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APPG launched in Sierra Leone…Eddie Turay begs for British continued support

APPG launched in Sierra Leone…Eddie Turay begs for British continued support thumbnail

Sierra Leone’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom has called on Britain to continue to render more assistance to the people of Sierra Leone.

His Excellency Edward Mohamed Turay made these remark during the launch of the All Parties Parliamentary Group (APPG) at the House of Commons, West Central London.

In his 20-minutes address, Turay said Sierra Leone has long-standing and deep-rooted ties with the United Kingdom – of which we are extremely proud and continue to cherish.

He quoted a 2008 report which indicated that there were approximately 100,000 Sierra Leonean immigrants residing in the United Kingdom, with over half of that number residing in the Greater London area.

The report, according to the High Commissioner, further noted that the overwhelming majority of the Sierra Leonean immigrants living in the Greater London area – approximately 20,000 – resided in the Boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, merely a short ride over the River Thames form here.

The High Commissioner said that the opposition in Sierra Leone can say anything bad about their country in their desperation for power especially now that elections are approaching.

“They say so many dirty things about their country that is untrue especially when elections are approaching,” Hon. Turay said while responding to a question from Liberal Democrat MP Simon Huges

The “rebel war”, as it came to be known, completely devastated most parts of Sierra Leone and unleashed a campaign of bloodshed, the brutality of which surpassed anything known in the history of our country.  As a result of the war, tens of thousands of Sierra Leoneans lost their lives and many others were maimed and displaced.

He seized the opportunity to thank the British government for the role played by the British forces to stabilize the situation on the ground, adding that the decisive actions taken by the United Kingdom Government helped to end what he referred to as ‘our national nightmare.’

He said the United Kingdom remains the largest bilateral donor to Sierra Leone, contributing close to 450 million pounds over the past ten years.

Working closely with the Government of Sierra Leone and other donors, it has supported efforts to build an effective, democratic and capable nation that is making steady progress in reducing poverty and promoting sustainable growth.

The High Commissioner drew reference to the World Bank which declared that Sierra Leone has enjoyed the fastest rate of improvement in political stability in the world over the last decade or so.  This, he said, is not by accident.

He said his government has continued to consolidate the peace process through the establishment and/or strengthening of key governance institutions such as the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), Independent Media Commission (IMC), Transnational Organized Crime Unit (TOCU), Human Rights Commission (HRC), Attitudinal and Behavioural Change Commission (ABC), Open Government Initiative (OGI) and Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC).

The High Commissioner described this year’s elections as ‘another critical test’, adding: “we are committed to ensuring free, fair, and transparent and violence free elections”.

According to the High Commissioner, to ensure free, fair and transparent elections, they have introduced Biometric Voter Registration.

He said upon assuming office in 2007, his President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma declared that he would “run the government like a business” – clear about his objectives and about how to get there. And, he has been resolute in making it happen.

He also spoke about his government’s “Agenda for Change” which aims to put Sierra Leone from the path of aid dependency to that of a dynamic, self-sustaining economy. It clearly articulates changes required to put Sierra Leone on a path towards growth and development in the energy, infrastructure, health, and education sectors and institution building.

The High Commissioner acknowledged the fact that there are still many improvements and changes that are required, but added: ”we are immensely proud of the work that has taken place, with help from friends and partners like the UK, to take us forward in recent years”.

Meanwhile, before and after the High Commissioner’s address, the MPs posed questions of relevance to widen their knowledge and understanding about Sierra Leone especially in the areas on business, airline, the forth-coming elections, tourism and the industrial economic growth in Sierra Leone.

MP Simon Huges who covers undoubtedly the biggest constituency of Sierra Leoneans in the United Kingdom raised concerns about the elections and the health care with a view to see which area the group can come in and assist the government of Sierra Leone.

