CHINA-SIERRA LEONE DEEPEN BILATERAL RELATIONS

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Sierra Leone in 1971, bilateral political relations have been increasingly deepened on the basis of respecting and taking care of each other’s core interests and major concerns.

Today, Saturday August 8, 2015, the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China Wang Yi paid a courtesy call on His Excellency, President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma at State House in Freetown. The visit is part of a tri-nation tour of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to assess the Ebola situation in the three worst-hit countries and hold discussions on ensuring a total eradication of the disease and what role China could play in the post-Ebola recovery of the affected countries.

President Koroma and the Foreign Minister exchanged views on post Ebola recovery as well as Africa’s common position on the reform of the UN Security Council, the Boko Haram menace in Nigeria and the Malian conflict, which are posing serious challenges to peace, security and development in West Africa.

The Foreign Minister expressed China’s continued support to Sierra Leone and commended President Koroma for his effective leadership of the national response against Ebola.

He said the visit is to discuss with the government of Sierra Leone on the specific needs of the country in terms of development and also the need to create the necessary independent development to move the country forward.

Mr. Yi’s visit seeks to focus on five main areas – to strengthen Sierra Leone’s medical and public health infrastructure, establish a West African Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which will be based in Sierra Leone, and send more medical personnel; mining and industrial cooperation to focus on processing of mineral products for value addition; Fishing and agriculture to encourage Chinese fishing companies to invest in Sierra Leone; continue to do more in infrastructural development, for instance, the Mamamah Airport; and promote human resource development by speedily kickstarting the construction of the Youth Village.

China has provided substantial support and assistance to Sierra Leone in the form of tangible infrastructural development, including bridges, government buildings, stadiums and roads.

Currently, China-aided infrastructure projects such as Charlotte, Bankasoka and Makali hydropower stations are legion, and the completed state of the art Regent to Kossoh road project, the Bo stadium and even the Siaka Steven stadium are all examples of over 40 years of fruitful and bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

The Youth Village and proposed new airport are landmark projects the Chinese government is helping Sierra Leone to pull off within the shortest possible time.

International community extols president’s social mobilization drive against Ebola

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared this morning Sierra Leone as Ebola free at a colourful and well attended ceremony at the Bintumani International Conference Centre at Aberdeen in Freetown.

The ceremony was attended by cabinet ministers, members of parliament, senior government officials, traditional leaders, members and Dean of the diplomatic and consular corps, the media as well as ordinary Sierra Leoneans, including survivors of the evil virus called Ebola.

However, this event could not have come without a price in terms of collateral damage as thousands of Sierra Leoneans, over 200 health workers and 11 doctors lost their lives to the disease.

Furthermore, President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma’s nationwide social mobilization drive for community involvement and ownership of the fight against Ebola made considerable progress to break the chain of transmission of the disease.

The significance of his nationwide social mobilization tours stem from the fact that paramount chiefs, religious leaders, MPs, traditional and cultural society heads, Councilors and other stakeholders accepted and believed his message that they shoulder the responsibility of driving the Ebola virus out of their communities. It was this social mobilization by the president that turned out to be the game changer in the fight to eradicate Ebola from Sierra Leone, and consequently the WHO declaring the country as Ebola free today Saturday 7 November, 2015.

A number of diplomats have commended the efforts of President Koroma in his social mobilization drive for community involvement and ownership of the fight against Ebola culminating to the end of the outbreak today.

Please read below the testimonies of some of our development partners as well as the CEO of the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC):

State House Communication Unit:

QUESTION – Ahead of Sierra Leone being declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization (WHO), what is your assessment of President Koroma’s social mobilization drive in the fight against Ebola?


British High Commissioner Peter West – ANSWER:
I am full of admiration for President Koroma’s leadership and I think an outstanding aspect of that leadership has been his work on social mobilization. From the onset, I knew that President Koroma believes that without the cooperation and understanding of the people of Sierra Leone we will not be able to overcome the disease. Over many months I have travelled with him to every district in this country. In some cases, more than half a dozens times to problematic districts. I have seen him explained, persuade, cajoled and insist on people doing the right things to end the transmission chains. In his recent tours, I have seen his emphasis on building from the lessons we have learnt during Ebola so that Sierra Leone emerges stronger and more resilient with structures which are able to provide the services which the people of Sierra Leone deserve.

