H.E. Mr. Sahr Matturi
Friday 16th November, 2001
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My delegation extends to you its warmest congratulations on your election to the Presidency of the 56th session of this august body. Given your impressive credentials we are confident that under your guidance we will conclude our deliberations successfully. I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to His Excellency, Mr. Hard Holkeri of Finland, who admirably conducted the affairs of the epoch-making Millennium Assembly last year.
Mr. President, let me also warmly congratulate our indefatigable Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan on his reappointment to a second term of office, and on receiving with the United Nations the 2001 Nobel Prize for Peace. As a citizen of the West African sub-region, we in Sierra Leone are proud of his stewardship. Sierra Leone is indeed indebted to him and the staff of the Secretariat and the United Nations family for their invaluable support of our effort to secure peace and stability in my country.
Sierra Leone in the United Nations
Forty years ago, on the 29th of September to be exact, Sierra Leone was admitted as the 100th member of the United Nations. During this period, we made our own modest contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security. We have faithfully adhered to the principles and purposes of the Charter. We have practiced and continue to practice tolerance and good neighbourliness. Our faith in the Organization remains as strong as it was forty years ago.
At the same time, the United Nations and its agencies have done a lot for the people of Sierra Leone. As President Kabbah told the Millennium Summit last year, Sierra Leone, in the course of its membership, has tested the capacity of the United Nations to respond to major challenges, especially in the areas of peacekeeping, through UNAMSIL, and humanitarian law, through the proposed Special Court to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of Sierra Leonean law, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sierra Leone. In conveying our sincere thanks to the Organization and the rest of the international community for their support, my delegation expresses the hope that Sierra Leone and the United Nations will continue to work closely for peace, security and sustainable development in the coming years.
Terrorism and counter-terrorism
Mr. President, sadly this session of the General Assembly is taking place in the aftermath of the despicable acts of terrorism inflicted on our host country on September the 11th 2001, acts that claimed the lives of thousands of Americans and nationals of 86 other countries. As we share their grief and renew our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and the Government of the United States, we Sierra Leoneans are reminded of that ominous day in January 1999, when over five thousand innocent civilians were brutally killed during the rebel onslaught on our capital city. Hundreds of others, including children and young girls were abducted, raped or deliberately amputated. Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is deplorable, and must be eradicated. My delegation would like to assure this Assembly that we shall do everything within our power and available resources to support the current multilateral counter terrorism effort under the aegis of the United Nations.
Building new coalitions to counter other forces
Mr. President, the new emerging coalition to counteract the scourge of terrorism is absolutely necessary. However, the Sierra Leone delegation strongly believes that we should also strengthen existing coalitions or build new ones, against those forces that continue to kill millions of children and adults throughout the world every single day. We know these forces. We know their vicious and destructive powers. Hunger, poverty, malnutrition, malaria, HIV-AIDS, brutality and intolerance - these are but a few of them.
Sierra Leone calls upon this Assembly and the entire international community to use the current international solidarity against terrorism, to translate the Agenda for Peace, the Agenda for Development, the Millennium Declaration, the Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Summit for Children, and similar strategies and goals, into a series of new coalitions:
A new coalition against childhood diseases
Mr. President, there has been a marked improvement in the situation in Sierra Leone. The serious humanitarian crisis still prevails, but is gradually subsiding. Thousands of ex-combatants have been disarmed and demobilized. Government authority and civil administrative services are - gradually being established in areas previously occupied by rebel forces. Our restructured army is now truly professional, thanks to the intensive training programme directed by the Government of the United Kingdom.
By all accounts we can say that the overall security and safety situation is one of great expectation. In the coming months the people of Sierra Leone would once again start to enjoy to the fullest extent, their basic right to life, a life free from brutal armed rebellion such as the one provoked and abetted by external forces and fuelled by `blood diamonds' for ten long years. In this connection my delegation would like to express our sincere gratitude to the United Nations and its agencies, ECOWAS, UNAMSIL troop contributing countries, the United Kingdom and other friendly nations, for their individual and collective contributions to the peace process in Sierra Leone.
Allow me Mr. President from this rostrum to express condolences of the Government and people of Sierra Leone to those brave and dedicated ambassadors of peace from the United Kingdom, Zambia, the Ukraine and Bulgaria, who lost their lives in the recent helicopter accidents in my country.
Despite our optimism for peace and stability in Sierra Leone, past experiences of adventurous attempts by the rebels to renege on their obligations under peace agreements, have taught us a lesson. That is, we have to remain constantly vigilant. The safety and security of the people will remain high on our national agenda. So is the process of consolidating the peace through sustainable development. This is why we would like the United Nations, especially the Security Council, to continue to generate the necessary international support for our post-conflict and peace-building effort.