Please see below the full speech of the High Commissioner…

Statement by His Excellency Edward Turay at launch of APPG for Sierra Leone in the House of Commons, London, United Kingdom, 20 June 2012

Good Morning Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

II.         OPENING:

It is a pleasure to speak to you in this marvellous setting in the House of Commons.  I am particularly delighted and honoured to address such a distinguished audience. It brings tremendous pride and honour to my country that you have demonstrated an interest in Sierra Leone and the issues that are important to her by launching an All-Party Parliamentary group on Sierra Leone.

On behalf of our President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, the Government and the people of Sierra Leone, please permit me to express utmost appreciation and gratitude to you for making today a reality.  I extend special appreciation for Rt. Hon. Gavin Williamson who has worked diligently at the forefront of this initiative.  Thank you, Gavin.

FURTHER, I would like to take this opportunity to unequivocally pledge to provide all support necessary to enable the APPG on Sierra Leone to achieve its principal objectives of promoting awareness and understanding amongst parliamentarians of issues relating to Sierra Leone and promoting good relations between Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom. Our government strongly believes that the launching of the APPG on Sierra Leone today will undoubtedly strengthen the existing ties between our two countries and, indeed, our respective Parliaments. I am therefore pleased to convey hereby my Government’s firm pledge to work closely with the Group in its endeavours and initiatives.

II.         BACKGROUND:

As you are aware, Sierra Leone has long-standing and deep-rooted ties with the United Kingdom – of which we are extremely proud and continue to cherish.  A 2008 report indicated that there were approximately 100,000 Sierra Leonean immigrants then resident in the United Kingdom, with over half of that number residing in the Greater London area.  The report further noted that the overwhelming majority of the Sierra Leonean immigrants living in the Greater London area – approximately 20,000 – resided in the Boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, merely a short ride over the River Thames form here.

With your kind indulgence, may I also add my personal perspective on the ties between our two countries? Prior to my current posting, I served as a Member of the Sierra Leone Parliament for over twenty-four years, during which I held numerous committee chairmanships, and also served as Minority Leader.  Given that the Sierra Leone Parliament is modelled partly on the “Westminster” style, I very often looked to the extraordinary history and tradition of excellence of these Houses for inspiration and guidance.

Indeed, my son, who is a British citizen, has taken my personal connection with the United Kingdom, as it were, a step further by enlisting in the British Army.  This past Friday, as a proud farther, I witnessed his passing out Parade at the British Military Training Centre in Pirbright.

With regards to the ties between our two countries, let me again; register profound appreciation on behalf of the people of Sierra Leon for the resolute manner in which the United Kingdom came to our rescue at our moment of greatest need – the climax of the brutal and destructive decade-long conflict that ravaged our nation in the 1990s.

The “rebel war”, as it came to be known, completely devastated most parts of Sierra Leone and unleashed a campaign of bloodshed, the brutality of which surpassed anything known in the history of our country.  As a result of the war, tens of thousands of Sierra Leoneans lost their lives and many others were maimed and displaced.

As you know, in May 2000, the situation on the ground had deteriorated to such an extent that British Royal Marines were deployed to Sierra Leone to evacuate foreign nationals from the capital, Freetown and establish some semblance of order. The British forces’ original mandate, limited to evacuating commonwealth citizens, was later expanded to include rescuing United Nations Peacekeeping force on the ground, from the brink of collapse.  At the time half of the country was under rebel control. The 1,200 man British ground force – supported by air and sea power – shifted the balance of power in favour of the government and rebel forces were routed from vast areas of the country beyond the capital.

The British forces stabilized the situation on the ground, and were the catalyst for a ceasefire that directly helped to bring the war to an end.   The decisive actions taken by the United Kingdom Government helped to end our national nightmare, and for that Sierra Leoneans are grateful to you.  Thank you.

We equally appreciate your post war engagement with our country, which has enhanced our ability to sustain and consolidate peace, and set the stage for meaningful economic growth and development.  The United Kingdom remains the largest bilateral donor to Sierra Leone, contributing close to 450 million pounds over the past ten years.   Working closely with the Government of Sierra Leone and other donors, it has supported efforts to build an effective, democratic and capable nation that is making steady progress in reducing poverty and promoting sustainable growth.