As we get to zero plus forty-two, I am proud that the UK along with other international partners has been able to play a full part in this fight against Ebola. But most of all, I want to congratulate President Koroma on a job very well done.

QUESTION 2: Moving forward, you have been very supportive of government’s action in stemming the virus, what areas do you think government should strengthen to equip the response for future outbreaks?

Peter West – ANSWER: I think it’s very important people learnt lessons from this episode. There is more capacity and more qualified people now to deal with this sort of crisis in the future. I think it is important also we embrace those people and those institutions so that there is a stronger structure to deal with this crisis in the future. And I think now in the next few years we are working very closely with President Koroma and his government on a recovery package on six specific areas which the government has set out and to make sure that the country develops and returns to the ambitions set out in the Agenda for Prosperity.

Discussion with WHO Representative – Dr Andres Nordstrom

State House Communication Unit –

QUESTION: Ahead of Sierra Leone being declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization, what is your assessment of President Koroma’s social mobilization drive in the fight against Ebola?

Dr Andres Nordstrom – ANSWER: I think the socio mobilization part of the response possibly has been most important and critical element because not until we really began to reach out to people to engage them, to communicate with the people that we can see the difference. Because we need the people to fully engage and fully also to trust and to also change some of the behaviours. So I think the social mobilization the president has been providing leadership for has been extremely important for this outbreak. I think there is a good platform; there is a lot of good experience and resources reaching out to people in communities that we need to build on to tackle other health problems in the future.

State House Communication Unit

– QUESTION: Dr Nordstrom, how would you describe the leadership of President Koroma?

Dr Andres Nordstrom – ANSWER:
He is really a leader that is providing both inspiration and leadership but also is a person that stays very calm and somebody also you both feel trust with and somebody who you can like as well.

Interview with CEO of NERC Major (Rtd) Paolo Conteh

State House Communication Unit –

QUESTION: Ahead of Sierra Leone being declared Ebola free by the WHO, what is your assessment of President Koroma’s social mobilization drive in the fight against Ebola?

CEO NERC – ANSWER: I think the president’s own contribution particularly in the area of social mobilization was key to the fight. I say so for two reasons because in terms of social mobilization it is not only about the message, it is about who carries the message – the messenger – and in President Koroma you have a good messenger because when he speaks people listen. People are drawn to him. So his contribution in my view was immense and I think it helped. He took the message to every district and I was with him.

He went around the country; spoke to paramount chiefs, religious leaders, tribal heads and so on. So I will say his contribution was immense in particularly social mobilization, getting the message to people to listen and do the right things.

SHCU©2015

President Koroma urges UN to move with the times

President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma delivered a rousing speech at the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday September 22, 2016, calling on the international governing body to move with the times and speed up the reform of the UN Security Council.

As chairman of the African Union Committee of Ten Heads of State and Government on the Reform of the United Nations Security Council, the president stressed that no matter what they as leaders do at the national or global level, the world “will not be able to deliver on the SDGs’ promise of an inclusive, fairer and better world without the reform of the United Nations.”

The president spoke about some of his administration’s biggest achievements, including access to justice, women and youth employment and empowerment. He also thanked the outgone UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for Sierra Leone’s successful fight against the Ebola epidemic; a fight won with the help of the UN and bilateral partners.

President Koroma also talked about the significance of the Paris climate agreement, which he signed soon after addressing the General Assembly. He pointed out that although Sierra Leone contributes almost nothing to global warming, it is the third most vulnerable country to the effects of climate change. He therefore delineates climate change as an urgent life and death matter. “That is why we welcome the Paris Agreement,” he said, and told world leaders about his government’s commitment to implement its provisions in Sierra Leone. “My Government, in collaboration with our development partners, is implementing projects on adaptation, including climate information and early warning systems. We remain committed to these efforts and we seek further collaboration in confronting this global threat against humanity,” he assured.

The speech was also a stark warning to the UN of the grim international consequences should the premier governing body continue to hold on the edicts and structures established 71 years ago, calling on the UN to move with the times by carrying out the relevant reforms. Straight from the shoulder, President Koroma told world leaders that the UN lacks the democratic competencies to tackle the developmental, security and other challenges facing Africa and many other parts of the world today. “Without strong African voices at the highest level of our premier global decision making body; without the energetic voices of the region with the largest number of young people, without the decisive contribution of the continent that is mostly affected by Security Council decisions, no solution proffered to our challenges by the United Nations would be sustained, inclusive or lasting,” the chairman of the C-10 declared amid rapturous applause by the audience.

