The Sierra Leone Web




Mr Ambassador:

I am pleased to receive the Letter of Credence by which His Excellency Mr George W. Bush, President of the United States of America has accredited you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Sierra Leone as well as the Letter of Recall of your predecessor Mr Peter R. Chaveas.

Please convey to President George W. Bush my very best wishes for his personal well-being and happiness and for the continued prosperity of the Government and people of the United States of America.

Mr Ambassador,

I note your remark that the United States shares many of the goals of my government particularly those relating to the promotion of good governance, including the promotion of democracy, respect for human rights, promotion of freedom of expression and press freedom, transparency and accountability in the management of public resources and the commitment to the achievement of national prosperity with equity. As you have rightly observed, since the assumption of office by my government in 1996 we have been able to register noticeable achievements in the pursuit of these goals with the strong support of the American Government and individual Americans both in their public and private capacities.

Indeed, it was largely because of the generous financial contribution and strong support of the United States of America through the United Nations and other avenues that we were able to overcome the greatest threat ever posed to the survival of our nation during the ten-year long rebel war. As part of your government's engagement in the search for a peaceful solution to the conflict, former Secretary of State, Dr Madeleine Albright visited Sierra Leone on a peace mission. This was complemented by frequent telephone calls directly to me from other senior State Department officials. We will never forget this demonstration of interest and solidarity by your government. Along the way, we became the country with the largest UN peacekeeping force ever deployed in a single operation.

Mr Ambassador,

At this juncture, let me pay tribute to one of your recent predecessors in the person of Ambassador Joseph Melrose during whose tenure we fully appreciated America's role in the world as a benevolent power sensitive to the peculiar needs, circumstances and complexities of smaller and weaker nations. Ambassador Melrose who was here during the worst period of the conflict never left his station. He endured all the difficulties of that period in solidarity with us. He used his presence to cultivate the confidence and trust of both the Government and all the other parties to the conflict and, teaming up with special envoys from Nigeria, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity and the Commonwealth, played a vital role in brokering the Lome peace agreement that ushered in the peace that we are enjoying today.

Mr Ambassador,

You have noted some of the policy initiatives and programmes that my government has introduced and observed many of the critical challenges that face our country as we strive to make Sierra Leone once again a beacon of hope not only for its citizens but for the region as a whole. Beyond the government initiatives that you have highlighted, such as reintroduction of decentralization, the creation of an Anti-Corruption Commission, the introduction of a far-reaching security sector reform designed to align the institutions of the police and the military with the development aspirations of the nation, and the development and implementation of a comprehensive Mining Policy including strategies to regulate the diamond industry, we have also undertaken many more development initiatives that may be worth noting.

We have, for example, introduced a National Social Security Programme which when fully operational, will provide an effective social safety net for those members of our society that are less able to care for themselves. We have introduced programmes of support for less privileged children in the educational system. Primary education is virtually free for every child throughout the country and girls in the Northern and Eastern Regions of the country whose educational achievements are lower than those of their colleagues in the other regions have been provided with special incentives for them to catch up.

As I stated in my address to Parliament after my re-election as President for a second term, a major thrust of my government's policy is to ensure that no Sierra Leonean goes to bed hungry by the year 2007 when my term of office ends. It will no doubt interest you to know that our relentless pursuit of this goal is producing some results, and we are optimistic that we will meet our target.

We have developed a comprehensive Agricultural Policy geared towards the maximum utilization of our extensive agricultural potentials not only to achieve national food security but also to take advantage of export opportunities. This policy also aims at creating decent and rewarding jobs for our youths in the agricultural sector to guarantee them the brighter future which we know they deserve and is within our power to provide.

Very significantly, we have introduced vital reforms of the public procurement system with the assistance of the UNDP's Inter-Agency Procurement Services Office (IAPSO) to eliminate one of the major sources of corruption.

We are further strengthening the public accountability mechanism through the establishment of a Public Expenditure Tracking Survey (PETS) and the implementation of a programme of reform of the Auditor-General's Department to make it more autonomous, better staffed and to give it greater powers.

Mr Ambassador,

Throughout our time in office, we have maintained a stringent economic reform programme with the international financial institutions reflecting our commitment to strict financial discipline. Recognizing the pivotal role of the judiciary in the maintenance of social stability, the promotion of democracy and economic development, we have established a Law Reform Commission to modernize our laws and help create the appropriate institutional arrangements that will underpin a robust judiciary capable of dispensing justice fairly and speedily. In addition, we have sought the services of expatriate judges and prosecutors to strengthen those areas of the judiciary such as the processing of corruption related cases that need urgent attention, while we proceed with the medium to long-term reform and development of this vital institution. We are right now making plans to fill all vacancies at all levels in the judiciary to avoid delays in dealing with cases in the courts.

We have developed a National Youth Policy designed to greatly increase the capacity of the youth to effectively participate in all aspects of our national development efforts.

