1 January 2012
President Koroma has, in his New Year’s address to the nation, called upon both Muslims and Christians in the country to pray for a week – starting 16 January, amid chaos caused by long queues at fuel stations, and banking depositors unable to withdraw money from their accounts.
The president is calling upon ‘divine intervention’, marking the end of a turbulent year – 2011, marred by economic uncertainty and political violence, rising inflation – especially prices of basic consumer items, rising poverty and high youth unemployment.
Critics say that this economic mess has been caused largely by profligacy, corruption and mismanagement of the economy. But supporters of the government, including pro-government media, are blaming global economic downturn for the country’s economic woes.
Sierra Leone is one of the most natural resource rich nations in the world, yet cannot feed itself. Almost 50% of government revenue comes from donor funds. Most Sierra Leoneans are having to make do with less than $1 a day. Unemployment stands at over 80%, with inflation running at more than 17%.
The president, as in 2010, is now calling upon divine intervention – for a change in the fortunes of the people, as the country prepares for general and presidential elections taking place this coming November. This is what the president told the nation:
Fellow Sierra Leoneans,
New Year’s Day is usually a time for reflection and resolutions. In 2007 you gave me the mandate to push your resolutions through for a better Sierra Leone. Four years on, my record of transformational achievements is very visible for us to reflect on and strengthen our resolutions for 2012.
In 2007, we firmed up our resolutions for development into an Agenda for Change. We resolved to bring back electricity to Freetown and we have done it; we promised to take electricity to every district headquarter town and we are doing it; we committed ourselves to building roads everywhere, turning farms into enterprises that will benefit farmers and the nation, transforming the health sector, reviewing and improving the educational system, fighting corruption, promoting a more effective public sector management system, attracting investment and creating thousands of jobs.
Everywhere you go today you will see our resolutions at work and our promises being fulfilled.
These are achievements for every Sierra Leonean. The highway to Bo and Kenema is for every Sierra Leonean irrespective of political party; the Road to Pamelap is for every citizen irrespective of age; the roads in Bo, Kenema, Makeni, Kailahun, Port Loko, Kono, Moyamba, and Pujehun are for everybody irrespective of ethnic group.
The water supply systems we are constructing and rehabilitating in district headquarter towns are for everyone. Services provided by the Free Healthcare Initiative are for the mothers and children of every region.
We are establishing agricultural business units in every chiefdom, and we are providing agricultural inputs to farmers in every district. We made a resolution to be a government of nationwide services; a government of infrastructure and a government of implementation. And we have acted on our resolution.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, our country is undergoing its greatest transformation since independence.
Forecasts for our country becoming an oil-producing nation are great, we may soon become the largest per capita producer of iron ore in the world; we have landed the fibre optic cable, we are attracting huge investments in agriculture. Sierra Leoneans should take charge of this transformation; citizens of this great nation must be the drivers of this change.
I know we can rise up to the challenge, I believe in the capacity of Sierra Leoneans to do what they have resolved to do. In 1996, we decided to reject men of violence, and we did it; in 2007 we decided to establish a government of action, and we did it.
I believe the overwhelming majority of the citizens of this country in every region and every political party are peaceful, law abiding and development oriented. I believe in the vision of Sierra Leone as an innovative, forward-looking donor nation in the next few decades.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, on this very first day of 2012, I am reiterating my resolution to make this country live up to its destiny of greatness. We will continue along the path of progress and development. We will continue to build the roads.
We will keep on increasing electricity supply, we will go on with turning farms into businesses, and we will continue to implement the free health care initiative. We will go on with rebranding this country. We will continue to win accolades for our dedication to development and democracy. We will continue to lead reforms at the United Nations.
We will go on sharing the blessings of peace by sending peacemakers to trouble spots in the world. We will move on with attracting investments, improving the business climate, creating jobs and maintaining law and order. We will continue to fight corruption.
We will continue to protect the environment and bring to book those who violate our environmental laws; we will continue to prosecute those who are involved in electoral violence; we will continue to stand up for the common man and woman. We will not be distracted; we will not turn back; the only option is to move forward with unrelenting zeal.
Let me also use this occasion to congratulate the youths of this country for their great contributions to the development of Sierra Leone. Youths are our partners in transformation, the pillars of our actions and the mainstay of our aspirations for a better Sierra Leone.
We salute your resilience and your talents as musicians, teachers, traders, students, religious youths, office workers, riders and drivers. We applaud your skills and energy as operatives of tele and video centres, your mastering of the use and repair of mobile phones and electronic games. We are heartened by your passionate but peaceful support of football clubs.
We are with you in your celebrations of youth. Together we are transforming this nation. Together we will overcome the challenges posed by a few youths taking chances with violence and drugs. Together we will continue along the path of democracy and sustainable development.
Later this year we shall be organizing presidential, parliamentary and local government elections. We must ensure that peace prevails. We must continue to repudiate violence. We must continue to reject political campaigns based on intimidation, ethnic sentiments and retrogression.
Never again must this country surrender itself to the violent, the law breaker and the extremist. The government that I lead will not tolerate plots or acts to push this country towards violence.
Registration of voters for the elections will start later this month. I call upon all of us to make it a New Year resolution to register. Registration enables us to exercise our rights to vote and be voted for; it shows that we are ready to participate in the governance of the country, and it is one of the most profound of the responsibilities of citizens.
Come out in your millions to register and send out a clear message that ballots, rather than bullets must prevail.
We have set up the Sierra Leone Conference on Transformation and Development to facilitate the process of bringing out all the ideas about how we are going to achieve this vision of our country becoming a middle-income country in 25 years and an advanced donor nation within 50 years.
Make it one of your New Year resolutions to be part of this movement for a better Sierra Leone. I ask all of you to act on our collective resolutions for peace, democracy, and sustainable development. Bring on your ideas and best practices; make the resolution now, and rededicate your actions to the realization of our best aspirations.
I hereby declare the week beginning 16th January as a week of prayer for Peace, Prosperity and the great transformation of our beloved country Sierra Leone. The Muslims will end their week of prayer on Friday the 20th and the Christians on Sunday the 22nd.
Once again, I congratulate the citizens of this country for the great strides we are making to build a better Sierra Leone.
I wish you all a bright and prosperous 2012!