The Sierra Leone Web



My fellow Citizens,

I am happy to announce to you today that, thanks to the mighty arm of our Glorious God, we in Sierra Leone are, at last, beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. The peace we all yearn for, and for which my government of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (A.F.R.C.) have striven so hard, is now here within our grasp. It must be nurtured and consolidated to last forever.

The Conakry talks with the five ECOWAS foreign ministers have produced a six-month plan for Sierra Leone. I want to thank the five ECOWAS foreign ministers for their endeavours, and I salute His Excellency the President, the government and the people of our sister Republic of Guinea for providing the venue and facilitating the talks. I also want to place on record my personal thanks and those of the A.F.R.C. and, on your behalf, the thanks of all the good people of Sierra Leone to the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, the honourable representatives of the United Nations, the O.A.U. and the United States of America for their endeavours. To our own delegation and members of the other independent groups who attended these talks, even if in an observer capacity, we say well done.

My government has carefully studied the ECOWAS six-month plan for our country. As it stands, the statement is a broad declaration of intent. And I am happy to say that we accept it in principle. However, to lead to a sustainable peace, security and development in our country, the plan must, without further delay, move forward to develop a working programme to meet a number of concerns and conditions that should include the following:

(a) It is our considered view that Corporal Foday Saybana Sankoh, our vice-chairman, who is currently being held against his will in Nigeria, should be immediately released to come home and help consolidate the peace. He is a principal stake-holder in the peace process, and as the leader of the Revolutionary United Front (R.U.F.), who has now joined regular armed forces of the Republic to become the Peoples' Army, any talk of disarmament, demobilisation and resettlement of combatants will be futile without his participation.

In any case, beyond the question of disarmament, demobilisation and resettlement of combatants is a more serious issue of re-organizing, restructuring and modernizing the Sierra Leone Armed Forces to take into account the complex reality of a de facto merger of the Sierra Leone regular armed forces and the RUF Peoples' Army on the one hand and the Kamajors, Kapras, etc. on the other. The programme should address the issue in such a way that it will give positive signals to all the local combatants to ensure that there is smooth transition into peace and its consolidation thereafter.

(b) We should want to see a more concise and definitive identification of the combatants mentioned in the plan. We believe that Nigerian soldiers now occupying our International Airport and other parts of our country should also be considered as combatants. They are the initiators of the recent unprovoked aggression against our country and they must leave immediately if the six-month plan is to be given any chance to succeed. The same applies to any faction of the ULIMO-K that may have crossed the borders to join the Kamajors, and the remnants of the Executive Outcomes group from South Africa, now disguised as security men for a mining company.

(c) We welcome the plan's provision for monitoring groups, and we especially welcome a United Nations sponsored monitoring group. We hope the security council will approve their dispatch soon. We however have strong reservations about an ECOMOG II. Such a group should not include any Nigerian soldier or officer, and the command structure should not include any Nigerian. Sierra Leone will not accept an ECOMOG II that is spear-headed by Nigeria, and any attempt to force this issue will torpedo the six-month plan. There are other nations within ECOWAS who can contribute troops, equipment, finance and leadership. Let them put their money where their mouths are, and stop this Nigerian bullying in its talks. We all stand to loose one day if this is not stopped now. The composition and size of these monitoring groups, the equipment they are allowed to deploy, their distribution, their mandate and, above all, the duration of their stay, should be clearly spelt out since we must avoid any monitoring group metarmorphosising (sic.) into an intervention force, as sadly happened in our sister Republic of Liberia, or any monitoring group overstaying its welcome to later become an occupation force, as we have recently witnessed in Sierra Leone.

(d) We should also want to see a clearer definition of the sanctions that have been imposed on our country and the modalities for its enforcement. We want no repetition of the incessant illegal shelling of our waters and quay in the name of enforcement. Our waterways and quay should be free to allow ships bearing any cargo other than arms, ammunition and oil to come in. And we call upon the ECOWAS Group of Five to seriously consider for recommendation to the ECOWAS Heads of State and the Security Council the deletion of oil from goods affected by the sanctions. The monitoring group will need to be mobile, and any shortage of oil could greatly inhibit their effective operations. And in any case, why impose sanctions when peace now prevails?

