President Kabbah addresses the SLPP Delegates Conference in Makeni

STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY
THE PRESIDENT AT THE SLPP DELEGATES CONFERENCE
ON SATURDAY 3RD SEPTEMBER 2005

MR. CHAIRMAN,
MR. VICE-PRESIDENT,
CHAIRMAN OF THE PARTY,
MEMBERS OF THE SLPP,
MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS,
DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.


I should first of all like to thank the Paramount Chief and elders of Bombali Shebora Chiefdom as well as the District and Town Council chairpersons and Councillors for the kind hospitality they have so generously extended to us since our arrival in Makeni.

2. I should also like to extend my profound gratitude to the entire membership of the Sierra Leone People’s Party and particularly those who supported me and insisted on my being the Party’s flag bearer in 1996. Their patience and understanding in convincing me to agree to serve the Party as its leader is much appreciated. The successes which we have achieved together are shared with all members of the Party.

 

3. I believe that those who supported me and our party did so in the belief that only the SLPP, under my leadership, was capable of moving this country forward after several years of decadence. It was this conviction that propelled me also to accept the Party’s leadership and consequently, that of the country.

4. To those members of the Party that supported me in 1996 whose personal problems I was not able to solve, I crave your understanding. I believe that the fact that they had access to me should be regarded as sufficient compensation since we shall all share in the positive achievements and praise attributed to the Party.

5. Makeni is not new to me. When I returned home in 1959 after my academic studies in the United Kingdom, Bombali District was my first posting in the then colonial administrative service. From Makeni I was transferred to Moyamba, Bo, Kono, Kambia and finally, Freetown. I was in Freetown in 1964 when the SLPP decided to organise its Convention here in Makeni. The then Prime Minister, the late Sir Albert Margai, had just assumed office and asked the following civil servants to accompany him to Makeni: Dr. Peter Tucker, Late John Kallon (younger brother of Mr. Maigore Kallon) Late S.B. Daramy, Late Morkeh Yamson and myself. Our mission was to prepare the Prime Minister’s Keynote Address since, as senior civil servants, we were very familiar with government policies. On that occasion a prominent APC member saw me in Makeni and said that I was to cease regarding him as a friend because we belonged to two opposing political parties. I was surprised by his outburst because I believed that the process presented challenges for opposing political parties to sell their programmes to the people on behalf of their respective parties. I considered it strange that this could be regarded as an occasion for targeting individuals for victimization.

6. This attitude to me stands as evidence to a pregnant moment in our country’s history. Across the country the pain from this attitude abounds. We must be certain that it too leads to new birth and not a tragic miscarriage of opportunity.

7. Upon my assumption of office as President in 1996, I decided that we must turn pain into power, pain into peace and prosperity, pain into partnership – not pain into polarization. Hence my policy of National Cohesion. The great temptation of tribal polarization and economic injustice to make political arguments should be avoided. We must not miss the moral imperative of wrong and right. For vanity asks – Is it popular? Politics asks – Will it win? Morality and conscience ask – Is it right?

8. We are part of a continuing struggle for justice and democracy; links in a chain that began long before we were born and will extend long after we are gone. History will remember us not for our positions but for our principles. Not by our move to the political centre, left or right, but rather by our grasp of the moral and ethical centre of wrong and right. My policies as President were supported by votes at elections both in 1996 and 2002, but these policies also were supported by those who had not voted for me and never would do so. As a pragmatic and moderate politician I understood very early in my presidency that Sierra Leone needed one strategic variable to change its destiny, and that variable was human capital. That is why the cornerstone of my political philosophy has been the empowerment of people to be able to do things for themselves and to create the capacity within state institutions. I hold the view that in this way there can be a developmental route taken by Sierra Leoneans together in the search for a common ground so that we can always build consensus and national cohesion.

9. Like one distinguished world reknown politician, I am basically a pragmatist, believing in turning ideals into reality. Pragmatism has led me to be a moderate for most of my life and I think that it is useful because a good idea, a good proposal, should be valued independently of its origins. I have therefore tried to develop this discipline of being without prejudice in my transactions with others.

