The Sierra Leone Web

Speech by AFRC Chairman Major Johnny Paul Koroma
30 July 1997

Fellow Sierra Leoneans; It is already two months since my government, the government of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, took over the reins of power in this our beloved country. These have been two very trying months for every one of us; two months in which we, on our part, have been confronted with considerable odds in pursuing our sacred path of peace and prosperity for this our nation; two months in which you, the patriotic citizenry of Sierra Leone, have endured with us as we battle against certain selfish elements both within and outside our society who insist on reversing the hand of our national clock.

You have suffered deprivation and exaction, first, from a protracted rebel war, then from the fear of bombardment from foreign nationals, and of late from the shortage of certain essential commodities. You have borne these our national tragedies well. You have borne them with dignity and honour as true and patriotic Sierra Leoneans.

Let me assure you that the hardship we are currently undergoing has not been inflicted on us by the international community. An embargo has not, I repeat, has not been imposed on us by the United Nations Organisation. The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, has not ordered an embargo on us either. Furthermore, military intervention has neither been ordered nor endorsed by any international organisation.

The suffering we are currently being subjected to is just the result of sabotage by those selfish individuals who claim that they love Sierra Leone and yet have invited foreign troops to come and kill you, her citizens. As if that is not bad enough, these wicked people are also doing everything in their power, through threats and intimidation, to starve our nation of vital food and fuel. May God have mercy on them all.

We cannot go on this way forever. We cannot allow any Sierra Leonean and adventurist foreigners to continue placing our lives, our livelihoods, our families, our dignity, and our national pride under threat any further. The time has come for all of us to unite under the banner of peace and progress, and tell everyone that we want to be left alone to rebuild our lives; to lay sound foundation for the establishment and consolidation of true grassroots democracy, and to work toward the economic transformation of our country through a more meaningful structural adjustment program that will guarantee the uplift of both our rural and urban sectors.

A formidable task lies ahead of us and we, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, have vowed to champion these efforts, no matter what it takes in terms of energy, endeavor, determination, and time. Let me add that the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council will never [words indistinct] nor stampeded into doing anything that we consider not in the best interest of our beloved country, Sierra Leone. In pursuit of these ends, the following measures are herewith brought into force:

The Constitution of the Second Republic has been suspended and remains suspended. All political parties, hereby, remain banned. Ministers have been instructed to prepare attendance rolls of all workers in the departments and parastatals under them. This will enable the government of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council to determine who is entitled to be paid until what period of attendance. The compilation will also pinpoint positions in the public sector that are being abandoned so that steps can be taken to fill these positions in order to get the public sector functioning at all stages. Any staff member listed as (?currently) on leave should be supported by proper evidence of authorization and approval dated before the 25th May 1997.

I have been particularly bereaved by the unfortunate break in the educational process of this country, and share the great concern that is currently afflicting parents, students, and children alike. As a direct consequence of this, let me assure you that every effort is being made to see the earliest reopening of our schools and colleges. To this end, a seven-man committee has been set up, charged with the responsibility to examine the practical modalities, agenda, and framework for the nationwide resumption of our program of education.

This committee will also look into the rescheduling of those public examinations which have been affected. It will in addition make leeway for the return to their institutions of learning those teachers and lecturers who have traveled abroad, and who have left for the provinces. Taking cognizance of the fact that we are currently in the middle of the rainy season, we see wisdom in proposing that the present interregnums will be utilized as the usual long vacation following which the succeeding school program will be adjusted according to the recommendations of the Committee of Seven.

In a similar endeavor, the stakeholders of education in the tertiary sector--university and colleges--in consultation with the Ministry of Education, are to discuss the modalities for the reorganization of academic work within these institutions in order to minimize the effect of time lost. Let me assure you, parents and guardians, that no stone will be left unturned, no efforts spared to get our educational system on course once again, and within the shortest possible time.

Turning to the judiciary, the Chief Justice and registrars of magistrate and superior courts, in consultation with the Attorney General, are enjoined to do everything possible to get the courts to function again. In this regard, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council considers it regrettable that the Bar Association is adopting a noncooperative attitude. If they realize that it is the common man that they are depriving of his rights to justice and yet they claim to be champions of democracy, human rights, justice, and [words indistinct], these same lofty ideals will temper their decision in playing their roles in the functioning of our society.

Additionally, in view of the massive dislocation that has regrettably ensued, and to make justice readily available to all (?who need it), the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council has decided to establish the People's Revolutionary Court in each district and traditional center in the country to augment work of the regular courts.

These People's Revolutionary Courts shall not be kangaroo courts but shall be presided over by a panel of five assessors including paramount chief. One of the five shall, at any one time and in rotation, serve as the chairman of the panel of assessors. These courts shall have power to try all civil and criminal cases except for manslaughter, murder, [words indistinct], treason and the misprision of treason, and identical criminal offenses that may carry the mandatory death penalty.

