President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, President of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone--The Millennium Development Goals

September 19, 2005 11:00 AM


by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah

Ahmad Tejan Kabbah: Mr. Chairperson, distinguished, faculty and students, of the Columbia University, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. I thank this school of international and public affairs for the invitation at this forum and for your kind words of introduction. I understand that last year, Columbia University celebrated its 250th anniversary. Let me extend, albeit belatedly, sincere congratulations to the entire university community. It is fascinating that a 250 year old, at 250 years old, Columbia is still going strong and maintaining its exemplary standard of academic excellence.

There are few countries whose leaders in public life, business, science, and
humanities have not had some association with Columbia University. Indeed,
there is hardly any country that has not benefited from Columbia's outstanding
contribution to knowledge. Over they years, many (inaudible) have been
fortunate enough to be a part of this fine institution, both as students and staff.
Incidentally, my son obtained his degree in this university. It is an honor to be
here at Columbia University and to speak at the World Leaders Forum this

I thank you for this singular honor. This form serves as a center for open dialogue
with world leaders, but I believe it also provides a friendly environment for
learning for learning. In other words, it provides some opportunity for the
audience some lessons learned in such areas as war and peace, economic and
social development, and international cooperation. We in Sierra Leone have
learned many challenges, lessons over the past 14 years. I would like to share
with you a few, mainly, conflict management, and post conflict development.

It is our experience in resolving conflicts and literally building a bridge between
post conflict recovery and sustainable development. While taking you through
conflict, we'll reflect finally on development in this weapon free comfort zone of
Columbia University. I look forward to learning through exchange of views on
these matters. You may be aware that Sierra Leone has endured a decade long
internal conflict in the 1990's that unleashed a campaign of unimaginable
bloodshed and devastation. I will not recount here in full detail the extraordinary
brutality and immense suffering visited upon the people of my country during the
course of the conflict, which left hundreds of thousands dead and many more
grotesquely maimed.

The conflict also devastated our infrastructure. As a result, this senseless
violence and wanton destruction, the conflict in Sierra Leone became
internationally known for its horrific atrocities, particularly the widespread
amputation of civilians and sexual violence perpetrated against innocent women
and children. Prior to the outbreak of the armed conflict, Sierra Leone was not
only a developing country, but also one of the least developed in the world. It still
is. Here, the 11-year rebel conflict only exacerbated an already fragile economy.

However, the killing and maiming were abated and the guns were silenced by our
commit to end the conflict and the will of the people for a return to democratic
governance. Today, one of our greatest achievements is our adherence to the
tenants of democracy and the rule of law. Upon assuming the presidency in
March 1996, my own personal experience in post conflict recovery, as a UNDP
representative and resident coordinator of the United Nation system is East and
South Africa was put to the test in my own country. I inherited a severely battered

I was conscious of my political, constitutional, and also moral obligation and
strive hard and give every effort to bring an early end to the war. The population
had already become war weary and in spirit of my knowledge of the state of our
military and its inability to prosecute the war against the rebels, I made the
enduring, the ending of the war, my campaign pledge. I made this pledge in the
belief, by negotiations or sound reasoning, I would be able to talk the rebels out
of their hostile activities against a population and persuade them to enter into
negotiations with a few concluding peace agreements with them.

In fact, the only option I saw available to me then was to embark on negotiations
with the rebels. Accordingly, that is the approach that I pursued immediately after
my inauguration, despite the existent problems concerning the capability of the
military and the fact that I was elected president against a background of
increasing confidence of the eventual ascendancy to power of the rebel group,
known as the Revolutionary United Front, RUF. A cross section of my people,
including the print media, was against negotiations with the rebels. But I knew
that the then army, not the people, had lost the war.