Priority areas of work include:

  • Democracy
  • Security
  • Access to justice
  • Progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including health, education, governance and the environment.

Your support has played a key role in bringing about stability in the political and security sectors in the country as well as key improvements in financial and business sector reforms.  On a diplomatic level, we are committed to maintaining good bilateral relations with the UK and look forward to the strengthening of our economic partnership.

III.        SIERRA LEONE TODAY

I will now focus on the impressive progress that my country is making in improving socio-economic conditions for the population, and also identify the challenges that lie ahead.   Indeed, we may have become a victim of our success, as people are often unaware of the progress we are making in Sierra Leone after the widely known turmoil, conflict and devastation in our recent past.  As a steadily stable and peaceful country, the Republic of Sierra Leone has moved forward at a remarkable pace since the election of our current President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma.

First, conflict has given way to peace.

According to the World Bank, Sierra Leone has enjoyed the fastest rate of improvement in political stability in the world over the last decade or so.  This is not by accident. Since we assumed the stewardship of the nation, our Government has continued to consolidate the peace process through the establishment and/or strengthening of key governance institutions such as

  • National Electoral Commission (NEC),
  • Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC),
  • Anti Corruption Commission (ACC),
  • Independent Media Commission (IMC),
  • Transnational Organized Crime Unit (TOCU),
  • Human Rights Commission (HRC),
  • Attitudinal and Behavioural Change Commission (ABC),
  • Open Government Initiative (OGI) and
  • Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC).

All these entities continue to strengthen our peace building process and Sierra Leone’s future as a viable state.

Sierra Leone is no longer classified as a ‘fragile state’. As of 2011 we rank 30 out of 53 African nations on the Mo Ibrahim Governance Index, improving our ranking year on year. And while still unacceptably low, Sierra Leone continues to improve in the UN Human Development Index year on year.

Second, the bullet has given way to the ballot.

Two Presidential and parliamentary elections, that were both judged free and fair by international observers, have been held since 2002 when the rebel war ended. Our government’s election victory in 2007 ushered in a peaceful transfer of power from the incumbent party to the main opposition party, highlighting the growing strength and maturity of our democracy.

This November we will face another critical test, when presidential, parliamentary and local government elections will take place simultaneously.  We are committed to ensuring free, fair, and transparent and violence free elections.  We have determined that conflict at election time, from our experience, arises from incidences of multiple registrations and multiple voting and impersonation, and have therefore introduced Biometric Voter Registration, which we believe will address and minimize the likelihood of the above electoral malpractices.

Furthermore, we have consolidated the existing electoral laws into one composite Act. The “Public Elections Act 2012” seeks to eliminate anomalies and contradictions in the various pre-existing laws governing electoral matters. Indeed, we have now established a fast track elections offences court to address contentious issues that often arise during the elections process.

Third, stagnation has given way to growth.

Since the rebel war ended in 2002, our economy has expanded at an annual rate of around 6 percent, despite the global economic downturn.  This is due to our prudent macro-economic management.  The IMF projects that this year Sierra Leone will experience an astonishing and unprecedented 35% GDP growth, one of the highest in Africa.  Investors are seeking out our country.   Thousands of jobs are being created.  An economic transformation is happening in Sierra Leone, and it is happening now.

Upon assuming office in 2007 our President declared that he would “run the government like a business” – clear about our objectives and about how we get there. And, he has been resolute in making it happen.

Recognizing the huge infrastructural deficit, the inadequacy of our food supply, the low level of human development, particularly in health and education, and the attendant consequences of all of these factors on economic growth and employment, we developed a road map to sustainable development entitled “Agenda for Change”.

The “Agenda for Change” aims to put our country from the path of aid dependency to that of a dynamic, self-sustaining economy. It clearly articulates changes required to put Sierra Leone on a path towards growth and development in the energy, infrastructure, health, and education sectors and institution building. As a result of its implementation, we have witnessed impressive gains in all of these areas.

