This government has never reneged on its election promises

It is also expected that programmes and activities coded in political party manifestos help to build optimism of serving mankind and making life meaningful for voters.

It’s on this premise that the people of this country voted for the APC twice in 2007 and 2012 respectively.But a ponytail group of detractors are hellbent on misinforming the public about the true state of affairs on the ground.

Electricity generation and distribution in Sierra Leone prior to 2007 could be described as perennial and ailing; a view shared by many Sierra Leoneans. The creation of socio-economic infrastructure and the provision of energy are vital functions for the realisation of sustainable economic growth and human development. Improving the country’s energy sector is one of government’s foremost objectives. This critical priority was articulated in the Agenda for Change, which was unveiled in 2007 and reinforced in the transformative Agenda for Prosperity. The overall objective of the energy sector is to ensure increased, reliable and efficient supply of electricity for households, small and medium enterprises and improve the operational performance of the National electricity distribution utility. For instance, Kono and Makeni which had been in perennial darkness for over 30 years are now enjoying electricity. Electricity supply and distribution has increased from below 20 megawatts inherited from the SLPP to now over 168 megawatts. This is a significant improvement. A great leap forward under the transformative leadership of President Koroma. Solar Street lights have been installed in all district headquarter towns/cities. Certainly, solar Street lights among other things will improve and enhance safety and security in communities, improve lighting for road users, pedestrians and vehicular movement as well as improving night life and promoting growth in especially urban areas.

The provision of water is an avowed objective of this administration. The significance and centrality government attaches to the provision of water to the populace made government to create a separate Ministry to tackle the problem. Water, they say is life. The government therefore put together the National Water and Sanitation Policy (NWSP) which contains ambitious targets of extending national water supply and Sanitation coverage to 66% and 74% respectively. The three towns water project for Makeni, Bo and Kenema is underway – Makeni has already started enjoying this as taps were opened after 20 years. Bo and Kenema are next in line. Kailahun also got pipe borne water after 25 years. Port Loko, Kambia, Lungi, Pujehun are all currently enjoying clean pipe borne water. Moyamba, Mattru Jong and Kabala will all begin to enjoy pipe borne water in the next few weeks as the projects will be completed in June/July this year. The sector is undergoing profound change and the Ministry of Water Resources, in partnership with other actors, is pursuing a number of reforms. Firstly, we are taking steps to improve water resources management at national, district and local levels, to ensure that the country’s water resources are managed in a sustainable way to ensure availability for all users/uses.

Infrastructural development under this government is a huge success as tangible evidence of transformation of the sector is evident all across the country. The country’s road network was deplorable and pathetically shameful. It was indeed in a bad shape. The 4 lane Wilkinson Road, 4 lane Spur Road, Regent- Grafton Road, Kenema-Pendembu highway, Lungi-Port Loko highway, Kono highway (soon to be completed), Makeni-Kamakwie (soon to be completed), Makeni-Kabala highway (soon to be completed), Moyamba Junction-Moyamba township (under construction), Hillside Byepass Road (under construction) and Lumley-Tokeh road (also under construction) and the roads done in all district headquarter towns are clear evidences of work being done to overcome the bad road network of the past. But the list is endless.

Agriculture being one of the thematic pillars prioritized by President Koroma’s Agenda for Change has also experienced a massive turn around. It could be recalled that President Koroma in 2007 made agriculture one of his top list of priorities with a vision to transforming the sector to act as the engine of socio-economic growth and development through commercialization and the promotion of the private sector, including farmers, farmer-based organizations. Government significantly increased the budgetary allocation to the sector from a paltry 1.6% inherited from the last government to the current 10% being allocated by the National budget, and embarked on the process of developing a comprehensive roadmap for the long-term development of the sector within the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme commonly known as the CAADP process. This process, the president once said, “led to the formulation of the National Sustainable Agricultural Development Programme (NSADP), which focused attention on smallholder farmers which led to the conceptualisation and formulation of the Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP), popularly known as “Farm for Business�?. Seed distribution to farmers started in earnest last year to gain maximum productivity in the planting season. The Agriculture Ministry has distributed rice seeds to over 73,000 farmers and fertilisers to over 35,000 farmers. 1,376 kilometers of feeder roads have been completed to connect target crops to markets. 20 Agricultural Business Centers (ABCs) have been transformed to drive agro-processing facilities, 68 Farming Support Associations around 5,000 farmers have received support through equipment and access to finance to sustain their activities.

Amid the devastating effects of the unprecedented Ebola outbreak, government fulfilled its promise and increased salaries for all public sector workers, paramount chiefs, councilors, teachers and lecturers. Under this government, there has been an increase in the minimum wage from Le21,000 to Le500,000 and paid school fees for 1.1 million students for two years, cured 29,000 children of malnutrition, 9,000 schools are now using new core content for accelerated learning, 206 new classrooms built in previously overcrowded schools and free health care introduced in 2010 for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five.

In 2008, the government of SL improved on its commitment to fight corruption through legislation empowering the ACC with independent investigative and prosecutorial powers without recourse to the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice as well as strengthening the ACC itself through adequate budgetary support. The government has adopted two national anti-corruption strategies, which focused on prevention and constructive engagements. The current strategy (2008-2013) came to an end in 2013. This gave rise to the crafting of the new five-year national Anti-Corruption Strategy (2014-2018). The Pay-No-Bribe campaign was launched by President Koroma to directly tackle corruption by enabling members of the public to report corruption and providing institutions with the necessary information, cleaning of payrolls in health and education – ghost teachers and workers under the former administration, strengthened and gave relevance to the Auditor-General’s department, institutional reforms like the performance contract and management system, the Legal Aid Board, Disability Commission, Youth Commission, Public Private Partnership, Millennium Challenge Corporation Coordinating Unit, National Protected Area, the Corporate Affairs Commission and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency, Local Content Agency among others.

From the foregoing, it’s quite clear this government is on the right path to achieve sustainable development for all its citizens. Whether our detractors face the reality on the ground or not, the people know the truth because they are feeling it. No need to go back and forth on this. The evidence is out there for all to see and acknowledge.

©Jaramenajara from the Wara Wara Mountains

STATEMENT BY H.E. DR ERNEST BAI KOROMA AT THE LAUNCH OF THE NATIONAL YOUTH SERVICE OF SIERRA LEONE BANK COMPLEX, KINGTOM 14 DECEMBER 2016

MR CHAIRMAN

HON VICE PRESIDENT

MINISTERS OF GOVERNMENT

DISTINGUISHED MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS

THE SPEAKER AND HON MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT

THE HON CHIEF JUSTICE

THE MAYOR OF FREETOWN

HEADS OF MINISTRIES, DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

MY DISTINGUISHED YOUTHS OF SIERRA LEONE

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

During the State Opening of Parliament in 2013, I made commitment to establish a National Youth Service as part of my Government’s several initiatives to address the challenges of youth employability and empowerment in Sierra Leone. Today, in marking this year’s commemoration of International Volunteers Day, I am delighted to be here to fulfill that commitment, by launching the National Youth Service of Sierra Leone. This Service will be a catalyst for youth development; it will provide our youths with opportunities to gain valuable work experience, promote self-discipline, expand their knowledge of Sierra Leone’s social and cultural diversities and help to bridge ethnic divide. All of these will no doubt enhance their sense of patriotism and promote national cohesion. The National Youth Service will also help our youths to nurture and cultivate positive work ethos which is a major challenge affecting their career development and the attainment of their professional goals.

