The Sierra Leone Web





Fellow Citizens:

I have just returned home after a week in the United States of America, where I addressed the 52nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, and paid a brief visit to Washington, D.C. It was a pilgrimage, a peace mission, undertaken on your behalf. I say on your behalf because you had given me a mandate in March last year when you elected me as your President.

I am happy to report that my mission was successful. At the United Nations, I presented your case to the world. I told the Assembly that there is no peace in Sierra Leone; that there is no security in our country; that for almost five months now the entire nation has been held hostage by the RUF/military junta. Yes, and you know it; that the junta overthrew your democratically elected Government by brute force, killed people mercilessly, raped and terrorised others, looted and destroyed personal and state property. Of course, I told the world on your behalf, that in your own way you are fighting back by refusing to cooperate with your captors. I also let the United Nations know that meanwhile, our people are crying for help; help to lift them out of the dungeon in which they are being held captive at gun point by a few greedy and unpatriotic soldiers and their RUF collaborators.

My fellow Sierra Leoneans, I was overwhelmed by the positive response which I received in the General Assembly. At the end of my address, delegates from virtually all member states of the United Nations stood in line, not only to greet me, but also to express their support for the people of Sierra Leone. As you may have heard on the radio, although they had their own problems to bring before the world body, many Heads of State and Foreign Ministers devoted parts of their policy statements to the crisis in Sierra Leone. They were unanimous in their condemnation of the coup, and in their call for the restoration of my Government, the Government that you, the people, elected in March 1996. For this I am grateful. I wish to assure you that no country has recognised or plans to recognise the illegal RUF/military regime in Freetown.

On this issue of non-recognition, let me say that one of the highlights of my visit was my meeting with the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State. The outcome of that meeting was significant; significant because the United States of America is the only superpower, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, and a great defender of the principles of democracy, good governance, human rights and fundamental freedoms of all peoples. It is also significant because of recent misperceptions and misinformation about United States policy on Sierra Leone.

I am happy to tell you that I have received, on your behalf, the assurance of the United States Government that it fully supports the efforts of ECOWAS, as well as a United Nations Security Council resolution to impose sanctions against t he illegal junta in Freetown. And that is not all. We have also received the assurance of the United States that if negotiations do not succeed rapidly, force may be used instead. While condemning the seizure of power by the RUF/military junta, and deploring the abuses of the regime, the United States of America has called once again for the prompt restoration of the democratically elected Government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

My fellow Sierra Leoneans, force is not an end in itself. It is only an option. Indeed, not the first, nor the second, but the third option in the plan to rid our people of those who want to govern without your consent, and with guns literally over your heads. Force is an option to be used only when all else fails. That is, if the RUF/military junta refuses to give you back your democratically elected government.

You will recall that the first option, namely, dialogue between the regime and the ECOWAS Committee of Foreign Ministers, ended abruptly when the junta announced its decision to remain in power for four years. That decision alone convinced us that it was time to apply the third option, force. Instead, we chose to impose sanctions for the time being. During my visit to New York, I convinced member states, that while the option to use force remains, the United Nations Security Council should impose sanctions against the illegal regime. It is my hope that all members states will cooperate in enforcing and monitoring the sanctions. Meanwhile, we have no objection to any dialogue or negotiations between the ECOWAS Committee of Five and the junta, as long as they do not go on indefinitely. Secondly, as long as they do not deviate from or distract attention from the first and foremost objective of the people of Sierra Leone, ECOWAS, and the United Nations, namely, the early restoration of the democratically elected Government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

The fact is that time is not on our side. Our children have to go back to school. Our hospitals, clinics, banks, post offices, markets, the civil service, and other institutions have to start functioning again. We have to start picking up the pieces, so to speak. We have to start salvaging and repairing the massive damage that the RUF/military so ruthlessly inflicted on innocent citizens. We want to see all the United Nations and other international agencies back. We also want to see all the foreign embassies, important links to diplomatic and development exchanges, return to Freetown as soon as possible.

During my visit to the United Nations and Washington, D.C., I was encouraged by the concern of our compatriots about the tragic situation here at home, and the plight of thousands of our brothers and sisters who are either displaced or are refugees in neighbouring countries. I was particularly impressed by their efforts to mobilise financial and material resources to benefit, not only their own relatives, but also the other victims of the treachery, hatched and violently executed by a section of the army and their RUF allies. I met many Sierra Leoneans who were all ready to return home with business and other plans for the development of their country; plans and dreams which were abruptly shattered on 25 May 1997 by the coup makers. I also met non-Sierra Leoneans, ordinary people who are prepared to help us meet our everyday needs for food, clothing and medicines. They want you to know that you are not alone.

My fellow Sierra Leoneans, the new diplomatic victories we have scored during the past ten days should inspire us to remain strong and confident that it won't be long before we achieve our objective. And you know what? The threat we face today is not external. It is not from ECOWAS. It is not from ECOMOG. It is not from the United Nations Security Council either. The source of the threat is right here, inside our country. It is the RUF/military junta.

And remember this. No organization would have imposed sanctions or suggested the use of force as a last resort, if the RUF/military junta had not violently overthrown the Government which you had freely elected in March 1996.

May God or Allah bless you all.