As the voice of Africa under the aegis of the C-10, the Sierra Leonean leader told the UN that Africa stands united behind the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration and urged against any attempt to take down their position through divide and rule reminiscent of colonialism.

President Koroma also told the assembled representatives of the UN’s member states that Sierra Leone is now ready to deploy its newly Formed Police Units (FUPs), Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) units as well as Police Guards to the UN Standby Arrangement System (UNSAS) at short notice in fulfillment of the country’s pledge made to the Leader’s Summit on Peacekeeping in September, 2015.

The president reiterated his government’s commitment to good governance; address the underlying causes of fragility and drivers of conflict, effective management of the country’s natural resources in a bid to transform Sierra Leone into a middle-income nation by 2035. He also reminded the international community, including its bilateral friends to fulfill their pledges to the country’s recovery programme. President Koroma further expressed the urgent need for all parties to cooperate with global initiatives in finding enduring peace in Syria, South Sudan and Libya, and called for action in resolving the Israel Palestine conflict, in fighting terrorism, and what he described as “dangerous escalations in the arms race”.

Certainly, many of the arguments by the president were aimed at the UN which has failed to adopt measures, including text based negotiations that will lead to a comprehensive and early reform of the Security Council to reflect contemporary realities. He urged the assembled leaders to speed up the reform process so that Africa can take its rightful place in the UN Security Council.

After the speech, President Koroma had bilateral meetings with the President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson, the outgone UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and attended a reception ceremony hosted by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He also took interviews with the CCTV and BBC in between his bilateral meetings.

IMF praises Sierra Leone’s Economic Reforms under President Koroma

On Monday September 26, 2016, the Chief of Mission of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), John Wakeman-Linn, paid President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma a visit at State House.

The purpose of the visit was to update the president on the outcome of the sixth and final review under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF). This facility is a lending arrangement that provides sustained program engagement over the medium to long term in case of protracted balance of payments problems. The IMF Executive Board approved the arrangement for Sierra Leone in October 2013.

Following consultations and constructive discussions with the Sierra Leonean authorities, the IMF has in an end-of-mission press release described the economic reforms undertaken by the Government of Sierra Leone as largely on track and largely successful. “The economy proved resilient in the face of two major exogenous shocks: the Ebola epidemic and collapse of iron ore prices and associated loss of production in 2014 – 2015,” the fund said in its press release issued on September 27, 2016.

It extolled the changes the government has implemented: “Prudent fiscal policy throughout the program contributed to the achievement of a relatively low fiscal deficit. Credible monetary policy contributed to price stability, bringing inflation down from over 20 percent at the beginning of the program to single digits, although in recent months it has begun to increase somewhat.”

“The current account balance has strengthened. International reserves have risen to more than $500 million,” the release added.

Amid concerns that the economy needs revamping after the Ebola epidemic, the IMF encouraged the government to put emphasis on price stability, while remaining attentive to second round pressures on prices. “Exchange rate and market policies should be transparently implemented,” the fund urged.

Notwithstanding, the mission was pleased that all quantitative performance criteria for end-June 2016 were met and consequently, Sierra Leone’s sixth and final review under the ECF arrangement is tentatively scheduled for consideration by the IMF Executive Board in November 2016.

Click on link to read Press Release :http://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2016/09/27/PR16428-Sierra-Leone-IMF-Staff-Completes-Review-Mission

Click on link to read story on the visit of the IMF Chief of Mission:http://www.statehouse.gov.sl/index.php/component/content/article/34-news-articles/1622-president-vows-to-stay-engaged-with-the-people

President Koroma expresses hope of bright days ahead in his traditional New Year message

In a national broadcast on New Year’s day, President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma has expressed hope of bright days ahead for Sierra Leone, saying that the new year “has come upon us with the assurance of an economy on the path to full recovery.”

He pointed out that every citizen must be commended for the sacrifices and adjustments they made in order to overcome the challenges facing the country. “…from the fisherman at Funkia to the farmer at Buedu; from the petty trader at Abacha Street to the bike rider in Pujehun and our compatriots in the Diaspora – Sierra Leoneans have shown great resilience and have been at the forefront of discussions and actions to turn this country around,” the president said.

