The Sierra Leone Web


Brothers and Sisters:

A few weeks ago, as the Holy month of Ramadan was about to end, Christians were ushering in an important festival in their calendar, namely Advent or the celebration of the expected coming of Christ. Once again we were reminded of the spiritual ties that bind us, Moslems and Christians, as members of the same human family, worshipping the same Deity.

It is interesting to note that generosity, the noble act of giving and sharing, is common to the religious observances of Ramadan, Advent and Christmas. At Ramadan the Angel Gabriel delivered Allah's great gift to Moslems, in the form of the Holy Quran. At Advent there is the keen expectation of the imminent birth of a son as earlier announced by the Angel Gabriel. He was to be widely regarded as God's greatest gift to mankind. The Christmas story itself includes the presentation of gifts from three kings to the newborn baby Jesus - gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Although Christmas is a religious occasion, it is now almost universally associated with the exchange of gifts, or presents. Here in Sierra Leone, around this time of the year we often hear people say, "ah go want mi Krismes O!" It is a friendly remark, often received with a smile, and then in most cases, ignored. However, it does serve a purpose. It reminds us that Christmas is a time for giving, a time of sharing with others whatever little we have.

There is a saying that "Christmas does not come everyday." That is true. However, I believe that the spirit of generosity that fills the air during this festive season could be carried over into the New Year and beyond.

Generally speaking, Sierra Leoneans are generous people. We are proud of our extended family tradition, a tradition that is expressed, for instance, in the popular saying that "nah wan pohsin dey bohn, but noh to wan pohsin dey mehn," meaning that as a community we all have responsibility for each other's children. We are so to speak, each other's keeper. We do share our individual resources with others. However, I believe that we can still do better, especially in the common interest of the nation.

So, my message to you fellow citizens, brothers and sisters, for this season and the coming year 2004 and beyond, is that each and every one of us should remember always to ask God to bless our country and our efforts as we all know that without His blessing we only labour in vain. We must also always remember to thank God for His favours to us so far. These are partly manifested in the willingness of our development partners to make ample and generous provision and assistance for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of our country after the war. The results of such assistance can be seen in the completed or ongoing rehabilitation works on, for instance, the Connaught and PCM hospitals the several health centres and clinics, education facilities and other physical infrastructure in the Western area and some parts of the provinces. The delay in embarking on or completing other infrastructural activities especially the roads is attributable to either the useful prescription made by our donor partners that the award of contracts for such activities should meet international bidding standards and procedures which normally extend over a period of five months or more or because of the rainy season which incidentally still continues in the eastern part of the country and within which period such activities may not be undertaken. Otherwise, we should, within a season like this, express gratitude to God for our being able to prove to our development partners that we have planned our development strategy well and in a manner as to be acceptable to them.

We should try and make an effort to share our gifts and talents with our fellow citizens. We are told that it is more blessed to give than to receive. We may not be rich. We may not have gold, diamonds and other precious stones to give to anyone. We may not even have enough money or food for ourselves. However, this should not dissuade us from sharing with others, if necessary, some of the little things that we are fortunate to have. Our gifts can make a difference. It can take any and many forms - a cup of water, half a cup of rice, and a piece of bread or cassava. Remember the gift of the widow's mite, how acceptable that was.

There are other ways of giving. Some gifts may be less tangible. They may comprise of our talents and we can also give and share with friends, neighbours, relatives, the community and the nation at large. Another important and material gift, which this nation is demanding from us all now is reconciliation. In many circumstances all we need to do to maintain the spirit of this season is to make a kind gesture, say a word of praise in a deserving case, and congratulate ourselves for the achievements we have made so far as a nation, for the assistance received up to date from our donors and the manner in which such assistance has been utilised in the national interest. These are gifts from the heart. They can be more precious or even more lasting than material gifts.

Giving is not just an act of charity or kindness. It is a blessing. Those who are Christians know that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Fellow citizens, brothers and sisters, at the end of the year many people make New Year resolutions. Others do not, because they are afraid that they won't be able to implement them.

Whether or not we make New Year resolutions, the fact remains that every one of us has expectations. For instance, we expect Government to provide all the social services we need, such as potable running water, electricity, fuel, health centers, schools and shelter. In other words, you know what the State can and should do for you. Fair enough. However, have we forgotten that other people - neighbours, family members, and friends also have expectations? I think that most of us tend to forget that the State also has expectations, that it expects us as citizens to give some of our time, services, talents, ideas and other individual resources for the good of all.

The New Year 2004 provides us the opportunity to link our individual expectations and those of other people and institutions that comprise the State of Sierra Leone. In doing so each of us should decide what we can do for our country, and what we can give to our country.

For instance, I would like to know what you as an individual can do to help us achieve one of the principal objectives we set ourselves just over eighteen months ago, namely to achieve a high level of food security and work towards ensuring that by 2007 no Sierra Leonean goes to bed hungry. In the next few months we shall be conducting a comprehensive and thorough assessment of our collective effort to meet that goal. You, the people, not Government, will be the centre of that process, a process that we expect to organize and conduct nationwide.

I look forward to your cooperation in seeing this through.

Meanwhile, let me wish you all a merry Christmas, and a peaceful and productive New Year 2004.