PERMANENT MISSION OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE TO THE UNITED NATIONS
245 East 49th Street • New York, NY 10017
ADDRESS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE
HIS EXCELLENCY MR. SOLOMON E. BEREWA
TO THE 58TH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
THURSDAY, 25TH SEPTEMBER 2003 NEW YORK
My delegation wishes to congratulate you very warmly on your assumption of the Presidency of this world body, and to assure you of its unflinching and continued support for a successful tenure. We would also. like to extend to your predecessor our appreciation for successfully directing the affairs of the General Assembly during one of the most trying periods in the recent history of the United nations.
On August 19, 2003, the United Nations was shocked to its foundation by a fatal bomb attack on its headquarters in Baghdad. On behalf of my President and the Government and people of Sierra Leone, I extend deepest condolences to the United Nations Secretary General, the United Nations family and the families of all those that perished in that attack. They died for the cause of peace and humanity and the values and aspirations that the UN symbolizes.
We call on all members of the UN and other nations to spear no measures to respect the sanctity of the UN, because it is only when this sanctity is respected that the UN can fulfill its responsibilities to mankind.
The bulk of the poor and deprived people of the world live in Africa, bedeviled by hunger, diseases, mass illiteracy, ignorance, civil conflict, extreme poverty, bad governance, abuse of human rights, inadequate educational opportunities, gender inequality, environmental hazards, poor transport and communications facilities and debt. The New Partnership for Africa's Development, NEPAD, embodies the vision of Africans themselves to rid their continent of these perils and enjoy a standard of living befitting the twenty-first century. These goals are also in consonance with those of the Millennium Development Declaration.
My delegation believes that the world will be a better, happier, more tolerant and peaceful place if these two impressive declarations are delivered.
We also believe that to achieve these goals, we have to come down from the lofty platform of rhetoric to the practical reality of sincere, honest and sacrificial partnership and collaboration between the "haves" and "have-nots". Tangible result is the acid test of the sincerity and honesty of this partnership and collaboration.
My delegation wishes to reaffirm Sierra Leone's commitment to the pursuance of the goals of these two development blueprints as the most credible and realistic channels and guidelines for accelerated development.
But we, the poor countries, execute these laudable blueprints with convulsive trepidation, because of the devastating effect of the dreadful HIV/AIDS which, without universal effort, is bound to cancel and even reverse all development gains. In the light of this, my delegation proposes that anti-retroviral drugs be made available, as a matter of human right, to everyone everywhere that may need it.
Sierra Leone has in- recent years repeatedly reiterated her faith in the United Nations as the only organization that can hold this crisis-ridden world together. My delegation wishes to reaffirm this faith, a faith built on the conviction that the strength of the organization is collective action.
As we are all aware, deviating from this principle of collective action can subject the UN to tremendous strain; it can even hamstrung the organization, and the hard evidence is that it can leave us a weak and divided family. My delegation calls on all nations, big and small, rich and poor, to uphold this principle as the organization's driving force.
Unity of purpose and collective action of the UN are even more imperative in the context of the ever-increasing demands on it by numerous conflicts and humanitarian crises in the world to which it has to respond. The expansion and complexity of these challenges reinforce the need for collaboration and partnership with continental and regional organizations, such as the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States, for resolving crises. It is the considered view of my delegation that such collaboration and partnership, designed and financially and materially facilitated, can respond to conflicts and other crisis much more speedily and productively than a distant, overstretched UN alone can. We are of the firm conviction that the hundreds of thousands of lives that have been lost in the West African sub-region, especially in Sierra Leone and Liberia, would have been saved if such a functional relationship, predicated on proactive conflict prevention, had existed between the UN and ECOWAS.
Two of the most worrying challenges to peace are terrorism and proliferation of arms, including weapons of mass destruction. We unreservedly deplore terrorism in all its forms and manifestation, and re affirm our commitment to resolving differences and conflicts through non-violent means.
Of special concern to Sierra Leone is the proliferation of small arms in the West African sub-region. While a multi-prong strategy to rid Sierra Leone of small weapons, including an Arms for Development project, spearheaded by the UNDP, has yielded encouraging and hopeful results, we believe only a concerted regional approach that carries genuine, selfless political will can eliminate this scourge from the region.
