President Bio speaks to the people of Sierra Leone on the country’s 60th independence anniversary

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 April 2021:

Fellow Citizens. Today, we commemorate sixty years of our country’s independence. We do so by reflecting on the vision, great sacrifice, and courage of those who led, those who helped them lead, and those who embraced their leadership to usher in our sovereignty as an independent nation in the Commonwealth.

Sixty years ago, Sir Milton Margai admonished citizens of the newly independent Sierra Leone to “face up squarely to the problems which will confront” Sierra Leoneans. He urged commitment to “wholehearted service and hard work” in order to “make our country a land worth living in, a land worth serving.”

He further called on Sierra Leoneans to “deal fairly and honestly” with their fellow men, “strive actively for peace, friendship, and unity,” and to discourage lawlessness.

Over these sixty years, we have learned to live together as a nation. We are a global model for religious tolerance. We intermarry and cohabit peacefully in our towns and villages.

We have had military coups and repressive single-party dictatorships, but we have consolidated one of the sturdiest multiparty democracies in Africa. We fought a bloody civil war for a decade, but we made it and we have had enduring peace for over two decades since.

For all the other challenges we have faced as a nation, from pestilence and natural disasters, near collapse of institutions and our economy, mismanagement of our natural resources and our environment, corruption and bad governance, the lack of justice and equal access to opportunity especially for women and youth, to other perceived cleavages in our nation, we have emerged stronger, tougher, and more resilient every time.

We have felt the pain, learned the lessons, used the lessons as opportunities to learn, and drawn strength from those opportunities to become a better nation. As Frederick Douglass teaches us, “we have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.”

This 60th commemoration of our country’s independence is therefore a watershed moment in our nation’s history. We must use it to reflect on the past only as it helps us avoid the worst of the past and work diligently for a shared future of peace and prosperity that our nation truly deserves.

To attain this, we must fashion a bold new vision that is hewn from our collective desire as a nation to be better, stronger, and more resilient.

My Government drew up a medium-term national development plan as a strategic document for allocating resources to priority areas that will support sustainable national development. A scientific and more accurate population and housing census will generate valuable data that supports our development.

Over the last three years, my Government has focused on getting the economic fundamentals right and streamlining revenue mobilisation and public financial management. Our development partners have re-engaged and we have lowered inflation and increased reserves in spite of the impact of

We have enacted pro-investment policies and independent assessments show we are making progress in the ease of doing business indicators. We are primed for such growth sectors as agriculture, mining, fishing, and tourism among others.

Already, the influx of new players in the mining sector, the regeneration of artisanal and industrial fishing and fish processing, and millions of dollars of investment in new agricultural projects indicate renewed confidence in these sectors.

No doubt, Sierra Leone is still a diamond in the rough. Ours is a peaceful and alluring slice of God’s earth where history and nature conjoin to offer some of the most stunning tourism products. In spite of COVID, the international profile of Sierra Leone as a tourism destination has improved over the last three years. More African American brothers and sisters are proudly reclaiming their heritage and with them comes the promise of new expertise and entrepreneurship.

For inclusive and sustainable development, we believe that we must nurture our nation’s most valuable resource – its citizens. For that purpose, we are investing heavily in Human Capital Development through inclusive quality education, food security, value-added agriculture, and quality healthcare infrastructure and training.

At the same time, we are investing in infrastructure that enables and supports sustainable development and economic expansion. We are building more roads and bridges, expanding access to electricity even in off-grid locations, and constructing water distribution lines in population centres. We have also significantly invested in science, technology, innovation, and ICT coverage.

My Government has ushered in public sector governance reform and leveraged technology to improve institutional effectiveness and accountability. We will continue to improve on the fight against corruption because it is good for governance, good for business, and good for sustainable development.

We must also engage in a national dialogue about devising an effective and inclusive political system that is democratic and less amenable to shocks, minimises the boot prints of bad politicians, and ensures political representation and a voice for minorities and minority populations throughout Sierra Leone. At the same time, we are instituting a permanent and independent commission for peace and national cohesion that will identify and resolve the triggers of conflict in our nation.

