Sierra Leone has potential to help build US – Africa partnership, says Deputy Secretary of State

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 March 2013

fishing in sierra leone2In a few weeks, Sierra Leoneans will celebrate another year of independence – 52 years in fact – to be precise. But sadly, hardly anyone in the country would agree that independence has paid the much anticipated dividend – economic prosperity.

Quality of life for the many, and expected life’s chances have declined significantly, since the country gained independence on the 27th April 1961.

But there is hope of a better and prosperous future, as the building blocks of democratic freedoms, the rule of law, economic prosperity and good governance are slowly embedded.

There is no doubting the fact that the foundation laid down by successive governments of Sierra Leone since 2001, has contributed immensely in not only building and sustaining the peace, but in establishing the political and economic reforms necessary for development progress to be achieved.

Bo districtThe road ahead is rough and the people of Sierra Leone cannot do it alone. They need honest and committed partnerships, with those who are willing to put the interest of the people and the objective of tackling abject poverty – at the top of their agenda.

The US government believes that Sierra Leone has the potential of becoming a key partner in the US-Africa partnership for development and change.

Addressing president Koroma and the three other African heads of state who visited president Obama last week, deputy secretary of state – William J. Burns, is optimistic. This is what he said:

Four-African-Leaders“It is truly an honor to be here today with all of you. I want to thank Assistant Secretary Carson for hosting this luncheon. As you know, despite our best efforts to change his mind, Johnnie is leaving the State Department after a nearly four decades of exemplary public service. We are all deeply indebted to Johnnie for his leadership and stewardship of the U.S.-Africa relationship.

“I would like to welcome President Banda of Malawi, Prime Minister Neves of Cape Verde, Foreign Minister Ndiaye of Senegal, and Foreign Minister Kamara of Sierra Leone. It is a pleasure to host you here at the Department of State.

Four-African-Leaders2“Like Johnnie, I am an Africa optimist. I am an optimist because the tide of wars and civil strife is receding. I am an optimist because the continent continues to make steady progress in political reform – more than half of the countries in Africa have embraced democratic, multiparty rule and elections and term limits are now widely accepted norms.

“And I am an optimist because Africa’s growth rate will soon surpass Asia’s and seven of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are African.

“The credit for this transformation belongs to leaders like you and courageous citizens across the continent. Looking back over the past two decades, the United States is proud of its modest contribution and steady support.

“President Clinton worked with Congress to pass the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region. President George W. Bush created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, programs that saved millions of lives and brought hundreds of thousands of Africans out of poverty.

“Over the last four years, President Obama has built on this foundation by forming partnerships based on mutual respect and responsibility with governments, entrepreneurs, youth, women, and the private sector to strengthen democratic institutions, spur economic growth, promote opportunity and development, and advance peace and security.

“Each of you illustrates the potential of these partnerships.

“President Banda – in one year, you led Malawi out of a deep abyss, moving swiftly to stabilize the economy and elevate human rights. And as you did, the United States was pleased to restore its partnership with your government, including lifting the suspension of our $350 million MCC Compact.

“We look forward to continuing to work together further to strengthen Malawi democracy, address hunger and improve food security.

“Prime Minister Neves – under your leadership, Cape Verde reached middle-income country status, joined the WTO, attracted significant foreign investment, and solidified its social safety net. We value our cooperation on maritime security and in countering narco-trafficking and are pleased to launch a second five-year MCC compact to accelerate economic growth.

“Senegal is one of the United States’ strongest partners and a leading democracy in Africa. We applaud the Senegalese government’s commitment to improve governance, regional security, and bilateral cooperation. We deeply appreciate President Sall’s efforts for peace in the Casamance and his leadership on peacekeeping and regional security.

Four-African-Leaders3“Last year, Sierra Leone held fair, free, and credible elections. We thank President Koroma and his government for their commitment to strengthening Sierra Leone’s democratic institutions. Predictably, the economy responded to your efforts, expanding by 30% in 2012. Let me also note our deep appreciation for your government’s troop contribution to the Somalia peacekeeping force.

“There is no doubt that we face many challenges in the coming years – from the Horn to the Great Lakes, and the Sahel. This is why our partnership has never been more important. Fortunately, it has never been stronger.

Whilst this statement by the US secretary of state is encouraging, it is vital that the leaders of Africa are not simply regarded as foot-soldiers, in helping the US put out the flames of war that are raging or waiting to ignite in various parts of the continent.

What Sierra Leone and the sub-region needs is genuine economic partnership that facilitates the transfer of knowledge, technology and capital investment from countries such as the US, which will help in building sustainable economies – creating jobs and improve prosperity.

America must do more to help countries like Sierra Leone, eradicate the obscene levels of poverty, put and end to early deaths, tackle illiteracy and unemployment.

Human development is not simply about promoting multi-party democracy. First and foremost, It is about good governance, embedding the rule of law, and promoting prosperity for the many – not the few.

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