The Sierra Leone Web



9 December 1997


Mr. Chairman:

I am greatly honoured to be able to address this Islamic Summit Conference in the beautiful and historic city of Teheran. I would like to express my profound gratitude and appreciation to you, Mr. Chairman, Your Government and people of your great country, the Islamic Republic of Iran, for the warm reception and kind hospitality which have been so generously extended to my delegation. May I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your recent election as President of your esteemed country.

Permit me Mr. Chairman to congratulate His Excellency Dr. Azeddine Laraki on his appointment a year ago as Secretary-General of the OIC, and to commend his staff at the Secretariat for their diligence.

Mr. Chairman, this summit is taking place at a time when the international community is faced with numerous problems in an ever-increasing number of member states of this organization. These problems which include political, security, and financial, will demand the critical and concerted attention of this Organization.

It is unacceptable for example that Israel has been putting obstacles in the way of the peace process in Palestine, and the implementation of the Oslo Agreement. We must insist on the return of occupied Palestine Arab land and condemn the provocative policy of building new Jewish settlements on such land. We therefore call on the State of Israel to heed the demand of the entire international community and the vast majority of her own citizens to take the bold and imaginative steps necessary for the restoration of lasting peace in the region.

We are encouraged by the positive developments taking place in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but the situation there is still far from resolved. We are therefore calling for additional international efforts and goodwill on the part of all concerned to achieve enduring peace in that area. I would also make similar appeals for an acceptable resolution of the problems between Iraq and the United Nations on the one hand, and Libya and the United Kingdom on the other, so that we can all work together and utilize our valuable resources to maximize our strength for the development of our countries and peoples.

We commend the efforts of the OIC towards the promotion of peace in Afghanistan and encourage it to continue to be engaged in the peace process there. We would also like to see a more prominent role for the Organization in resolving the internal and international conflicts involving its member states. Above all, we would like to see strong solidarity and resolution among OIC member states in confronting crises that affect them, be they political or economic.

Mr. Chairman:

It is regrettable that as we are considering proposals for restructuring the Secretariat of the Organization, we also have to worry about its perilous financial state.

Clearly, the restructuring will have to be handled delicately and skillfully if it is to have any desirable net effect on the functioning of the Organization.

We regret our inability at this time to fulfill our financial obligations as soon as our circumstances improve, because we have always taken our membership of this esteemed Organization seriously.

Mr. Chairman:

I see my participation at this summit as an eloquent demonstration of the confidence that I have in the OIC. I believe that at the conclusion of this Conference, the OIC will send a strong message to the whole world, and in particular to the illegal junta in Sierra Leone, that this Organization will not accept, and cannot compromise its principles.

It is my fervent hope that this summit will add to the clear and unequivocal stance already taken by the Organization of African Unity, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Commonwealth, and the United Nations, namely, not to have any contact with the illegal regime operating in my country since 25 May 1997, by denying them recognition, upholding the Security Council and ECOWAS sanctions against them, and generally refusing them any form of assistance.

Mr. Chairman:

The rejection of the junta by the people of Sierra Leone started from the outset. Angered by the unwarranted overthrow of their elected Government, the vast majority of the Sierra Leonean people demanded that the junta leave power immediately and reinstate the legitimate Government. This demand was backed by a nation-wide campaign of civil disobedience. Six months later, the resolve of the people remains unshaken. Schools throughout the country, banks and factories have remained closed. Thousands of citizens, some out of fear for their lives and other human rights violations, simply abandoned their homes and their country, moved into neighbouring countries, declaring they would rather live as refugees outside Sierra Leone, than stay under the rule of the junta. Those who stayed behind have refused to go to work, and in various ways refused to cooperate with the junta. This is a clear evidence of the determination of Sierra Leoneans never to surrender their hard-worn democracy.

