Statement

By

Honourable Dr. Alfred Bobson Sesay
Minister of Lands, Housing, Country Planning
and the Environment of the Republic of Sierra Leone

251 Special Session of the General Assembly
for the Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of
the Outcome of the United Nations Conference
on Human Settlements (HABITAT 11)

New York
June 8, 2001




Mr. President,
Ministerial Colleagues,
Distinguished Delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen

1. Introduction

Let me first of all bring to you all gathered here today, the warm felicitations of His Excellency Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone as well as those of the people of Sierra Leone. Let me assure you that His Excellency the President of Sierra Leone, with the support of all Sierra Leoneans, is prepared to implement the decisions that this august assembly will be taking during the conference. The resolve of Sierra Leoneans to support their President to ensure the successful implementation of the decisions of this conference is not just a cosmetic one. It will be recalled that in 1997, Sierra Leoneans stoutly resisted junta rule for 9 months in favour of Democracy. Today, we are more than ever ready to defend our hard won democracy especially with peace and stability in sight.

At this point, His Excellency the President wishes to express his profound gratitude to the family of the United Nations for their unflinching support to the people of Sierra Leone during the ten years of brutal and senseless war. As a result of this continuous and sustained support, the war is almost coming to an end. It is my belief that, Sierra Leoneans will soon begin to enjoy peace.

Mr. President, I need not belabour you with the fact that Sierra Leone has gone through a senseless and brutal war, during which the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) perpetrated unimaginable atrocities against innocent Sierra Leoneans, some of whom were killed, maimed, amputated and sexually abused.

In January 1999, the RUF and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) rebels invaded Freetown. As a result there was mass destruction of public and residential houses in the city particularly in the sub-urban areas of Kissy, Wellington, Calaba Town and Allen Town. In fact, figures obtained from the Registration of Burn-out houses, conducted by my Ministry indicated that 5,932 houses were totally destroyed in the city and its environs.

There is no accurate record of the total damage inflicted on human settlement country-wide. However, various assessments indicate that up-to date around 300,000 houses have been destroyed countrywide. In addition, 1700 educational facilities, 400 health posts and 300 water wells have been destroyed. Out of the total population of 4.5 million, the war uprooted approximately 1.2 million people who became either as internally displaced persons or refugees in neighbouring countries. In addition, approximately 1000 people, of all ages, were amputated.

From this scenario it can be deduced that the Government has the enormous task of meeting a huge backlog of housing needs, estimated at 300,000 (this does not include the recurrent housing needs). There is also the problem of re-planning the 30,000 human settlements that were destroyed during the war. Koidu, the former second largest town in Sierra Leone has been destroyed to its foundations. In addition Government has to cater for approximately 1000 amputees and an unknown number of ex-combatants comprising of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces, Revolutionary United Front and Civil Defence Forces fighters.

2. Institutional and Legislative Reform:

Mr. President, indeed the task of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement of this war ravaged country is daunting. Government has, however, not folded its hands in despair, awaiting manna to fall from heaven. Since 1996, despite the ravages of war, the Government of Sierra Leone has been able to implement most of the plan of action contained in Habitat 2 Country Report.

In 1996, Government made institutional changes to address the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement and the Demobilization and Disarmament tasks ahead. Government transformed the National Reconstruction Committee into the National Commission for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (3RRRs) and created the Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration Programme. The former is responsible for the coordination of relief, reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement activities by Line Ministries and Non-Governmental Organizations. The DDR Programme is to demobilize, disarm and reintegrated ex-combatants into society.

Government has also carried out regulative reform. The Town and Country Planning Act has been amended to allow the declaration of the whole country as a planning area. This means in effect that the Minister is now the planning authority for the use of land through out the country. To ensure effective environmental management, the environmental protection act has also been passed into law.

3. National Housing Policy

Mr. President, my Government has revised the National Housing Policy (NHP) approved in 1996 to reflect recent trends in the shelter sector. The central goal of the NHP is to achieve a maximum addition to the housing stock of the nation and to enable every Sierra Leonean to have access to safe, sanitary and decent affordable housing.

The revised NHP re-defines the role of Government as 'facilitator' and 'enabler'. This means that Government's role will be to create the conducive environment for full mobilization of the potential and resources of the public, private and community sectors in the housing delivery process. .