10. I am not and cannot be an ideologue because the one big problem with ideology is that it confuses the debate over action in public policy. It treats as great moral issues specific problems that should be confronted as problems of operational efficiency in the public sector, since there are no important disagreements over general goals, but only over the best ways to achieve them. As one who has worked in the public sector almost throughout my working life, except when I practised law in the United Kingdom sometime in the early seventies, I have come to realise, over time that when one is a progressive – and I want to be one, and to continue as one for the rest of my life – one cannot confuse instruments with objectives. For instance, if I say the left is my tribe, this becomes a criticism of my tribe. We cannot amuse ourselves, as do some leaders on the left, by inventing our future while the right continues governing in the present. But one would always see the other tribe, the conservative tribe as being obsessed with economic growth as a technical problem. When we advocate income distribution through education and health care, others would say these are problems of social equity. There are those who are not very concerned with how to create wealth. Some hold the belief that all problems are solved through redistribution but unless you can learn how to create wealth what can you redistribute? But again those who learn how to create wealth forget that wealth must be redistributed in order to make wealth-creation sustainable. People are often told to wait awhile for enough wealth to accumulate in order to begin redistribution. But before that time arrives, there is a crisis. So how can redistribution take place in time of crisis? Does one wait until the crisis ends?

11. This kind of impasse can go on for decades. The only way to break this impasse is through broader comprehension and agreement on common goals.

12. These common goals must deal with changing conditions. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 signified a transformation, which, for instance, changed the course of global political development. We have since then, moved from a totalitarian to a democratic political landscape where the rule of law and freedom of expression are upheld.

13. It has been noted by other keen political practitioners that social justice, a moral concept, is also an economic concept that must be applied to sustain economic growth. No developed society has emerged from what is now called underdevelopment without having solved basic problems such as growth and income redistribution, especially indirect income redistribution, as well as the development of a research capability for the mastery and application of science. A more fashionable methodology of this approach, mostly prescribed by the World Bank and the IMF is the PRGF or Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility.

14. This indirect redistribution is embedded in the development of human capital, through education and health care and by the building of modern physical infrastructure. This redistribution demands a long-term strategic consensus among political and economic interests.

15. One is always tempted to ask: What do we lack in dealing with some of the new complexities in our global village, of which Sierra Leone is a member? Often we lack consensus, a strategic consensus, to define a sustainable strategy that lasts beyond changes of governments, beyond the constitutional terms of a legislature or a President. There cannot be a consensus on too many issues, for that would be too complicated. But a consensus on three or four major issues could mobilise everyone’s efforts. All developed countries have this kind of consensus on issues that unite people and remain outside the arena of debate. These elements of consensus enjoy a kind of permanence that strengthens countries. This kind of consensus is especially important for the development of human capital. The failure to develop human capital is a source of great anguish. Even in countries with abundant natural resources like ours, there will be no possibility of development; there will be no future, if the nurturing of human capital is neglected.

16. The second major goal of consensus is in the infrastructure. Any modern country needs ports, airports, highways, railroads, electricity, and water supplies. When the public sector lacks capacity to build and maintain physical infrastructure, it must persist in finding resources elsewhere, wherever it can. Government should be able to have the wherewithal to develop more flexible instruments, develop new sources of savings and mobilize other elements of society to assume responsibility. The term “social responsibility” has become fashionable, a catch phrase. In the generation of wealth, businesses must understand that they not only have responsibility to be efficient in meeting the needs of their customers. Businesses must also assume a more central role in balancing growth with income redistribution through the contribution towards the development of education and infrastructure.

17. In this new era States worldwide are withdrawing gradually and permanently from direct generation of wealth in national output. Instead they are now concentrating their efforts on providing the services needed for governing the public space that we all share. We should be aspiring to do the same.

