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UN praises President Koroma for good governance, national development and efforts towards free and fair elections

By Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu :

 Sierra Leone is still the toast of the United Nations and she is still the UN success story and model  for peacebuilding and peace consolidation in Africa. In fact Sierra Leone is also now the pilot state of the NEW DEAL reached at the Fourth  High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea in November last year . All these good news about Sierra Leone  were contained in  pronouncements  made  by the Chair of the UN  Peacebuilding Commission Sierra Leone Country Specific Configuration   and other stakeholders during a key meeting  of the PBC at the UN Headquarters in New York yesterday Wednesday February 29, 2012.

AMBASSADOR OSMAN KEH KAMARA AND THE CHAIR OF THE PBC AMBASSADOR RISHCHYNSKI

The UN meeting of the PBC was convened to hear the Chair of the Configuration, Ambassador Guilermo Rishchynski , brief the UN on his recent visit to Sierra Leone to observe the situation on the ground. The Ambassador looked at governance issues, the forthcoming elections , the issue of youth and national resource development.

According to statements delivered by the Chair and various delegations, the UN has not changed its perceptions about  Sierra Leone. We have always said that in the midst of all the propaganda against the government , events on the ground in Sierra Leone will exonerate President Ernest Bai Koroma and the Government that they are doing well to make Sierra Leone a better and stronger nation . And this is what has happened once again. The PBC Chair  and team went to see for themselves  what is happening in Sierra Leone, returned and are  full of praise for Sierra Leone after what they saw on the ground . They noticed challenges,  to be sure,  but the bigger picture is that Sierra Leone has continued making  the tremendous strides in socio-economic and political developments that caused  the UN to proclaim her a success story and a model two years ago.

Ambassador Rishchynski held the jampacked conference hall  (full of UN officials, PBC members and stakeholders ) spellbound with his report which impressed  the delegates .

He started by publicly thanking the All People’s Congress ( APC ) Government for the organization, cooperation and transparency of his visit .He described the cooperation from the Government as second to none. He also thanked the political parties, civil society, youth and women’s groups and traditional leaders for making it possible to dialogue with his team. He also personally appreciated the high-calibre work the Peacebuilding office  had done in Sierra Leone. Ambassador Rishchynski said he also met with President Ernest Bai Koroma twice and ministers , the Speaker of Parliament and the Finance Minister .He also met with religious leaders , heads of traditional societies,  members of the diplomatic corps and the Chair of the National Elections Commission ( NEC ), Dr. Christiana Thorpe. 

AMBASSADOR OSMAN KEH KAMARA AND THE CHAIR OF THE PBC AMBASSADOR RISHCHYNSKI

The PBC Chair said that a key focus was the present voters’ registration going on. Ambassador Rishchynski said he can tell the stakeholders that “We are confident from a technical perspective that the preparations being made for the elections in Sierra Leone are professional and efficient and that the elections will be held in a transparent, free and fair method that will be understood by the people. ”  He described the Biometric Registration process he saw  and said that the process will ensure that votes are fair and credible. He was impressed by the progress being achieved by the government and the technical preparations for the elections  but he hopes that everybody repudiates violence  from the highest echelons of authority. He urged the stakeholders to request  their capitals to send elections observers to Sierra Leone . The AU, ECOWAS and many organizations are sending observers. 

The Chair also spoke about the violence in Bo and Fourah Bay which were  contained . The Ambassador  said that  the good thing was that UNIPSIL stated that there is a level of dialogue among the political parties after the incidents and President Koroma met with the Chair of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ). 

Ambassador Rishchynski also  lauded the government for setting up the National Youths Commission .It was one of the things the PBC suggested . The idea has been implemented and it is working well in the country as the voice of youth is being taken into consideration “and we are impressed, ”  he went on. He said that there was a need for stakeholders and the private sector to engage the Chamber of Commerce  to create jobs for the youths. He and his team were struck also by the creation of a technical centre—The Obasanjo Centre—which will be used for training youths to help them  jobs. 

The PBC Boss was also  impressed by the fact that  Sierra Leone is going through increased investments  in mining and other areas. He said that this fact is palpable at the airport where people are entering the country in droves to invest. He stated that the government is doing well with the mining contracts which are being re-negotiated to create transparency and new mineral agencies  “and we applaud the fact that Sierra Leone has put together a legal and geological database. “ 

Ambassador Rishchynski said that Sierra Leone is well on the way  to  achieving economic growth  and the plans to set up mineral agencies will create opportunities for interfacing with the private sector.  He commended DFID, the World Bank and the UN for help being rendered in creating opportunities  and conditions for extraction of minerals. The PBC Chair said Sierra Leone is deemed a best practice  in business  for transparency in preparation  for prosperity. 

About UNIPSIL , he said that  the UN is a strong partner in Sierra Leone  One of the most impressive  was a UN system  working as one and should be praised for conducting  outreach  with government that enables everyone  to understand development . He  promised to  work with the UN team  to ensure that a new ERSG is named  quickly  so that there will be an individual on the ground leading UNIPSIL in preparations for the elections.

On the challenges ,  the PBC Chair said that one of the impressions is that there is still a lot to be done in voter education campaigns so that the people can understand their votes and what it means. He believed that the PPRC has a central role to play in these capacity challenges. It is very important also , he went on, that a peaceful and enabling environment is upheld so that even if the elections results are challenged as it happens everywhere, the elections will still be credible.

The Chair closed by saying that from the development perspective, he came away  impressed  by  Sierra Leone’s new era of development to help her take her place in the family of developed  countries and he said that by 2030-40, Sierra Leone will achieve middle-level income  status if she prudently manages her resources.

The floor was opened for comments  and questions from   PBC members and stakeholders . Speakers   lauded Sierra Leone for the excellent progress report  and steps put in place for  free and fair elections  . Italy, Benin, Burkina Faso,  the World Bank, the EU , France,  Nigeria,  the UK , Australia,  China, Egypt, El Salvador and  the Organization of Islamic Countries ( OIC ) delivered statements commending Sierra Leone and pledged  to continue working with the country to help her achieve her goals.

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