In this connection, Mr. President, we would like to draw the attention of the international community and those who assist us in the implementation of our DDR programme, to the fact that disarmament and demobilization of ex-combatants will soon come to a successful end. However, the process of reintegration remains crucial. We could lose the gains we have made in the peace process if we allow the reintegration of ex-combatants to collapse for lack of adequate funding. As President Kabbah pointed out recently, we also have tens of thousands of young people, who have never seen, touched or used an AK-47 rifle, or a rocket propelled grenade (RPG). They too are waiting to be integrated into the mainstream of our economic and social sectors.
On behalf of my Government I would like to appeal to the international community, as a matter of urgency, to help us remove some of the root causes of conflict by increasing support for our reintegration and integration programmes for the benefit of youths. We should no longer allow the legitimate social and economic needs or grievances of these young people to be exploited by ruthless warlords whose sole objective is to drain our precious mineral resources for their own selfish ends.
And speaking about diamonds, I would like to inform this Assembly that our Diamond Certification system established under Security Council Resolution 1306 (2000), has been, so far, a major success. First, there has been a substantial increase in revenue from legitimate diamonds since the system was established just over a year ago. Secondly, it has also helped to reduce the incidence of an old problem that preceded the phenomenon of `conflict' or `blood' diamonds, namely smuggling. My Government is in the process of updating the status of the certification system in its third report to the Security Council through the Committee that is monitoring implementation of resolution 1306.
Regional peace and cooperation
Mr. President, the sacrifices we have made for peace in Sierra Leone are not just for Sierra Leoneans alone. They are also in the interest of peace and stability in the Mano River Union `triangle' in particular, and the West African - sub-region as a whole. Recent rapprochement at the Ministerial level, followed by meetings of Joint Security Committee, and the initiative launched by the Mano River Union Women Peace Network in the three countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, augur well for the proposed Mano River Union summit meeting. Meanwhile, I can assure you that President Kabbah remains committed to his determination to help restore adherence to the principle of good neighbourliness in the Union. This should lead to a revitalization of economic cooperation programmes among the three countries. We must admit that conflict and tension in the Union have had a negative impact on the ability of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, to concentrate on the principal objective for which it was created, namely economic cooperation for development.
International economic cooperation, peace, and international security
Mr. President, we are aware that primary responsibility for alleviating poverty, for stimulating economic growth, and reducing conflicts and their often disastrous consequences, lie in the hands of the developing countries themselves. We are also aware that development requires sound fiscal policies and rationale management of both our human and natural resources. However, the international consensus is that sustainable development also requires greater cooperation between developing and developed countries in such areas as trade, debt relief and external financing. In this regard, Sierra Leone, one of the least developed countries in the World, eagerly looks forward to the results of the forthcoming Conference on Financing for Development, and the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
Mr. President, there are many pressing and unresolved problems on the international peace and security agenda of the United Nations. One of them is the situation in Palestine. It continues to remain the core issue in the search for peace in the Middle East. In our view it also breeds tension, and directly fans the flames of war in other parts of the World. In the current state of affairs it is no longer enough to speak about the right of the Palestinian people to selfdetermination. They have a right to an independent state of their own. In short, the establishment of an independent Palestinian State is well over due. In terms of international peace and security, we cannot afford any further delay.
Sierra Leone is obviously not a nuclear power. However, as a member of the human family we are concerned about the threat or use of nuclear weapons. Indeed, we believe that these weapons pose the greatest threat to human survival. Therefore we shall continue to strengthen universal adherence to regional and international disarmament and non-proliferation instruments. For instance, Sierra Leone recently ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a treaty which we strongly believe is at the heart of the vertical or qualitative proliferation of nuclear weapons.
We are also seriously concerned about the proliferation of conventional arms, including those that have brought untold suffering to the people of Sierra Leone during the past decade.
Mr. President, last July at the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, we pleaded in vain for action to prevent the transfer of these weapons to non-state entities such as terrorists and rebels who commit atrocities against innocent civilians. The recent terrorist attacks, and the awareness that biological weapons in the hands of such non-state entities, pose a threat to us all, should, in the view of my delegation, prod those member States who were unable to support our plea last July, to seriously reconsider their position on this important issue of arms transfers to non-state entities. We also need their full support in the implementation of the programme of action of that important conference.
In conclusion Mr. President, my delegation is convinced that the international community has at its disposal the instruments, the institutions, the strategies, targets and road maps for counteracting and eradicating terrorism, HIV/AIDS, malaria, hunger, malnutrition and other deadly forces, through closer multilateral cooperation.
Let the 56th Session of this Assembly which was interrupted by the common enemy of terrorism, go down in history as the New Multilateral Cooperation Session, one that should inspire all nations, large and small, nuclear and non-nuclear, to deal resolutely with the other common enemies of the human race.
Thank you Mr. President.