The Sierra Leone Web



13 FEBRUARY, 1998


Fellow Citizens,

We have arrived at one of the most important milestones in the history of our country, Sierra Leone. You have heard the good news, the news that we have all been hoping and praying for since that ominous day in May 1997, when a few desperate and evil individuals decided to drag the whole nation back to the middle ages.

I am very happy to tell you that I wholeheartedly welcome the action taken by the patriotic members of the Sierra Leone army, the SSD, the Police, the Civil Defence Forces and other true patriots, to oust the junta and return our beloved Sierra Leone to sanity, democracy and constitutional order. The Civil Defence Forces, for their part, have clearly demonstrated that their sole interest has been to preserve the integrity of a democratic Sierra Leone, and not, as alleged, an instrument to foster sectional interest.

I have always expressed the view that there were elements in the armed forces who would not allow the junta to destroy our country. I have also had the conviction that in the final analysis, patriotic Sierra Leoneans of all walks of life, both within and outside the armed forces, would never permit the junta to hold on to power indefinitely. Indeed, with the resolve of the people to reject the junta and not to cooperate with it, the international community also denied it diplomatic recognition. My sincere thanks to you my compatriots, and to the international community for your unqualified support in defence of democracy in Sierra Leone.

We had all waited patiently, hoping in vain that the junta would see reason and cooperate to ensure that the crisis it had willfully created and imposed on us, would be resolved peacefully. However, God knows best and has decided how the situation should be resolved.

I should like to salute the Commander, Officers and other ranks of ECOMOG, for risking their lives in defence of the people of Sierra Leone. You will recall that shortly after the coup d' etat on May 25th 1997, I appealed to the Chairman of ECOWAS to assist us in maintaining law and order in the country. I am happy to report that our loyal forces have all agreed to turn over all positions under their control over to ECOMOG. By that decision they will permit the deployment of ECOMOG throughout the country.

On your behalf, my people, and my own personal behalf, I extend special thanks and appreciation to the Nigerian Head of State, General Sani Abacha and the government and people of Nigeria for their sustained brotherly effort; President Lansana Conte and the government and people of the Republic of Guinea, for their hospitality and support. I also wish to thank the government and people of the Gambia and Ghana for providing shelter and hospitality to the people of Sierra Leone in their hour of need. Our profound gratitude also goes to ECOWAS and its Committee of Five on Sierra Leone. The United Nations, the OAU, the Commonwealth, the European Community and others, including the United Kingdom, and the United States, also deserve our thanks for their unyielding support for the process of restoring democracy to Sierra Leone.

Fellow citizens,

Very soon my Government will once again be in full and effective control of the affairs of the country, to exercise its legitimate and constitutional functions. It will be doing so with much greater vigour, taking into account the situation which has prevailed in the country since May 25th 1997.

Let me at this point say to you that no one had the authority to amend any provisions of the Constitution, and the junta and its illegal machinery had no executive or legislative power to do so. Parts of the Constitution can be amended only in accordance with the provisions of Section 108 of the Constitution itself, which states in sub-section 8, and I quote, "Any suspension, alteration, or repeal of this Constitution other than on the authority of Parliament shall be deemed to be an act of treason".

Therefore, all persons exercising or purporting to exercise governmental authority, and all their actions, including those taken by the junta to award, appoint, promote, dismiss and transfer state functionaries and other personnel, are null and void. As President, and by the powers vested in me under the Constitution, I now order that the status quo on 24th May (that is before the illegal seizure of power) be maintained.

Fellow citizens,

We must face the reality that the new situation requires changes. Among other things, there would have to be a restructuring, reorganization and down-sizing of the cabinet and other structures of government. More emphasis will be placed on professionalism and probity. Ours will be, essentially a government of technocrats. Within two weeks of my return, all cabinet ministers, and deputy ministers would be expected to submit their resignation. This should allow me the freedom, under the Constitution, to make the required changes in the structure of governance.

Within a short time, I shall present to Parliament my proposals "concrete and realistic proposals" which I intend to use in charting the course of rebuilding our nation. Of course, Parliament has, not just the constitutional function in this regard, but also an important obligation to the people, to place, as far as possible, the good of the nation above party politics. I believe that we have the ability to use our multi-party constitution and political pluralism as instruments of national unity.

