The Sierra Leone Web




Fellow Citizens,

As I speak to you today, I continue to be deeply saddened by the scale of personal suffering and loss of loved ones and property by many residents of Freetown over the last three weeks, particularly those living in the eastern part of the city, where the rebels embarked on an orgy of atrocities, including rape, mutilations and arson. On behalf of myself and my Government, I would like to convey once more my heartfelt sympathy to the entire citizenry of the Western Area, and in particular, to those who have suffered injury, the loss of family members, loved ones or property. I deeply regret that despite all the efforts made by my Government within the means available to us, absolute security was not available for all of you.

As you are aware, normal life is gradually returning to the city of Freetown and its environs. The operation by ECOMOG, supported by the other security forces to rid the entire Western Area of rebel elements is proceeding in earnest. Your support and forbearance while this process continues is therefore crucial. Therefore, I appeal to you to continue exercising patience. Bad as the situation is for many of you today, it is now clear that it could have been worse. In this regard, I would like to express our deep appreciation to ECOMOG and all other loyal forces for stopping the rebels in their tracks, and for striving to successfully restore normalcy to the city. To the families of those fighting men who lost their lives in the process, I extend once again, our deepest condolences. To those who sustained injuries, I would like to express our profound sympathy, and to wish you all a speedy recovery.

To those who volunteered their services in a variety of ways both to government, ECOMOG and those less fortunate, particularly medical personnel, and those who are assisting in cleaning up areas declared safe, I wish to extend my personal gratitude and that of the entire Government. The people of Sierra Leone will for ever be indebted to you. For without your efforts, things would have been more difficult.

Fellow citizens,

Having reflected deeply on the events of the past few weeks, and on the basis of our investigation, it is now clear that the level of external involvement in the conflict in this country is much greater than anyone had imagined. The project to capture Freetown was meticulously planned, lavishly funded, and its execution directed by a multinational mercenary force. The aim of the rebels and their allies was to take over the whole city or completely destroy it. Fortunately, thanks to the steadfastness of ECOMOG and other loyal forces, even though the rebels, regrettably committed unspeakable atrocities against innocent civilians and destroyed public and private property, they failed to achieve their main objective. Instead, they have suffered massive casualties. Many of their commanders and thousands of their elite fighters were killed.

I am aware that for many of you, this is small consolation, considering the losses you have suffered. However, I would like to assure you that Government, the entire sub-region, and traditional supporters of democracy in Sierra Leone, have come to realize the scale of the international conspiracy aimed at destabilizing not only Sierra Leone, but the entire sub-region, using misguided and deprived elements in our societies as tools. This realization has galvanized more support for Government and ECOMOG to rapidly finish this rebellion once and for all.

On its part, Government is now committing substantial additional resources to national security, and I am pleased to report that this stance has received the support of the major international financial institutions. This will enable us to support the recently initiated recruitment, training and equipping of the new army, and a national militia which will be ready to complement the efforts of ECOMOG and eventually take over the defence of the country. Government is also in the process of upgrading its bilateral military cooperation with countries in and outside of the sub-region to ensure long-term security guarantee for our country. Government's attention is now therefore focused solely on efforts to bring this sad chapter in our history to a speedy conclusion.

At this point I must state that a very disturbing feature of what has happened over the past few weeks, is the alarming level of collaboration with the rebels by many Sierra Leoneans. This has made the task of the security forces very difficult. It is extremely disheartening to note that so many people could condone the type of barbarity we have witnessed. However, considering the fact that we have had over two decades of bad governance and rampant corruption, it is perhaps not so surprising that Sierra Leone has bred so many people whose humanity has been reduced to such a level that they could carry out the type of atrocities experienced in Freetown. It is clear that many attitudes need to change if we are ever to create the type of society we can hand over to our children with a sense of pride.

Fellow citizens,

The task ahead of us is daunting, in the face of the level of destruction and suffering visited on our capital city. However, I wish to assure you that your Government is doing all it can to bring relief to the thousands of people currently without food, shelter or medical supplies. Some of the results are now evident, and others will soon emerge. I would like also at this point to inform you that as a result of the massive scale of destruction to property, Government is currently considering the possibility of introducing some sort of loan scheme which would enable individuals to rebuild their homes. In addition, the level of import duty on building materials will be reviewed as a matter of urgency. This is over and above current efforts being made to provide temporary shelter for those currently homeless.

In the area of food and medical facilities, rest assured that over the next few days you will witness a marked improvement in the facilities being provided. However, I would like to appeal to all those who are now using or trying to use what is being provided for the benefit of all to satisfy their own selfish desires, to desist forthwith. This is a time for all of us to help those less fortunate than ourselves, not to exploit them.

Finally, let me once more appeal to all of you for unity, in the face of this destabilizing occurrence. Let us not allow the evil forces to overpower us. Let us resolve to stand firm in this dark hour, for the dawn will soon break. Let us all sum up the courage needed to persevere. Without this, the land that we love, our Sierra Leone, will be doomed. Let us find solace in the fact that in the end, Good will always triumph over Evil.

I know, and I urge you to believe that out of the ashes will rise a new and great Sierra Leone of which we will all be justly proud.

I thank you for your attention.