Kono Conference is an apolitical forum that is aimed at providing a conducive environment for all stakeholders to discuss and debate the challenges and opportunities facing Kono District, its indigenous ethnic minorities and descendants. Speakers at the Conference will make presentations on key sustainable development programmes and human rights issues in the District, followed by question & answer sessions and stakeholder discussion workshops. All stakeholders shall be encouraged to register for the Kono conference via the official website where possible. Stakeholders shall also be invited to speak at the conference on topics relevant to the conference theme and the issues faced by the Kono District and its people. The Kono Conference is a remarkable event with the potential to attract dignitaries from all over the world. The Kono Conference consists of the secretariat, the Chairperson of the conference and the host of the conference. Hosting such an event, therefore, is a daunting task requiring highly qualified, well-respected and capable individuals to handle certain designated roles, especially that of the Chairman. The Kono Conference Secretariat shall be the administrative and legislative arm of the Kono Conference. (Please see the Kono Conference governing documents for more details).

The Kono conference initiative was launched in 2010, at the time when the reformed KDDA became KDDAUK. During various general meetings, two members of KDDA, Mr Sahr Stephen Kabba and Mr Sahr David Dingiswayo Nyandemo, came up two ideas: Mr Sahr Stephen Kabba proposed a diaspora meeting to talk about issues and draw up a development plan blueprint for Kono District, while Mr Sahr David Dingis Nyandemo’s idea was having a symposium about Kono District to improve tourism and protect our environment. The KDDAUK executives under the then chairmanship of Dr Ngegba had several meetings in which KDDAUK and other kono descendants brain stormed those two ideas to make it a reality and to bring all stakeholders of Kono District together to discuss issue pertaining to Kono District’s development.

In 2012, Kono District Development Association United Kingdom’s then chairman Dr Kai Ngegba asked his trustees/executives and other key members to jointly work with other diaspora organisations to seek the interest of Kono district. In 2013, a planning committee named the Kono Global Conference Committee (KGCC) and chaired by Mr M. Jalloh in USA, was formed via international telephone conferencing and discussions began in earnest. However, by around January 2014 talks had collapsed and planning stopped. Issues included responsibilities for organisation and funding of the conference. This Global committee, in August 2013, decided to mediate between the two fractions in UK to have peace before a global organisation could be formed. A few hundred pounds was donated by organisation members in the UK, which was saved until the 2016 conference. Some members of KGCC formed themselves into a development organisation called the Kono District Global Organisation (KDGO) initially chaired by Mr M. Jalloh, but Mr Fanday took over the KDGO. The name Kono District Global Organisation was suggested by Mrs Mariama Mafinda during one of the international teleconference meeting. The KDGO was later registered in the US and UK as a LIMITED LIABILITY PARTNERSHIP company on the 15th of August 2015, with Company number: OC401319.

on the 28th June 2014, KDDAUK general meeting KDDA members were asked to donate minimum of £50 towards the 2014 Kono conference. In a telephone conference meeting on the 29th June 2014, Mr Sahr Sinnah suggested that we should leave the source of funding open to everybody. It was then agreed by all that for the Kono conference the committee members can solicit funds from all individuals, businesses, charity organisations and politicians alike, but the Kono conference must remain independent and non-political in all its activities but could lobby with any institution in the interest of developments for Kono district. On the 22nd June 2014 the following objective for the first Kono conference was agreed: 1)-Highlights the issues, of concern to Kono District. 2)- Developing strategies and action plan to address issues of injustice and human rights in Kono District. 3)- Agree development agreement for government, NGOs and other departments. 4)- To agree measures that will facilitate to create a business-friendly environment in Kono district.

In the Spring of 2014, another planning committee was set up by members of KDDAUK. A new name was chosen for the conference as Kono conference, and KDDAUK Chairman Dr Ngegba appointed Mr Sahr David Dingis Nyandemo as the chair of Kono Conference. Dr Kai Ngegba, the then interim Chairman of KDDA-UK, and some of his executive members, namely Mr. Aiah Sodengbe and Mr. Aiah Tondoneh, saw the need for a Conference and started discussing the idea and supported Mr Sahr Dingis Nyandemo in publicizing /sensitising the concept of Kono conference and networking and contacting stakeholders of Kono District. In 2014/5 KDDAUK extended a joint working hand to Kono Union USA, and Dr Fuambai, the then president of Kono Union, came to London and met a cross section of KDDAUK members and it was agreed verbally for both organisations to work collaboratively in the interest of Kono District.