He thanked the people of Sierra Leone for their support in rolling out the recovery priorities as well as in returning the economy back on the pathway of the pre-Ebola era and pre-drop-in-iron-ore-prices days.

In 2014, Sierra Leone was hit by the twin shocks of the slump in iron ore prices in the world market and the Ebola outbreak, which we already know reversed the gains made as one the fastest growing economies in the world. With help from the international community and the personal leadership of the His Excellency the President through his social mobilization drive for community ownership of the fight against, what many described as a “horrific” virus, the country triumphed.

During this period, President Koroma showed great and remarkable leadership and he always had the backing of the people. Sierra Leoneans endured huge challenges but were determined to support their leader in fighting Ebola as well as the economic difficulties the country is facing, which I’m sure the president has already promised to review by mid 2017. He added: “…we will review the austerity measures we are implementing and we will reassess the progress we have made under the Recovery Priorities to determine where we are and to define our new actions going forward.”

The president said that although Sierra Leoneans have shown the world their ability to pull together in times of adversity as well as to succeed against all odds, he urged his countrymen to approach national issues with nonpartisan lenses; “…we must adopt the imperatives that put Sierra Leone first in our actions.” The Commander-in-Chief noted that the destinies of Sierra Leoneans are bound together and their “fortunes intertwined” and, therefore despite tensions that may arise between aspirants seeking political office, he encouraged all and sundry never to lose sight of the fact that Sierra Leone is bigger than everyone; “is it bigger than every group and every political party.”

He called on citizens to pay attention towards the development programmes and act as monitors of the implementation of projects in chiefdoms, constituencies and districts.

In the foregoing one clearly sees that President Koroma is setting the tone and mood of the next general elections in terms of appealing to the better nature of Sierra Leoneans for peace, development and a sense of patriotism. He is not oblivious of the challenges that lie ahead in the country’s transition as a viable democracy. He takes on them head on by appealling to the better nature of all Sierra Leoneans because after all, we owe it to posterity to stay together, work together and build our beloved country together. By and large, the speech is forward looking and full of optimism for the land that we love.

PRESS STATEMENT

Freetown, February 26th 2014: We, leaders of specific youth groups operating within Sierra Leone hip hop music industry, gather today to issue out this press statement in which we want the world to know that we:

1. Are appreciative of the efforts of our President, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, in rebranding Sierra Leone and making it an attractive destination for foreign direct investment into Africa.

2. Are further appreciative of love and care our President has been consistently showing over welfare of Sierra Leone youths to the extent of appointing a capable Presidential Youth Aide.

3. Wish to assure H.E. the President and people of Sierra Leone that the least that we, as youths, can do in return of the ongoing admirable show of leadership of the President, is to respect and uphold the peace in the land. Sustainable peace will enable development and prosperity agenda.

4. Have seen mails sent to the manager of Jamaican musician, BUSY SIGNAL which allege unfortunate threats and which have been widely circulated on social media Whatsapp and Facebook.

5. Wish to denounce in its entirety, the threats from these anonymous writers claiming membership of the RED FLAG MOVEMENT (R.F.M.) supposedly in support of our Sierra Leone artist, LAJ.

6. In particular, on behalf of the entire R.F.M. and LAJ the musician, the Manager, Mr. Asheim Sesay and the entire management team are distancing themselves from the illegal threats.

7. Furthermore, the President Alusine Kamara, Secretary-General Gerrard Jalloh and the entire executive and members of the R.F.M. Fan Clubs are distancing themselves from the illegal threats.

8. Have held an international phone call with Mr. KAO DENERO during which we have assured him that all the youths of Sierra Leone are looking forward to welcoming both KAO DENERO and BUSY SIGNAL to Sierra Leone.

9. Members of the RFM and LAJ Fan Clubs, in light of our strong denials of knowledge about these internet threats, hereby assure that if invited by KAO DENERO to join him, are willing to collaborate with KAO DENERO and the BLACK LEO record label to ensure visit of BUSY SIGNAL turns out to be one of the most peaceful and prosperous visits of a musician in entire History of Sierra Leone.

10. KAO DENERO has, during the phone call, warmly welcomed the offer of R.F.M. to collaborate with him to ensure the visit of BUSY SIGNAL turns out most successfully.