The Government and people of Sierra Leone have accepted the challenge to recover from the scourge of the war and re-engage the path of development. Accordingly, a comprehensive national recovery programme has been designed in response to post- conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction needs, as well as to lay the foundation for addressing the issues that generated the conflict.
A priority component of the recovery process is the consolidation of democratic governance. Preparations for nationwide local government elections are in the ultimate stages. We attach considerable significance to these elections because they will constitute the major step in the process of decentralization, around which the scheme of our participatory governance is going to revolve.
In order to tackle some of the root causes that created the wedge between the people and successive governments, which partly caused the conflict, we have embarked on a fundamental governance reform programme that involves the judiciary, the public service, human rights, accountability and transparency, local government, and tackling corruption and abuse of power.
We have made remarkable progress in the area of security, which is the prerequisite for our national revival and development. An International Military Advisory and Training Team, led by the United Kingdom, has provided training that has considerably enhanced the professional competence of our armed forces. With this training has come renewed confidence in the armed forces as indicated by the nationwide deployment of the personnel.
With support from the Government of the United Kingdom our police force has also been trained, restructured and equipped to carry out its responsibilities.
But with war anywhere in the sub-region, Sierra Leone never feels safe and secure. That is why we welcome, with profound appreciation to ECOWAS and the UN, the initiative to set the region on a path to peace.
My delegation feels that while welcoming the relief provided by positive developments in the: Liberian peace process, we are duty bound to urge the international community never to fall again into complacency about conflicts as they did in the case of Liberia.
My delegation is very conscious of the heavy investment of the UN and the international community that has yielded the peace Sierra Leone now enjoys: The momentum to consolidate the hard-won peace and embark on meaningful course of development is our highest priority. That is why we whole-heartedly welcome the Security Council's phased programme for withdrawal of UNAMSIL based on the capacity of our security forces to discharge their functions and the overall security environment in Sierra Leone and the sub-Region
I am happy to report that one of our major post-conflict accomplishments is the re-establishment of civil authority all over the country. Legal and judicial and law enforcement administrations have been reactivated in parts of the country previously under rebel occupation; schools, health and other social facilities are being rehabilitated and reopened.
On the economic front, the Certificate of Origin Regime for export of diamonds is producing positive results, as proceeds from the sale of diamonds continue to rise steadily. New areas of alluvial diamond deposits have been discovered and prospection for kimberlite deposits continues. Various regulatory procedures including legislation and expert advice are in the pipeline to curtail illegal exploitation and to ensure that Sierra Leoneans derive the benefit they deserve from this resource.
Two transitional bodies, the Special Court to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for the human rights excesses in the war, and The Truth and Reconciliation commission for victims and perpetrators of the abuses to tell their stories, thus laying the foundation for healing, reconciliation and forgiveness, are on course to achieve their objectives.
The future -of the- Fifty-seven thousand ex-combatants is a major factor in the management of: he costly peace that is so' relished today in Sierra Leone. The process of re - absorbing these people into society as law-abiding, peaceful, productive and patriotic citizens has been slow, tedious, and expensive. But we have had to attempt this character transformation exercise as a conflict relapse, prevention mechanism.
With this reorientation, our governance reform programme and sound youth policy that make- the excombatants and other youths stakeholders in society, the possibility of resorting to violence and destruction as the only way to demonstrate grievance and resolve conflict has been reduced.
Our other area of grave concern is the welfare of the hundreds of thousands of children who, because of the war, missed opportunities for education. The magnitude of the problem is such that we have had to form a special commission for war affected children.
Let me conclude by reassuring the United Nations that the heavy investment for peace in Sierra Leone has not, and will never go in vain. We are determined to do whatever we can to protect and consolidate the peace for which we have all sacrificed so much. We fully recognize our responsibility as the model of success of UN peace keeping.
We wish to give the same reassurance to our many friends for their wonderful contributions in various forms over the years. These include the British, Chinese, American, Nigerian and Guinean Governments and the European Union.
I thank you all for your attention.