In mid-2014, a Joint working committee between KDDAUK, KUUSA, KPU (the Netherlands) and KDGO, again planning started with planning the event; planning task list and call for papers were prepared. After a few meetings, and further financial contributions, talks stalled again, and planning stopped. This time the issues included disagreements over project planning, sharing of responsibilities for carrying out tasks between organisations, format of marketing, funding, engaging sponsors and leadership issues. The KDDAUK were reluctant to carry the full burden of the workload and cost of the conference.

With efforts from Dr J. D. Mondeh, Dr Sahr Kabuta, Mr Aiah Bondowa Tondoneh, Mr Aiah Fanday, Dr Ngegba, Mr David Nyandemo, Mr Aiah Sodengbe, Mr Sahr Fasuluku, Dr Fuambai Ahmadu and Dr Sahr Kondeh worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure the idea of holding the first conference was kept alive. In 2016, a new planning committee was formed from selected members of the above organisations and from individuals with no affiliations. The committee held telephone conferences fortnightly or weekly and communicated via a WhatsApp group, email and private telephone calls. None of the 38-member WhatsApp group were based in Sierra Leone, 25 did not participate at all in planning meetings, the 13 active members were based in UK, US and Netherlands and gave fluctuating levels of participation. During the initial brainstorming stage, cooperation and mutual respect were high, contributions were welcomed and taken on board. Shortly after commencement, a set of subcommittees were created, tasks were demarcated away from the main committee and bureaucracy was increased. Most committee members were unclear about the remits of the subcommittees and which ones they belonged to. Committee members were actively discouraged from contributions and discussions and were told to wait for the outcomes of subcommittees. Subcommittees were largely inactive. The environment, delays and lack of progress created frustration in members who either withdrew from active engagement in the planning process or protested.

The contents subcommittee became the most active, however fundamental differences soon arose over the conference’s project management, nature, objectives, desired outputs and outcomes, programme content, level of stakeholder participation, whether the programme and planning should be led by issues or personalities, whether the conference should follow a problem identification and solving process in line with sustainable development headings or whether it should be unstructured allowing for unfettered exploration of issues. Different perceptions of the urgency of the Kono situation and different perceptions of the capabilities and limitations of the conference led to conflicting approaches to planning and content of the conference programme. A working group of 3 were appointed to create a draft programme, which was carried out largely by one member of the working group. The resulting draft was presented to the committee as a fait accompli despite their wish to conduct oversight and make amendments. Except for a few minor adjustments, most of the committees’ contributions were ignored thereafter and programme decisions were taken away from them. In the last few weeks before the conference, most planning and organisation was carried out informally and privately between a few individuals.

The first Kono Conference in London was held from July 28 - 29, 2016 at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, Vernon Square, London WC1X 9EL. The First Kono Conference was in 2016 and hosted by the Kono District Development Association UK (KDDAUK), which is a non-partisan UK registered charity 1160673. It was organised in partnership with several international Kono District descendant civil society organisations and individuals in the diaspora. Stakeholders from all over the world and especially within Kono District were invited to participate as speakers, delegates, workshop facilitators, sponsors, exhibitors, sent in presentations, interviews, videos and posters. Online registrants completed an online survey questionnaire, delegates completed an in-conference survey and participated in questions and answers panel sessions, workshops and end of conference discussions.

David Dingswayo Nyandemoh
Kono Conference, First Chairman

The Kono Conference Chairman’s Handing Over Speech

"The Kono Conference Chairman’s Handing Over Speech. Chairman, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Let me first of all apologise for not being here in person today to perform my sacred duty to this August body of likeminded people determined to bring positive change to our beloved district. This is due to a variety of converging events beyond my control.

As the outgoing Chairman, I deem it fit to give you a brief background of the Conference and the successes and challenges we have experienced to this point.

The Kono Conference for me is a dream, which at one time seemed farfetched for numerous reasons chief of which were the disunity and lack of trust in our community. Ironically, these are some of the reasons that prompted some of us to come together and create this forum to serves as a platform for us as a people to deliberate on the future of our District.

I have always believed that as a people, considering our strategic position geographically and politically, coupled with our mineral and agricultural endowment we need to have a plan as to what will make our district a viable entity that is less prone to exploitation and abuse from within and from outside forces. I also believe that the quality of life in any geographical area depends on the planning of that area, hence the need for a Conference.... "

Click here to read Chairman Nyandemoh's complete handing over speech

Our Purpose

The Kono Conference was started to raise the profile of Kono District and its indigenous ethnic groups, as well as to identify social, economic, environmental, political and cultural issues facing our communities. One of our immediate goals is to benchmark each sector of sustainable development and identify stakeholders. Our key strategy is to engage and involve all stakeholders to identify problems, their root causes, challenges, and solutions in the formulation of a comprehensive action plan for the development of Kono District.