The junta cannot continue to survive this pressure for too long without complying the peace plan signed in Conakry, Guinea on 23rd October 1997. Indeed, the crisis will be over quickly with the consistent and effective enforcement by ECOWAS of sanctions which have been imposed on the regime by ECOWAS and the United Nations Security Council. For this to happen, needed material and other logistic support must be given to ECOWAS, the enforcement agency which has so far accomplished a great deal. We therefore appeal to the OIC for any such support it may be in a position to provide.

Mr. Chairman:

The growing publicity in certain parts of the world characterizing Islam as a religion of violence should be confronted vigorously and without delay. Islam is all about peace, and to say otherwise is clearly malicious. At the same time, we strongly condemn extremists who carry out senseless violence in the name of Islam.

There is perhaps need for a strategic plan to address this problem which is having serious adverse effects on the appeal of our faith to children, and the dignity and prosperity of our respective nations.

While acknowledging the complex nature of this problem, I would like to offer the following modest proposals to be considered in any structured approach that may be contemplated:

  1. All member states should take keen interest in conflicts within member states of the OIC and play an active role in seeking solutions to those conflicts;
  2. Influential member states of the Organization should be particularly active in finding solutions to conflicts between two or more member states;
  3. Where there is a conflict between a member state and a non- member state of the Organization, members of the Organization that have influence on the non-member state should effectively use that influence to resolve the conflict;
  4. The capacity of the Secretariat of the OIC should be strengthened to assist in conflict resolution efforts undertaken by member states and to spearhead an effective and credible public relations campaign to change this erroneous perception that Islam is a religion of violence;
  5. Finally, we appreciate the steps already taken by the Secretariat to study this problem. I would like to urge them to assign the highest priority to this task, and to submit their findings and recommendations to the next summit at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Chairman:

Because of this adverse propaganda that Islam is a religion of violence, I personally went through a lot of difficulties in my electioneering campaign because one of my opponents unleashed a propaganda campaign that if I were elected I would introduce "Muslim fundamentalism and its inherent violence" into our country. And with that propaganda, he sought and received substantial assistance from certain Christian quarters. But with the help of Allah, I was victorious; winning large proportion of the national vote, yet without similar assistance from brotherly nations in the Ummah.

Mr. Chairman:

For the sake of our children and their children, it is imperative and urgent that we change the erroneous perception of our great religion which is coming accross as a violent religion in some sections of the international media.

Mr. Chairman:

After about thirty years of unprogressive one-party rule, I inherited a country that had been devastated. The economy was in ruin. The infrastructure we inherited had been destroyed, and the general attitude and moral of the people had sank to the point of hopelessness. To kick start the economy and the morale of our people, we needed external aid. Inn this regard, I should like to acknowledge here the generous assistance we received from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the State of Kuwait, the IDB, the State of Qatar, and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Mr. Chairman:

As my Government comes close to a full resumption of its state responsibilities, we look forward to your assistance towards the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country following the devastation caused by a seven-year rebel war, exacerbated by the damage being inflicted by the junta. In just over one year (March 1996 to May 1997) of my Government being in power, we raised the growth rate of our GDP from minus 10 percent to a positive growth of 5 percent; lowered the inflation rate from 65 percent to about 6 percent. Even as we undertook a rigorous IMF-supported economic reform programme, involving tight fiscal discipline, trade liberalization and privatization of public enterprises, we endeavoured to protect the vulnerable members of our society by implementing poverty alleviation programmes. We are ready to continue these programmes and to develop a stable economy.

Finally, Mr. Chairman,

Let me offer special thanks to the member states of ECOWAS for their enduring commitment to peace and stability in Sierra Leone, and in particular, the President of the Republic of Guinea, His Excellency General Lansana Conte, for offering me protection immediately after the coup, as well as for providing refuge to a large number of Sierra Leoneans who fled to Guinea; General Sani Abacha, Commander-in-Chief and Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for the invaluable support and encouragement he has extended to me and my people; President Yayah Jammeh of the Gambia, for his outspoken support of my Government, and for admitting into the Gambia large numbers of Sierra Leonean refugees.

Wassalamu Alaikum.