The Sierra Leone Web





Fellow citizens,

Since my last broadcast to the nation two weeks ago, there have been a number of important developments in our quest for peace and stability in our country. The highlights of these developments included my visits to four capitals in the West African sub-region.

But before I tell you more about them, I thought it is appropriate to remind ourselves that this time last year we were all celebrating the restoration of democracy and a return to constitutional order in our beloved country, after eight months of agony under an illegal and vicious military/rebel junta. On the 10th of March 1998, we pledged that we would hold back our tears, try to look ahead and work together to repair the physical and emotional destruction which the regime had brought on this nation. However, within a few months, and just when our rehabilitation and development projects which had they had disrupted were beginning to take shape, the rebels and their allies, who claimed that they wanted peace, struck again, mercilessly.

I have mentioned this not, as the saying goes, to open old wounds, or to evoke a feeling of despair. On the contrary, the intention is for us to briefly reflect on those bitter experiences, and on the sporadic but continuing rebel attacks in some parts of the country. Such a reflection should help us determine what courses of action we, as government and people, must take collectively to ensure peace and stability in Sierra Leone.

And this brings me to some of the developments which have taken place since my last nation wide broadcast about the peace process two weeks ago.

First of all, I have taken note of the decision of the rebels and their allies to respond to my appeal for the release of thousands of our children whom they had abducted, drugged and armed to commit atrocities against innocent civilians. Since they have only released a small number, I would like to renew my appeal for the release of all them to us through UNICEF and other agencies that care for children.

You will recall that on your behalf I had called on the United Nations Security Council, among other things, to seriously consider action to stop the flow of arms and ammunition to the rebels and their allies. I am delighted that the Security Council, in a unanimous decision last Thursday, expressed its intention to keep the issue of external support to the rebels and their allies under close review, and to consider further steps to address this in the light of developments on the ground. I also wish to commend, on your behalf, members of the Security Council for their decision to renew the mandate and increase the number of military observers in UNOMSIL, the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone. I consider the observers as catalysts for the peaceful settlement of the current crisis. Their return is not only consistent with the responsibility of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security, it should also help to restore some degree of confidence and encourage international non-governmental relief organizations to return to Sierra Leone and resume their full scale activities in the country.

Fellow citizens,

During the past several days, I visited Lome, Lagos, Accra and Abidjan. I am pleased to tell you that the most significant and encouraging outcome of my mission to those capitals is the assurance I received that our friends and supporters will never abandon us. Indeed, that while recognizing political realities and financial constraints in dealing with the conflict in Sierra Leone, they will not prematurely withdraw their support for the survival of this nation, and for the stability of the West African sub-region. In this regard, I am also pleased to inform you that since my last nation-wide broadcast, there has been additional commitments of bilateral assistance which will greatly enhance our capacity to implement our Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration programme, and our effort to build a new national army. Let me take this opportunity, on your behalf, to express our sincere thanks to the various friendly governments which have contributed generously to the cause of peace and stability in our beloved country. We look forward to a timely response from member states of the United Nations to the Security Council's renewed call for financial and logistical support to ECOMOG, and for the creation of our new army to defend this country.

My recent mission to the four capitals has also revealed encouraging signs of progress in the peace process. It is my hope that these would soon materialise, especially in the context of the proposed internal dialogue among the leaders of the RUF. I wish to add here that in the past week or two, I have acknowledged new initiatives which are now under way within Sierra Leone to contribute to the peace process. I have also received some concrete proposals, from respected individual Sierra Leoneans and national institutions, which I am now studying. Let me assure you that I will continue, as far as possible, to facilitate, and even encourage viable options aimed at the peaceful resolution of the conflict, using the 1996 Abidjan Agreement as the basis of any such settlement.

Finally, we are encouraged by the increasing international support for our two-track approach to the conflict, namely, stabilising the security situation while pursuing political dialogue. Those who continue to frustrate our efforts as well as our commitment to dialogue, by attacking our towns and villages, and by creating new stumbling blocks in the way of peace, should never underestimate our determination to vigorously maintain this two-track approach.

Today, based on recent developments in and about Sierra Leone, we have every reason to believe that prospects for recovery are getting brighter. We shall overcome, and Sierra Leone as a nation will definitely survive.

I thank you for your attention.