And since the people were not competent in the strict sense of the word, I
convinced them into talking with the rebels. It was an uphill task. The areas
manifests hostility toward my government had been further increased. Insistence
on elections before peace. This caused the area a considerable sense of
frustration. Both of these factors, though not fatal, will prove the weakening, the
baddening position of my government when it entered the *Abidjan peace talks
with the (inaudible) in late 1996. In Abidjan, a comprehensive peace agreement
was included despite all the acrimony engendered by the rebels during

The agreement called for, among other things, the total and immediate cessation
of hostilities, the disarmament demobilization, and reintegration of all combatants
and the provision of amnesty for the (inaudible) members. The people
(inaudible) welcomed the signing of this agreement, as they regarded the accord
as the end of their woes and suffering and expected that it will restore lasting
peace and stability to the country. It soon turned out, however, that the people
and the government had in fact been deceived by the (inaudible). The message
of the rebel leader, intercepted by the government, only days after the signing of
the agreement, clearly showed that the *Ariyaf did not enter the peace
negotiations in good faith and had no desire to abide by the term's resulting
peace agreement.

And that message, for the (inaudible), the rebel leader had communicated with
his deputy, the field commander *Sam Bokari, alias Mosquito that he had agreed
to participate in negotiation and to sign the peace agreement only as a pretext to
relieve himself of the pressure of the international community. But he never
intended to abide by its terms. In the same message, he ordered his
commanders to resolve hostilities, even with greater ferocity. Indeed, the cease
fire, which then prevailed, was then broken by the Ariyaf immediately after the
signing on the agreement. A clear indication that the Abidjan agreement was
doomed on fail. Attacks on civilians by the Ariyafs stepped up over time.

In March 1997, military officers adopted the name Armed Forces Revolutionary
Council, in collaboration with Ariyaf rebels, and stages a bloody coup in Fretown,
the capital of Sierra Leone. My government went into exile in neighboring
Guinea, from where we operated and mobilized international support for the
immediate and unconditional restoration of democratic rule. The people of Sierra
Leone overwhelming rejoiced and rejected the coup, some with their lives. In
response to the Ariyaf in transience and its increasing brutality against civilians,
Nigeria led a (inaudible) observer group.

Troops launched an offensive in February 1998 to dislodge the *Jaunter. The
joint (inaudible) were forced out of Fretown and my government was there after
restored. During the intervention, my (inaudible), many of the Farseian area
forces escaped to the remote hinterlands of the country and intensified their
activities predominantly in the diamond mining areas. There, they were able to
mine diamonds which they exchanged cheaply with weapons, which they armed
themselves to the teeth. This enabled them to recoup, to regroup, and attack the
capital in January 1999. Slaughtering thousands of civilians and virtually razing
the city in a matter of days.

This level of mayhem and destruction further awakens (inaudible) general
international awareness of the plight of the civilian population. That incursion
accelerated the dire need for the peace process. In collaboration with the
economic committee of West African states, a course, an international committee
was now willing to intervene, at least diplomatically. And they, together, with the
government, were not determined to find a workable and lasting solution to the
rebel (inaudible) in the country. This led to the commencement of the dialogue,
which resulted in the Lomi peace agreement of 1999.

The initial stage of the dialogue was set when I was invited to Lo Mien Togo to
sign a cease-fire agreement for the rebel leader for the Sanko in March 1999. I
did this, I missed a lot of misgivings from the people of Sierra Leone. From the
bitter experience they had had regarding (inaudible) attitude to the Abidjan peace
accord, they, on the one hand, preferred an all out war against the rebels, and an
attainment of peace by their defeat in battle. I, on the other hand, was aware of
the handicaps and limitations of the government to proceed that way.

I was also aware of the pending restoration of a democratically elected
government in Nigeria, as a result of which the continued stay of the Nigerian
contingent in Sierra Leone, which was by far the largest, could not be
guaranteed. Above all else, I could no longer stomach the killing of innocent
Sierra Leonins. Thus, I chose the path of dialogue again. But this time, careful to
avoid the pitfalls and weaknesses in the Abidjan peace accord. Along the lines
of the Abidjan peace agreement, the Lomi peace accord included a blanket
amnesty for competence and provided for disarmament and demobilization and
the reintegration of human rights and truth and reconciliation commissions.

