Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 April 2018:
Fifty-seven years ago, on the 27th of April 1961, Sierra Leone gained independence from British colonial rule. It was a day that was full of hope and promise. A new dawn, that brought dreams of a vibrant, developing and confident Sierra Leone, where no one will go to bed hungry; where no one will be left behind, because of lack of education or connection.
But fifty-seven years on, those hopes and dreams have been shattered by corruption, poor governance, and lack of leadership. Where is Sierra Leone heading?
Today, Sierra Leoneans are far more divided than ever. The recent elections held last month have left deep wounds and divisions. The country is financially bankrupt, after ten years of malfeasance, lawlessness and impunity by the outgoing APC.
Today, Sierra Leone is still classed as one of the poorest nations in the world, despite massive wealth of natural resources, which according to estimates should generate an annual revenue of $500 million for the government.
But, today without donor aid support, Sierra Leone would cease to function as a modern state. Foreign aid now accounts for over 50% of government revenue.
International debt has risen from $200 million in 2007 to over $3 billion today, as the APC government embarked on reckless spending, with little or no accountability as evident in the country’s Auditor General’s reports.
Eighty percent of young people in Sierra Leone are unemployed. Average daily earnings for those lucky enough to find work is less than $1.50.
The majority of Sierra Leoneans will sadly die before their 50th birthday, because of poverty, poor healthcare, and poor sanitation.
The newly elected SLPP government has no money. Yesterday, president Julius Maada Bio announced strict measures aimed at controlling government spending, including the sacking of all ambassadors and politically appointed staff working overseas.
But as is customary on this day of independence anniversary, the president addresses the nation. President Julius Maada Bio has today spoken of Sierra Leone as a broken society that is in dire need of healing, change and transformation through his New Direction agenda.
He said there will be no celebrations in the country today, to mark the country’s 57 years of independence. There is no money. Many in Sierra Leone and abroad will welcome this strong show of leadership by the former military brigadier.
This is the 57th Independence Anniversary Broadcast to the Nation by His Excellency the President Julius Maada Bio, today, Friday, 27th April 2018:
Fellow Sierra Leoneans
Today, we are celebrating the 57th anniversary of our independence. This has been a momentous year that has taken us through the tragedy of the floods and mudslide in August 2017.
But at the same time, for the hopes and aspirations of millions of Sierra Leoneans who voted for change in a New Direction to develop and transform our beloved Nation.
Today, we have a new opportunity as a nation to collectively and individually work together to take this country forward, to develop and transform Sierra Leone that we can all be proud of.
During my Swearing-In on 4th April 2018 as President of the Republic, I said that my election and my new administration is the dawn of a new era to change and transform Sierra Leone.
As a nation we must resolve to use this opportunity to change and transform our beloved Sierra Leone.
We have to resolve as a nation to lay the strong and credible foundation for our children and our grandchildren. This is the only way to create the conditions for a united, peaceful, confident, enterprising, dynamic and progressive country.
As we celebrate 57 years of our independence we have to acknowledge the fact that as a country we are at a crossroad and that we are faced with the stark choice between the corrupt and undisciplined business as usual status quo, or a change to the New Direction where every Sierra Leonean is given the ladder of opportunity to climb and achieve their greatest potential.
We have to ask ourselves that after 57 Years of independence, what do we have to show for? As a nation, we have made great strides in laying some of the critical foundations for socio-economic and political development.
Today, we can confidently say that we have now laid the foundation to consolidate our nascent democracy after holding five successive democratic elections that have seen the transfer of power from one civilian administration to another.
After 57 years of political independence, we are still faced with some of the most critical problems and challenges of development and social progress. At 57 we:
- Are not able to pay for our basic and essential services as a nation without depending on external development assistance.
- We have not provided effective political and economic management of the state and our natural resources for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans.
- We are still classified as one of the poorest countries and the most corrupt country in the world.
- At 57, Sierra Leone has changed from the international recognition as the ‘Athens of West Africa’ to a country where 3 in every 5 Sierra Leonean cannot read and write.
- At 57, we are today a divided nation along ethnic, regional and sectional lines with very negative impact on the professionalism and functioning of our state governing institutions
These depressing social and development challenges will have to change. I have been given the mandate to change and transform this country. And I will provide the disciplined leadership needed to take this country forward. I have therefore directed that:
- Given the current economic and financial crisis that we have inherited, there should be no budgetary allocation from the Ministry of Finance to fund independence celebration activities across the country.
- My government will only fund future independence celebrations across the country when, as a nation, we are able to pay for our critical and basic services without relying on any external development aid.
- My Government will only approve future funding for independence celebration activities when our domestic revenue collection make up 20% of our Gross Domestic Product.
As a government, we are determined to lay the solid foundation for change and transformation in Sierra Leone. Already, the signs and achievements of our New Direction revolution is visible everywhere.
The Executive Order No. 1 issued on 9th April 2018 on ‘Domestic Revenue Mobilisation’ and Executive Order No. 2 issued on 25th April 2018 on ‘Fiscal Control Measures’ have made it possible for my new administration to pay Salaries for the first time without using Bank Overdraft facility.
These domestic revenue mobilisation efforts by my new administration clearly shows that change is possible in this country. The people of this country have voted for change. We all want change, but we must also be prepared to work for change and accept the challenges that change will bring.
This is the price that we have to pay, as a nation, to change and transform our beloved Sierra Leone.
Expectations are high and rightly so. The people want to see immediate and visible change in their lives.
We can only achieve change and transformation in Sierra Leone today if we work together to build national cohesion and end the culture of indiscipline, lawlessness and corruption.
We want to attract and tap into the best brains and expertise that this country has to offer to drive our New Direction inclusive development, inclusive economic growth, inclusive politics and inclusive governance programmes.
This is the only way to develop and transform Sierra Leone; and together, we can, and we will make this possible.
My government recognises and appreciates the important contribution made by our development partners. And I do call on them to join us and support our New Direction policies and programmes to change and transform Sierra Leone, into a country that will no longer be dependent on aid.
Congratulations on our 57th Independence Anniversary. I wish you all a happy and memorable 57th Anniversary Day. And God Bless the people and the Republic of Sierra Leone.
You can watch President Bio delivering his speech on SLBC: