The Sierra Leone Web





Mr Chairman
Cabinet Ministers
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Members of the Sweissy Jewellers Organisation
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Let me first of all congratulate the executive and entire membership of the Sweissy Jewellers Organisation for their commendable initiative in organising what they have called the "Sierra Leone Awareness and Achievement Day", an occasion to celebrate the contributions and achievements of a number of Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad, and to establish them as role models for the youth in Sierra Leone.

The economic and social condition of our young people in this immediate post war context is one of the major pre-occupations of my Government. This is why we have created the Ministry of Youth and Sports which has the specific responsibility to handle youth affairs. That Ministry wasted no time in formulating a National Youth Policy that lays down the framework for youth development interventions and the broad principles of Government's plans for the empowerment of young people. However, for Government to be able to take up the challenge of youth empowerment there is need for adequate resources and political commitment. In this regard, I am happy to announce that the issue of youth unemployment was a special agenda item at the last Development Partnership Committee Meeting where Government, Civil Society and the donor community agreed to present a comprehensive national youth employment programme for funding support at the next Donors conference on Sierra Leone to be held in Paris in May this year.

While the youth unemployment situation is being addressed, Government is also sensitive to the need for our youth to feel included in mainstream social life, and to be part and parcel of the huge assignment of national reconstruction that is in progress.

It is therefore with great pride and satisfaction that I have come here to honour this brilliant initiative.

At a time when through their music and other media, and under the guise of social protest, some Sierra Leoneans are working hard to tell the world that there is nothing good about their country, it is indeed refreshing and encouraging to observe that some young people in our society do recognise that there are achievements to celebrate and good Sierra Leoneans to be proud of.

This brings me to the concept of an "Awareness and Achievement Day." The word "Awareness" implies a call to reflection on fundamental questions such as: Who are we? What have we become? How do we value ourselves? Where do we go from here? How do we move on?

A people must be aware of its history, its identity, its condition, and its potentials if it should meet the challenges of social and technological transformation in an emerging new world.

Our history has been one of elation, honour, pride, prejudice, hate, greed, anger, turmoil, peace, triumph and hope.

Our identity is that of a people proud of its diversity, tolerance, warmth and hospitality.

Our condition today is that of a battered nation, poor, traumatised, impatient, expectant but by all means proud of its freedom.

Our potential is that of a country that can become the "Star of Africa" if only we love her and show it by doing the right thing.

Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me now say a few words about "achievement". It is indeed a sad fact that a seed of despair and negativity has been sown in the minds of a few but vocal Sierra Leoneans who tend to believe that nothing has been achieved since the end of the war. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that the end of the war itself is one major achievement of which we should all be proud and appreciative.

On the same streets where armed gangs killed, maimed, and burned just a few years ago, we now receive Presidents and Princes who bring in the goodwill, solidarity and commitment of their people to help us rise again to glory.

Sierra Leone, only a few years ago, was in the extremely peculiar situation of a country without schools, hospitals, public buildings, roads, bridges and also seemingly without hope. Today, most of these have been restored and by the Grace of God and with the help of our partners in the International Community we look forward to brighter days in the coming year when our plans and programmes would have started bearing fruits and the patience and understanding of our people will have been rewarded.

Our achievement in bringing peace and putting the machinery of state back on track must be considered to be an achievement of the people of Sierra Leone in general. My Government played the significant role of providing leadership for this process but if the people had refused to follow in the path of peace and democracy we would still be in a state of war today. If we as a people apply the same resolve that we demonstrated during our struggle for peace in our current national development efforts, then prosperity will be our next major achievement.

But for as long as we continue, through song and print, to hide our achievements as a people and create a mood of despair and negativity that frightens investors away, it is not only the Government but also the whole nation that will suffer the consequences.

Therefore the invitation by the Sweissy Jewellers Youth Organisation for us to "value our men and women of excellence" is most appropriate and timely. Within the general context of our national achievements, the performance of a few good men and women stand out.
Some have taken the torch of Sierra Leone to distant lands, rising to leadership positions and making us proud. Others have taken great risks and braved the tempestuous seas of the post war economy by investing in businesses that have created jobs for young people. Others still have become world stars in media, sport and music, providing a shining example of excellence for our youth to emulate.

We are talking about true sons and daughters of Sierra Leone, our country. Some Sierra Leoneans will only love their country if things are good for them, but sadly, during difficult times they will not hesitate to discredit and dishonour her, sometime to the amazement and disbelief of foreigners who know this country's worth.

So this is the time for us to counter the "Pull him/her down" syndrome (Phd) with a rallying call to recognize and respect those among us who have excelled and become good role models for our youth today.

I therefore congratulate all of you who have been recognized for your contributions. May you continue to do more for your country and may others follow in your footsteps.

I was particularly pleased to hear from the Crown Prince of Norway on his recent visit of the high impressions he gained from the activities of the youth of this country which he witnessed for himself. He told me that he was greatly impressed by the organisational and managerial arrangement put together by the youths involved in the car wash business at Government Wharf in Freetown. The manner in which they kept their books and made detailed record of their income and expenditure was the beginning of the development of genuine entrepreneurial skills for the youth of this country. He was further impressed by the activities of the youth in Kono whom he saw engaged in large cooperative farming in that District.

The Norwegian Prince expressed his amazement at the rapid recovery and development we have made in this country in the short period since the end of the war in comparison to what obtains in other post-war countries.

It is clear from these observations that foreign visitors to this country evaluate the performance and activities of, not only the Government, but even the youth and easily recognise those engaged in activities that will enhance their own development and the development of the nation. They are quick to identify young people who do not depend entirely on Government for everything that they need, but are prepared to take advantage of the opportunities now existing to provide employment and create wealth for themselves. I am proud of such young people and I urge them to continue.

Finally, I cannot help but refer to a new development that must also be considered to be one of our achievements as a nation. You may have noticed that today countless numbers of youth groups all over the country hold seminars, workshops and conferences on issues that are crucial to national development, inviting specialists, professionals, politicians, donors and other stakeholders to share their knowledge with them.

Workshops and words have now replaced ambushes and guns as our march to development goes on.

May God bless our efforts, and I thank you all for listening.