The Sierra Leone Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Alie Kabba, on Wednesday 2 January 2019, announced the commencement of the Mutual Visa Exemption Agreement between China and Sierra Leone at a press briefing at the Ministry’s Conference Hall. 

According to the Foreign Affairs Minister, the two countries have enjoyed a long-term special relationship based on mutual respect, good economic and diplomatic relations since 1971.

“China has been a good friend and an unwavering development partner to Sierra Leone, which is based on peaceful coexistence and respect for the ‘one China’ policy,” he said.

“The Chinese development assistance projects have contributed immensely to the post war reconstruction of Sierra Leone.” 

He maintained from humanitarian assistance in time of disaster, to support for their infrastructural improvement of the provision of training opportunities for Sierra Leoneans and investment in the agricultural sector where China has proven commitment to engendering a shared future through win-win cooperation. 

Dr Kabbah assured the Chinese Ambassador and the Chinese Government of his government’s commitment towards ensuring the continuous strengthening of the bilateral relationship, stating the operation of the visa exemption regime for diplomatic and Service passport holders between the two countries is a step in the right direction. 

He disclosed the agreement would promote people to people exchange between Sierra and China and also develop the close relationship between them, disclosing China has and continue to be a very reliable partner and friend to Sierra Leone. 

The Sierra Leone Chief Immigration Officer Ansumana Jaia Kaikai, assured Ambassador Wu Peng that his office will ensure the rightful people handle both the service and Diplomatic passport to avoid misuse of the facility, disclosing the mutual visa free agreement has cemented the relationship for the better. 

“China is still among the very few countries that are issuing visas in Sierra Leone to date,” he said, disclosing in most cases Sierra Leoneans will have to travel to other countries to access visas which in most cases (have) resulted to serious embarrassment as government officers miss their appointments oversea due to visa delay. 

He expressed appreciation to the Chinese government for its trust and support to Sierra Leone throughout the years especially in difficult and trying situation, adding it was China that first sent humanitarian support to Sierra Leone during the deadly Ebola period between 2014 and 2016. 

According to the Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Amb Wu Peng, the mutual visa exemption for holders of Service and Diplomatic passport came into effect since 24 December 2018, which he described as best new year gift for both countries. 

“The approval of the agreement is in line with Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Maada Bio’s decision to enhance people to people and cultural exchanges and also bolster bilateral ties as they have agreed in Beijing during the 2018 FOCAC Summit in September’” he said. 

He disclosed the visa exemption is for a period of stay no more than thirty days which means citizens of either country intending to stay longer than thirty days shall go through the necessary registration procedures in accordance with the relevant regulations of the competent authorities. 

He added that officials at or above vice ministerial level of the central government and officers of or above the rank of major general of armed forces of either party shall obtain the prior consent from the other diplomatic channels prior to their travel to the other territory. 

Amb Wu Peng urged more Sierra Leoneans to pay a visit to China as the saying goes “seeing is believing, action speaks louder than voice”, explaining the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone issued more than one thousand Visas to ordinary passport holders in 2018. 

He assured the Chinese Embassy will continue to issue more visa to business and other set of ordinary passport holders within the shortest possible time of application as a way of maintaining their strong relationship with Sierra Leoneans.