18. To be able to manage a country effectively one has to assess the problems and where necessary apply solutions that have worked in other countries after taken full account of national peculiarities. Critically thinking, let us examine public services which used to be characterized as monopolies. In many countries, for instance, electricity monopolies are called natural monopolies. But they are only historical monopolies, not natural monopolies. Civilized use of electricity did not exist 150 years ago. How can this be called a natural monopoly? Electric power industries used to be vertically integrated, conducive to monopoly structures, especially in the public sector. But new political changes, technological developments and the lack of government funds for major infrastructure investments are leading to a break-up of electricity monopolies worldwide, with generation, transmission and distribution becoming separate businesses. We shall see a lot of this when Bumbuna is complete and starts to generate electricity and when government’s master plan for the supply of electricity takes its root in this country.

19. Never have political constitutions designated access to electricity and telephone as universal human rights, such as access to education and health care have often been described. If a right is universal, it becomes an instrument and purpose of public authority. If a universal right becomes law, government must fulfil its obligations. These universal rights may be implemented by the State fulfilling its own responsibility, or indirectly by private agents. So why cannot public services outside the scope of universal rights be provided by the private sector? The National Commission for Privatisation has been established by my government to address these issues and we have been preoccupied with institutional development as a means of not only expanding the institutional space, but of modernising our institutions so that they can provide efficient services.

20. We who stand with working people and the poor have a special responsibility. We must stand for what is right; stand up to those who have the might. We do so grounded in the faith that what is morally wrong will never be politically right. But that if it is morally sound, it will eventually be politically right.

21. Politics in my view is not about lies. It is about being truthful, faithful and loyal to the people we seek to serve. For members of our Party, we should be able to understand that there should be space for others belonging to different political parties so that we can achieve national cohesion and stability. Trying to think only about ourselves can lead to bad governance and favouritism and that could also lead to corruption and an unstable political and security environment. The leadership of any party and leaders generally should ensure that everybody has a stake in the country and guaranteed a bright future. This is the basis of my overall principle of accommodation as manifested in my approach to political adversaries as well as supporters. That is why I have decided to build a social safety net into National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) so that there could be a future for every Sierra Leonean especially during their old age.

22. In particular, I have been and I am still extremely concerned and committed to increasing the supply of food all year round and to provide assistance to those in our society who do not have the capacity to meet their consumption needs on a regular basis. Our recent surveys show that we are making gains in the food security programme, especially in the production of rice, the staple food crop. Additionally, we have also increased production of other food crops as well as livestock.

23. Recently, I had occasion to visit a farm of about 400 acres, which is typical of farms around the country. This farm is very close to Freetown, in the Koya Chiefdom. I came to the conclusion that, even in the Western Area and Port Loko alone, leaving out the other major rice producing districts, we can grow enough rice to feed our nation, and to export the surplus. In fact at the ceremony in Koya, the UNDP Good Governance adviser reported that she had visited almost 200 such farms in the country, in all the districts, under the Agricultural Business Unit scheme being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Local Government and Community Development and the UNDP.

24. With this possibility, I am convinced that our food security objective is achievable. However, there are still pockets of low production and lethargy on our part, which create the traditional persistent hungry season between July and October.

25. My countrymen, food security is a firm basis for national security and economic development. Therefore, I am calling on all Sierra Leoneans to engage or invest in food production and supply as a way to insulate our hard-earned peace so that we can feed ourselves and export rice to neighbouring countries and generate more income to drive poverty from our nation.

26. Incidentally, a local farmer in Koya, in fact a women’s co-operative leader, reported during our visit that when we first announced our food security objective, they were confused. Like so many people, they were made to understand by certain people that the government will supply free food to all. She said now that, on the contrary, she and her group understand that food security involves people working very hard whether in agriculture or otherwise to ensure year round supply of food in their households and contribute to national food security, they are now fully committed. I am gratified that our message is getting through.

27. As your Head of State I urge all of you to embrace this goal more vigorously to ensure that we achieve total success.

28. The first waves of decreeing human rights in liberal societies, by the French Revolution and the United States Constitution, focused exclusively on individuals, guaranteeing equality under the law. For individual liberties, the basis of democratic coexistence, to be effective and real, they must be reinforced by positive public action in education and health care. These are two sectors in which my government has placed a very high priority.