The parties also agreed to the deployment of a neutral United Nations
peacekeeping force. Most notably, it also included a power sharing arrangement
among the elected government, the Ariyaf and rebels and the AFRC. The Ariyaf
leader for the Sanko was accorded a status that was similar to that of the vice
president and chairmanship of the important commission for the management of
strategic mineral resources and natural, national reconstruction and
development. The MPC, the AFRC leader, *Jonipul Koriman, was appointed
chairman of the disarmament and reintegration committee. With these
arrangements, expectations were high that Sierra Leone had turned a corner and
was on its way to lasting peace and stability.

On January 18, 2002, Sierra Leonins breathed a sigh of joyous relief. For that
memorable day marks the formal end of the brutal conflict. We set ourselves
specific goals in pursuit of sustainable peace and national development. We
shared the view that a peaceful and sustainable environment, is a (inaudible) for
national development and by extension, for achieving the millennium
development goals. The starting point was disarmament and reintegration of
competence by May 2004, a total of 72,490 competents were disarmed and
71,043 demobilized, including 6,845 child soldiers.

By the same period, 55,122 ex competents had received support for their
integration into active committee life. Also, most of the formerly, internally
displaced persons and refugees where repatriated and resettled. Indeed, the war
that's killed our people and ravaged our country had become a thing of the past.
However, in order to ensure that the long peace is consolidated, government
(inaudible) sustainable reforms in the security sector. The underlying strategy is
to transform the security sector so that it is not only capable or responding
adequately to threats, to the states, and citizenry, but also to provide the enabling
environment to fight poverty and pursues the goals of national development.

This is particularly significant as what was once a 17,000 person strong U.N.
peacekeeping force. (inaudible) is scheduled to depart Sierra Leone within three
months that is by the end of this year. As I pursued the peace process, I was
also cognizant of the fact that Sierra Leonins were anxious. Not only to have
peace, but also to realize sooner than the later, concrete dividends from this,
from the restoration of a democracy, of a democratic government, which they had
obtained after much toil and suffering.

We were constantly reminding ourselves that lack of development breeds conflict
and insecurity. How then, do you keep the peace and maintain security under
those circumstances? While regarding peace and security as being paramount,
we never abandoned our relief and development responsibilities. To this end,
one of the most successful of our post conflict initiatives was the establishment of
a national commitment for reconstruction, resettlement, and rehabilitation. The
three R's. While it was evidently a response to the humanitarian development
goals, in particular, for the rural areas, which bore the brunt of rebel aggression,
the NCRRR was in effect a bridge between the demand for immediate
humanitarian relief and the equally important need to prepare for a resumption of
economic development activities that had been ruthlessly disrupted by rebel war.

After all, people cannot remain or depend on humanitarian relief indefinitely.
Moving from relief to development, the triple R commission was transformed into
the National Commission for Social Action. NACSA. NACSA could be described
as the motive force for our post conflict development. It is a showpiece in post
conflict transition. While assuming responsibility for the previous reconstruction,
resettlement, and rehabilitation programs, NACSA also coordinated funding for
projects that promote economic growth and sustainable development.

Working directly with local communities, it supports projects and programs in
such areas as water and sanitation, shelter, public works, including agriculture,
fisheries, education, and micro financing. With almost 1,100 projects
implemented, the ultimate objective of NASCA is linked to our poverty reduction
strategy. As stated above, even before the war, poverty in Sierra Leone had
become endemic and pervasive. By 1990, statistics indicated that those, close to
four-fifths of the population lived below the poverty line of $1 a day.