Mr. Chairman, our country is a nation of young people and its development largely depends on how ready our youths are in terms of relevant skills, experience and positive work ethic. I absolutely believe in their potential and power to move this country forward but to do so; to achieve sustainable development, we need to provide the youths with the opportunities to fit in as we have been doing for over eight years now. They too have to be ready to seize on these opportunities to improve on their capabilities, and to make themselves suitable for the tasks that we must confront together. This is why I have always maintained and ensured that they do not only fully participate, but are also at the centre of our national development efforts. I am aware that the youths can do a lot by themselves, but their efforts at constructing lives would be better served by the scaffolds and safety nets of a national development vision, program of action and relevant institutions.

My government’s Agenda for Prosperity, the National Youth Programme 2014-2018 (A Blue Print for Youth Development) and the revised National Youth Policy of 2014 constitute our development vision and programme of action for youth development. The creation of a separate Ministry of Youth Affairs, establishment of a National Youth Commission, the appointment of a Presidential Youth Aide, the formation of a National Youth Council with its affiliate youth structures at district and chiefdom levels, and today, the establishment of a National Youth Service explain my government response in providing the institutional framework to actualize my commitment to the youth of Sierra Leone.

I have dedicated my administration to the service of the youth of this country. This is why in line with the slogan of the service “Our Service Our Future”, I urge you to dedicate your service as young people to the service of your future and to the future of our country. You must continue to be hard working and disciplined; you must continue to be committed to the development of our country, and you must continue to make a difference to your lives and the communities you live and serve.

I am encouraged that with the dedication and support of our youth, we are on the path of recovery from the challenges thrust upon us by the twin shocks of Ebola and the fall in the price of iron ore. I am encouraged by the role young people played in overcoming the national challenges of civil conflict and the Ebola epidemic; I am encouraged by the role of our youths as leading agents in upholding democracy, good governance and the rule of law. I am encouraged that our youths can and will roll the wheels of industry and productivity to move our beloved Sierra Leone to development and prosperity.

Mr Chairman and distinguished ladies and gentlemen, with this launch of the National Youth Service, the logical next step will be the mobilisation of resources to ensure that it becomes fully functional and live up to its objectives. The success of this initiative is our collective challenge; all Ministries Departments and Agencies, the development community and the private sector must rise up to the occasion and embrace this unique opportunity to promote the productivity of our young graduates. I therefore implore you to create the space to accommodate our young graduates under this National Youth Service scheme, to give them the requisite experience, to help them learn the appropriate work ethics and to enable them to contribute to the change and transformation we desire in our communities and institutions and in our country.

While my government remains committed to kick-start the operations of the service, I look forward to the strong support of our development partners and friends in moving this scheme forward.

Let me use this opportunity to thank the Minister of Youth Affairs and staff of his ministry, Board and staff of the National Youth Service, the Board and Management of the National Youth Commission and members of the NYS Steering Committee that included the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. I also applaud the Hon Speaker and Members of Parliament for the speedy enactment of the National Youth Service Act. For supporting this initiative, I wish to particularly commend our development partners including the UNDP, UNFPA, United Nations Volunteers, World Bank, Restless Development, Plan International and sector youth-serving organisations.

Mr Chairman, this is another milestone in my government’s youth development agenda and I am very pleased to launch the National Youth Service of Sierra Leone.

God bless the youths of Sierra Leone, God bless Sierra Leone.

I thank you for your attention.

PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT DR ERNEST BAI KOROMA G.C.R.S.L. PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE ARMED FORCES ON THE OCCASION OF STATE OPENING OF THE FIFTH PARLIAMENT SESSION OF THE FOURTH

PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT DR ERNEST BAI KOROMA G.C.R.S.L. PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE ARMED FORCES ON THE OCCASION OF STATE OPENING OF THE FIFTH PARLIAMENT SESSION OF THE FOURTH PARLIAMENT OF THE SECOND REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE IN THE CHAMBER OF PARLIAMENT BUILDING TOWER HILL, FREETOWN ON THURSDAY, 15TH DECEMBER, 2016 AT 10:00 A.M.

Mr. Speaker,

Mr. Vice President,

My Lord the Chief Justice,

Ministers of Government,

Honourable Members of Parliament,

Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

His Worship the Mayor of Freetown,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

On becoming President in 2007, I vowed to move this country forward, to transform its roads, improve electricity, invest more in education and health, and improve Sierra Leone’s reputation as a peace-loving, democratic and resilient nation. Our actions brought about the biggest investment flows into the country since independence, with the opening up of huge iron ore mines, and large agricultural projects in the country. We faced challenges, but we acted on our promises, and in every district today, our achievements are very visible. Because of our actions, all projections, from reputable agencies all over the world, pointed to great times ahead for Sierra Leone.

Then Ebola struck; then iron ore prices fell. The projections did not foresee these events coming. Nobody in 2013 saw these events coming. Today, mainly because of those two shocks, the going is tough, but we should not pull back from our aspirations to move this country forward.

We know there are some who questioned the actions we took before Ebola struck and iron ore prices fell. But my honourable friends would agree with me that the country needed massive investments in roads, and we did that; that the country needed free health care for pregnant women and for children and we did that; that the country needed to triple salaries of teachers, lecturers, nurses, doctors and civil servants, and we did that; that our country needed to pay for its students to sit to public examinations and we did that; that our country needed to get women into the sciences in tertiary institutions and we did that; that our country needed to improve its electricity and we did that; that our country needed to put more resources into agriculture and other priority sectors, and we took action on all these fronts.

We know that there were many challenges in meeting all the targets we set forth for those programmes. But we are encouraged by the positive outcomes deriving from our action. Just last week, the International Monetary Fund, in their conclusion of the sixth and final review of the Extended Credit Facility (ECF), commended our strong actions and economic policies. My government’s economic reform programme supported by the ECF has achieved its key objectives and we have ensured stronger and more inclusive growth despite the exogenous shocks of the Ebola epidemic and the collapse of iron ore prices. This acknowledgement by the international world is a testament to our tough decisions, our resilience and our prudent fiscal and economic reforms.

We will continue to fight to overcome the other challenges. We are not afraid to get into the ring and do what is necessary. We applaud the armchair patriots and internet nationalists who criticize us. They may mean well for this nation, but we also implore them to come into the ring for the heavy lifting, to come into the ring to start businesses, to contribute your education to our schools, your expertise to our youths, and your global experience to the advancement of the nation.

I hear people say the country is not ready for them. But no country is ready for its people until its people are ready for it. I was ready for my country, so I jumped into the ring to contribute, and against great odds I have been able to push this country in the direction of transforming its roads, of investing more in health and education, of improving energy and enhancing our country’s standing in international forums. Come to the ring, don’t wait until challenges mount and you start saying how patriotic and wise you are because you never joined in the battle.

