Celebrating Sierra Leone’s 50th Independence Anniversary

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sierra Leone gained political independence in April 27th 1961 after more than 150 years of British colonial rule.

The new nation was born at exactly midnight on 27th April, 1961 when it’s green, white and blue flag was unfurled. A huge crowd, gathered at Brook fields Playground in Freetown to watch the historic moment.

According to the BBC, Independence Day formally began as the Duke of Kent handed over Royal Instruments to the then Prime Minister, Sir Milton Margai at Parliament Building recognizing Sierra Leone as an independent nation.

Sir Maurice Dorman, Governor since 1956, was then sworn in as Governor-General by Chief Justice Beoku Betts.

Messages of welcome to the new government led by Prime Minister Sir Milton Margai came from many heads of states, including, the then British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan and Queen Elizabeth II.

Geographically, Sierra Leone covers an area of 71, 740 square kilometers with Liberia to the South, Guinea to the North and West; and the Atlantic Ocean to the South. The last national census conducted in 2005, pegged the population of Sierra Leone at 4.9 million but according to indicators, the population is rapidly growing towards 6 million.

Celebrating a New Sierra Leone

Today, we are celebrating our Golden Jubilee under the leadership of Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma. But as a nation, what have we achieved since Independence to date, especially under the current regime led by Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma?

We should be proud as a nation to celebrate 50 years of existence as a cohesive nation with religious tolerance and political tolerance, unity in diversity, our natural endowments and the rapid transformation as a nation from war to a nation in peace.

Kudos to our leaders

Indeed, as Sierra Leoneans, we should commend our first Prime Minister, the late Sir Milton Margai, who led us to political independence. We should also commend successive regimes after independence for their meaningful contributions towards the development of our beloved nation.

As Sierra Leoneans the world over are ready to celebrate this historic occasion in pomp and pageantry, they are also proud that they are celebrating their Golden Jubilee under a president whose development strides in the road infrastructure, the agricultural sector, free health care initiative, communications and energy among other development projects, are very impressive.

Nation making rapid progress

Sierra Leoneans believe that, irrespective of political, ethnic and regional  differences, they should proudly celebrate a nation that is making rapid progress under the leadership of Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma – a leader who is focused on development through his ‘Agenda for Change’. 

President Koroma fulfilled promises

The nation’s low rate of investment has often been caused, among other reasons, by the unreliable supply of electricity in the country and it was against the backdrop that when President Koroma assumed office on 17th September 2007, he faithfully promised the people of Sierra Leone a reliable electricity supply. Consequently, government completed and successfully commissioned the Bumbuna hydro-electric project in 2008 which construction started over three decades ago by the late President Siaka Probyn Stevens.

With the completion of the project, most parts of the capital city Freetown now enjoy reliable electricity supply while provincial cities like Bo, Kenema and Makeni are no longer the dark cities they used to be as government has provided them with generators that would guarantee reliable electricity supply.

According to government’s master plan for electricity, all the twelve districts in the three provinces – northern, southern and eastern - are to benefit from mini-hydro electric projects in a bid to open up the country for more investment and create job opportunities for the Sierra Leonean youth that form the bulk of the unemployed.

The project implementation, according to the Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Professor Ogunlade Davidson, will soon commence with the aid of our development partners such as UNIDO, which has undertaken to fund the Moyamba District mini-hydro electric project.

Sierra Leone becomes a works yard

Sierra Leone under the leadership of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma is like a works yard as development programmes nationwide are being implemented by both local and international construction companies.

The construction of the Freetown/Conakry Pan-African highway, Matotoka/Koidu, Kenema/Pendembu highways are ongoing, while the Masiaka/Bo/Kenema highway was completed last year.

Agriculture

Government is also constructing or rehabilitating many feeder roads in agriculturally viable areas to enhance value chain and movement of agricultural produce to the main markets so that the rural poor will realize better profit from their production.

Besides, the implementation of small holder commercialization programme is an added feather to the cap of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma. This will empower our rural farmers to move away from subsistence farming to one that will provide a wider market for their produce as well as to bring about food security which is the hallmark of any developed country.

Corruption

Also, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s ‘zero tolerance on corruption’ has started biting many high profile government functionaries and officials in the private sector, especially contractors. The fight against corruption took a different dimension with the enactment of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008, which gave unfettered independence status and prosecutorial powers to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

Since then, many government officials and contractors have been investigated, prosecuted and found guilty of various corruption charges.  Some officials stood trials late last year for various corrupt charges and were found guilty by the court.  Not only did they lose their jobs, they were asked to pay what they chopped from government coffers.

By and large, the fight against corruption under the leadership of Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma is very effective. Before he took over as President, the anti-graft commission was a white elephant or toothless bulldog as it had no prosecutorial powers. For instance, government officials used to misappropriate donor funds with impunity and most cases investigated by the ACC were never prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.

Most cases that involved government functionaries or party stalwarts were swept under the carpet by the powers-that-be much to the disappointment of the public.

But the current fight against corruption has gathered momentum as the ACC has made passionate appeal to all stakeholders including the media to come on board to fight against the scourge. Government’s determination for ‘zero tolerance on corruption’ in the public and private sectors has more or less given much confidence to both local and foreign investors doing business in Sierra Leone. 

On 1st October 2010, Transparency International Report ranked Sierra Leone 134 out of 178 countries which have been dead serious in the fight against corruption. The independent report showed that Sierra Leone has consistently improved over the last three years in the fight against corruption or corrupt practices.

Business registration

The relaxation of the bureaucratic bottlenecks for the registration of business has also attracted more investors in the country as it takes less than 48 hours to register a new business with the Office of the Registrar General.  

Above all, government has implemented measures to protect investors and their investments.