In addition to income poverty, a large portion of the population lacked access to
basic social services, including health care, education, potable water, and
sanitation. The war merely exacerbated the death and severity of poverty,
causing the living conditions of the majority to further deteriorate. Following the
election in 1996, my government began efforts to combat widespread poverty.
We begun by identifying five broad development priorities. One, security and
world related issues such as disarmament, immobilization, reintegration, and
resettlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Two, education. Three, good
governance and justice. Four, agriculture and food security. And five, health, with
an emphasis on primary health care.

And in order to address these broad developmental priorities, we devised a
poverty reduction strategy in the form of an interim poverty reduction strategy
paper, which was completed in 2001. This strategy was designed to support the
transition from peace keeping to peace building and from relief to an equitable
and sustainable development. It calls for a two-phased implementation strategy.
A transition period, 2001-02 and a medium term phase, 2003-2005. While the
transition period focused on immediate postwar reconstruction, resettlement and
security challenges, the medium term phase addressed long-term development
strategy for property reduction within the context of the preparation of a full
poverty reduction paper, PRSP.

In addition, my government also provided for the implementation of a national
recovery strategy and (inaudible), which was prepared and launched in October
2002. A full cost on, the consolidation of state authority and peace building, the
promotion of reconciliation and the encroachment of human rights. Facilitating,
resettlement and reintegration and rebuilding communities facilitating access to
previously inaccessible areas and stimulating economic recovery. The NRS
freeze represented the combined efforts of government and development
partners and essentially served as a bridge between emergency humanitarian
assistance and longer term development challenges.

Both the IPRSP and the NRS were successfully implemented during 2001-2004
with my government allocating significant budget resources to form critical
poverty reduction activities, particularly in the social sectors of health, education,
water, and sanitation. This resulted in sustained recovery of the economy during
the period 2001-2004. Real GDP grew by 5.4 percent in 2001, 6.3 in 2002, 6.5 in
2003, and 6.4 in 2004. To consolidate these gains, government adopted bold
economic and structural reforms geared towards sustaining the recovery and
improving overall financial management and service delivery.

Other reform measures have included A: improving the strengthing, policy
making, budget planning, and execution. B: improving the capacity for accounting
and reporting. C: reforming the public procurement process. D: enhancing
revenue collection and mechanisms through the creation of a national revenue
authority and E: public sector reform generally. In order to achieve greater
efficiency in the management of public finances, and to ensure that public
enterprises better serve the public of Sierra Leone, we established a public
enterprise privatization commission to oversee and monitor the oppression of
state enterprises and recommend their privatization where appropriate.

Beyond that, we have been preoccupied with institutional development as a
means of not only expanding the institutional space, but also of modernizing our
institutions so that they can provide efficient service. Currently, Sierra Leone is
aggressively pursuing a new strategic direction to build towards the MDG targets.
It has formulated a 2005-2007 PRSB, which provides bold secturial policies and
institutional reforms to achieve economic growth, provide food security, job
opportunities, basic social service, and efficient social security nets.

It proposes actions to address A: short term living conditions and B: long term
causes of conflict and poverty. The poverty reduction strategy paper constitutes
Sierra Leone's first step towards achieving the Millennium development goals by
2015. It is (inaudible) toward long-term poverty reduction. It is multidimensional
and achievable. As we all know, however, neither the ongoing efforts of my
government to achieve a meaningful improvement in the welfare of our people,
nor our implementation of prudent fiscal and monetary problems can ever be
achieved if these efforts are not firmly rooted in a solid framework of democratic
practices and good governance.

That is why we are vigorously pursuing the goals of good governance through
several reform measures in improving the performance and integrity of state
institutions, fiscal public sector management, and equality of public and political
leadership. On my assumption of office, my government immediately set up
improving the quality of governance and later set up a governance steering
committee under the chairmanship of a member of my cabinet. The committee
has concentrated its efforts on rebuilding democratic governance through
constitutional and institutional reforms. Decentralization and local government
reforms, public sector, and civil service reforms, promotion of human rights,
judicial and legal reforms, promotion of accountability and transparency.