4. Public Housing

In line with the revised National Housing Policy, Government has divested itself of all public housing. The public houses now in existence are to be sold, the revenue derived from the sale of the houses will be used to construct more housing units for Civil Servants and members of the public. Government has also set up an inter-ministerial committee to coordinate the activities of the Non-governmental Organizations active in the Shelter Sector.

5. Sectoral Issues

Mr. President, considering the present and future financial situation of the Government, and the sheer magnitude of the task,' it is obvious that Government alone does not have the capacity to intervene in planning the war affected areas and in the delivery of adequate shelter for internally displaced persons and returnees. Given the circumstances, Government has considered that the only way out of the situation is to create the enabling environment for the private sector, communities, bilateral and multilateral donors to fully and effectively participate in planning the war affected areas and in the delivering of adequate and affordable shelter for the internally displaced persons and returnees.

5.1 Land

To this end, Government has therefore, decided to create the enabling environment that will facilitate easy access to land and durable but affordable building materials. One of the strategies to achieve the above objective is the provision of adequate amount of serviced land at affordable process and at suitable locations through the establishment of Land banks in Freetown and the provincial urban centers. Government has already approved a project to be implemented by the Ministry of Lands, Housing, Country Planning and the Environment.

The goal of the project is to ensure an adequate and continuous supply of suitably located land for housing and infrastructure development purposes.

5.2 Building Materials

Government in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlement (HABITAT) and the Government Fund for Technical Assistance, has popularized the use of local building materials throughout the country. In each of the 149 chiefdoms in the country, Government has trained at least four trainers per chiefdom, forty percent of whom were women. These people have been encouraged to form cooperatives.

6.0 Planning

6.1 Planned Development of Towns and Villages

Mr. President, in the area of planning Government has adopted the policy of planned development of the towns and villages that have been destroyed during the rebel war. Essentially the policy is meant to guide Government Ministries and Non-Governmental Organizations who wish to intervene in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the towns and villages. The main objective of the policy guidelines is to prevent the unplanned growth of the towns and villages before the war. The guidelines contained with the policy include the surveying and the preparation of sub-division layout plans for the old and new sites of the settlements that are to be reconstructed or rehabilitated. In the area of shelter provision, the self help, skills training and job creation and the manufacture of local building materials approaches will be used.

6.2 Freetown Structure Plan

Government with funding from the World Bank has prepared the Freetown Structure Plan and Investment Programme for the Greater Freetown Planning Area, with the main objective of transforming the present chaotic state of development in the city into a well ordered and efficiently serviced modern city.
There are plans to prepare Structure Plans for the intermediate urban centres.

 
7. Coordination and Collaboration

To ensure the full participation of war affected communities in the planning of their ravaged settlements and shelter, Government has decentralized most of its functions to local Government institutions including District and Town Councils. My Ministry has also decentralized from the Headquarter to the Regional Planning Offices. These regional planning offices have the power and authority to carry out functions of surveying, environmental management and physical, planning in their areas of jurisdiction. To facilitate physical planning countrywide, the Division will consult Local Authorities and other Stakeholders on the need to declare the whole country as a planning area. Thereafter Town Planning Committees will be set up in the newly declared Town Planning Areas.

The Government is fully cooperating with the international community to implement the NRRR and the DDR Programmes. Currently over 27,000 excombatants have disarmed. In the Shelter Sector, Government is working in partnership with the national and international Non-governmental Organizations to meet the shelter needs of the internally displaced people, the amputees and war wounded. The Ministry of Lands, Housing, Country Planning is the Chairman of the Shelter Committee.

8. Assessment of Achievements

Mr. President, our achievement over the past five years has been modest due to the intensification of the barbaric and senseless rebel war, which engulfed the entire country by 1999. The rebel war not only destroyed the physical fabric of the country but also its socio-economic infrastructure. Institutions that were set were destroyed. Government was unable to invest in the reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement of the war-torn areas.

9. Action Plans

Mr. President, the war has almost come to an end. Currently disarmament and demobilization of combatants are progressing satisfactorily under the guidance of the United Nations Mission to Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). With peace in sight, I now wish to inform this august assembly that my Government will continue to implement its plan of action included in the last Country Report. As and when the economy improves new programmes will be developed and implemented.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for your kind attention.