29. As a national leader and as a pragmatic politician, what interests me is achieving goals. This was something I tried to inculcate during the years I served as a United Nations official and I have always found its application very rewarding not only to society but also to myself. Indeed, I have always realised that building infrastructure requires savings and that if the public sector lacks money to create infrastructure, it should seek savings or capital elsewhere. Without infrastructure there would be no development, and here I mean visible development.

30. This was a paradox I was faced with when I became President in 1996. I was confronted with a situation where I wanted to create infrastructure everywhere but the reality was that we had a very brutal war to prosecute and the situation did not make it possible to create our wealth or obtain capital elsewhere. So I concentrated on the only strategic variable relevant for us at the time, which was to end the war. But this also required that we must have a nation that was together and its human capacity able to identify itself with the vision of the leadership. During those difficult war years, not only did we have to believe in ourselves to be capable, we had to make ourselves capable. Today, we can all breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that we were able to quell a war that had the capacity not only to decimate many more of our citizens, brothers and sisters, but a war that could have left Sierra Leone very badly disintegrated, such as is witnessed in other parts of the world. We are grateful to the British Government for their timely intervention particularly in the areas of logistical support and training as well as their outstanding performance in restructuring the military, prisons and the entire Security Sector. The role of the United Nations in the Security Sector as well as in kick-starting our development efforts is also appreciated. West African leaders especially of Nigeria, Guinea and Ghana, took the initial step of committing ECOMOG troops in order to ward off invading rebel forces. Those countries and their leaders deserve our gratitude.

31. As I indicated earlier on when I attested to my efforts in building consensus, one of my government’s most critical areas of concern is education. A lot of our attention is directed towards that sector because it is one of the keys to our future success as a nation. Any change in basic attitudes in our society can only be achieved through education and by training. We have been able to achieve much with great popular support, especially in education and health care, not only with votes we won in elections, but also with the support of those who have agreed that we have to break the barriers of our underdevelopment with the design and implementation of sound policies that will change the physical reality of our country. Here I will be remiss if I fail to mention the European Union, the World Bank, the IMF, the ADB, BADEA (the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa), the Kuwaiti Fund, OPEC Fund as well as bilateral partners (including the UK, China, the USA and Germany), and other multilateral agencies that have collaborated with my government.

32. Observing the performance that this government has achieved since 1996, we see the efforts of our whole society, not only of my government, but all of Sierra Leone. I have had the great fortune of being your leader and President in the process. But now we are facing new challenges, different from the ones that we have already overcome. We may be missing the train of progress of an economy that must continually add value. We need a system of education that trains people to offer new things to our economy and society instead of becoming claimants who make permanent demands on our economy and society, which is one of the failures of passivity in our educational system.

33. Our education system should be changing much faster than it has adapted to globalization, technological revolution, the Internet and increasing interdependence of nations. Instead, we manufacture degrees. We even can manufacture illustrious degrees, but many of the holders of these degrees emerge from their studies to continue as claimants on the State to provide them with a job. The degree they receive makes them more demanding claimants, because they are certified. With all their studies, they are not prepared to add value. They fail to learn how to transform knowledge into action. Some may be brilliant innovators, but many of them lack the initiative to become entrepreneurs of their own lives and, in consequence, to create opportunities for other people.

34. There is a famous story of a foreign delegation visiting a certain country. This country obviously was trying to get citizens of the foreign delegation to invest there. The delegation noted that there were lots of savings of that country’s citizens outside the country and said: “If you don’t believe in investing in your own country, do you believe that you can persuade us to invest here? This seems to us an interesting country. We could invest here, but you first must invest in your own country yourselves.” This is a reminder to Sierra Leoneans in and out of the country to contribute in the development of their country by investing here and in the process attract more foreign investment. We are determined to facilitate this process by, for example, legitimising dual citizenship in our country. We also urge Sierra Leoneans to always crosscheck their facts carefully before they spread negative news about their country internationally in order not to undermine government’s policy to attract foreign investment.