Every country has moments in which it is tested. We were moving up and flying high before Ebola struck and iron ore prices fell. But inspired by the immortal words of our national anthem, I stand before you with a zeal that never tires. And together, we will succeed; this country has done it before, and I have no doubt that with your support and the determination of our people, we will do it again.

Mr. Speaker Honourable Members, already our economy is recovering with a projected growth of 4.9 percent in 2016 from a contraction of 21 percent in 2015. Real GDP is projected to grow by 5.4 percent in 2017, steadily increasing to 6.1 percent in 2019. This growth will be driven mainly by the expected increases in iron ore production, as well as by increased public and private investments in agriculture, fisheries, tourism, construction, manufacturing and energy.

Yes, times are challenging, but we are tightening our belts, and we will not relent in moving forward with transformative infrastructural development programmes. In the east end of Freetown, we are constructing a four-lane road from Wellington to Masiaka and expanding the ports. We are also constructing the township roads of Waterloo, building a teaching hospital at Kerry Town and a Centre for Tropical Disease Control that would serve not only our country but also the sub region.

This is because my Government has continued to break new grounds in consolidating our position as a destination for mining investment in the world. Shansteel Ltd., which took over the Tonkolili mines from African Minerals, has resumed operations, and is targeting a staggered expansion to increase production to pre-Ebola figures. This means that we have been able to save significant numbers of jobs for Sierra Leoneans, as well as increase opportunities for Sierra Leonean businesses. Also, Koidu Holdings Ltd., which is engaged in large-scale kimberlite diamond mining in Sierra Leone, has commenced work to transition to underground mining, becoming the first large-scale underground mining operation in the country. Sierra Rutile Ltd, which has been acquired by Iluka Resources, now operates the Rutile Mines in Moyamba and Bonthe. Iluka is also committed to preserving employment benefits that Sierra Rutile’s operations provide to surrounding local communities and Sierra Leone. My Government has also received expressions of interest from reputable investors to develop new large-scale diamond mines in the country.

Exports will therefore recover strongly in 2017 and 2018. The resulting increase in export earnings, complemented by prudent fiscal and proactive monetary policies, will help to stabilise the exchange rate and contain inflationary pressures.

The National Revenue Authority (NRA) has made tremendous efforts in improving its domestic revenue collection. We will continue to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the NRA to enable them to increase domestic revenue collection to 20 per cent of GDP.

My Government is also implementing more belt-tightening fiscal and proactive monetary policies in the short-term as well as medium-term sectoral policies in agriculture, fisheries, mining and manufacturing. This is why, despite the challenges posed by the twin shocks, Government’s performance has been remarkable under the economic and financial programme supported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) through the Extended Credit Facility.

Mr. Speaker, we are on the way to recovery and growth. We are acting with great urgency to achieve the goals set forth in our Presidential Recovery Priorities. Permit me now Mr. Speaker, to inform this Honourable House, our citizens and friends of our dear country, on the specifics of our actions on these priority areas and other key sectors.

Health

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, in my last address to this Honourable House, I committed my Government to maintain a zero Ebola infection rate and to strengthen our health care delivery system. With your partnership and the dedication of our gallant healthcare workers, we have been able to achieve these goals.

In recognition of their exemplary service in the fight against Ebola, my Government has absorbed into the payroll 500 nurses who volunteered their services during the response. Whilst no amount of compensation will make up for the irreparable loss to their families and the nation, my Government has begun the process of paying death benefits to the next-of-kins of the deceased health workers. To date, payments have been made in respect of 103 deceased health workers. We have also extended the Free Health Care Initiative to our Ebola Virus survivors and a comprehensive package catering for their special healthcare needs has been provided.

Mr. Speaker, learning from the EVD outbreak, my Government is taking action to build a resilient health system that is well positioned to prevent, detect, and respond to any public health threat of either the same or of similar nature to Ebola. We have established two public health laboratories in the Western Area and one in each of the regional headquarter towns of Bo, Kenema and Makeni. These laboratories have full capabilities to test for viral haemorrhagic fevers including Ebola. One of these, in the Western Area, is fully equipped to test for the Zika virus.

An Emergency Operational Centre and a National Public Health Agency for capacity building have been established at Cockerill to coordinate field activities during outbreaks.

My Government has taken concrete steps to deal with the shortage of medical practitioners. Forty-three medical doctors, two radiographers and four laboratory scientists, from various African countries have been contracted, several of whom are already in-country for immediate deployment to district hospitals nationwide. Additionally, we have undertaken to sponsor more than 30 locally trained young doctors to pursue specialist courses in various fields.

At the same time, middle grade Community Health Officers are being trained in life-saving medical and surgical interventions to act as Physician Assistants where there are either no doctors or they are in short supply. A second paramedical school has also been opened in Makeni to complement the existing one in Bo that has served this country so well. These interventions will no doubt improve the doctor to patient ratio as well as translate to better health outcomes for our people.

Mr. Speaker, please permit me to commend both sides of this Honourable House for enacting the Teaching Hospital Complex Act and the Postgraduate Council of Health Specialties Act. With that bi-partisan support, we have paved the way for a revolution in medical education in this country. Preparations are underway for the construction of a five-hundred bed dedicated Teaching Hospital at Kerry Town. In order to address the space limitations in our hospitals nationwide and in the Western Area in particular, I have also commissioned, at Waterloo, Lumley, and Mountain Cut, the construction of three additional hospitals, each with a bed capacity of close to 100.

Mr. Speaker, we are at an advanced stage in the establishment of a cost-free National Ambulance Service which will prioritize highly vulnerable groups. The National Ambulance Service will also create employment for hundreds of volunteer nurses and for youths who will serve as drivers.

My Government has further supported the establishment of a tracking system, the Maternal Deaths Surveillance and Response System, to investigate all maternal deaths, and take the necessary actions. We have also installed 100 solar powered refrigerators to store vaccines and other medicines in hard-to-reach communities.

We will continue the fight against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria alongside our accelerated efforts to reduce teenage pregnancy and eliminate childhood malnutrition. With strong support from our health development partners, medical services for all of these conditions in all public facilities continue to be free of cost.
Social Protection

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, the lingering economic impacts of the Ebola outbreak and the sharp fall of commodity prices are more pronounced among our less privileged compatriots. This is why as part of our recovery programme, and with support from our development partners, my Government has continued to provide assistance to 47,000 extremely poor and vulnerable households with unconditional cash transfers. A total number of 11,600 youths in extremely poor and vulnerable households have received conditional cash transfers through Labour Intensive Public Works. We are also scaling up our efforts to ensure continuous care for EVD-affected persons and survivors. Under my Government’s Recovery Priorities, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs is providing livelihood support through stipend payments, financial literacy training and cash support under the Social Rehabilitation and Payments to Ebola Survivors (SRPES) project.

