The Sierra Leone Web



My fellow Sierra Leoneans in the United States and members of the fourth estate, I take this opportunity to extend our gratitude to the Government and people of the United States of America for the hospitality extended to me and my delegation during the WTO Conference in Seattle, Washington. Let me also express my unreserved thanks to the WTO, UNCTAD, the OAU/AEC/ and the other international agencies for the hard work and time spent in preparing us for the conference. My special thanks goes to those donor countries who facilitated the participation of my delegation by providing financial support.

Ladies and Gentleman, I wish to remind you that prior to the outbreak of the civil war in our country in 1991, Sierra Leone had suffered nearly three decades of misrule by greedy and selfish politicians. Where injustice and lack of consideration for the common good of the citizens of our country were the order of the day; it was inevitable that the result would by social upheaval. War in itself is most undesirable for the well being any society but the reality of life is that circumstances do provoke wars and we are forced to live with consequences; unpleasant though they may be. You will remember that just 10 years ago our nation was dominated by a dictatorship that not only abused the rights of its citizens, but also perpetrated a subculture of kleptocracy, violence and economic degradation. Most of us witnessed the period when APC politicians declared a one-party state aided and abetted by the judiciary. These same politicians with selfish disregard for our dignity and integrity, pursed goals contrary to the national welfare. The results of the one-party state, we will now know: they include the "vouchergate" scandal, and election-related murders of people in Kailahun, Makeni, Kenema, Bo, Freetown, Kono, Pujehum, etc.

We were determined not to allow such a system to continue into the millennium. We have struggled relentlessly for over eight years and during that period, many unfortunate things happened. As one of the warring factions, we regretfully accept some responsibility for the consequences of the war. That we will have to live with. I wish, however, to assure you that both the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the present Government of Sierra Leone, of which I am a part, are totally committed to the peace process in our country along the line agreed upon in the Lome Peace Accord which was signed between the then Government and the RUF on the 7th July 1999. The RUF has, in fact, now transformed itself into a political party, which is the RUF Party and we are now determined to seek political power through the ballot box and not the barrel of the gun. We are equally committed to upholding the rule of law and democratic principles in Sierra Leone.

The Lome Peace Agreement is the most viable document in consolidating the peace we now have in Sierra Leone. The implementation process has been slowed mainly due to lack of adequate funds and full understanding or appreciation of the various issues. Notwithstanding this, significant strides have been made by all the parties to abide by the Agreement and support its implementation. Let me therefore use this forum once more to thank all those who have contributed to the achievement of peace and security in Sierra Leone. As a people and as a Nation, we plan to set aside this ugly episode in our history and to move forward in the spirit of reconciliation, towards the path of democracy, stability, transparency and good governance, by undertaking public service reform, the empowerment of civil society, institutionalising the fight against corruption, decentralization of the authority and responsibility of local administrations.

Distinguished colleagues, ladies and Gentlemen 25 years of poor governance followed by almost 10 years of civil strife has devastated our society. Our economy has virtually been destroyed. Trade links with the outside world are virtually non-existent except, in the case of diamonds; and both our industrial and agricultural base have been destroyed. In the remaining life span of this government, however, pending the next elections in the year 2001; we wish to make as much progress as possible towards correcting the imbalances in our society. My particular area of operations as you well know is that of Trade and Industry and there are certain aspects of the work of my Ministry which I am particularly interested in pursuing.

We realize that the task ahead is huge and I understand that to make an impact we need to by very focused and selective in our approach to solving problems. My Ministry therefore wishes to concentrate on the following areas:

- Job Creation

- Establishment and Support of Small Industries;

- Training and the acquisition of skills for young people and

- Reactivation of micro-credit schemes and growth centers.

(Although these existed in the past they, had become dormant.)

We shall, particularly look to UNIDO for assistance and advice and I sincerely hope that the WTO will do all in its power to assist Sierra Leone in emerging from its present state of crisis.

Distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I am not a man of many words, so you would excuse me if my statement is very brief. But I wish to assure you once more of our commitment, to the peace process in Sierra Leone, upholding the rule of law and creating a stable economy and an atmosphere conducive to private investment.

We realize, that investors, logically, put a great premium on the security of there investment. We shall do all in our power to grant them this assurance.

May I take this opportunity to thank you for your attention and to thank all those who have, in one way or the other, contributed to the success of this meeting.

I look forward to continuing contact with you all.

Thank you.