We have also embarked on an extensive infrastructural development programme to enhance the effective implementation of our development initiatives in the other sectors particularly agriculture and health. In addition to the development of a comprehensive National Health Policy, we have refurbished, built and equipped several hospitals, clinics and related facilities throughout the country to improve access to health care by the great majority of our people.

Mr Ambassador,

I have gone to such great length in calling attention to some of the development and related initiatives that we have undertaken since the end of the war, to illustrate that we are focused and systematic in our approach to the solution of our nation's problems. Like you, I fully appreciate that in spite of these efforts, a lot more remains to be done. Therefore, we are encouraged to be more steadfast by those who are justifiably critical of our record of achievements in certain areas. But all too often, criticism is made without due appreciation of the complexity of the problems that we face and the severe constraints within which we have to operate. We welcome criticism provided it is enlightened, constructive, sincere and not motivated by vengeance or spite or indeed borne out of ignorance. Otherwise it becomes difficult for Government to convince or help donor partners to help us regain our capacity to be self-reliant.

Mr Ambassador,

I appreciate your pertinent observations about the promise held out by the effective implementation of the decentralization programme as well as our record in promoting press freedom. I have also noted your offer to assist us in achieving our objectives in these areas and in the fight against HIV/AIDS and lassa fever. In particular, your offer to assist the Sierra Leone print and broadcast media to attain and maintain high professional standards is highly welcome, because we recognize the pivotal role that a free media can and must play in our efforts to develop sustainable democracy in our country.

The determination of your Government to continue to assist diamond-producing communities to enable them realize the full benefits of their efforts is laudable. We, on our part, are committed to collaborating with your Government in the fight against such inhuman practices as Trafficking in Persons and Terrorism. Please be assured that we shall enact into law, legislation to combat Trafficking in Persons forthwith and this law will be enforced vigorously.

Mr Ambassador,

We look forward to the expansion of American investment in Sierra Leone during your tenure and beyond. This is why we are committed to the creation of a conducive investment climate as reflected in the development of an investment code for Sierra Leone which has just been enacted into law. We are also determined to take full advantage of the opportunities for our export to the United States of America that are provided by the African Growth And Opportunities Act (AGOA). In this regard, we believe that the rehabilitation of cocoa and coffee plantations which became overgrown during the war years can lead to an effective and early utilization by our farmers of export opportunities offered by this legislation. We hope that we can obtain the necessary support for the immediate rehabilitation of these plantations.

Mr Ambassador,

I cannot end this statement without making recourse to history which clearly shows that there are long-standing relationships between the United States and Sierra Leone. When our African/American compatriots came back to Africa a few centuries ago, they chose, inter alia, Sierra Leone and Liberia as their haven. These early pioneers have left indelible marks in the early development of Sierra Leone especially the Freetown area. It is interesting to note that American missionaries were responsible for the establishment of one of the first churches in Freetown and their congregation was mainly from the Temne ethnic group. The aftermath of the American war of Independence brought to our shores Nova Scotians and Maroons who contributed in no small measure to the early development of our capital city, Freetown. The epic of the Amistad, so glowingly captured in film, the Gulas of southern United States, to name but a few, celebrate the flames of freedom and culture of our people and the long traditions of US justice of which our two countries deserve to be proud. Perhaps it is in this spirit that you have suggested that we work together to raise the status of Bunce Island into a recognised international heritage site. We welcome your suggestion and commit ourselves to the development of this important cultural and historical landmark.

Mr Ambassador,

Immediately after our independence, it was the practice for the US embassy here to consult with our government on matters relating to international cooperation before the annual UN General Assembly. During those consultations, US interests in the international arena were broached and we in turn indicated our particular national interests. In this way, we were able to develop synergies that took cognisance of each other's national interests within the broad spectrum of international relations. It is my intention, Mr Ambassador, that during your tenure, we develop mechanisms to resuscitate this practice especially now that all of us have declared an unrelenting war against terrorism and HIV/AIDS. I am sure it will provide good opportunity for mutual support while at the same time maintaining national perspectives in such fora

Mr Ambassador,

I note, with particular pleasure, and I am sure all Sierra Leoneans join me in this, especially those from Gbinti, that you served as a Peace Corps Volunteer who taught in that part of our country. Your commitment to our educational development has no doubt produced Sierra Leoneans that are today helping the restoration of stability and development in our country. Your country also has the proud distinction of having trained some very eminent Sierra Leoneans that returned to serve this country in various spheres of life. May I mention Dr John Karefa-Smart, our first Foreign Minister, the late Professor Solomon Caulker, Mr Doyle Sumner, and there are many more in this category including if I may say, my own dear late wife. In essence, Mr Ambassador we look forward to the day when the Peace Corps Programme will return to Sierra Leone to further contribute to the noble task of cooperation and excellent human relations which you and many other young Americans started in the 1960s.

I am pleased therefore that you are returning to this land as Ambassador at a time when our country is on its way to recovery from the ten-year conflict that led to so much destruction and pain. I have every reason to expect that your tour of duty will be marked by a higher level of collaboration between our two nations for the advancement of our interests including those that are unique to our respective countries because of our different circumstances.

May I now extend a hearty welcome to you!