35. Better education is needed to increase the capacity for savings and investment. The centres of education must assume the responsibility of teaching young people history, science, evolution and the acquired practices of tradition. This is necessary but not sufficient. They must also learn from practice. There are new challenges. Jobs are not everything. When I listen to the desperate scepticism of others in the ideological tribe, I ask: “why do you suffer if all we need is jobs and more jobs to satisfy human needs? If all that remains for us to do is to open new spaces of opportunity, then we have not done much.”

36. The challenge is inexhaustible. What seems to be exhausted is our mental capacity to open new spaces and horizons for reflection. We must educate young people in the knowledge we have acquired, and revive the mission of teachers. The teacher must learn from young people. Learning then becomes interactive. Beyond teaching what he knows, the teacher must help young people confront the world, knowing that when they finish their professional training they must be endowed with something more than a degree that enables them not to become only a claimant demanding a job. Young people must learn some accumulated knowledge as well as some practical sense that enables them to begin the adventure of their own lives, working for others or working on their own.

37. Not all of them will be creators. Not all will be entrepreneurs. To ask this of them would be foolish. But they must be aware of what they can offer to add value to others. And I speak of value in the language of a great poet, who said: “All fools confuse value with price.” I am not talking about price. I speak of awareness of value that adds to what we offer our families, our companies, our communities, our cities. This offer, adding value, can be created by a musician, an athlete, a merchant of waste materials, a teacher, almost anyone.

38. What is the role of the State in a modern democratic society in dealing with all these claimants? We need the State to guarantee our rights and guide the operation of complex societies. The State cannot satisfy all claims. When we speak of the size of the State in relation to its efficiency and institutional power, I cannot advocate a heavily-laden state, a state mainly devoted to satisfying claimants and clients. We cannot sustain a state serving as a refuge for the failures that appear when we politicians promise to create jobs when it is beyond our capacity to fulfil those promises.

39. The alternatives are to expand the public sector and employ more people in the bureaucracy. Thus we would create a state serving political clients that would swell its spending to such high volumes that would exclude constructive policies. Some advisers would say that this is a social state, but the social function soon is overburdened and exhausted.

40. I therefore advocate neither a weak state, incapable of fulfilling its responsibilities, nor a fat state that succumbs under its own weight. So I advocate what I would call a lean State. Certain problems reside in our institutions, not in the quality of people or their intellectual capacity. Here we must deal with issues involving stability of purpose and consensus. For an education programme to be consolidated and show results, at least 20 years are needed. Otherwise institutions fail. The short-term horizons of some of us politicians form an obstruction. We only make gains for our countries when our perspectives are sufficiently long-term to provide institutional stability. We commit many short-term errors. We can only be saved from the consequences of these mistakes if our institutions are capable of sustaining a long-term path and orientation. This is hard for us to do because of our cultural problems. Such barriers, I believe, could be overcome through long-term, scenario-based planning methodologies such as the VISION 2025 process which I initiated upon becoming President.

41. There is no guarantee that high intelligence will produce good results in politics or economic development unless institutions channel human capital toward lasting outcomes. There may be occasional failures and reverses, but development will proceed from broad agreement of purpose over the long term.

42. Our greatest wealth as human beings lies in our capacity to create projects that add value to the lives of others. But we have neglected this wealth. People have done redistribution through education and health care, but they have never redistributed their greatest personal wealth: their capacity to make offers that add value to others. The most important redistribution of wealth that we can carry out lies in the system of education, political leadership and social leadership by transmitting and training so that more people will be capable of making offers that add value to others.

43. Politics should be transparent and Opposition Parties are not to be seen as enemies. They are also stakeholders in national development. My advice to candidates who are competing for positions within the Party is that they should not antagonize each other, for after all we are working towards the same goals. They should be able to develop a team spirit whereby both winners and losers can see themselves as necessary elements and ingredients of our Party so that in the face of any outside competition the Party will be able to act like one, move together in one direction and we shall always conquer, no matter who our opponents are.

