10 August, 2007

Sierra Leone: after the elections........where to?

Sierra Leone. Gone are the days of one man dictatorships. Gone are the days when the World was used to seeing child soldiers who hacked limbs off civilians including those of children. Gone are the days of Foday Sankoh and Hinga Norman; and the Kamajors. Gone are the days of the sinister shadow of Charles Taylor looming over it. Hopefully, those days are gone. Very hopefully. And, very hopefully - those days will never return to Sierra Leone. Ever again. Sierra Leone is now secure and peaceful. Thanks to Britain and the United Nations Peace Keeping force.

But Sierra Leone has to rebuild and re-construct itself, so that it can be secure without outside help. And it has to make peace and security, sustainable and long lasting. Can Sierra Leone achieve that? As it is: the problems of poverty, tribal rivalry and official corruption that caused the war are far from over; and most of the problems that existed before the war — poverty, bad governance, massive unemployment and disillusioned youth - remain. But with its substantial mineral wealth, agricultural and fish resources - Sierra Leone can and will rise above the past. All it needs, is the wise and proper management of these resources, good leadership and better democratic performance on the part of Sierra Leonean leadership. At the same time, the 'International community' and donors, have a challenge; a challenge, in helping Sierra Leone reconstruct and rebuild itself. And a challenge, in continuing to make Sierra Leone secure and peaceful.

Today, Sierra Leone holds its first elections since the departure of U.N. troops from the war-ravaged nation 20 months ago. This is very relieving and heartening. It shows that the West African nation has the ability to transfer power peacefully after years of coups and conflict. It shows that, the country has chosen democracy as the only and best way forward. It shows that, Sierra Leone is serious about rebuilding itself and moving forward. And serious about the future. We all very much hope that Sierra Leone can and will rise and have a bright, secure and peaceful future.

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