Fellow citizens,

Sierra Leoneans have justifiably expressed concern that those who imposed so much destruction and havoc on our people, and criminally depleted the resources of the country, should be treated according to the terms of both the Abidjan Agreement of 1996, and the Conakry Peace Plan of October 1997. I shall soon make a determined effort to review these and other related matters. Suffice it to say, at this stage, that it has been the desire of my government to fully honour and facilitate implementation of both agreements, including the provisions concerning amnesty and immunity. However, the beneficiaries of these two elements (the RUF, in the case of the Abidjan Accord, and the so-called "AFRC" in the case of the Conakry Peace Plan), have refused to yield to every peaceful overtures to cooperate in the implementation of the terms of both documents. So, it would have to be determined whether or not and to what extent the immunities to be accorded them under those agreements may have been forfeited. My government will ensure that through due process, members of the junta without any discrimination, together with their collaborators who blatantly misappropriated or fraudulently obtained public funds and diverted them to their own use would have to pay back such funds to the last cent, or return such funds to their rightful owners. Similarly, the law will take its full course with regard to those who are found guilty as having been perpetrators of the carnage and suffering of innocent people of Sierra Leone, including the destruction and unlawful seizure of their personal property.

Fellow citizens,

As President of this nation, I assure you that adequate measures will be taken to speedily put in place a plan to prevent a reoccurrence of the dastardly act which took place on May 25th 1997, and to deter future adventurism of the nature we have just witnessed. At the same time, let me assure you that no attempt will be made to deviate from our avowed adherence to the rule of law. It shall continue to be the guiding light of my administration. We shall take appropriate measures within the law to address the situation so as to take the lead in eradicating the corruption which has plagued our country in the past. 

Thus, we shall soon resume our efforts at nation-building. I would like to assure you that we shall redouble our determination to move the country away from the decadence and moribund state in which it had been plunged for thirty years immediately preceding my assumption of the office of President, and after May 25 1997. With your support, as well as with the support of the international community at large, we should be able to tackle successfully the task of repairing the massive destruction which the junta levied on our country within the space of eight months.

I say this with confidence because I am a strong believer in the resilience of the people of Sierra Leone, and in their awareness of their acquired rights since 1966. I believe in their commitment to fairness; their ability to make rational assessments, even under difficult circumstances. I also believe in their determination to forge ahead and build for themselves and for future generation, a peaceful, just, democratic and prosperous government of their choice.

It is my fervent hope that after the events of May 25th 1997, and the miserable situation which Sierra Leoneans found themselves, has caused us all to realise the fact that no one can detach him or herself completely from the affairs of state; that one can no longer say that those affairs are the sole responsibility of government and politicians. For example, the staff and management of FM 98.1 have demonstrated true patriotism. Not a single one of them is a member of my Party, the SLPP. Not a single one of them could be identified as a politician who was close to me. But because of their strong belief in democracy, and the ideals of national integration, they sacrificed their professional pursuits and family commitments in order to defend and uphold the wishes of the people of Sierra Leone.

Without exaggeration, I want to say that the men and women of FM 98.1 should be given credit for about seventy per cent of the efforts we made towards the restoration of democracy and constitutional order. We owe them deep gratitude. I hope that many other Sierra Leoneans will emulate their example in dedicating a period of their career to at least one area of national service. May I also add that a large number of ordinary Sierra Leoneans sacrificed their lives to expose the brutality of the junta. They mounted a communication strategy which is unprecedented in our history. And here I should also pay tribute to those members of the professional media, journalists, correspondents and part-time stringers, who had the courage to challenge to illegal regime. Mention should also be made of the invaluable contribution of the rest of the Sierra Leonean people who in one way or the other, resisted the junta; particularly the Youths for the Restoration of Democracy (YRD), the Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU), the National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS), the Inter Religious Council, and the Labour Congress. We shall for ever be grateful to them.

My sympathy goes to those who suffered personal injuries, harassment, loss of property and family members, because of their love for their country and democracy.

The event which has just taken place in Freetown is a victory of the people over tyranny and dictatorship. It is a victory for Sierra Leoneans, and a defeat for her enemies. It is a victory for justice over injustice, of good over evil. We Sierra Leoneans, should congratulate ourselves on this occasion for having reaped the fruits of our bitter struggle and suffering over the past eight months. To God be the glory. I plead with you to consider yourselves magnanimous victors at this crucial time of our history. Reprisals should in no way be our pre-occupation.

With this latest development in our country, we have proven to the world that we can no longer allow ourselves to be dragged back to the dark days of political instability and all its repercussions. We have demonstrated our determination to move forward and enter the 21st century with bright prospects for achieving the goals of economic recovery and self-sufficiency which we had set ourselves before May 25th last year.

I thank you for your attention.