Address by His Excellency
Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma
Ceremony on the Closing
Of the United Nations Integrated Office in
March 5, 2014
We are honored to have here with us the Secretary General of the United Nations for this epoch making event marking the transition of the United Nations Integrated Peace Building Office in Sierra Leone to the United Nations Country Team.
Mr. Secretary General, we are heartened by your inspiring words about the remarkable progress our country has made; we are also cognizant of the remaining challenges; and on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone, and in my own name, I reiterate our commitment to sustaining our transformation.
Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, about twenty-three years ago, war broke out in our beloved nation. The conflict brought out the worst in a few Sierra Leoneans and their international backers, but it also inspired the best in the overwhelming majority of our people. The great majority of our compatriots, including members of the armed forces, the police and the civil defense forces resisted the onslaught on their humanity. So many of our people suffered in the process, so many were displaced, murdered and improvised, but they stood firm and ushered in a return to democracy and civilian rule in 1996. The struggles continued, and the war was formally declared over in 2002.
We were not alone in our actions for peace, democracy and security. Members of ECOWAS, particularly Nigeria and Guinea, were amongst the first to join our resistance to the carnage. The United Nations, the United Kingdom and other friends of Sierra Leone later joined the concerted efforts to put an end to the carnage and ensure that our nation once again joined the ranks of peaceful, stable and democratic countries. I ask that you join me in a minute silence to honor the memory of the men and women whose perseverance, dedicated service and sacrifice brought peace and healing to this nation.
Today, we are gathered here for a significant transition in our actions for a democratic, peaceful, stable, developmental and prosperous country. We have had several transitions by the United Nations in Sierra Leone. Commencing in 1998 with the transition to the United Nation Observer Mission in Sierra Leone to monitor and observe efforts to disarm combatants and restructure the security forces, to the transition to UNAMSIL concerned with the implementation of the Lome Peace Accords, disarmament, peace keeping and peace building, to the establishment of the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone in 2006 to support the government in consolidating peace and democracy, and finally the United Nations Integrated Peace Building Office in 2008.
UNIPSIL has been pivotal in many processes in the country, including building civil society capacities, contributing to the holding of credible internationally acclaimed elections in 2012 and the transformation of the government owned broadcasting service in to a public service broadcaster. There are still challenges in the SLBC, but it has been a worthwhile transformation. More than at anytime in the nation’s history, there are more diversity of information and opinions in the SLBC and its reach is wider than in the last few decades. These are laudable achievements, but the partnership to improve its financial base, technical competences and coverage must continue.
Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, this transition that we are gathered here today to witness is a very special one. This is the transition that crowns the successes of all the other transitions. The goal of all the other transitions was geared towards this country arriving at this particular stage: a country that once received peacekeepers is now contributing peacekeepers to other countries; a country that was once a byword for humanitarian crisis now has the second fastest growing economy in the world; a country that succumbed to military dictatorship has held a succession of free and fair elections; a country rocked by armed and uncivil divisions is healing itself, thanks to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the perseverance of our people, and the commitment of our international friends.
That we are gathered here to inaugurate a profound shift of the UN from peace consolidation to development shows that the organization has always aligned its actions with the aspirations of our people. On becoming President in 2007, I signaled my determination to move this country towards economic development and prosperity. The United Nations has been a valued partner in this transformation. The indicators of this transformation are everywhere today: than at anytime in the nation’s history we are constructing roads in our highways and towns; we are ensuring greater access to healthcare for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children than at anytime in our country’s history; we are providing more funding for education and getting increases in school enrolment rates; we are attracting investment and creating job opportunities; expanding electricity provision and ensuring more women are in positions of authority in the government, security forces and other organizations.
Now, we have taken a collective decision to move towards becoming a middle-income nation by 2035. We have commenced implementation of the Agenda for Prosperity, the first five-year national plan towards achieving this goal and we welcome the alignment of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework with our Agenda for Prosperity.
We still face challenges; but we are inspired by the United Nations’ commitment to support us meet these challenges through its new United Nations Country Team. We also welcome the commitment of the United Nations to supporting our Constitutional Review Committee, the PPRC and other good governance institutions. A successful partnership is one that is underpinned by an alignment of goals and aspirations. We salute The United Nations for being an avid supporter of these alignments.
PRESIDENT KOROMA ADDRESSING THE UNIPSIL CLOSING PROGRAM IN SIERRA LEONE
Later this month, Sierra Leone will address the United Nations for the last time as an object of consideration by that august body. We have now moved from a country on the agenda of the Security Council to a nation that is a storehouse of lessons on how to successfully move away from war to peace and development.
Our people have shown determination and great dignity during all these transitions; we built enduring partnerships for dignity, for peace, security, democracy and development; and we remain committed to continue working with the Peace Building Commission and other partners to promote peace in the world. We salute the leaders and members of these various configurations for peace, justice and development in Sierra Leone, including the EU, ECOWAS, the AU, the PBC, Nigeria, the UK, the US, China, Guinea, the Netherlands, Canada, and our other development partners. The journey has been a challenging one; and there are remaining challenges. But there shall be no turning back; we shall continue to be a force for peace in the world, a symbol of successful transformation and a partner for peace, security, democracy and development.
I thank you for your attention.