Strengthening democratic institutions

President Koroma’s led-APC administration has also strengthened our democratic institutions such as the National Revenue Authority, the National Electoral Commission, National Commission for Social Action, the Anti-Corruption Commission, National Privatization Authority, the Independent Media Commission, National Commission for Democracy and Human Rights, the Human Rights Commission and many others through capacity building and support from our development partners.

Little wonder that in 2010, the Mo lbrahim Index of African Governance ranked Sierra Leone 33rd out of 53 countries for governance quality. It is expected that at the end of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s first tenure in office much more would have been achieved in good governance.

Mining sector

Also, much progress is being made in the mining sector as many foreign companies now operate in that sector. The African Minerals Limited (AML), which Chief Executive Officer is Alan Watling, recently announced 12. 8 billion tonnes of iron ore deposit in Tonkolili District, north of the country.

Like this mineral exploration and Development Company with significant iron ore and base metal interests in Sierra Leone, many other companies in our mining sector like the London Mining Company are also anticipating moving into commercial production in the not-too-distant future and this will hopefully bring some economic boom to post-conflict Sierra Leone which relies heavily on donors.

Donors willing to work with Pres. Koroma

The determination of President Koroma’s administration to turn things around through the ‘Agenda for Change’ seems to have attracted many donors and international financial institutions that have expressed sincere willingness to work with the government because of its strong fiscal policies.

To buttress this, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has just approved a three-year programme under the Extended Credit Facility for Sierra Leone. The British Government has also increased her development assistance to Sierra Leone. It should be noted that for Britain or any European country to assist any underdeveloped or developing country, certain benchmarks are or have to be met.

One of these benchmarks is the commitment of the country’s leadership to prudently and judiciously use the aid or assistance for its intended purpose. At least, the British coalition government might have convinced itself that it has not been wasting the British taxpayers’ monies on Sierra Leone hence the Secretary of State for Department for International Development (DFID), Andrew Mitchell, believes that Sierra Leone’s development assistance should be upped.

Sierra Leone climbs the ladder

Efforts by the current government to make more progress in development have moved the country from 167 to 158 on the United Nations Human Development Index for the first time since 2005. In 2010, the country also received the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) award for steps taken to reduce global scourge of HIV/AIDS and malaria. These are all indicators of the rapid development Sierra Leone is making under the exemplary leadership of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma.

With such development unfolding in our beloved Sierra Leone, we should have reasons to celebrate our independence anniversary as there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Sierra Leone Opens for Business

Sierra Leone’s potential for trade and industrial activities was highlighted by leaders from all over the world at the Sierra Leone Trade and Investment Forum held in London in 2009. As former British Prime Minister Tony Blair explained at the forum, “Sierra Leone has massive natural resources and wonderful possibilities commercially in agriculture, tourism, mining and other sectors. In addition, for the first time, it now has a stable government system with a president who genuinely wants to make change and root out corruption.”

Foreign investment success stories in Sierra Leone

According to the widely read European Independent Media Agency, The European Times, foreign investors already operating in Sierra Leone demonstrate the country’s potential.

French petroleum giant Total is one global investor which has put its faith in Sierra Leone and is thriving there, serving as an example to other multinationals considering an investment in the country, the Magazine reported recently.

“Local cement producer Leocem, part of Heidelberg Cement, was recently the target of around €7.7 million in investment from the parent group, a sign of confidence in Sierra Leone’s future.”

Another successful foreign investor, the Magazine added, is Maersk Sierra Leone, part of the global AP Moller – Maersk group, which has been operating in the country for many years and established a registered local company in Sierra Leone in 2003.

It also reported that Addax Bioenergy, a division of the Switzerland based Addax & Oryx Group, has established a Greenfield integrated agricultural and renewable energy project in Makeni, Sierra Leone, to produce fuel ethanol and electricity from sugarcane. The project will include a 10,000 hectare sugarcane plantation, a milling operation, an ethanol distillery with a capacity of 350,000 litres of ethanol per day, a 15 MW biomass power plant which will be able to produce 100,000 MWh per annum for export, and related infrastructure.

“Addax & Oryx will invest around €200 million in the project, which will provide direct employment for around 2,000 people and will begin operating in 2012.”

Sierra Leone- a blessed nation

While celebrating our 50th independence anniversary, we should let the world know that Sierra Leone is one of the finest countries in Africa. She is blessed with the second largest natural harbour on earth after Australia. Sierra Leone is remarkably beautiful, with pristine beaches, green mountains, and jungles that remain largely untouched. It has friendly people with political tolerance.

Our flora and fauna, and our beautiful monuments like the famous Bounce Island where slaves were shipped to America during the Atlantic slave trade, the Tambakha Kilimi Reserve in the Tambakha Chiefdom, Bombali District and other areas in Kabala, Shenge, Sulima, Pepel and Bonthe are beautiful and still remain as major tourist attraction areas in the country.

Celebrating a new nation

Sierra Leoneans are hospitable and religiously tolerant. Today, we are not celebrating the mistakes of our past leaders; we are celebrating a new Sierra Leone that is full of rekindled hopes for the survival of our children.

Welcome to Sierra Leone

The key to unlocking our development comes from the determination, assiduity and shrewdness of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma to implement the ‘Agenda for Change’.  And the aura of confidence and sincerity around his administration has certainly given Sierra Leoneans new hopes to celebrate the Golden Jubilee in grand style. Happy Independence Celebrations to all Sierra Leoneans and Sierra Leone welcomes all genuine investors.  

 

Author: Alhaji M.B. Jalloh, Information Attaché/ Public Affairs Unit, Sierra Leone Embassy, Riyadh – Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Source: Picture: Alhajie M.B. Jalloh