The Sierra Leone Web



Saturday 27 March 1999


Fellow Citizens,

Since I spoke to you two weeks ago, there has been a marked improvement in our capacity to address many of the problems still facing our country. I am the first to admit that these problems are still numerous and formidable. But what country in the world is totally free of problems. We only have to listen to world news on the radio to realise that even leaders of rich and powerful nations are faced with crucial decision-making of their own; decisions about the type of action to take when negotiations and dialogue fail; decisions about war or peace; decisions that can determine the fate of millions of people in every corner of the world, including our own.

I am sure you will agree with me that these are not easy tasks for any leader; for any nation, rich or poor, weak or powerful. We, for our part had made a number of decisions for the peaceful resolution of the conflict with the rebels. We decided, first and foremost, that we would approach our problems on two fronts - what we describe as the two-track approach. That is, to try and stabilise the military/security situation throughout the country, I repeat, throughout the entire country, while at the same time pursue the political process of peacemaking. I can assure you that we have not deviated from these courses of action.

Issues relating to the second track - the political process - are what I would like to talk about today.

Fellow citizens,

You will remember that early last month, as part of our continuing efforts to bring lasting peace to our country, I asked you, the people, to let me have your views as to how we should proceed with the peace process, taking into account the Abidjan Peace Accord which the RUF leader Foday Sankoh and I had signed in 1996, in the presence of representatives from Cote d'Ivoire, the United Nations, the OAU and the Commonwealth. The reason why I asked for your views is simple. It was based on our democratic principles. Decision-making on vital issues for the good of the nation is not the sole prerogative of government. Ours is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We, both government and people, are all in this together. My request was also based on our African tradition for conflict resolution, that is to discuss, consult and try to arrive at a consensus on how we should conduct the peace process.

Well, I am happy to announce that I have received numerous suggestions or proposals. Some are general, but inspiring. Others are concrete, specific and challenging. Normally, I would have liked to say "thank you for your contributions". Instead, and under the present circumstances, I would like us to congratulate ourselves for this effort which, you will agree with me, constitutes one major step on the road to lasting peace. I have therefore asked the National Commission for Democracy and Human Rights (NCDHR), to compile these suggestions and proposals into a single document. These views will be part of the matters the Government would use in conjunction with the 1996 Abidjan Peace Accord, in dialogue with the RUF.

Fellow citizens:

This brings me to another important decision we had made. You will remember that because we were receiving mixed signals from the RUF about the peace process, we suggested that their leaders should also be given an opportunity, based on the principles of democracy and our African tradition on the settlement of disputes, to hold consultations among themselves, and to come up with their own consensus on how they intend to proceed with the peace process.

Accordingly, we decided, just over a month ago, that although his case is pending before the Court of Appeal, the RUF leader Foday Sankoh would be allowed to go and join his colleagues for those consultations. Of course, we know the RUF and some of their supporters were reluctant in taking full advantage of that golden opportunity. So, we went on to suggest two possible venues - Lome (Togo) and Bamako (Mali) - for those RUF consultations.

Fellow citizens:

Over the past few weeks we have determined that the RUF would have no objection to holding their internal consultations or dialogue in Togo. So, we are now proposing that Foday Sankoh meet his RUF membership in that country, on or about the 18th of April 1999. However, and I must emphasise this, it is our expectation that the RUF consultations should not last for more than six to seven days.

Wouldn't it be a good idea for us all to celebrate our thirty-eighth independence anniversary on April the 27th. in peace? I am sure that even though we may not have the resources to make it a real festive occasion, all Sierra Leoneans would at least celebrate, on that day, our freedom from this futile and costly conflict. I don't think it would be unrealistic to achieve that objective by that date, if indeed the rebels are ready to accept, without conditions our latest initiative for peace. It is not unrealistic to hope and pray that on that day, April 27, 1999, we can all celebrate freedom and peace. I believe it is possible for us all to join and sing, harmoniously, and meaningfully:

"High we exalt Thee, realm of the free,
Great is the love we have for Thee.
Firmly united, ever we stand, singing thy praise, O native land."

Fellow citizens:

Time is of the essence. We have suffered for far too long. We have arrived at a consensus for the peace process. Now is the turn of the RUF to start putting democracy to work. Let their leadership consult, face to face, and come up with their own consensus document on how they intend to move forward towards lasting peace.

We cannot accept, nor can we afford any further delays in the search for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The RUF leadership decided that the only way they can assume power is to wage a brutal war against the people of Sierra Leone, and on every government in this country for the past eight years. They decided to make a deliberate and calculated effort to seize power, or failing that, to destroy the lives and property of thousands of our citizens, terrorise others into refugee camps in neighbouring and other countries, mutilate and maim still others, including innocent children. Yet these victims are the same people whom the rebels and their allies think they can ultimately rule.

Yes, it was eight years ago that the RUF leadership took a unilateral decision to wage war. Today, I challenge them to take a decision, a collective decision for peace, genuine and lasting peace. On your behalf I would like to say to them: Come on, brothers and sisters, enough is enough. Lohn Tah.

I thank you for your attention.