Press Releases

    SG/SM/8302
    AFR/432
    15 July 2002

    Secretary-General Salutes "New Image" of Sierra Leone at Inauguration of President, Opening of Parliament

    NEW YORK, 12 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the address by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the ceremony marking the inauguration of the President of Sierra Leone and the opening of Parliament, delivered on his behalf in Freetown, Sierra Leone, by his Special Representative, Oluyemi Adeniji:

    Mr. President,

    On the occasion of your inauguration into the highest office of the Republic of Sierra Leone, I would like to reiterate the congratulations I have already conveyed to you personally. I have no doubt that you are mindful of the tremendous responsibilities implicit in the overwhelming electoral support that you received.

    I would also like to congratulate each of you on your election to this first post-conflict Parliament. As you are aware, very few people, especially outside Sierra Leone, believed that an election could be held barely five months after the end of a decade-long civil war that has been characterized as one of the most brutal the continent has ever seen. Yet the elections were held in a free, fair and transparent manner and, even more strikingly, all political leaders spontaneously and immediately accepted the results. That is a great demonstration of the political maturity of the Sierra Leonean people and their determination to make a clean break with their violent past. They have shown their preference for the route of democracy as the foundation for sustainable peace.

    As their elected representatives, you must now, in your conduct and deliberations, uphold and sustain this new image of Sierra Leone. This can only be done through good governance, responsible leadership, mutual respect and the politics of inclusion. The majority must not ride roughshod over the minority, whose views they must take into account. At the same time, the minority must remain loyal to their oath of office and be constructive in their criticism, bearing in mind that democratic governance implies peaceful discourse and the prospect that a party now in opposition might, one day, hold power -- in accordance, of course, with the supreme will of the people. Indeed, it is the interest of the people - and, in particular, their hopes for a rapid improvement in their socio-economic conditions -- that must guide your approach to the issues before this Parliament. The devastation that is so evident throughout the country requires that all Sierra Leoneans capable of rendering effective service be given the opportunity to do so, irrespective of their political persuasion.

    The most urgent task is to consolidate the newly found peace. Your Government should take the lead in addressing the unfinished aspects of the peace process, especially the reintegration of ex-combatants, the effective restoration of State authority and basic services throughout the country, and the promotion of justice, human rights, national reconciliation and the rule of law. In particular, the capacity of the police and army must be developed so that these forces can maintain internal and external security without the presence of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL).

    Despite the magnitude of the challenges ahead, I am confident that you can meet them. I urge all Sierra Leoneans to take this unique opportunity to secure a peaceful and prosperous future for their country. The international community, including the United Nations, will continue to stand by your side.

    Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Honorable Members of Parliament, I wish you the best of luck at this critical juncture in your country's history.

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