The Sierra Leone Web


Statement by Commonwealth Ministerial Mission to Sierra Leone

A Commonwealth ministerial mission visited Freetown, Sierra Leone on 31 March 1998 to express its support for the country's newly-restored democratic government led by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and to discuss how best the 54-member Commonwealth could assist in reconstruction.

At the completion of the visit, the leader of the group, Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister, Dr Stan Mudenge, issued the following statement:

It is an honour for us to be in Sierra Leone as members of the five-member Commonwealth Ministerial Mission. We salute the courage and acknowledge the suffering of the people of Sierra Leone who showed their commitment to the fundamental principles of the Commonwealth in their resistance to the military junta which overthrew the democratically elected government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah on 25 May, 1997.

We express our deep sorrow and condolences to the thousands of people of Sierra Leone who lost their lives, their property, or were displaced as a result of the junta's takeover.

The Mission's presence is a tangible manifestation of the Commonwealth's strong political support to President Tejan Kabbah and his government, extended consistently prior to and after the 25 May coup.

The Commonwealth's support to President Tejan Kabbah and his deposed government was indicated by the strong condemnation of the coup and the call for isolation of the illegal military junta made by the Commonwealth Secretary-General immediately following the events of 25 May, and by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in July 1997 when it suspended the participation of the junta in the councils of the Commonwealth.

President Kabbah was welcomed by his fellow Heads of Government at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October 1997, where Commonwealth Heads strongly condemned the coup and called for his immediate reinstatement.

The Commonwealth welcomed UN Security Council Resolution 1132 authorising the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to impose economic measures against the regime, and pledged support to the efforts of ECOWAS to resolve the crisis in Sierra Leone. Commonwealth countries strictly complied with the UN-endorsed sanctions against the junta and enforced the isolation of the regime.

Once again, we pay tribute to the role played by ECOWAS in bringing an end to the rule of the illegal military junta, thereby paving the way for the restoration of the legitimate government of Sierra Leone. We pay tribute to the courage and sacrifice of the soldiers of the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), some of whom gave their lives to restore peace, security and democracy to Sierra Leone, and we commend the forces of ECOMOG deployed on their important role in supporting the restoration of peaceful and secure conditions.

This Mission is a follow-up to the commitment made by Heads of Government to support the restored legitimate government of Sierra Leone in the task of national reconstruction and peace-building.

We commend the work initiated by the United Nations, ECOWAS and other international governmental and non-governmental agencies, and particularly certain Commonwealth member countries, in providing the urgently needed humanitarian assistance and relief. We look forward to working closely with the Government of Sierra Leone and with the wider international community to meet the Government's priorities for reconstruction and rehabilitation as elaborated by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in our meeting with him this morning.

To this end, we have today discussed a number of proposals for bilateral and multilateral assistance. Some we have been able to agree upon; others specified by the President and Government of Sierra Leone we will refer to the Commonwealth Secretary-General and to our membership for immediate examination and further development in the shortest possible time. We are anxious to do all we can within the resources available and will request the Commonwealth Secretariat to participate actively in the proposed consultations between the Government of Sierra Leone and the donor group, to be co-ordinated by the UNDP.

In the meantime, we have agreed upon the following areas to be developed and implemented by the Secretariat or by member countries:

  • support for the development of a sound policy framework for the mining sector in Sierra Leone;
  • support for national institutions to enable a rapid return to normal functioning, in particular the judiciary. In this regard, we are pleased that the Secretariat has facilitated a study visit by the new Chief Justice, Mr Desmond Luke, to two Commonwealth African countries;
  • in close co-ordination with other international agencies, assistance with the reorganisation of the Sierra Leonean police force;
  • micro-projects for youth development and employment, for example in the brick-making industry for local, low-cost housing.

In our report to Commonwealth governments following this Mission, we will urge all member governments to assist bilaterally in every practicable way the Government and people of Sierra Leone in their efforts to achieve national reconstruction and reconciliation, and we will also take the initiative to bring to the attention of the world community the urgent needs facing the country. Finally, we will urge all our member governments and others to contribute to the newly-established UN Trust Fund for Sierra Leone.


31 March 1998

Note to Editors: Apart from the Foreign Minister of Zimbabwe, the Commonwealth team included the Foreign Minister of Ghana, Mr Victor Gbeho; Tan Sri Dato Musa bin Hitam, Special Envoy of the Prime Minster of Malaysia; Minister of State at Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mr Tony Lloyd, and Canada's Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa, Mr David Kilgour.

The ministers are members of the eight-member CMAG which was created by Commonwealth leaders in 1995 to deal with "serious and persistent violations" of Commonwealth principles. The decision to send a mission to Freetown was taken by CMAG when it last met in London on 2 - 3 March. Its members are: Barbados, Botswana, Britain, Canada, Ghana, Malaysia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe.

Issued by the Information and Public Affairs Division, Commonwealth Secretariat, Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5HX, Britain. Tel: 0171-839 3411; Fax: 0171:839 9081; Telex: 27678