Zainab is the current Special Envoy of UN Secretary General Ban-Ki moon on Sexual Violence in Conflict, a position she was appointed to in 2012. In her current capacity, she provides strategic leadership in the fight against conflict-related sexual violence, helping to mobilize resources and build political will. To date, there have only been four Sierra Leoneans appointed as Under-Secretary-Generals of the United Nations (Dr. Davidson Nicol, Dr. James Jonah, Dr. Kandeh Yumkella and Haja Zainab Bangura), however Zaianb remains the first Sierra Leonean Woman to serve at that level, and the second Sierra Leonean USG to work at the United Nations Secretariat in New York; the only other being Dr. James Jonah.
Zainab had also previously worked with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), where she managed the largest civilian component of the Peacekeeping Mission, promoting capacity building of government institutions and community reconciliation. In 2007, President Koroma appointed her as his Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in which capacity she served for three years, until she was moved to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in December of 2010.
Over the past year, Zainab Bangura’s name has been surrounded by a lot of rumors ranging from a possible nomination for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize to being considered as a suitable replacement for her current boss, the UN Secretary General, especially given the campaign to have the first female Secretary General. Few months ago, there were also rumors that her name had also been mentioned to step into the shoes of Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, whose term as Chair of the African Union Commission comes to an end this year.
Zainab’s name has for a long time now been mentioned with the top job here in Sierra Leone but with the recent political trend in the USA, speculations have escalated that she just might be Sierra Leone’s own Hillary Clinton, especially after having won the Hillary Rodham Clinton Award for Advancing Women in Peace and Security. If she does enter the race, much like Hillary Clinton, she just may be the most qualified person so far to vie for that office. She would bring into the race over 20 years of policy, diplomatic and political experience in the field of governance, conflict resolution and reconciliation. She also has some private sector experience having worked as an Insurance executive during the early days of her professional career.
Despite the growing speculation, it must be noted that she has remained tight-lipped about her intentions. As a matter of fact, she has continuously maintained that she is happy with her current job and is focusing on that, as well as supporting President Koroma and representing Sierra Leone on the global stage as best as possible. It must be noted however that the current Secretary General’s mandate comes to an end on the 31st December 2016 and it is customary for a new Secretary General to come into office with his own core team. As such, there is indeed every likelihood that Haja Zainab may be coming back home at the end of the year.
Whether she comes home or not; whether she enters the race for State House or not, one question that remains in the minds of many of her supporters is “are we as a country now ready for a female President?”