Education

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, my government has taken action to improve the quality of instruction in schools by developing new content in the core subjects; and we are piloting an incentive scheme in 1,200 primary and 150 junior secondary schools in Kambia, Tonkolili, Pujehun and Kenema districts. The scheme will provide financial reward to schools based on how well they are managed and maintained as well as how much learning and improvement takes place over time. This scheme will take advantage of the annual schools examinations analyses and new policy measures we have commenced this year. From now on, every school and district will be rated and ranked in terms of performance in the primary, junior and senior secondary school levels.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I am pleased to report to you that in spite of the challenges, my government has launched the national school feeding programme. This is a big win for our people and we will sustain it as one of the biggest social transformation programmes in the country. It is already bringing broad smiles unto the faces of our primary school kids; teachers all over the country are reporting increases in the number of children going to school and staying for classes; it is creating big markets for local produce in communities all over the country, bringing added income to farmers, market women, and transporters. The programme is also activating a new spirit of volunteerism in local communities, as women take turns to cook meals for their children in schools; get more involved in school affairs and push to sustain greater nutrition, enrolment and retention of school children all over the country.

Mr. Speaker, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has established a ‘Situation Room’ which receives information from 1,192 community monitors to ascertain quality assurance in our schools. To address the problem of overcrowding in classrooms, an initial 225 new classrooms out of an overall target of 500 are being constructed across the country, with support from UK Aid. Because of the actions we continue to take in the education sector, more pupils are progressing to and passing public examinations. In 2016, over 115,000 pupils took the NPSE, with nearly 87,000 passes. The numbers contrast positively with the passes in 2015. At the basic examination level, performance in the core subjects in 2016 was much higher than in 2015.

The rehabilitation of sub-sahara’s oldest university, Fourah Bay College, has commenced and with this, we will ensure that it regains its pre-eminent position in Africa.

Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, the agriculture sector remains the largest employer, providing employment for 60-65% of our workforce, and contributing 54% of GDP.

Our objective under the recovery programme is to create 10,000 jobs across the agriculture supply chain, and increase agricultural production and productivity of targeted crops and livestock. To this end, the Ministry has distributed 65,000 bushels of seed rice; 42,000 bags of assorted fertilizers and millions of different varieties of tree crops seedlings to individual farmers and farming groups. Fifty-two Agricultural Business Centres have been selected for transformation into viable processing and marketing entities.

At the same time, a total of 922.5 km of feeder roads are being rehabilitated in nine districts and work is at an advanced stage in the Kailahun, Kenema, Kono and Koinadugu Districts. We have also provided 2,292 farm families with access to finance.

Fisheries

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, the Fisheries and Marine Resources Sector has made major gains over the past years both in terms of increasing fish supplies to the local markets and revenue generation from about Le 40.3 billion in 2015 to over Le 47.3 billion up to October, 2016. The Ministry’s capacity to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing has been scaled up.

The Ministry continues to monitor all licensed fishing vessels through a 24 hour Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) and an Automatic Identification System (AIS). We have further enhanced the capacity of our local communities with inshore fiber glass boats for community surveillance of our marine protected areas. We are also utilizing the ‘Blue Traker’ software to identify and arrest fishing vessels for infractions in our waters. With our partners, we are developing a regional fishery information dashboard at the ministry. This will enable the exchange of information on fishery statistics and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities in the sub-region.

Private Sector Development

Mr. Speaker, the private sector remains central not only to our economic recovery, but also in ensuring sustainable economic growth. In this respect, my Government is supporting 1,000 Medium and Small Scale Enterprises (SMEs) to increase their competitiveness across key value chains. Several SMEs have received substantial business development support, linking them to affordable and customized financing.

To further improve the business environment, we have completed the digital re-registration of 869 companies in the Corporate Affairs Commission database, making them available online. With support from the United Kingdom, we have acted to improve access to commercial justice, including some decentralized case processing to increase access in the districts. These efforts are paying off as shown by improvements in the ‘Starting a Business’ indicator recorded in the latest World Bank Doing Business report.

We are also improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Freetown Port. An updated and streamlined clearance process mapping is being completed while a public outreach strategy to clarify port operations and increase accountability is underway.

Informed by our Local Content legislation, we are ensuring an initial 10% local sourcing in institutional feeding contracts. This is in addition to an initial 10% sourcing of local rice for the Sierra Leone Police, Correctional Services and the Ministry of Defence.

Water and Environmental Protection

Mr. Speaker, three bills designed to unlock the potential of the sector in water resources management and service delivery by utilities have received preliminary clearance from the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Water. They are now awaiting final legislative review and clearance by members of this Honourable House.

Looking ahead, my Government is laying the foundation for a permanent solution to the water sector issues in Freetown. Already, various Terms of Reference have been developed and are awaiting advanced contracting clearance from the African Development Bank to kick-off the relevant feasibility studies.

My Government has taken further action to provide safe water supply to 700,000 people in several provincial areas, and improve access to water and sanitation in Pujehun, Kono, Kambia, Koinadugu, and Bonthe. We are also on track to provide an additional 422,600 people in these districts with access to safe drinking water by April of 2017. To build a financially sustainable and scalable water service model, an operating cost-recovery strategy will be piloted in small towns.

Mr. Speaker, our exposures to the vulnerabilities of climate change and the imperative to sustain our water and other livelihood sources have further necessitated action to protect our environment. A spatial database for Environmental Impact Assessment license and baseline spatial database for natural resources in Sierra Leone have been completed to ensure effective protection and management of the environment and its natural resources. The Environmental Protection Agency has also developed a national climate change policy which has been adopted by Cabinet.
Energy

Despite our economic challenges, the provision of electricity continues to be central to our recovery process and ultimately to our national development agenda. With the ambitious target of doubling access to electricity to 250,000 households under the 24 months recovery programme, my administration is seeking to double total operational power generation capacity from 75 MW to 150 MW.

Already, the construction of the three mini-hydros in Charlotte, Bankasoka and Makali has been completed. The ministry has signed contracts to supply, install and commission thermal generators in Port Loko, Moyamba, Kailahun, Kabala, Kambia, Bonthe, Kamakwie and Pujehun. Also, this Honourable House has ratified the agreement between my Government and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development in respect of the installation of a 6MW Solar Park to serve Newton and its environs. By June 2017, stand-alone solar systems will be installed in 50 Community Health Centres nationwide.

The rehabilitation of 6 power plants in Makeni, Blackhall Road and Kingtom is also on track. The rehabilitation of generation and evacuation networks to reduce technical losses is well on course. The completion of the Wellington express line prevented an estimated 26,000 people from losing access to electricity in the east end of Freetown. We have completed the Environmental Impact Assessment for the Bo-Kenema upgrade, which will reduce the estimated 38% technical losses incurred in the network.

Mr. Speaker, to sustain the services, it is imperative to enhance revenue collection. We have therefore continued to implement other measures including the installation of 22,000 pre-paid meters to increase access to customers nationwide and to boost revenue generation. A Framework Agreement has been signed by the relevant stakeholders, including the Anti-Corruption Commission, to curb electricity malpractices.

Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, we still have a long way to go but we have changed the face of our towns and cities; we have linked up our country with the Republic of Guinea through the Kambia-Pamlap International Highway in the North and we are on course to linking up with the Republic of Liberia through Pujehun in the South.

