Madam Chairperson,

Madam Chairperson, His Excellencies, distinguished delegates, on behalf of the President, Government and people of Sierra Leone, I would like to thank the Government of South Africa for hosting this conference in this beautiful city of Durban. It is historic that this conference is taking place in South Africa, a country, which for over 50 years suffered the worst form of racism and racial discrimination called apartheid.

I would also like to thank and congratulate the U.N. especially Mr. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General and Mrs. Mary Robinson, the High Commissioner for Human Rights for their efforts in organising and making this conference possible. I know it has not been easy to organize a conference of this magnitude and nature, which has also been surrounded by a lot of controversy. Thanks to God, a lot of countries despite their reservations and differences on certain aspects of the conference have found it-fit to attend. That is the sprit because this conference gives all of us the opportunity to talk about this burning issue. We should no longer keep silent about this matter.

Madam Chairperson,

Racial discrimination is a global phenomenon and therefore must be tackled by all of us by big, small, poor or rich countries. Racial discrimination, xenophobia are serious breaches of human rights and therefore it is incumbent on all delegates present here today to come up with ideas as to how to eliminate this evil from all our societies. We have to be flexible and responsible in our negotiations and not be confrontational.

Madam Chairperson, the Government and people of Sierra Leone, believe that no person shall be discriminated simply because of his colour, race, creed or religion or because he comes from a poor country. We are opposed to all forms of racial discrimination and xenophobia. It is morally wrong and inhuman. We also believe in the principle that all men are equal and must be treated equally.

We have an express provision in our Constitution dealing with this problem. Chapter III of the 1991 Constitution deals with the Recognition and Protection of theFundamental Human Rights and Freedoms of the individual.

Section 27 (1) "Subject to the provisions of subsection (4), (5) and (7), no law shall make any provision which is discriminatory either of itself or in its effect."

Section 27 (2) "Subject to the provisions of subsections (6), (7) and (8), no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by any person acting by virtue of any law or in the performance of the functions of any public office or any public authority."

Section 27 (3) "In this section the expression 'discrimination' means affording different treatment to different persons attributable wholly or mainly to their respective descriptions by race, tribe, sex, place of origin, political opinions, colour or creed whereby persons of one such description are subjected to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of another such description are not made subject, or are accorded privileges or advantages which are not accorded to persons of another description."

Every country I believe has a legislation to deal with this problem but laws alone will not be enough unless they are complemented by change of attitudes in our various societies.

Asylum seekers, immigrants, refugees, etc. should not be seen as coming from an evil planet and as job grabbers. Rather society has to be tolerant and see them as people who are running away from poverty, hunger civil wars and are only seeking better life and protection. They have a right not to be killed or be subjected to inhuman treatment. This is impermissible and we must do everything to discourage such antisocial behaviours.

Racial discrimination is becoming more and more subtle. In some cases it is very difficult to detect. It is found in educational institutions, work place, airports, in the grant of social security facilities, immigration matters, employment etc. We must develop more sophisticated methods to detect these types of discrimination.

Madam Chairperson,

Xenophobia is not only prevalent in industrialized countries but also, here in Africa. As the economies of the African countries worsen, we see the traditional African values of the community, giving way to intolerance and violence. We see Africans accusing Africans from other countries of stealing their jobs which misconception has resulted at times in deaths and or serious injuries. What is the point of talking about an African Union if we as Africans cannot tolerate each other?

The root cause of racial discrimination today especially against blacks can be traced to the Atlantic slave trade and colonialism. The slave trade dehumanised the Africans and made them appear to be of a lesser creature. Africans were conditioned by the colonialists to believe that their culture is inferior and that what ever is European is the best. These perceptions still exist today.

They were made to work on plantations without any reward and were forced to adopt alien names. African human and natural resources were exploited by the slave traders and colonialists to develop their countries. Therefore I make bold to say that Europe contributed immensely to the present underdevelopment in Africa. The world must therefore accept especially the beneficiaries of the slave trade and colonialism that grave injustice was done to the African. If that is accepted, then an apology should be forthcoming. We have to accept this historical fact so as not to make the same mistake in the future. The perpetrators must show remorse by apologising. There should be no running away from this issue.

Madam Chairperson,

My delegation supports the call for reparation. We think it is fair and just. However we also believe that we must be forward looking. We must not allow ourselves to be bogged down with the question of reparation. Our main objective should be the eradication of contemporary racism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia from all our societies.

In conclusion, my delegation would like to state that racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia are diseases which must be fought with all the vigour at our disposal in thesame way as we are now fighting the Aids pandemic. We must be prepared to have open multi-cultural societies where every human being lives with respect and dignity, and accept that it is evil to discriminate against a fellow human being. Our, societies need to be more tolerant toward each other.

All States must introduce legislation making racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia and related intolerance criminal offences.

Madam Chairperson,

One of the causes of conflicts in Africa today is due to tribalism and ethnicisrn. Some politicians use the tribal card purely for their selfish end which at times has resulted in serious consequences as the genocide in Rwanda. Madame President, we must stop the exploitation of tribalism and ethnicism for political gains.

My delegation also believes that the media has a great role to play in preventing or discouraging racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The Western media should stop painting a bad picture of Africa. They should be encouraged to report positive things about Africa.

The international community must intensify its effort to fight poverty because poverty is one of the causes of contemporary racist attitudes.

Madam Chairperson,

My delegation is cognisant of the fact that this conference will not end racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia but it will lay a solid basis for combating them. We have to establish a mechanism to follow up the deliberations of this conference.

Madam President, I thank you.