The Sierra Leone Web




Fellow Sierra Leoneans,

Today, the 8th of May 2001, all of us remember with deep sorrow that infamous event in our history when, exactly one year ago, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), brutally suppressed a peaceful demonstration organized by the Civil Society Movement and Members of Parliament.

The purpose of the demonstration was to draw attention to the intransigence of the RUF in refusing to heed national and international appeals for the release of 500 United Nations peacekeepers who had been held captive by the rebels. The demonstration was also intended to accentuate the demand of our people for peace and stability, something which the RUF continued to deny all Sierra Leoneans.

Alas, the response of the RUF rebels on that fateful day was brutal. They murdered twenty-one of our compatriots and left dozens of others injured. Those whom we lost did not die in vain. They fell in the front-line of peace. Theirs was not merely a contribution to the struggle for democracy, but an act of heroism for the survival of this nation. They are indeed heroes and heroines. Their memories will for ever remain in our hearts.

Sisters and brothers, as we remember the victims of that sad event of May 8, 2000, we must also pay tribute to all those throughout the country -- civilians, soldiers, members of the CDF, the Police, as well as our ECOMOG and UNAMSIL friends -- who have lost their lives in the course of the struggle to ensure peace, safety and security for the people of Sierra Leone.

The event of May 8, 2000, is a reminder that although the road to peace is often long and hazardous, we cannot afford to abandon the pursuit of peace and justice. To do so will not only give the perpetrators of brutality and destruction a sense of false victory, but we would be conceding our right to life, freedom, security and safety. We must therefore remain steadfastly committed until we achieve our common objectives.

We should all stand firmly behind members of the Civil Society Movement, Parliamentarians and others for their initiative in mobilizing civilian effort to overcome the forces of national destruction that continue to threaten the peace and security of our country. The peace activities of civil society, non-governmental organizations and other forces do complement the efforts of our military, the police, and United Nations peacekeepers.

Let me take this opportunity to reiterate my own commitment and that of the Government to the search for sustainable peace, political and economic development in this country. Indeed, you will recall that in my inaugural address to Parliament in 1996, I had pledged that as far as possible, I would travel anywhere, and engage in dialogue with anyone - and I repeat, as far as possible - in the interest of durable peace in this country. This has remained my guiding principle.

It is in that context that a Sierra Leone Government delegation was in Abuja last November for discussions which resulted in the Abuja Cease-fire Agreement. That Agreement was supposed to be reviewed one month later. Unfortunately, it was not until last month that the first review was conducted under the auspices of ECOWAS.

I wish to emphasize that it was in our national interest, and consistent with our commitment to the search for peace, that a Government delegation was in Abuja last week to review progress in the implementation of the Agreement. The result of the meeting has given us more convincing indications about the futility of obstructive and delaying tactics from any quarter. Last week's meeting also strongly suggests that while we should remain cautiously optimistic about the prospects for lasting peace, we should not tolerate attempts by any individual or group to sabotage the peace process. The progress we have made so far is irreversible.

Today, as we remember the fallen patriots of May the 8th 2000, we should also remember that there are many paths to peace. All Sierra Leoneans should, among other things, take comfort in the fact that today also marks the beginning of United Nations sanctions against Liberia. This action, a peaceful one I must say, if implemented by all states, especially those in our sub-region, should also give us reason to be optimistic about peace in our dear country.

I thank you for your attention.