We have inaugurated the construction of another strategic and major road – the Moyamba Junction–Moyamba Town and the Four Bridges Project of Magbele, Mabang, Gbangbama and Moyamba.

We have taken action to widen to four lanes the Wellington–Masiaka Highway which will be tolled as part of the loan repayment arrangement. A new 11 meters wide bridge will also be constructed at Orugu, with structural strengthening of the existing Orugu Bridge.

Governance

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, my Government continues to work assiduously to improve efficient service delivery, uphold the rule of law and promote transparency and accountability. The Anti-Corruption Commission has strengthened the Pay No Bribe platform through an innovative reporting mechanism for citizens to anonymously report incidents of corruption and bribery online or through text messages. With support from the European Union, the ACC has also developed an online asset disclosure system, which is expected to commence in 2017. This system will make it easier for public officers to comply with the declaration process, and ease the storage and verification of declarations.

Mr. Speaker, you will recall that in my last address to this Honourable House, I informed you that my Government will commence action towards:-

$1 i. administrative restructuring of chiefdoms with the view to promoting good governance, peace, stability and social harmony at the local level;

$1 ii. Undertaking preliminary studies for the restoration of the Karene District and the creation of a new Province. We will soon announce the Proclamation for the separation of some of the amalgamated chiefdoms, the restoration of the Karene District, division of Koinadugu into two Districts and the creation of a new province.

Mr. Speaker, our commitment to moving forward the decentralization process is unshakeable. It is in this light that we commend the contribution of partners to our decentralization process and urge them to speed up support to our efforts at overcoming the remaining challenges.

Mr. Speaker, my Government also recognizes that judicial reform and restructuring is critical for peace and prosperity, and key to promoting good governance and the Rule of Law. Our current Justice Sector Strategy and Investment Plan (JSRSIP III) has the goal of making justice accessible, efficient, fair and affordable in Sierra Leone.

Our Justice Sector reforms have ensured the deployment of magistrates and other justice sector officials across the country. We have also established the Legal Aid Board to provide indigent persons with legal representation.

We have expanded on the scope and breadth of performance contracts to improve effectiveness and efficiency in the public sector. We have also increased the coverage and scope of public sector audits. In 2015, 90% of Government expenditure was audited. Already, the audits of all 19 Local Council Accounts for the financial year which ended 31st December 2015 have been completed. The Audit Service continues to undertake the audit of all class “A” mining Chiefdoms. The audit of donor funded projects, including World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) projects is ongoing. The Audit Service Sierra Leone is far advanced in discussions with the African Development Bank (AfDB) for the audit of projects funded by the ADB.

Mr. Speaker, my government will also expand our breadth of accountability and transparency by ensuring that our Audit Services cover local and international non-Governmental Organisations, Civil Society Organizations that receive monies and are implementing projects and programmes on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone.

Integrity should not only be displayed in public offices; integrity should be exemplified in our relationships because it is a driver of employment, growth and success. When hard working compatriots in the Diaspora send money to start businesses, build houses or support their communities, do not squander it. Working with integrity with their money will create more jobs and encourage them to create more opportunities in the country. Wealth creation depends on working diligently when employed by international investors or national businesses. The availability of jobs does not only depend on opportunities government creates, they also depend on the work ethic, discipline and integrity of individual citizens.

Mr. Speaker, my Government remains committed to freedom of expression and of the press. We recognize that the media, including the emerging social media, are tools that could be utilised to move the country forward with respect for truth, dignity, and inclusion; or it could be a weapon for infringement of rights, spreading ill-will and creating spirals of smear campaigns and division. Being a public official is no license for your character to be falsely smeared; having a smart-phone is no license for you to infringe upon the privacy and dignity of ordinary citizens. We are creating policies that will nudge our citizens towards utilising the media for enhancing respect, providing evidence, and increasing knowledge of global and national trends. But we will also act to enhance accountability regarding the use of social media. It is within our mandate to ensure this, and we shall be steadfast in doing so.

Mr. Speaker, government’s policies, programmes and projects are either directly or indirectly implemented by civil servants. Effective service delivery therefore is dependent on the capacity and professionalism of its personnel. Through the ongoing Civil Service Reform Programme, my Government is creating a leaner civil service in which skills and competencies are defined and aligned with organizational needs.

Youth

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, my commitment to youth empowerment remains unflinching. My Government seeks to develop a Youth Empowerment Fund which Cabinet has already approved. This Fund will ensure the implementation of priority areas identified in the revised National Youth Policy. The Fund will support interventions covering education and skills training, agriculture, health, technology and innovation.

Through the Youth in Fisheries Project, we have constructed and distributed 70 fishing boats, each with 40 Horse Power outboard machines and fishing gears to generate jobs and livelihoods for youths in coastal communities.

To reinforce youth participation in agriculture, agri-business and other economic activities, we are establishing Youth Villages. We have secured a total of 1,061 acres of land in Kabala and 250 acres of land at Mile 91 for training youths in Agriculture, Entrepreneurship, Vocational and Technical skills. The proposed structures and architectural designs have been developed and we have commenced pre-construction activities.

Mr. Speaker, just yesterday, I launched the National Youth Service Scheme. This service will support our youths’ career development, enhance their understanding of the country’s social and cultural dynamics, and promote national cohesion. We will continue with these initiatives to ensure that our youths become more productive and able to meaningfully contribute to national development.

Tourism

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, we have strengthened the Monuments and Relics Commission to lead the process in the preservation, protection and promotion of our Monuments, Relics, Natural and Cultural Sites. This includes enlisting several sites to be classed and recognized as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, especially those on its Tentative List. Three sites have been declared as heritage monuments this year, namely: Zion Methodist Church, the grave of Madam Yoko and the grave of Bai Bureh. This comes almost 57 years after the last declaration.

The construction of a new cultural village at Mabala via Six Mile is nearing completion. In addition, the process for the construction of the first ever National Arts Gallery in Sierra Leone has commenced and will be a place where our artists and other artisans would be able to showcase their talents. Plans are also underway for the construction of museums in district headquarter towns.

Security

The capacity of our security sector is being strengthened to meet traditional and emerging threats to the stability of our nation. The Office of National Security has developed a Counter-Terrorism Strategy which is being implemented. We have developed an Elections Security Strategy to ensure a conducive atmosphere for free, fair and peaceful Elections. We have also designed a National Flood Response Plan defining a clear coordination road map for all stakeholders to comprehensively respond to floods and their attendant emergencies. We have ensured the training of 60 personnel from various MDAs under the West Africa Disaster Preparedness Initiative in Ghana early this year. We have also commissioned additional fire engines to boost the operations of the National Fire Force and have developed a draft fire safety law which we shall soon table before this Honourable House.

The Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) is a pillar of my government’s commitment to global Peace and Security. The RSLAF won accolades for its gallantry and professionalism in peace keeping operations before they were halted during the Ebola Outbreak. We must resume this professional contribution to world peace. That is why, after consultations with the UN and AU, I have pledged a battalion for Peace-Keeping Operations. Preparations are underway to move this forward, and soon, the green white and blue of our gallant RSLAF shall again be flying in global peacekeeping operations.

