Sierra Leone’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, His Excellency Ambassador Shekou Touray , was the keynote speaker at the 51st Independence Anniversary celebrations dance held by the Union of Sierra Leone Organizations ( USLO ) of New York at the Afrika House in New York last Saturday. Here is the statement delivered by the Ambassador :
Photo: Ambassador Touray cutting the national birthday cake in New York on Saturday :
Statement on the 51st Independence Anniversary Celebrations by H.E. Ambassador Shekou M. Touray, Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations
Executive, Organizers and members of USLO
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen:
I bring you fraternal greetings and felicitations on behalf of His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and the Government and people of Sierra Leone back home on this very auspicious occasion, as we celebrate the 51st Independence Anniversary of our beloved country.
I commend the efforts of the organizers for putting together this program, which I believe has its own challenges; and thank them for inviting me to be the keynote speaker. I must say I am very much delighted to talk to you as we once again endeavour to take stock of the progress achieved so far and the challenges that lie ahead, since we met together last year to celebrate 50 years of our attainment of independence.
It is indeed heartwarming to see my compatriots in such a jubilant mood, which is ample demonstration of the love that you have for your dear country. I encourage each and every one of us to keep this flame of patriotism burning.
As we are all aware, our nation is preparing for a very crucial Presidential, Legislative and Local Council Elections in November this year. We have come a long way from a war ravaged country to a post-conflict country that has taken significant strides towards the attainment of multi-party democracy. As the former Executive Representative of the UN Secretary General to Sierra Leone, once said: “Sierra Leone, which was once the symbol of a failed State, is now gradually evolving into a model country for overcoming old divisions and developing into a peaceful, democratic and prosperous country”. The onus now lies on us all to work individually as well as collectively to maintain this momentum. Let us bear it in mind that these elections will be a litmus test of our commitment to sustain this our hard won peace and stability.
Cognizant of this, Government, for its part, has been working assiduously and painstakingly to put in place structures and policies to ensure free, fair and credible elections. A team of the Sierra Leone Country-Specific Configuration of the Peace Building Commission of the UN, after its recent visit to Sierra Leone to asses our preparedness for a free and fair elections reported positively on its return. The Chair, during a Review Session at the UN reported “We are confident from a technical perspective that the preparations being made for the elections in Sierra Leone are professional and efficient and that the elections will be held in a transparent, free and fair method that will be understood by the people”. The team was particularly impressed with the Biometric system of registration, which they are sure, will help to minimise electoral malpractices and make the votes fair, accurate and credible.
It therefore behoves us all , Sierra Leoneans in every sphere we find ourselves, to do our best to make the elections successful and violent-free, and ensure that they are free, fair, credible and transparent in accordance with acceptable international standards. Notwithstanding our turbulent past, we Sierra Leoneans are by nature a peaceful people; I have no doubt that we will each in our own way rise up to the challenge and explore all possibilities to emerge from it with flying colours.
Many commendable moves have indeed been and are being made by Government and stakeholders in all spheres to help us sustain our peace and stability, and help the country towards its development strides.
On the economic front, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are impressed with our performance. The IMF Country Representative, Mrs. Malanga Kabedi M’buyi Mulango attested to this when she recently paid a courtesy call on President Koroma. A lot of progress has been made in priority areas under the “Agenda for Change”. The health, mining, energy and agriculture sectors are witnessing rapid transformation. There are also visible improvement in the country’s infrastructure, evident in the construction of major roads and bridges, renovation of structures dilapidated by the war and construction of new facilities including but not limited to hospitals and business centres.
As you are all aware, there are also prospects of Sierra Leone soon becoming an oil producing country. During his New Year address to the nation, President Koroma gave an update when he said : “Forecasts for our country becoming an oil-producing nation are great.” He also gave some more good news by saying that “We may soon become the largest per capita producer of iron ore in the world; we have landed the fibre optic cable to help revolutionalise the country’s IT architecture, we are attracting huge investments in agriculture.”
The Government has even set the machinery in motion to tackle one of the major challenges it faces in the area of youth unemployment. A National Youth Commission has now been established with the trusted mandate to seek the welfare and well-being of the youths, and facilitate the creation of skills training programs and employment opportunities.
On our role as a country in the United Nations, the recent telegram addressed by the Secretary-General to His Excellency, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, on the occasion of our Independence Anniversary, says it all (Read)
In closing, I want to call on you all, my dear fellow countrymen and women, to take ownership of the destiny of our nation. Sierra Leone is the only country we have and only we Sierra Leoneans can develop our country with the help of our development partners of course. I therefore urge and implore you to become more committed and devoted to the socio-economic and political development endeavours of our country.
Let us resolve in our hearts to put the interest of our nation first. Let us all put away all negative and unproductive divisiveness and join hands together to help rebuild our country. The road ahead is full of challenges but as we change our attitudes and become more focused and more development-oriented, we will be able to overcome. And indeed we shall overcome, you USLO being the ” Shining Light For All ” to follow.
TO THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE!!
I wish you a Happy Independence Anniversary.