Signed by:

Asheim Sesay

Manager, R.F.M./LAJ

Signed by:

Alusine Kamara (aka Ozil Jalloh)

President, R.F.M/LAJ Fan Clubs

Signed by:

Gerrard Jalloh

Sec-Gen, R.F.M/LAJ Fan Clubs

Guaranteed by:

Phylip Tholley (aka GUNSHOT)

Chairman, Youth Awareness for Peace & Development

Guaranteed by:

Shawn Carter

Sec-Gen, Youth Awareness for Peace & Development

Guaranteed by:

Ibrahim Kamara (aka SHINE)

Vice Chairman, Youth Awareness for Peace & Development

Guaranteed by:

Alhaji Kamara (aka BODY&SOUL;)

PRO-I, Youth Awareness for Peace & Development

Guaranteed by:

Mohamed Koroma (aka TIMBERLAND)

PRO-II, Youth Awareness for Peace & Development

Guaranteed by:

Sulaiman Gomez (BEENIEMAN)

Chief Whip, Youth Awareness for Peace & Development

ALL SIGNATURES ABOVE DONE IN THE PRESENCE OF:

________________________________

Bai Mahmoud Bangura

Presidential Youth Aide at State House

Press Releases

GOVERNMENT OF SIERRA LEONE

PRESS RELEASE

Due to the continuing difficulties of apportioning land, multiple claims to the same land, fake title deeds and confrontations, sometimes degenerating into violence, the Government of Sierra Leone has instructed the Ministry of Lands to put a moratorium on all land transactions (state and private) in the western area.The ministry will work out more appropriate modalities to reverse the present chaotic state of things and inform the public accordingly with regards the new land-acquisition methodology.As at now, only applications for development purposes would be considered.This moratorium comes into force with immediate effect.

MINISTRY OF LANDS/19 November 2008

STATEMENT BY H.E. DR ERNEST BAI KOROMA AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF CHINA CIVIL ENGINEERING CONSTRUN COMPANY (CCECC-SL) DREAM ATLANTIC GARDEN VILLA PHASE 1 LUMLEY BEACH 11 NOVEMBER 2016

Mr. Chairman, Ministers of Government, Members of Parliament, Your Excellency the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, Vice President of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Mr. Zhang Wenjin, members of the Fourth Estate, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

Today’s commissioning of the CCECC-SL Dream Atlantic Garden Villa Phase 1, marks a remarkable moment in the recent history of real estate development in Sierra Leone. This landmark development serves several purposes. First, it will provide housing for certain segments of the market whose requirements are captured in the design and development features of the estate.

Second, it will send a symbolic message that residential estate development of international standards can be done in Sierra Leone.

And very importantly, this investment by foreign private interest reinforces our strong message to all well-meaning investors that Sierra Leone is an investment destination and ready for business.

The location of the estate along one of our most popular and exotic beaches, much as it resonates with my avowed determination to develop Sierra Leone’s infrastructure, is also a welcome and towering boost to my Government’s efforts to making Sierra Leone an attractive tourist destination.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, My Government recognizes the provision of affordable housing as a fundamental responsibility we must bear, we also recognise the huge demand for affordable housing especially in Freetown and we recognise the need for my government to continue to support this type of initiative and partnerships in fulfilling that obligation.

But distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is important to note that the demand for social housing cannot be fully addressed by Government alone. This is why we have been working assiduously to improve the investment environment, to attract private interests and to seek public private partnerships in order to expand the opportunities in the housing sector.

My government will continue steadily on this path and on the path of building new roads that will provide access to new areas. We will continue to expand on the coverage of electricity and water supply to encourage similar investments and to improve the general condition of living of our citizens.

For the past decade, the economic cooperation between Sierra Leone and China has been active, providing the platform on which more and more Chinese enterprises are participating in our economic development. While I applaud your consistent support to my Government’s development agenda, let me also encourage the management of CCECC to consider further investment in middle and low class housing across the country. Whether it is going to be an entire private investment or a public- private venture, I would like to assure you of my Government’s full support.

Today, with the commissioning of this facility, we have demonstrated how investors can work with Government to achieve sustainable results. I am confident that this facility, which has clearly given a facelift to this part of the Lumley Beach front will continue to provide employment for Sierra Leoneans at various level including at management level; that it will be a viable part of our tourism sector and that it will serve as a blueprint others will emulate.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, while I look forward to the second phase, it is now my honour to commission the phase 1 of the “Dream Atlantic Villa”.

Thank you all for your attention.

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.