The Sierra Leone Web




Fellow Sierra Leoneans:

I greet you in the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. To my Christian brothers and sisters, I greet you in the name of God the Father Almighty, and of His Son Jesus Christ whose birthday we are about to celebrate with tidings of great joy, peace and goodwill to all.

It is not a mere coincidence that two important events on the Islamic and Christian calendars are now being observed, almost at the same time, throughout the world and here in Sierra Leone. For us, the observance of Eid-ul-Fitre or Ramadan, and Christmas this year, should be regarded as significant. First of all it underscores the diversity and unity of our country. Once again, Christians and Moslems will be praying separately, but they will be joining in many of the festivities associated with this double celebration of Christmas and the end of the Holy month of Ramadan.

Of course, a large number of us are neither Moslems nor Christians. Yet, all of us are touched in one way or the other by the spirit of Christmas and Eid. I personally recall, for instance, the fun my Christian school mates at St. Edward's and my neighbourhood had in the colourful Ramadan lantern parades and competitions decades ago. A substantial part of my own family life has been nestled in the traditions and practices of Islam and Christianity.

This year's observance also reminds us that we Sierra Leoneans are still blessed with one of the greatest resources for peace-building and national reconciliation today, namely religious tolerance. We take pride in the fact that we respect each other's religious beliefs. Equally, we are proud to tell the world that the conflict in Sierra Leone is not based on tribal or religious differences.

Today, after almost ten years of a rebel war, we all speak of peace. We all want peace. We all demand our right to live in peace. However, we should not forget that there are many definitions of peace. One such definition is Love, which is a guiding principle of all religions. So, this year's observance of Ramadan and Christmas provides another opportunity for us to renew our commitment to uphold that principle.

The peace that we all want in this country should, I believe manifest itself in the way we treat each other. This is why twelve months ago, on the eve of the new Millennium, I suggested that while we cannot forget the political and economic turbulence of recent years, the history of this country should reflect, if not our religious beliefs, but our traditional values; values such as compassion, sharing, tolerance, and others associated with the concept of the extended family.

Fellow Sierra Leoneans, the double celebration of Christmas and Ramadan brings us to the end of another calendar year, and the dawn of a New Year. Once again we are at a crossroads. Looking back, we can say that the past year 2000 has been a year of mixed experiences. On the one hand, Sierra Leone is well on its way to economic and social recovery. A few weeks ago, Ministers of government gave an account of the state of their respective areas of responsibility. I myself, in my capacity as Minister of Defence, was a participant in that review and evaluation process. As you know, it was conducted with public participation.

In this connection, you will agree with me that in view of our painful experience in the area of security and safety, the most significant development of the year 2000, has been the emergence of a restructured, more professional and loyal Sierra Leone army. In my last New Year message, I paid special tribute to those whom I had described as some of our unsung heroes -- farmers, teachers, nurses, fishermen, petty traders, volunteer workers, among others. Against all odds they have worked hard to enhance the livelihood of us all.

On this occasion, I would like to pay special tribute to another group of men and women. I am referring to those who constitute the new breed of defenders of the nation, namely, the army. I should also add the emerging corps of truly professional guardians of the people; that is the police and other security personnel. All of them deserve the accolade of "Men and Women of the Year 2000."

Fellow citizens, this time last year on the eve of the new Millennium, the entire world was in a state of uneasiness. Even those countries like Sierra Leone that are still far across the great digital divide of the modern world, were concerned about major breakdown of computer systems -- the so-called Y2K problem. People were afraid that planes may not fly, workers may not get paid, telephone and other communication facilities may be disrupted, all because of possible commuter problems. However, when the New Year 2000 rolled in, and thanks to the experts who had taken precautionary and other relevant measures, YK2 was not that bad after all. That was in fact a major technological success of the year 2000, a success which also benefited us in this part of the world.

On the other hand, despite the landmark achievements of the past twelve months, we also experienced some uneasiness and disappointments in 2000. We recall for instance, the tragic events of early May, in Freetown, when several of our compatriots were killed or injured by those who were bent on derailing the peace process; the abduction, illegal detention, and killing of United Nations peacekeepers and other international personnel, and of course the illegal seizure of arms, ammunition and other materiel belonging to UNAMSIL.

Let me say however, that those incidents, serious and disappointing as they were, became accurate barometers for determining the commitment of the RUF to implement the Lomé Peace Agreement. They are bound to have an impact on the course of events in the New Year 2001.

Compatriots, as we prepare to make the transition from one year to the next, many of you are already thinking about national elections scheduled, constitutionally, for the New Year 2001. While this is obviously an important matter, we should not lose sight of the equally important aspect of our national agenda. I refer to the safety and security of the country and its people. These are paramount considerations that are inextricably linked to the electoral processes.

Meanwhile, I would like to reiterate that my vision for Sierra Leone in the coming years is a stable and democratic nation where, among other things, every individual will live in personal safety and security, without fear of being victimised by the threat or use of armed force for whatever reason; where partnership will remain the cornerstone of every transaction, and in every sector of society; where political inclusion will always be the order of the day; and where the principle of "love your neighbour as yourself" will always remain in the hearts of all Sierra Leoneans.

I wish you all Eid Mubarak, Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year 2001.