We have irreversibly discarded criminal libel laws and we are actively supporting the growth of a free press. Our objective is an open and democratic society where civil society thrives, free speech and civic participation are guaranteed, and the voices of citizens matter on all national issues.

We must respect the sanctity of life and ensure equal protection under the laws of our nation. We must build a humane and just Sierra Leone where justice and social protection for our most vulnerable and disadvantaged are assured.

We must continue to build a more inclusive and equal society in which children, girls, and women not only matter and must be protected by law from sexual and gender[1]based violence but also have guaranteed equal access to opportunity and resources.

Sixty years on, our natural resources have not had much impact on our national development. But we commissioned an airborne geophysical survey of our mineral resources two years ago. We have since reviewed laws and policies to ensure transparent governance of our mineral resources and a fair distribution of the benefits of those resources.

In the future, Sierra Leoneans must responsibly live in and protect our environment, our forests, our beaches, and our oceans. We have set up a permanent agency for disaster risk and impact management as well as a stand-alone Ministry of the Environment.

All these are promising starts that citizens must not dismiss for the sake of mere partisanship. This is a reset of our national priorities and our national focus. Our nation therefore stands to gain everything from it. It is the future we want; it is the future we will build together.

We are reminded in the words of our national anthem that we must “show forth the good that is ever in” Sierra Leone. To that end, we should remind one another often that our conduct, attitudes, and values affect other citizens and our nation directly and indirectly.

It is our responsibility to respect all laws and support law and order at all times. We should not incite or participate in violent unrest. We all have an equal stake in a safe, peaceful, and progressive Sierra Leone.

So let me once again congratulate all of us as we commemorate this 60th anniversary of our independence. Let us each resolve to contribute to building our shared future.

May God/ Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala bless our endeavours and guide us in this Holy Month of Ramadan. I thank you.

The above photos are of school children and inter-services personnel marching this morning from the country’s Parliament to the national stadium in Freetown to commemorate the 60th Independence Anniversary of Sierra Leone.

4 Comments

  1. I keep listening to series of complaints from us citizens of Sierra Leone about our beloved nation. We know that we have gone 60 years since independence. We know we have bad leadership. But do we also know that we have bad citizens – we the very complainants? Do we recognize the blessings God has afforded some of us who especially are in the diaspora?
    I can go on naming lot of these such as doctors, scholars, engineers, nurses, furniture making professionals etc. who are working abroad with good annual returns. How many of us spear our time to hustle 9 months abroad and come home and hustle for three months so that we maintain the skills home year round without a deficit. Recently, I joined an online group that were suggesting that the present government is tribal and that we need change in Sierra Leone. I was moved. However, when the group finally presented a list of speakers and those to lead discussions, it was as if the North was Sierra Leone. I sat for a few minutes and burst into a heavy laugh. How can people calling for change fail to recognize the diversity of the country? How can they set up a group with one tribe dominating the discussions? The dominance is so clear that we can never expect the professed change.

    If we truly mean our craving and cries, let us note that the very change Sierra Leone needs in right in our hands not any government. If you are in the diaspora or in Sierra Leone and have enough to eat, share with those who do not have – not food, the lessons, invest in programs that train and empower and promote unity and diversity – it is called smart investment in human capital development. If you have the opportunity to own a 300,000 USD home abroad, please buy a simple 50,000 USD home, invest the rest in your village – build a village that has zinc houses all over (well cemented and painted), modern toilet facilities, a guest house, good water system and maybe to some extend solar lights. If we all invest in the next five years, Sierra Leone will change. If you are a medical doctor, push for an Association for the Sierra Leone Medics in the diaspora. Arrange in such a way that every month, about 300 Sierra Leonean Medics are home at their own expense to support basic health care and advanced medical needs. Once this becomes practical, launch an appeal, I can tell you, many of us will push for an investment to equip our hospitals.

    We the citizens can buy equipment and furnish our own hospitals. I am not shifting government responsibility, I am saying this to strengthen government response and citizens meaningful participation. With such a national service, we can then focus government investment into Infrastructures and capital investments, reduce debt and promote merit in the country. Schools and universities can also benefit from the Medics approach. Only we can develop Sierra Leone, No government can and no external support from donors can do it. With such a huge citizen led development, government will become serious because we would have empowered us to the extent that we control the power, not them. We will ensure that our people become the actual voice.