We are also building the capacity of the RSLAF by enhancing training of officers both within and outside the country. In addition to infrastructural work at Gondama and Freetown, we have rehabilitated the Daru referral hospital at Moa Barracks and constructed accommodation for doctors and nurses. This facility will provide medical support to troops and their dependents as well as the surrounding communities. The flagship project for the construction of a modern battalion-size military barracks in the Kambia District remains on course with the selection of a prospective bidder almost finalized.

We have provided funding for the recruitment of police officers to fill the gaps created by attrition in the police force. The Police Academy project is also on course and the constitutional instrument for the legal basis of peacekeeping and law enforcement will soon be laid before this Honourable House for ratification.

In the meantime, the Sierra Leone Police continues to deploy Peacekeepers in Somalia, South Sudan, Dafur and Haiti. In 2017, the Sierra Leone Police will deploy a self-sustaining unit in Mali.

Next year, we will embark on the reconstruction of three accommodation blocks at the Advanced Police Order Training Centre at Kayainkaysa in the Samu Chiedom in Kambia. My Government will continue to support the Sierra Leone Police to honour its international obligations towards Interpol and global peace cooperation in making our world a safer place.

Foreign Policy and International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, my Government has enhanced Sierra Leone’s stake on the international stage. Our effort in advancing the mandate of the African Union Committee of Ten on the Reform of the United Nations has been very visible. Sierra Leone’s election to the Fifteen Member Peace and Security Council of the African Union; our role in advancing the work of the Committee mandated by ECOWAS to pursue dialogue in Guinea Bissau; and lately in the Gambia; and our leadership in promoting the interest of fragile and conflict affected states, are indicative of Sierra Leone’s diplomatic assertiveness. Our contributions to the Peacebuilding Commission and the signing and your ratification of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change have further enhanced Sierra Leone’s presence and voice in the international arena. This new diplomatic assertiveness is being underscored through the opening and re-opening of embassies in strategic regions, including Kenya and Egypt. We are also taking steps to rehabilitate our embassy properties abroad.

On behalf of the Government and people of Sierra Leone, I thank the Governments of the United Kingdom, the People’s Republic of China, the United States of America, Japan, Ireland, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the entire membership of the African Union and the European Union and all our bilateral partners for their invaluable support to Sierra Leone. We also acknowledge the invaluable contributions of the World Bank, the IMF, the African Development Bank, BADEA, DFID, USAID, JICA, the Islamic Development Bank, Saudi Fund, OPEC Fund, the Kuwait Fund, and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, ECOWAS, the MRU, the United Nations and its family of Agencies.

Conclusion

Mr. Speaker, 2016 has been a difficult year for all of us; but we shall move forward with greater energy and strength and determination. That was why I brought more young people in to the cabinet and other leadership positions than ever before. We shall move forward with greater inclusion, empathy and protection of the vulnerable; that was why I brought in the greatest number of women into the cabinet and other leadership positions than ever before. We shall move forward with bolder steps; that is why we are de-amalgamating chiefdoms, implementing a national school feeding programme, and sustaining our infrastructural development all over the country.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I call on you, as representatives of the two biggest parties in the country, as the elected, battle-tested and most legitimate voice of all the people of this country, to continue to support the extra-ordinary measures we have taken to move this country forward. The true measure of politics is not about fighting to divide the people; the true mark of leadership is about finding the common ground wherein we can work together to build a better life for our people.

Sir Milton Margai sent drinks to Dr. Siaka Stevens on April 27, 1961 whilst he was being detained at Pademba Road Prisons; they were on opposite sides but Sir Milton wanted the founder of our party to celebrate our collective achievement of Independence. Sir Albert Margai, when he was Prime Minister invited even opponents to great lunches at his residence at Regent Road, Lumley. When he was President, Dr. Siaka Stevens appointed a great opponent, Alhaji Sanusi Mustapha as Vice President. When Dr. Joseph Saidu Momoh was President, he extended a hand of friendship to Sir Banja Tejan Sie and Dr John Karefa Smart. When Alhaji Dr Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was President, he restored unjustly seized properties to their owners, including members of my party. These are the better values we need to draw upon to overcome the habits that sometimes delay our push for a better country.

Mr. Speaker, to get to the destination of prosperity that we desire, we must remain united, focused and hardworking. The thriving economies of Asia did not achieve the great success we now admire because their citizens go to work late, leave their offices early or miss deadlines. These countries are giants of achievements because their citizens work hard, show discipline and commit their achievements to the advancement of their nations.

We still face challenges, but many amongst us have demonstrated virtues that this country needs, and we must salute them as models worthy of emulation. We will always remember Dr. Umar Khan as an embodiment of true patriotism. We commend the hardworking Alhaji ‘Nawal’, a driver in Tonkolili. From being a poor apprentice with nothing to his name, he worked hard at his chosen profession, moving people and goods along the roads between Magburaka, Masingbi, Bumbuna, Bendugu, Kono and Freetown. Today, Alhaji Nawal has his own vehicles and has built his own houses, stalls and provides employment for others. We salute youths at the Kenema Youth Farm who are cultivating hundreds of hectares of rice and cassava. Let us be inspired by the hard work and discipline of Mr. Akiwande Lasite of the Grammar School, and the Rev Canon Modupe Taylor Pearce whose dedication to excellence at the Government Secondary School in Magburaka shaped the future of thousands of Sierra Leoneans. We shall ever be grateful for the shining examples of Madam Ada Bailor of the Albert Academy, and the thousands of teachers right across the country who were great shapers of the better destinies of many Sierra Leoneans. Let us pay tribute to the great Bishop Keili of Bo, and the erudite Alhaji Osman of Bambara Tong whose sermons taught thousands to seek God’s grace with courage, charity and largeness of spirit.

These are the testaments of the good that is in us; they are our better values; and this is the time to assert these better qualities to ensure our recovery and growth.

We have done it before; we can do it again. We answered those who doubted Sierra Leone by rebounding from conflict to not only secure peace, but to also contribute peace keeping troops and experts on truth, reconciliation, disarmament and post conflict democratic consolidation to troubled spots in the world. Whilst we still mourn the tragedy of Ebola, the untold story is that Sierra Leoneans did most of the heavy lifting to end the epidemic. Sierra Leoneans provided the most personnel, contributed the most expertise as frontline workers, ran treatment centres with the highest survival rates and showed resilience that confounded those who had predicted that millions would die. Together, with doctors, nurses, and other health workers, with chiefs, teachers, civil servants and other public officers, with MPs, ministers, mayors, councilors, traders and youths, we ended the worst outbreak of Ebola in human history. Sierra Leoneans don’t often tell the good in them that pushes this country forward; we don’t often tell the story about how we are a most religiously tolerant nation, a most friendly citizenry, a very beautiful land with a solid history of achievements. We must not be too quick to forget our collective achievements. We have again been tested, but we must resolve to overcome our challenges with faith that wisdom inspires. Together, showing forth the good that is ever in this country, we shall move forward with the recovery. Together, having in mind the truth and knowledge that our forefathers spread, and the mighty nations they led, we will do it again. Together, as we again pledge our devotion, our strength and our might, this parliament, this government, all of you seated here today, all of our people, at home and in the Diaspora, together, as we raise our hearts and voices on high nothing can stop our recovery, growth and development.