(e) It is the considered view of the government of the A.F.R.C. that our International Airport should be cleared of all occupation troops immediately and re-opened to normal international traffic. The partial limitation on the freedom of members of the A.F.R.C. and their families to travel abroad is noted, but this should not entail the closure of the International Airport to stop other Sierra Leoneans from traveling abroad, or coming back home.

(f) We should also like the programme to provide clear and appropriate guarantees for all our people who fled the country to return and assist in meeting the challenges now facing us. We especially invite Alhaji Tejan Kabbah and his supporters not to wait out the six-month before coming back home. They should come and join in the peace process now.

(g) The working programme must go further to clarify the nature and course of the broad-based government to take over this country in May 1998. We need more answers on its formation, composition, duration and role.

(h) It is our strong desire that technical committees that should be established to work out the modalities of the implementation of the ECOWAS six-month plan will take cognizance of these conditions and incorporate them in their programme to make the lofty aims of the plan achievable. The composition of these committees must as far as possible be made to reflect the range of interests of all the parties to the plan.

Fellow Citizens,

We of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council have said time and time again that we did not take power to cling to it. We stand ready and willing to return the country to constitutional rule within the time frame specified in the six-months ECOWAS plan. We hope the international community will assist us during this six-months period of transition, not only to consolidate the peace we have attained, but also to lay a firm foundation for our reconstruction and our political, social and economic advance. We want to consolidate the peace and push this country forward in its march to prosperity, progress, development and true democracy, and we call on all Sierra Leoneans, both at home and abroad, to exhibit a spirit of national renewal and reconciliation.

The A.F.R.C. salute our gallant youths and women who stood steadfast in the fields of great odds to defend their country in the hour of need. They are all heroes and we are proud of them. We call upon them now to re-direct their undoubted energies with the same fervour in the national reconstruction process. We know that their patience has been taxed sore and they may feel very embittered. But we appeal to them to exercise restraint and exhibit the kind of discipline that is (the) true hallmark of a hero. Together, let us all march forward in confidence under the guidance, protection and blessing of the Almighty God, to whom alone be all praise and glory. We still have the promised land to reach and gain.

Fellow Citizens,

With the onset of peace, I'm sure it is the heartfelt desire of all of us that we now begin to pick up the pieces of our lives again, and return our country to normalcy as quickly as possible. In all situations of conflict it is our children and women folk who suffer, especially so in our case where the fear of bombs indiscriminately dropped by Alpha jets have caused so much panic quizzing (sic.) off an exodus from Freetown, of our women and their children. This has completely disrupted the re-start of schools which we had originally scheduled for the 6th and 20th October 1997.

It bleeds my heart that education, the bedrock on which the future of our country depends, has been so badly disrupted.

Thanks be to God that peace is here at least. Let all be reminded that the originally scheduled dates for re-opening the schools still stand and therefore all primary, secondary and vocational schools, technical institutes and teachers colleges stand open and normal school activity should resume immediately in accordance with the announcement from the Ministry of Education. Parents and guardians should now feel easy to let their children and wards return to school. Teachers are assured that the government of the A.F.R.C. is assiduously working to pay their arrears of salaries, and I am sure this shall be very soon.

The Ministry of Education is working in collaboration with stake holders, more especially the West African Examination Council (WAEC) to release the NPSE results, and make immediate arrangements to mark and release the "O" and "A" level results, and conduct, mark and release the BECE results.

This period should be especially regarded as the preparatory period for the BECE candidates.

We also hope that all other institutions of higher learning, especially our universities, colleges and institutes, will re-open quickly in this atmosphere of peace. I am sure they are aware that my government has done everything it can to encourage them. Let these institutions reciprocate our gesture.

Fellow Citizens,

The time has come for us all to prove to the world that we are conscious of, but not proud of our poverty and we are determined to try to lift ourselves up.

Let every man and woman put his or her hand to the wheel of national endeavour, and in whatever capacity we find ourselves, let us work with honesty, dedication and diligence. It is our country and we must build it together, with God's help.

Long Live the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council!
Long Live the gallant youths and women of Sierra Leone!
Long Live the Republic of Sierra Leone!
Long Live the "One Stone" Revolution!

Thank you and God bless you all!