduation as an architect in the mid 1980`s. He actually wanted to enjoy an early retirement. But because his services were always needed by Government and people, he decided to serve until the age of 60. He had wished for an early retirement to live quietly with his family. Prior to his demise, Ambassador Siray Alpha Timbo had told me about his intention to perform this year’s Hajj. To show his religious awareness, he had already booked for himself and his wife, Haja Martha Timbo rooms close to the Grand Holy Mosque of Makkah where he was planning to spend part of this year’s blessed holy month of Ramadan for Umrah (minor hajj); as he did last year with two of colleagues , Ambassador Alhaji M.S. Kargbo of Saudi Arabia and former Ambassador Dr. Muhammad Fofanah of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Despite his religious tolerance, Ambassador Timbo was deeply aware of Islamic heritage. After retirement, he was planning to get significantly engaged in Islamic works. He wanted to build Mosques which he had started in his village by renovating the historic Rokulan Mosque and engaged in community service in whatever capacity he could. He would say that his ancestors were great servants of Islam, and he would thus like to emulate their path.
The Late Ambassador Timbo was a philanthropist per excellence. Those who happened to enjoy his generosity say he was generous to a fault. He loved to help the needy. Many a time he would render help without even being asked to do so, exhibiting a highly desired Islamic and human value.
DID AMBASADOR SIRAY ALPHA TIMBO SEE IT COMING?
For the last three months when travelling with the Late Ambassador, he would always narrate the plans he had for his country and people. I gathered from our conversation that he was a man who loved his people and country and a man with much faith. He would never put on any bad countenance even when he was hurt.
In our last conversation before his demise, Ambassador Siray Alpha Timbo advised that one should not worry for anything in this world when we were discussing the death of the Late Ambassador Ibrahim Bakarr Kamara fondly called "Orsoya" – a man he spoke with few hours before his death in February this year. He also said he had been taught that death was not determined by your age or material achievement. He sounded very much as though he knew he would die soon.
GREAT LOSS TO THE NATION AND THE TIMBO FAMILY
Based on the above, the reader could see and figure out why Siray Timbo’s sudden departure has been shocking not only to his family and friends like myself, but to also His Excellency, his Government and the nation at large.
His death is an irreparable loss to Sierra Leone and its citizenry especially His Excellency President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma who had much respect for him as one of his trusted lieutenants and former pupils of the St Francis Secondary School in Makeni, the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) party, the Sierra Leone Nationals Union in the UAE, Turkey and Qatar, Sierra Leone Consul General/Honorary Consul in Ankara and Istanbul and thousands of Sierra Leoneans who benefited from his largesse.
The passing away of such a high caliber of a man in the person of Siray Timbo is by all means a huge and sad loss. No matter how I may endeavor, words cannot express the magnitude of the loss I personally feel in the sudden demise of my brother, friend and mentor, Ambassador Siray Alpha Timbo.
On behalf of my humble self and my family, I am taking this opportunity to sincerely extend my deepest sympathy and most profound
condolences to the family and friends of late Ambassador Siray Timbo, President Koroma, the Government and people of Sierra Leone for the immense loss of such an exceptionally patriot citizen.
I beseech Allah, the Most High to condone Siray Timbo’s sins and make paradise his eternal abode. I likewise beseech Allah to bless his family and protect them from all evils and grant them longevity in good health, happiness, and prosperity.
BY ALHAJI M.B. JALLOH, PRESS ATTACHE, SAUDI ARABIA AND THE GULF STATES