Energy, we secured a regular supply of electricity for Freetown, our capital, by completing the Bumbuna Hydro Electric Dam, which had been under much delayed construction for over three decades.

Infrastructure, our Government embarked on the most ambitious rehabilitation and construction programme in our country’s history, with by now over 1,000 km of roads constructed or rehabilitated. Part of the port in Freetown, the country’s largest, has been privatised, and our international airport is being modernized.

Agriculture, which contributes 50% of our GDP, has seen major developments. We launched a programme to move away from subsistence farming to commercial, more productive agriculture. Since then, the programme has attracted over $200m in funding. And nearly 200 agriculture business centres have been established throughout the country, and are now being made operational with machinery, fertilisers and marketing facilities.

Healthcare. Given the still significant risk of poor health for a majority of our population, particularly women and children, our President launched a Free Health Care Initiative in 2010, aimed at eliminating all user fees for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and children under 5. The results were immediate – more than half of births now take place in a government facility, and infant mortality rates have fallen by about 50% since the launch of the initiative. We are grateful for the support we are receiving in this area from the United Kingdom Department for International Development.

The Education System had radically deteriorated in our country, with a large percentage of children missing out on basic elementary schooling. To address this critical problem, the Government embarked on efforts to improve access to basic education, particularly for girls, and established the Teaching Service Commission, which is reforming teaching conditions and quality.

And finally: Promoting the Rule of Law and the Strengthening of our Laws and Constitution. Concrete steps have been taken by the Government in this crucial area, including improved public financial management, a stronger investment climate, a reduction in corruption through one of the most stringent anti-corruption laws in Africa, and providing broader democratic space through civil society involvement and decentralization, including an independent public broadcasting service.

Building on positive developments since the end of conflict in Sierra Leone in 2002, the Agenda for Change has brought significant progress to the country and improved its prospects for the future.

Just over a decade ago Africa was beset by a myriad of problems, and Sierra Leone sadly epitomized these problems. Today instead of symbolizing Africa’s tragedy, Sierra Leone now symbolizes Africa’s transformation.

IV. CONCLUSION:

In concluding, let me note that, we are not blind to the challenges that face us. Our incidence of poverty is still estimated at 66%.  While lower than the 70% number recorded in 2004, it is still far too high. Too many of our citizens are poor and unemployed; too few have received a proper education, or have access to quality affordable health care when they need it.  That is why the improvement of healthcare and the reduction of infant mortality continue to be important priorities for us moving forward.

There are still many improvements and changes that are required. Nonetheless we are immensely proud of the work that has taken place, with help from friends and partners like the UK, to take us forward in recent years.

We will continue our efforts to make meaningful progress in the key priority areas identified in the Agenda for Change: power, infrastructure, private investment and education.

We believe that this strategy, if fully implemented, will lead to poverty reduction, economic growth, the creation of jobs, and overall human development. We ultimately seek to transform Sierra Leone into a vibrant, industrialized economy, moving towards prosperity that is to be shared by all.   As such Government is in the process of synthesizing these themes for the next stage of our next national development strategy, which is to be referred to as the “Agenda for Prosperity”.

We are a people of limited means but of unlimited determination and ambition. We ask that you continue to join us in our efforts to move our country forward.  Sierra Leone is blessed with spectacular natural endowments.  In a recent conference called by government to address the “Transformation and Development” of Sierra Leone, we as a people committed ourselves to better managing our natural resources so that they may indeed be a blessing, rather than a curse.  With all this potential, we Sierra Leoneans know in our hearts that “we have no business being poor”. The onus is on us to unleash our potential to secure the future we want and the future we deserve.

So, let me end here by once again saying that I look forward to working with the APPG, and unequivocally pledge my support and the support of my Government.

I thank you for your attention.

Stay with Sierra Express Media, for your trusted place in news!


© 2012, Sierra Express Media. All rights reserved.

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