The reduction of the incidents of corruption and abuse of power. In particular, my
government views corruption as an impediment to the promotion of good
governance. Accordingly, combating endemic corruption is the cornerstone of our
good governance program. We have, for the first time in the history of Sierra
Leone, appointed an ombudsman, whose role is to investigate complaints of
abuse and capricious action on the part of public officials. Also, for the first time
in our history, and way ahead of other sub-Saharan African countries, we have
promulgated an anti-corruption act to combat corruption and establish an anti-
corruption commission with the mandate to investigate instances of alleged or
suspected corruption and to take appropriate action, including recommendations
for prosecution.

In a bid to stimulate economic development, the rural areas and to extend
democratic participation to the grassroots of the population, the government
introduced legislation in early 2004 aimed at promoting the centralization of
government services and a reestablishment of elected local government
councils. This initiative led to the enactment of the Local Government Act in
March 2004. Thereafter, local government elections were held nationwide in May
of that year, in which municipal, town and district councils were elected to replace
the (inaudible) political appointed management committees that had been in

These elections took government closer to the local community and considerably
empowered them to take control of the management of their own affairs. Another
serious source of concern for my government is that of dealing with the
dispensation of justice in Sierra Leone. Accordingly, under the guidance of the
chief justice, the entire judicial and legal system is in the process of being
completely overhauled. This activity, which is aimed at developing an effecting
and efficiently held and judicial system in Sierra Leone is part of the British
funded Law Development Reform Project. In line with our commitment, we now
have a fully functioning law reform commission, whose mandate is to review all
the laws of our country and to make recommendations regarding the need for the
(inaudible) amendment or repeal of laws.

Further measures have been taken to provide incentive and improve pay and
other conditions of service for personnel in the legal service. The cumulative
effect of all these, public sector reform initiatives, is that Sierra Leone is gradually
becoming the peaceful and wholesome society that it had been known to be at
one time in the past. We are trying to position Sierra Leone among the ranks of
leading countries in Africa. Leaders in addressing corruption. We will be leaders
in human rights. We will be leaders in electoral reform, we will be leaders in
(inaudible) security. We must establish this reputation for leadership in order to
begin to attract long term foreign investors.

We need foreign investment first in the development of infrastructure. Without
adequate energy, telecommunications, transport, and shipping services, we will
not attract business investment. We are doing our best to provide a regulatory
framework with particular, with predictable, consistent, and simple procedures for
doing business. Foreign enclaves mark our economic history, especially in the
mining and commercial sectors. The business of these sectors must be
thoroughly integrated into our national economy. This is usually accomplished
through the financial sector, including the banks.

We must enable national and foreign investors to lend and borrow money in the
local market. The financial links need to be developed between those who have
money and those who want to invest money in new businesses. Our banking
system is starting to vigorously respond in the services to every district. Now, it
must expand the kind of services it provides and become a true hub for financial
transactions between leaders, lenders, and borrowers. The micro finance sector
is emerging, is emerging, financial services needs to expand to include medium
sized loans, under commercial banks, and must finance agricultural and post
harvest businesses to link agriculture to industry.

Private sector growth does not just refer to foreign investment. We're witnessing
a most encouraging response by farmers on the various initiatives of fields and
schools and agricultural business units. Last year, the minister of agriculture,
forestry and food security provided seed rice to enable farmers to restore losses
during the war and rebuild the acreage necessary for food security. This year, the
ministry is purchasing an additional 114,000 bushels of rice, making these two
years the largest efforts ever for government support to expand, to the expansion
of rice production.

The agricultural business unit have pledged to save 20 percent of their output
and make a community contribution of 20 percent to their local council. The
successful harvest in 2005-2006 and the commitment of these farmers to their
pledges will launch a new era of agricultural business by small farmers. This is
an encouraging development in the private sector. We're hopeful that in 2006,
this effort will culminate in Sierra Leone becoming once again a rice exporter.
The task of achieving our own national development goals on the MDGs, is
daunting, especially for one of the least developed countries of the world, a
country emerging from 11 years of armed conflict.