God bless you and God bless Sierra Leone.

ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT ON THE OCCASION OF THE ARMED FORCES WEEK ON SATURDAY 18 FEBRUARY 2017 AT THE HOCKEY PITCH-WILBERFORCE BARRACKS

The Armed Forces Day has become a spectacular hallmark of Sierra Leone’s national calendar; it has become part of our history and our heritage.

It is a day we have set aside to reflect on the role of our military in global peace, it’s a day we have chosen to remember and to celebrate the gallantry of our men and women in uniform. We do this for good reason; your relentless sacrifice is legendary and remains the centerpiece of the peace we continue to enjoy today. This is why as your Commander-in-Chief; I always look forward to this special day to address the troops of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF).

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, the story of our armed forces has been bittersweet – long and tedious – characterized by low and high moments. But in the recent past, the RSLAF has gone through tremendous transformations; especially in the areas of training, operation and discipline, resulting in its current high standards of professionalism. Sierra Leoneans can now be proud of a military that is disciplined, well trained and democratically accountable. Both as Staff Officers and Formed Troops, our men and women in uniform continue to excel in Peace Support Operations; contributing in no small measure to the international efforts in bringing peace to the peoples of Sudan, Somalia, Mali, Haiti, Lebanon and Nepal.

Our officers are serving in various AU/UN Missions around the world and to further enhance their professionalism and owing to the demand for their services; I have put at the disposal of the UN two infantry battalions. My Government and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) are working assiduously to make this happen within the shortest possible time. Plans are far advanced in the acquisition of major equipment, uniforms and other logistics. I am confident that RSLAF will create the desired impact expected of a professional force.

RSLAF is also contributing to national development. I have just returned from commissioning a new hospital complex and a primary school built by the Army Engineers in Daru in the Eastern Region. With these initiatives, the RSLAF is demonstrating strong leadership and foresight. With the construction of schools; they are ensuring a continuum of the current standards and by building new hospitals; our military is aligning to our national development agenda, particularly our aspiration to strengthen our health system. I encourage you to do more in this laudable direction.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, these efforts clearly resonate with the substance of the performance contract signed with the Deputy Minister and the Chief of Defense Staff. The Joint Medical Unit; the Engineer Regiment; the Armed Forces Agricultural Unit; the Peace Support Operations, accommodation and welfare of troops are amongst my directives highlighted as deserving paramount and appropriate attention and I am heartened by the actions being taken so far. The Army Engineers have also demonstrated their determination and capacity by transforming this Hockey Pitch to a more comfortable venue. Work will soon start on the Phase One of the Kambia Barracks Project this year. Phase Two of Gondama will be completed this year as well as the Wilberforce Barracks project and more barracks accommodation will be provided in due course.

Lots of training opportunities are also now open to members of the RSLAF across all ranks. To narrow the gender gap in the Military, the MOD is insisting on equal opportunity for women to be enlisted both as officers and other ranks and to be able to compete with their male counterparts. I am informed that the French language has been included in not only the recruitment training package but has also been extended to all internal trainings and short courses. This is a laudable effort and will undoubtedly enhance your professional interaction as you go on Global Peace Keeping operations.

No doubt, a great deal of energy, commitment and resources have been invested in this great transformation. And your outstanding performance here at home and abroad has strengthened your popularity with the general populace. I urge you to keep it up, especially as we gradually approach the general elections period. As a professional force, you must be guided against complacency and any dishonorable acts that will soil your good image so ably cultivated. You must refrain from any acts that will bring back bitter memories; and you must insist on those great principles of service and the shining examples of a disciplined and patriotic force which you have so admirably and consistently demonstrated during previous elections.

As we commemorate this 8th Armed Forces Day, let me once again assure you that my Government will continue to capacitate the RSLAF to meet your welfare needs, to meet international standards and the growing demands relating to national peace and security.

Finally, I applaud you for the wonderful display by the Reconnaissance Unit, the Martial Arts team and the Armed Forces Regimental Band.Thank you all for being part of this memorable celebration.

God bless RSLAF and God bless Sierra Leone!

Independence Message – 27 April, 2017 Delivered By His Excellency the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma

Fellow citizens, today, once again, we celebrate the great event marking the decision of those before us to take charge of our destiny; to make our own laws, formulate our own policies and to implement our own programmes.

Today, we celebrate fifty six years of the freedom to manage our own affairs. It was a great decision and as a nation, we started well on the path of greatness. Then, we stumbled along the way, and the enthusiasm and joy of freedom and independence, shrunk. But collectively, we have reclaimed the vision that inspired our independence.

Since 1996, when we decided that enough was enough, that we must restore democracy and go back to the serious business of building our nation, we have never looked back. And in 2007, you gave me the honour to lead in this forward march to build the new Sierra Leone. It was a mandate to build more schools, establish new universities, build more roads, more hospitals, and to generate more electricity. It was a mandate to improve access to pipe borne water, to improve access to justice and to help the less privileged amongst us to get out of poverty. It was a mandate to consolidate the peace, to strengthen our democracy and to work together in building of a better Sierra Leone.

Fellow citizens, this is my tenth and final independence address as President of this great nation. In my almost 10 years of service as your Head of State, I am proud of what we have achieved together. We have experienced a decade of uninterrupted stability in governance. Rated the most peaceful country in West Africa and the sixth most peaceful in Africa, we have demonstrated to the world that we are a peaceful and stable nation, and a nation that is ready to move towards prosperity.

We have experienced difficult times; yet we have demonstrated resilience that is unrivalled and courage that is unsurpassed. Our policies have attracted an unmatched record of foreign direct investments into our country, resulting in the employment of many of our young people particularly in the extractive sector. And owing to those actions, we have witnessed a corresponding double digit economic growth.

We have established three universities in just nine years and this year, we will establish two more universities including one in the Eastern region. We have further taken affirmative action to provide free university education for persons with disabilities and for female students studying in the sciences in our universities. We have achieved gender parity in primary schools, considerably increased enrolment in junior and senior secondary schools, reintroduced the National School Feeding Programme and government is on track in providing subsidies and subventions for schools and colleges.

We proudly recount the establishment of a national free health care programme for pregnant women, lactating mothers, children under five years, the delivery of cash transfers to vulnerable households, the provision of seeds and other inputs to our farmers, the establishment of the Legal Aid Board and we are on course to establishing a free national ambulance service. With all of these achievements, our social protection is gathering pace and we are ensuring that the quality of life of our people is on the rebound. Even when we were compelled to retrace our steps, we readily put together and implemented a recovery programme that is becoming a blueprint for other countries.

And our health sector is picking up again: more hospitals and community health centres are emergingin urban areas andin remote communities, and we are training and bringing in more specialists and equipment to better serve our people.

Through our road infrastructure transformation programme, we are connecting our farmers to markets, our towns to our cities and our country to neighbouring states.

With the construction of mini hydro dams and the installation of thermal plants and solar technology; many more people are accessing electricity in Freetown, in several major towns and in rural communities where there had been no electricity for over three decades.

