the record shows that John Ernest Leigh is a man of creativity, hard work and commitment with deep love and loyalty for his Country and Party and that at any given time on his job, he is seen acting in the best interests of the public.
With the restoration of multi-party democracy in Sierra Leone in 1994/95, Mr. Leigh labored and was generous to help get the SLPP and its presidential candidate Ahmed Tejan Kabbah elected president of Sierra Leone in 1996. When that pleasant surprise came to pass, President Kabbah appointed Mr. Leigh as Ambassador to the United States and as High Commissioner to Canada. Mr. Leigh served for six years
As Ambassador to the United States of America and as High Commissioner to Canada from September 16, 1996 to October 1, 2002, I immediately set out to end all petty staff squabbles as well re-orient the staff on the need to serve the public interests at all times rather than exploit and/or boss the public for private gain.
Made the once-disreputable Embassy in Washington fully respected by the US and Canadian Governments as well as a friendly, pleasant, efficient Government Office helpful to all Sierra Leoneans, American friends of Sierra Leone and would be investors.
John Leigh’s very first job after secondary school at the Albert Academy was as a Third Class Customs Officer, Clinetown. Upon graduation from New York University Graduate School of Business Administration and internship at the Chase Manhattan Bank also in New York, Mr. Leigh became a Senior Research Fellow at the Bank of Sierra Leone, Freetown.
Initiated and resolutely pressed forward innovative counter-coup activities against the violent and nation-wrecking illegal AFRC/RUF junta without any let-up from the very first day of the May 25, 1997 coup and until the Peace was finally concluded.
Persuaded the US Secretary of State Albright not to recognize the AFRC junta but to retain recognition of the duly elected SLPP exile Government of President Tejan Kabbah as the legal government of Sierra Leone after it was overthrown by the AFRC.
Prevented the AFRC junta from buying weapons with Government money held in American banks. Thereafter, transferred signature authority over the $10 million balance held in the accounts to the exiled Government of Tejan Kabbah in Conakry.
With no money coming to the Embassy from Conakry or Freetown after the AFRC coup, and determined to restore the Constitutional Order in Sierra Leone via the return to full power in Freetown of our duly elected Government and Parliament, I begged/borrowed funds from family & friends to help keep the embassy operational.
Shortly after President Kabbah’s overthrow, I persuaded Gen Sani Abacha’s officials to hold RUF Foday Sankoh incommunicado after his scary broadcast calling for the RUF to come out of the bush and join the AFRC to illegally govern Sierra Leone. Sankoh was held incommunicado in Abuja from June 1997 until the Lome Conference.
With help of C.E.S. American Missionaries based in Kabala, he persuaded the US Congress (House & Senate) to support the restoration of democracy in Sierra Leone, persuaded President Clinton to cease his pro-Liberian policies and help end the RUF war.
Engaged the international media, including BBC, CNN, ITV, Radio France, South African Radio, etc. to get the governments and peoples of the world not to ignore the suffering of the people of Sierra Leone during the AFRC/RUF war but to lobby democratic Governments to intervene on the side of the duly elected SLPP Government.
Successfully redefined the RUF war for the International Community as a criminal enterprise to plunder natural resources, especially diamonds, rather than view the violence in our country as a civil war, as was generally assumed by our leaders and by world governments.
Persuasively explained to the US the logic behind the positive role the Nigerian Government and the Nigerian-dominated ECOMOG forces were playing in Sierra Leone and establishing that Nigeria’s role was not inconsistent with US interests.
Obtained Immigration Protection for Sierra Leone refugees in the US and Canada. This Immigration Protection enabled all undocumented residents from Sierra Leone in the USA and Canada and arriving refugees, the legal right to reside and hold employment in their respective country of domicile and thus avoid deportation.
Succeeded in 2000 in persuading US President Bill Clinton to reverse its pro-Liberian policies and to adopt pro-Sierra Leonean policies to alleviate war suffering, the very first time such reversal has occurred in the 200-odd years of SL-US relations.
Obtained $100 million in US military aid to re-arm and re-equip ECOMOG and to re-train 7 ECOMOG Battalions as airborne paratroopers to flush the RUF out of their crime-infested barfas. But for Lome, ECOMOG was ready to flush out the RUF.
Rendered the Liberian Embassy in Washington and its American lobbyists totally ineffectual in defending President Charles Taylor against allegations of unjust war mongering, the abuse of children as soldiers and the plundering of Blood Diamonds.
Developed American and Canadian friendships helpful to Sierra Leone such as the Amistad Committee in New Haven, Connecticut, the Gullah Groups in South Carolina and Georgia, US Congress and Canadian friends of Sierra Leone in Ottawa.
Persuaded the US and Canadian Governments to hold President Taylor of Liberia accountable for the RUF occupation of large parts of Sierra Leone; the plunder of our natural resources as well as for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.
Persuaded the US and Canadian Governments to support the United Nations to send a large peacekeeping force to enforce the peace in Sierra Leone. In all, the United Nations spent at least $2.8 billion in and on behalf of Sierra Leone by 2007.
Obtained vast Humanitarian Aid for the people of Sierra Leone from the US and Canada. Also worked with an American NGO to ship containers of rice to orphanages in Sierra Leone and assisted SL NGOs to obtain aid for war victims.
As soon as he received proof from the American Government in early 2000 that rebels and foreign interlopers had illegally exported 6,000, 000 carats (six million carats) of Sierra Leone Blood Diamonds in 1999, he obtained support from the American Government and permission from President Kabbah to make arrangements to obtain compensation from all those foreign leaders and governments behind the rebel war.
He then successfully negotiated an agreement with a law firm in Washington, DC to pursue for the benefit of Sierra Leonean war victims, survivors and our government, compensation for war damage against all the foreign interlopers that aided the AFRC and the RUF or traded in Blood Diamonds.
Wrote a truthful, professional-style 10-page memo in absolute good faith to President Kabbah in the Oil Exploration matter to sensitize our Government as to how best to frame Natural Resources agreements so as to insure the protection and safety of people in war zones as well as send a message to donor nations that Sierra Leone is ready to properly manage her natural resources and thus ready for development assistance, not just humanitarian aid.
Donated thousands of dollars to numerous Sierra Leone organizations in America during my tenure as Ambassador. Departed from Washington with Sierra Leone-USA and Sierra Leone-Canadian relations at their highest level of friendship and cooperation in 40 years and with Diasporans proud of their Ambassador & Embassy.