Their powers to impose fines and sentences of imprisonment shall be identical to those of the high courts, and they shall be advised by (?law) officials. Accused persons appearing before them shall have the right to call for representation. An appeal against the judgment of the People's Revolutionary Court shall be to the Court of Appeal on point of law. A decree to this effect shall be promulgated shortly.

Fellow countrymen: It has become painfully obvious that certain banks are holding the nation to ransom for reasons best known to themselves. All the banks asked for and were readily given (?ample) guarantee of security for their operations, and yet while the Central Bank, the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, and the National Development Bank have stayed to open their doors and have operated [words indistinct] for interference, the doors of the Barclays Bank, the Standard Chartered Bank, and the Union Trust Bank remain tightly shut to the discomfiture of their customers, most of whom are institutions that need their funds to pay staff and carry out their normal operations.

The government, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, hereby calls on the management of the Barclays Bank, the Standard Chartered Bank, the Union Trust Bank to open their doors and commence operations again, the latest by Monday, 4 August 1997. They are assured of all the security they will need. Should they fail their operations by 4 August 1997, the AFRC will regard their action as deliberate sabotage, and will withdraw their operating licenses and force them to liquidate. In the event of this happening, the public is assured that the liquidation will be so expeditiously conducted as to release customers' funds as quickly as possible and that no customer loses any money.

Fellow countrymen: Let me now give you a glimpse of the (?future) the AFRC government has for the nation and share with you some of the programs we intend to pursue to release our dear motherland from the doldrums and the dependency syndrome that have highlighted our country's economic march till now.

Internal security: The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council will not relent in its efforts to guarantee the security, peace, and safety of all who live within its borders. We assure all and sundry to go about their peaceful (?chores) without fear. We stand ready, willing, and able to defend the territorial integrity of Sierra Leone from any aggression, real or threatened, internal or external. Let no one doubt our resolve to do this, even until the last drop of our blood. We shall continue to implement the Abidjan Peace Accord signed with the RUF who are not our brothers and sisters in the People's Army. And we still extend the olive branch to our (?kinsmen), the Kamajors, and the other militia groups. They bravely fought side by side with us, and although misguided political miscreants wanted to turn their guns for their own coverage, we still invite them to send their representatives to join us on the AFRC to build our nation together. They are our own people and we harbor no malice against them. Our major concern is for the achievement of lasting and total peace in Sierra Leone so that our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters can pick up the pieces of their lives again. We have killed each other enough, so much blood has been shed, and too much destruction has been already caused. Let us together in kinship, love, and peace join hands to repair the damage. Together in peace we can solve our problems. We need no external forces to [words indistinct] to tell us what is good for us. Brothers and sisters, let us all join hands now. This is our country's finest hour.

Politics, the Government, and Democracy: The program of the AFRC is founded on themes of mass political and civic education, enlightenment, mass participation, and the devolution of political power to the grassroots. Elements in these programs include the setting up of the following bodies immediately: A National Political and Civic Education Commission; a Constitutional Review Commission; a Boundaries, Wards, and Constituency Delimitation Commission; and a reconstituted Permanent Electoral Commission, PEC; a countrywide update and revision of the voters register and its annual revision thereafter; the holding of the following elections at most six months after the completion of the work of the Constitutional Review Commission and its acceptance and promulgation by the AFRC. These elections shall be so spaced as to allow the PEC time for its proper conduct and enabling a more careful study to be made of their workings so that the rough edges could be polished.

Selection of the Village Management Committees: These shall have a tenure of four years and shall be under the chairmanship of a permanent member of the community. This committee should comprise seven members and must include at least two women and two youths. The selection should take place at a meeting of each village properly summoned for the purpose and should be called at the latest six months after the promulgation of the revised Constitution, and in any case not later than March 1998. The selections shall be non-party based.

Town, Municipal, and City Council Election: That shall be non-party based and shall have a tenure of four years. These elections shall be held in December 1998.

District Council Elections: Again, these shall be non-party based and their tenure shall be four years. These elections should take place at the latest in August 1999.

Provincial Assembly Elections: These shall be constituency based and election shall be on party political tickets. Their tenure shall be four years and the election should be held at the latest May in the year 2000. The ban on political parties will be lifted at least two months before these elections.

National Parliamentary Elections: These shall also be constituency-based, not proportional representation, and elections will be on party tickets. The tenure of the national parliament shall be five years, and elections shall be held at the latest in February in the year 2001.

State Council Elections: The State Council will constitute the second and a revising chamber of the legislature, and shall be non-party based. Each district shall elect five representatives and each province shall elect one paramount chieftain each. The tenure of the State Council shall be five years, and elections to it shall be held contemporaneously with the presidential elections and these will be by the latest November of the year 2001.