For the first time in more than three decades, we are restoring pipe borne water to many parts of the country through the reconstruction of water works stations in all district headquarter towns, and in several other major towns including Bo, Kenema and Makeni.

We also recount our deliberate efforts towards gender and youth empowerment. With the gender – sensitive legislations we have enacted, the youth – focused institutions we have established and the unprecedented high level of participation of women and young people in governance; we have set our society on the path of a more inclusive, fairer and brighter future.

Fellow citizens, our experiences have taught us the need to get tracking systems in all growth sectors; to get accurate data and to record our progress. We have therefore conducted a national census and we are implementing a national registration process to guide our development programmes.

The records show that our democratic credentials remain ever more commendable. We are reviewing our constitution, strengthened our transparency and accountability mechanisms, opened up the media space and the voices of civil society actors are becoming louder. Every now and again, majority of Sierra Leoneans conduct their affairs in keeping with the tenets of democracy and good governance. We vote in a peaceful manner, practice our religions with tolerance and allow each other’s political space. That is who we are – a peace-loving nation.

Next year, on March 7, that peaceful disposition will be put to the test once again. We will vote for our next set of leaders to carry on with this renewal. In doing so, we will have to protect the asset of stability which we have collectively developed. We must continue to allow the rule of law to prevail, adhere to the regulations of our political parties and respect the right of others to participate in the electoral process.

Fellow citizens, in just a little over a year, my tenure will come to an end and I will graciously hand over power to my successor in a democratic transition. Yes, I will be leaving office, but also a legacy of transformation and of peace and of unity which we must all be committed to protect and build upon. We do not have another Sierra Leone and ours is a small country because we are a family of damiahs, ‘berankehs’, ‘komenehs’, of ‘Ngohs’, kothors and of ‘hemohs’. The actions of a compatriot in Koinadugu or in Kambia may have consequences for others in Bonthe, Kailahun and in other parts of the country. We must therefore thread carefully and treat one another with civility, restraint and compassion.

We are a
proud and resilient people and over the years, I have observed how
Sierra Leoneans have learnt to overcome challenges – of war, of disease, and of division. This is why, on this parting Independence Day, I am confident that our future is bright. As a nation, we will stride into a
brighter tomorrow and burnish our credentials as a symbol of
resilience, an example of perseverance and a beacon of hope.

Yes, Sierra Leone is rising again but to sustain this renewal, we must work even harder and more collectively to consolidate the peace, foster national cohesion and to generate more of our own revenue. This is everyone’s responsibility – it does not matter what political party you belong to, or what region you are coming from, or which language you speak – whether you are at the Ports, or at the customs, a coast guard or at the immigration office, or a mines officer or an officer of the law, a vote controller, a Member of Parliament, or a member of the public – the building of the new Sierra Leone requires our collective determination.

On this fifty sixth independence anniversary, I therefore entreat everyone to pay heed to the thoughtful words of our national anthem and our creed of Unity, Freedom and Justice.

I wish you all a memorable Independence Day celebration.

God Bless you and may God bless the Republic of Sierra Leone.

President Koroma and EU discuss Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement

President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma and the European Union today Monday 29 May held discussions on Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement at State House in Freetown.

Article 8 of the said agreement is an integrated framework based on partnership and promoting cooperation, trade and political dialogue.

Addressing the European Union delegation, President Koroma said the meeting explains and provides a clearer understanding of the agreement and practices. Moving forward, the president pointed out the importance of managing the country’s economy and making sure that government meets the 2018 electoral calendar. He declared the completion of the national voter registration exercise, delimitation of constituencies and districts and work in progress on the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources achieving export facilities to the EU Market, national Non-Governmental Organizations Policy, Female Genital Mutilation Policy, review on the National strategy on teenage pregnancy, land legislation that will attract both local and international investment, establishment of technical school for skills empowerment, review of the criminal libel law as well as working on an infrastructure on electoral security.

On the review of the Criminal Seditious Libel Law, President Koroma underscored the significance of continued engagement with relevant stakeholders and going through the process for the review of the said legislation. He noted that there was no plan to shutdown social media but clearly stated that government will respond appropriately to any threat that undermines the peace and security of the state. “We will take appropriate actions as a responsible government,” he said. He encouraged all to work together to close the elections funding gap of Twenty Million Dollars as well as support the ongoing national civil registration exercise.

The Head of the EU delegation in Sierra Leone, Mr Peter Versteeg expressed delight over the frank exchange of issues of national interest and reiterates EU’s support to the country. He welcomed the request of government to fill in an observer mission for the 2018 elections and thanked the Government of Sierra Leone for hosting the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) Conference. He also encouraged Sierra Leone to participate in the Fourth “Our Ocean” Conference slated for 5th and 6th October 2017 in Malta and the next EU/Africa Summit scheduled to take place in Cote D’voire in November 2017. The British High Commissioner, Mr Guy Warrington and other speakers shared common sentiments on holding credible and peaceful elections in 2018, district boundaries delimitation, raising money to close the funding gap, improving the investment climate of the country, human rights and civil society among others.

President Koroma and EU discuss Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement

President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma and the European Union today Monday 29 May held discussions on Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement at State House in Freetown.

Article 8 of the said agreement is an integrated framework based on partnership and promoting cooperation, trade and political dialogue.

Addressing the European Union delegation, President Koroma said the meeting explains and provides a clearer understanding of the agreement and practices. Moving forward, the president pointed out the importance of managing the country’s economy and making sure that government meets the 2018 electoral calendar. He declared the completion of the national voter registration exercise, delimitation of constituencies and districts and work in progress on the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources achieving export facilities to the EU Market, national Non-Governmental Organizations Policy, Female Genital Mutilation Policy, review on the National strategy on teenage pregnancy, land legislation that will attract both local and international investment, establishment of technical school for skills empowerment, review of the criminal libel law as well as working on an infrastructure on electoral security.

On the review of the Criminal Seditious Libel Law, President Koroma underscored the significance of continued engagement with relevant stakeholders and going through the process for the review of the said legislation. He noted that there was no plan to shutdown social media but clearly stated that government will respond appropriately to any threat that undermines the peace and security of the state. “We will take appropriate actions as a responsible government,” he said. He encouraged all to work together to close the elections funding gap of Twenty Million Dollars as well as support the ongoing national civil registration exercise.

The Head of the EU delegation in Sierra Leone, Mr Peter Versteeg expressed delight over the frank exchange of issues of national interest and reiterates EU’s support to the country. He welcomed the request of government to fill in an observer mission for the 2018 elections and thanked the Government of Sierra Leone for hosting the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) Conference. He also encouraged Sierra Leone to participate in the Fourth “Our Ocean” Conference slated for 5th and 6th October 2017 in Malta and the next EU/Africa Summit scheduled to take place in Cote D’voire in November 2017. The British High Commissioner, Mr Guy Warrington and other speakers shared common sentiments on holding credible and peaceful elections in 2018, district boundaries delimitation, raising money to close the funding gap, improving the investment climate of the country, human rights and civil society among others.