44. This is the last Convention of our great Party that I shall attend in my capacity as leader. Sierra Leone has a statute of limitation and my second and last term as President will come to an end in 2007.

45. I therefore stand before you conscious of the great honour and privilege I have had to serve my country at a very critical time in its history. Much that is very positive and propitious for our country has happened during my first and second terms. There have been many gains over the years, of which all of us must be proud. But there were also sad moments. In liberating our country from the forces of evil we had to make great sacrifices. In the process not only did we lose many innocent lives, we also lost many others who volunteered to make the ultimate sacrifice so that Sierra Leone could be liberated. I therefore ask that we pay a minute silence in honour of the memory of those who lost their lives during our bitter struggle. I would be remiss, fellow members of our great Party, if I fail to mention the role played by the late Patricia Lucy Kabbah, my dear late wife, in my ascendancy to the leadership of our Party, and eventually to becoming President of our beloved country. She was everything to me. She stood by me, fought alongside with me and gave me every necessary support when it was needed. When she yielded to God’s call and left this world barely after we had returned from Conakry, I felt a void in me. But through your unflinching support and through the grace of God we were able to achieve victory after all. May her soul rest in peace.

46. I refer the sceptics to our Party Manifesto for 1996 and 2002 which shows that we have delivered on 90% or more of what we had promised and we still have two more years to achieve the rest. Added to that we are consolidating our successes and achievements! This is a period that Sierra Leone has increasingly assumed responsibility for its destiny and asserted its rightful ownership of its political, social and economic development as well as its peace and security.

47. This has also been a period characterised by increasing commitment to good governance, both political and economic. This government is proud of its record in defending human rights, in upholding the rule of law, in combating corruption, in ensuring fair political competition and creating opportunities for all. Despite high world oil prices, average annual economic growth has been in the region of 8% over the years during my tenure. This is an extraordinary achievement by any standard, considering the fact we were fighting the most gruesome war the country has ever experienced. This notwithstanding we are still regarded internationally as a post-conflict country preparing to move into the next stage of being a full-blown developing country which includes thirty-six Least Developed Countries (LDCs) worldwide.

48. My government has shown political commitment to fighting poverty by increasing budgetary allocations to education, health, water, infrastructure and in preparing a PRSP based on World Bank guidelines. These are the rewards of sound economic management on our part which have seen the average rate of inflation declining from over 45% in 1996 when I first assumed office to the present rate of 11%. While this is commendable, we still face the challenge of reducing the rate of inflation to a single digit preferably, 5%, as postulated by the convergence criteria of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ).

49. Ladies and gentlemen, I think you will agree with me that this has been a profound expose of our social, political and economic development since I assumed office. I would therefore like to end by outlining other achievements of our party since 1996 including:

* restoration of peace and security, especially where others had failed;

* undertaking far-reaching infrastructural developments;

* promotion and maintenance of a stable economic environment;

* promotion of good governance including the restoration of democracy, human rights and transparency and probity in Government, and the establishment of an independent institution to combat corruption, among others. In the case of this institution, we are grateful to the British Government particularly DFID, for responding positively to our request for support of my government’s initiative for its establishment soon after I became President. At that time no one dared mention corruption in Sierra Leone since the subject was taboo.

50. I would like to appeal to our party leaders that they must constantly remind our membership that the SLPP, in line with its motto ONE COUNTRY, ONE PEOPLE, stands for all Sierra Leoneans, irrespective of their political inclinations. The SLPP, undoubtedly, is the mother of all political parties in Sierra Leone. As such all our policies and programmes should benefit Sierra Leoneans from all walks of life and from every corner of the country. This will help greatly in consolidating NATIONAL COHESION and PEACE, which are necessary conditions for national development and individual fulfilment.

51. Finally, it is my fervent hope that the new leadership of the Party will not only build on the solid foundation we have laid since 1996, but would break new grounds. If they do, and I have every reason to believe that they will, the SLPP will be both a party of the present and the future in this country. It will also be the most fitting tribute to me for my years as leader of both the Party and the country.

52. I thank you.

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