While acknowledging the need to strengthen our capacity for good governance,
mobilizing domestic financial institutions, etc. we have to make considerable
efforts to create more jobs, to integrate our youth into the economic and social
mainstream of society. Here, I'm referring to the vast majority who never lifted an
AK-47 rifle against anyone. We have learned from experience that
unemployment and disadvantaged youths provided a pool or recruits for the
rebels. We have therefore created a new ministry of youth and sports to enhance
our ability, through well-designed projects. From meeting the needs of this
important segment of the population.

In this regard, we have revised our national youth policy. It emphasizes youth
empowerment and the mainstreaming of youth activities and concerns as critical
inputs in the development process. The major objective is the strengthening of
partnership between the public and private sectors to facilitate employment of
youth. In coming up with this new policy, we realized that hard won peace as
well as our efforts for sustainable development, would be seriously jeopardized if
we failed to address the youth problem speedily and effectively. We have to
eliminate the rest of us sliding back into conflict. The key lies in prevention.

We agree with the Secretary General of the United Nations that every step taken
towards reducing poverty and achieving broad based economic growth is a step
towards conflict prevention. We must create a culture of prevention; one based
on renewed commitment to address in a coordinated and comprehensive manner
the problems of economic and social development. I have no doubt whatsoever
that this is the best means of insuring that Sierra Leone does not slide back into
violent conflict. Ladies and gentlemen, let me summarize what I believe, based
on the Sierra Leone experience and lessons learned, are the key elements for
meeting the challenges of post conflict development.

Least development countries emerging from armed conflict face special problems
that require special attention as well as specialized country specific solutions.
Two, sustained economic and social development is a key to the prevention of
armed conflict. And perhaps the best means of preventing the reoccurrence of
violence, violent armed conflict in developing countries like Sierra Leone. Three,
useless war related emergency relief and peacekeeping programs buttressed by
comprehensive development programs, the prospects for lasting peace will be

Four, development as an instrument of conflict prevention and durable peace
must also be considered in the context of regional peace and security. For
instance, a strong and viable (inaudible) union comprising New Guinea, Liberia,
and Sierra Leone would help significantly and could alleviate most of the
problems associated with the conflicts in the sub-region. An equally strong and
viable economy community of West African states. Focusing on its cooperation
and integration would greatly enhance the capacity of its member states to
prevent armed conflict. Five, the concept of reintegration after armed conflict
should be redefined.

It should be extended beyond the placement of ex competents in occupational
and related activities to include the integration of youth in the mainstream of
society. And finally, small developing countries have very limited means to
defend themselves against serious threats to their security. Unless major powers
and collective security arraignments are willing to provide the necessary
assistance, when these states face serious internal disturbances and/or external
aggression, they will be doomed to perpetual turmoil. In the next two years, now
that we have secured the peace, we will constantly date the peace for future
generations by developing Sierra Leone.

We will be more strategic, we will be more thorough. We will be more intolerant
of corruption. We will protect the rights of women and children. We will secure
and improve the education of our boy/girl and our boy and girl children. We will
continue to offer our youth the chance for literacy to recover the basic education
they missed during the war. We will accelerate the transformation of subsistence
farming into surplus farming. We will build ability of our farmers to save and
invest in their agricultural businesses.

Above all, we will adhere to the tenants of participatory democratic governance
and the rule of law. We have come a long way, thanks to the invaluable
contribution of every Sierra Leonin in various ways and to the support of the
international community. Of course, we acknowledge the fact that there is still a
long way ahead of us. With commitments and hard work on the part of every
Sierra Leonin and the support of friendly countries and institutions, we will
achieve the millennium development goals and targets. Finally, I hope you can
appreciate that the path to peace and development can be rugged. However,
with determination, patience, and people's will, proper focus, and the grace of the
Almighty, one is bound to succeed. I thank you for your attention.

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