Presidential Elections: These shall be party based, and the presidential tenure shall be five years. It will be a national vote and the winner will be the candidate with the most votes nationally. The elections shall be latest November 2001.

The AFRC stands ready to hand over to such properly tried constitutional order, and these structures should serve as guideposts at the Constitutional Review Commission. This outlines our assertion, right from the start, that we of the AFRC do not mean to cling to power unduly long, and that we are here to foster grassroots democracy. We emphasize again that we shall not be stampeded into [words indistinct] beyond the appointed course. We are for the goodwill and cooperation of all. We also appreciate that such devolution of power and the various elections are going to cost a lot of money and efforts. That is one reason why they have been spaced out this way and we hope the international community will wish us well and give us the needed assistance to bring meaningful democracy to our people.

International Relations: In the light of the recently orchestrated campaign of acrimony, threat, and [words indistinct] from subregional, regional, and international bodies, the AFRC government intends to pursue a policy of enlightened self-interest in the international area and seriously review Sierra Leone's membership of some regional and international bodies.

In the meantime, the AFRC is calling on Nigeria and her leader to release our vice chairman, Corporal Foday Saybannah Sankoh, to enable him to join us in consolidation of our hard-won peace. The AFRC, in pursuing the implementation of the Abidjan Peace Accord, wishes to hank the international community for all of its assistance. However, the AFRC strongly believes in the sincerity and commitment of all parties to the peace accord, and therefore, does not consider it necessary to need any international peacekeeping force to be sent to Sierra Leone.

Furthermore, with the successful completion of the Liberian election, the AFRC believes that the times has come for ECOMOG to withdraw all ECOMOG troops from Sierra Leone soil. We also call on Nigeria to withdraw all her troops sent here under the Status of Forces Agreement. We thank them for their services.

Agricultural, Economic, and Rural Development: In pursuing fundamental structural adjustment that will empower the rural sector, the AFRC intends to make agriculture the pivot around which the economy shall revolve. In the light of this, the AFRC government will provide the necessary incentives, including [word indistinct] loans and minimum price guarantees to agricultural products to encouragement peasant farmers and fishermen to improve and expand their yield.

The AFRC will also initiate the establishment of plantation-based state farms for the production of both seasonal food crops and cash crops like cocoa, coffee, rubber, palm fruits, cashew, and citrus fruits both for domestic consumption and for export. A Workers Brigade will be established to employ youths in useful agricultural, animal husbandry, and fisheries courses and this, we hope, will provide additional employment for some 120,000 people over a two-year period.

Additionally, a trade wing of the Workers Brigade, comprising artisans, brickworkers, road construction workers, and small tool manufacturers will employ some 30,000 persons to spearhead the rebuilding of communities devastated by the war and rural development through the construction of houses, schools, clinics, roads, and other infrastructures. We hope the international community and donor agencies will assist in these endeavors.

Trade, Commerce, and Industry: The AFRC government will pursue its policy of liberalized economy and free trade. It does not intend to impose any price control except this should prove necessary in the case of essentials like rice, petroleum products, and drugs. As agriculture improves, the government shall announce minimum price guarantees for agricultural products. In this light, [word indistinct] will soon be in an effort to revive and streamline the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board and its operations.

Furthermore, to help finance these sectors, the AFRC government will soon commission studies aimed at the establishment of an Agriculture Development Bank, Bank for Housing and Rural Reconstruction, and a Bank of Commerce and Industry.

Capitalization of these banks will be structure to retain control by the state with 45 percent. indigenous Sierra Leoneans will be encouraged to subscribe 10 percent of the share capitals. Foreign institutional investors will be invited to take up 30 percent of the shares, while 15 percent will be offered to foreign private investors. It is hoped that these banks will offer a basket of market products [word indistinct] that will include savings, time deposits, and checking accounts to give Sierra Leone residents a choice in commercial banking.

The country's investment code will be simplified to allow for the deregulation of industries and general incentives will be offered to attract foreign industrial investment. The system will be rigidly policed to eliminate the evil solicitation of bribes by state officials and public servants before investment projects are approved.

Mines [as heard], Mineral Resources and Fisheries: All current licensing for diamond and gold mines is going to be reviewed. In the meantime, steps are going to be taken to at least minimize and, if possible, completely eliminate the smuggling of these our precious resources by ensuring that no one citizen of Sierra Leone resides in any mining area without proper documentation. Furthermore, a central marketing arrangement will be instituted for the sale of these precious minerals through open competitive bidding.

Countrymen, I have spoken at length over several issues. This list is by no means exhaustive but only intended to (?brief our people on the dreams of our mission). I hope the AFRC will have their goodwill and cooperation and also those of the international community to take our country out of the doldrums of rancor and the dependency syndrome. On our part, we are determined to succeed throughout [words indistinct]. We appreciate that the going would not be easy. Hard choices have to be made and hardship has to be endured. With God's help, we shall overcome. I thank you all for your patience.