  2. What can I say. It seems all the degrees, I mean so many PHD’s cannot solve our problems. This is a day of sorrow, disgrace to the ancestors. We are an object of laughter in West Africa. What happened to the Athens of West Africa? Abundant resources, arable land, a coastline to die for. The only answer is we are the most stupid people in West Africa. In the eyes of the average Sierra Leonean, countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal are seen as equivalent to the first world. In conclusion, we have gone so far, our people prefer to live as house servants in Guinea and Gambia. God Help Us

  3. Its been sixty long years of turmoil since our nation’s Independence; Sixty years of continuous barrenness orchestrated by wicked leaders hell bent on drowning successive generations into the abysmal depths of utter despair and abject poverty. Sixty long years of worries and sad stories, of tears and endless cares. What exactly are we celebrating that we achieved in the interest of progress and national cohesion?

    All things remain the same – thefts and corruption are seen as legitimate ways to an end in this cruel game of fame that our inept leaders love to play; Our roads are death traps, education is of poor quality, hospitals are understaffed and underfunded, bread and butter issues have become serious life and death issues for poor struggling families, the SL Police are criminals in uniforms, the Chief Justice is a puppet on a string and our First Lady is a Gold digger that has been robbing our nation tirelessly like a Somali Pirate holding up cargo ships on the Gulf of Aden.(lol)

    Whoever wrote those words for the President should be applauded because he has succeeded in showing our people what a fraudster actually looks like in his truest form. This Criminal is playing us for suckers; He doesn’t believe in the Rule Of Law, yet he acts like he does; He promotes Tribalism behind the scenes yet never openly condones it; He has two faces – one for his Tribesmen and another for the rest of the people of our beloved Sierra Leone. Gentlemen – its all lies – do not believe a word of what he says.(lol) Mr President I now call on you to do the honorable thing and resign from the highest office in the land – You have failed the people of Sierra Leone miserably.(lol)

  4. Happy 6oth independence anniversary to all the people of Sierra Leone. I don’t want to sound like Mr kill joy, but I can’t with good conscience sit and listen to president Bio, admonish us the citizens of this great country, what it meant to serve as good, and patriotic citizens of our diamond shape country. In his speech to the nation, Bio quoted Dr. Sir Milton Margai, telling newly independent fellow Sierra Leoneans to: “face up squarely to the problems which will confront us.” One of the problems Sir Milton had in mind, was tribalism that became a bone of contention during the fight for independence. On that point, Bio has failed us. By failing to reach out to the former president Ernest Bai Koroma on time to extend an official invitation to the independence celebrations who lives seventy five miles away from Freetown. But can reach out to other West African leaders that live thousands of miles away in their own capitals, shows how he is narrow minded, and can’t see beyond his nose.

    He went on to quote Sir Milton, who in his independence speech, urged commitment to “Wholehearted service and hard work” in order to “make our country a land worth living in, a land worth serving” Clearly Bio, and past governments didn’t take that advice on board. When we talk about the corrosive corruption that has brought us military coups, and civil war. Killing thousands of Sierra Leoneans, and creating millions of refugees in foreign lands. In most African countries people took up arms to fight against colonialism to gain independence. We were lucky we never went through that route. But we had ours after independence. That tells you everything you want to know about the tribal tension that existed before and after independence.

    Unfortunately sixty years on, we haven’t gone past that log jam to development. In other words this tribal tension and corruption that brought us war, have created a massive brain drain of our best and brightest. Which a tiny country like ours can ill afford. To cap Bio’s insult to the intelligence of Sierra Leoneans, he reminded us to “deal fairly and honestly” with our fellow men, “strive actively for peace, friendship, and unity,” and to discourage lawlessness. Maybe if these words came from the families that lost love ones in Pademba Road, Makeni, Tombo, Lunsar, Kabilahun, Hastings, Belgium traders, victims of the RUF wars, the long suffering people of Sierra Leone, Rt. Major Paolo Conteh, Dr Bylden, Mr Sesay, the ejected APC members of Parliament, then people will sit up and listen. Bio you are not the pope and you will never be the pope. LONTA!

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