The Sierra Leone Web


Address by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah
At the opening of the post-election seminar
Organized by the Sierra Leone Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPC)
Parliament Chamber, Tower Hill, Freetown
12 November 2002

I am honoured to address this august gathering of honourable members of the Sierra Leone Parliament, and their visiting colleagues from other Commonwealth countries. Let me first of all, on behalf of the other branches of our democracy, extend a special welcome to our distinguished guests. Allow me also to thank the parent body, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), for supporting this event as part of its effort to foster cooperation among the branches of this great institution that is dedicated to the promotion and advancement of parliamentary democracy across the Commonwealth.

The fact that we are here today holding a post-election seminar is a testimony to the success of the dramatic process that we witnessed in this country last May, namely, the holding of free, fair, and violence-free Parliamentary and Presidential elections. Yes, six months ago we added a new page to the annals of parliamentary democracy, not only in Africa, but also in the entire Commonwealth of Nations.

While we hail and should be proud of the May 2002 process, we should acknowledge that parliamentary democracy in Sierra Leone is not new. The series of interruptions notwithstanding, we have had a long tradition of constitutional system of government. Like the CPA which has been transformed from an Empire to a Commonwealth institution, our democracy has also gone through a process of transformation. It has evolved from colonial and protectorate tutelage, to a sovereign State with its own national identity. Despite our diversity, the tradition of parliamentary democracy remains. This is what continues to bind us as members of the Commonwealth. Sierra Leone is proud to belong to this family of nations.

I acknowledge with deep satisfaction the way that this Parliament has been conducting its business since it was constituted, following the May 14 elections this year. In particular, I must commend the three political parties for working amicably and effectively for the unity and progress of the country. Where disagreements arise, I urge you to always resort to democratic procedures and the rule of law in resolving those disagreements. This is a trend that must be sustained as an example to the people you represent. Indeed, parliamentary democracy without the rule of law is meaningless.

The honourable men and women who constitute this present Parliament are representatives of a people whose sense and perception of democracy have been sharpened and re-invigorated by bitter experiences of brutality, repression and deprivation under totalitarian and other forms of undemocratic governance. In spite of all these, their resolve defied the dangers and threats in order to ensure the survival of democracy in our country. It is therefore my hope that during your deliberations, in the course of this seminar, particular attention will be paid to the need for updating the rules, regulations and procedures of Parliament to reflect the new democratic fervour in the country, in keeping with the provisions of the 1991 Constitution.

It is also my wish to see further co-operation and collaboration with all the political parties represented in this Parliament in the interest of our people, who look up to us their elected representatives, for the realization of their hopes and aspirations.

We need to remain focused in order to sustain our hard-won democracy by giving priority to hard work and selfless sacrifice, and by providing leadership of the highest quality within our respective roles in the legislative and executive arms of government. The respective roles that Parliament and the Executive must play are clearly defined in the Constitution. It rests on us to understand what these roles are and to scrupulously adhere to them. So far, it seems to me that we do have a very clear understanding of these roles and a deep appreciation of the need for collaboration. It is only by so doing that we can nurture and enjoy our democracy.

During this seminar, which I consider to be an experience-sharing opportunity, and throughout our respective mandates, I hope we will endeavour to uphold the principles of true democracy and give expression, in an open, frank and sincere manner, to our commitment and belief in the democratic culture.

It is gratifying that our efforts at building and strengthening democracy as a vehicle for raising the standard of well-being in our society are receiving the sustained support of the international community. In this regard I wish to make special mention of the Commonwealth of Nations and its various specialized organs, as well as the United Nations and its programmes and specialized agencies, and other multilateral organizations.

Perhaps it may be appropriate the remind ourselves about these commitments by observing that the more a country makes use of multilateral institutions, respecting shared values, and accepting the obligations of restrains inherent in those values, the more others will trust and respect that country, and the stronger its chances of exercising true leadership. I believe in this principle because it has served us well in the recent past and continues to do so.

I know that many of you here are adequately familiar with these ideas and principles. I therefore hope that by the end of the seminar, the values of strengthening our democratic institutions and respecting the obligations that go with it will be better appreciated. The benefit of this seminar to individual honourable members and the collective group, will to a great degree be measured in terms of the depth of information and knowledge exchanged and acquired. Indeed, I believe that the full value of this whole exercise would have been realized if these newly acquired ideas and information were to facilitate the practice of democracy. It would also have been realized if they were used to create an environment in which our freedoms and rights can be respected and our sovereignty upheld with dignity.

Once again, Honourable Members, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I wish to thank you for arranging this seminar. It is my hope that throughout your deliberations special thought and attention would be given to constructing a strategic road map that will lead this nation to peace and stability, progress and prosperity, and an environment where democracy can thrive as the only way forward.

I thank you.