I thank you all for coming and for working so hard on the Inter-Party Communiquť. I am honoured to receive it on behalf of the Republic of Sierra Leone. I would like to extend my thanks to those, near and far, who have made this day possible. First and foremost, to the representatives of both parties who have put aside their grievances to come here together today - Sierra Leone owes you a debt of gratitude. I also extend special thanks to the International community and in particular to Mr. Michael Schulenburg the Executive Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations for his tireless efforts in bringing this event to fruition. As Father of the Nation and President of the Republic, the last three weeks have left me with a mixture of emotions. Disappointment because a minority amongst us seem to believe that civil disorder is a means of resolving their problems; sadness for the damage that the unrest has caused to our reputation around the world and anger at the appalling allegations relating to the abuse and mistreatment of women. I believe that these are emotions that have been shared by patriotic Sierra Leoneans everywhere.
But today, we should feel proud! Proud because today we are showing how disputes can be resolved in a peaceful manner, demonstrating our maturity as a democratic nation, when our political parties rise above their grievances to come together behind a common vision of a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Sierra Leone. Later this month we as a nation will celebrate our first-ever Sierra Leonean Pride Week Ė the communiquť that has been signed today is the latest demonstration that we have much to be proud of as a peaceful, tolerant and progressive nation.
These are values that are fundamental to us as Sierra Leoneans. In the presence of the co-chairs of the Inter-Religous Council we are demonstrating our fundamental decency and tolerance. Just remember that over the last two years we have held three sets of successful national elections thus under-pinning our peaceful and democratic values. Today we remind ourselves, and remind the world Ė investors, donors and friends Ė how far we have come. But we must not be complacent, and must constantly reaffirm our values in order to ensure that they triumph over the opportunistic and unpatriotic acts of a small minority of people.
These values must also be backed by positive actions. The police investigation must move forward quickly and I have instructed the law enforcement agencies to press ahead and ensure that they leave no stone unturned in their efforts, and in particular to focus on the extremely serious allegations of rape and sexual assault.
Moving beyond the current investigation, todayís communiquť also calls for an Independent Review and Enquiry into the events of the last few weeks. This is a call that I will heed. In the coming days I will invite both parties and representatives of the international community to meet here in State House to agree to the terms of reference and composition of such an Enquiry, ensuring that it is headed by an independent, distinguished and impartial individual who will be acceptable to all sides.
As Father of the Nation, I will ensure that relations between the two parties are strengthened. I will also personally commit to ensuring fairness and impartiality in the appointment of officials to such key institutions as the the National Electoral Commission and the National Commission for Democracy, amongst others by consulting with both parties and looking to achieve a broad consensus.
I welcome the inclusion of the youths of both parties in bipartisan, confidence-building initiatives. Youths provide the energy for ensuring the success of whatever we do; youths are the hope of the nation. I am extremely happy to see the leadership of both the SLPP and the APC Youth represented here today. The future of our democracy rests in your hands, and I hope that you will meet this challenge with the honesty, responsibility and fairness that our great nation demands.
However, in the end, the most important action that we can undertake is to achieve development. It is development and the eventual end of poverty that will once-and-for-all deliver peace and prosperity for our people. With the youth employed, our people fed and our children educated, we can ensure that we do not go back to the dark days of conflict and division. That is why my biggest commitment today is to work with people from all sides of the political spectrum, in order to ensure that we deliver on our National Anti-Poverty Strategy, the Agenda for Change. My new cabinet know that I will not allow us to rest until this has been achieved, as the consequences of failure would be too damaging for all Sierra Leoneans, whatever their political affiliation.
Recent events have shown that the road ahead will not always be smooth; after all democracy is a journey and not a destination. But the signing of this communiquť is a reminder to ourselves and the world that we are at heart a tolerant, democratic and peaceful nation. It is a reminder to ourselves and the world that the values that hold us together are stronger than the issues that divide us; that though we may belong to different political parties, we share the same friends, relatives, religions, traditions and most importantly concerns for the progress of our nation.
May God Bless Sierra Leone!
#DELIVERED AT STATE HOUSE ON 2 APRIL 2009 AT THE SIGNING OF THE MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN THE COUNTRYíS TWO LARGEST POLITICAL PARTIES, THE APC AND THE SLPP.
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