African Delegation Arrives in Inglewood

After a three-month delay, delegates from the West African nation of Sierra Leone finally have arrived in Inglewood for a two-week cultural exchange.

The Bo Sister City delegation arrived last week for a tour of the city's hospitals, public buildings and agencies, Inglewood spokesman Truman Jacques said.

Members of the delegation originally were scheduled to visit Inglewood in April, but a miscommunication between officials left them stranded at a Sierra Leone airport for more than a week. Bo officials viewed the incident as a snub.

"Everybody was frustrated and we got a different picture of America . . . that Americans don't fulfill their obligation," said PrinceBrima, the Sierra Leone News Agency bureau chief who is traveling with the delegation.

The delegation had been promised plane tickets from an Orange County businessman with the consent from then-Sister City committee chairman Art Davis. But the deal fell through and the tickets were never sent, officials said. "It was confusing (about) who had the authority to do what," Brima said.

City Manager Paul D. Eckles called the incident "a major embarrassment to the city of Inglewood" in a May 24 memo to the City Council.

As a result, the council agreed to pick up the $22,000 air fare for the delegation, Jacques said. Normally, city funds are used to pay only for sister-city delegation accommodations and expenses, he said.

Bo officials say no animosity remains between the two cities.

"We now understand that it wasn't the fault of the Inglewood City Council," Brima said.

The delegates are learning how the city operates, from running social programs such as the senior center to funding a redevelopment agency.

The most impressive thing about Inglewood is the physical layout and design of the streets and buildings, said J.K. Boima, town council president of Bo, a city with roughly the same population as Inglewood.

"We are badly in need of roadwork" and a new fire station, Boima said.

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