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As SA LEONE Celebrate 53rd Independence Anniversary

The West African State of Sierra Leone will be celebrating its 53rd
Independence Anniversary on Sunday 27th April, 2014. The small West
African nation covers an area of 71,740 square kilometers with Liberia
to the South, Guinea to the North and East, and the Atlantic Ocean to
the West. The last national census conducted in 2005, pegged the
population of Sierra Leone to 4.9 million. But according to
indicators, the population is rapidly growing to 6 million and more.

Though a small country, Sierra Leone is endowed with large deposits of
precious minerals such as diamonds, iron ore, rutile, bauxite, zircon
and tens of other minerals that are yet untapped. Besides, the country
is rich in arable lands suitable for commercial farming, marine
resources, natural water, beautiful beaches along the Atlantic Ocean,
many rivers across the country, chains of mountains, forest reserves,
and several other attractions that will convince the “unbeliever” to
visit country and see some of the wonders of the world.

Sierra Leone was colonized by the British in the 19th century and
gained her independence on 27th April, 1961. As a post-independence
nation, Sierra Leone followed the colonial pattern of administration
and the parliamentary system of governance based on the British model.
For example, Queen Elizabeth II had her representative called
Governor, the position ceased to exist when the third Prime
Minister, Hon. Siaka Probyn Stevens, declared Sierra Leone a Republican
State in 1971. The Prime Minister consequently became the first
Executive President and Head of State – a role the Queen’s
representative was playing.

Seven years on, the late President Siaka P. Stevens declared Sierra
Leone a one-party state in 1978 but his successor the late
ex-president Joseph Saidu Momoh, a retired military general, lifted
the ban on multi-party system in 1991 and set up a Constitutional
Commission to draw up the 1991 National Constitution of Sierra Leone
which exists to date.

But just as the Electoral Commission was about to complete voter
registration for the 1992 General Elections, a group of young soldiers
and officers from the war front in the eastern part of the country
invaded the capital Freetown and toppled the late ex-president Joseph
Saidu Momoh’s regime on Wednesday 29th April, 1992 and formed a
military junta known as the National Provisional Ruling Council
(NPRC).

The NPRC overthrew the Momoh regime barely a year after the
Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels had invaded Sierra Leone with
the aid of some Liberian and Burkinabe vanguards. The young soldiers
and officers had overthrown the Momoh regime on the grounds that they
had not been supplied with the necessary logistics to pursue the rebel
war and that the only way to end the rebel war was to overthrow
President Joseph Saidu Momoh. But even so, the military junta’s
four-year regime was strongly resisted by the civilian populace, when
it was realized that the young military officers were on a
self-seeking interest mission.

The NPRC had advocated for peace-before-election and happily organized
two national conferences for the people to endorse their stay. But to
their greatest surprise, the people rejected them at the two
conferences that were tagged Bintumani I & II. The people called for a
two-track approach to conduct the elections and pursue the rebel war
instead of peace before election. The people’s will was done and the
presidential and parliamentary elections were conducted in March 1996,
which ushered in the first democratic elections in Sierra Leone since
independence.

After eleven years of rebel war, the late erstwhile President Alhaji
Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah declared the war over in 2002 during the
symbolic burning of arms and ammunition at the Lungi International
Airport north of Freetown. The country is now a post-conflict
democracy and much has been achieved in terms of national development.

The United Nations and donor partners poured hundreds of millions of
United States Dollars into the disarmament process, rehabilitation and
resettlement of the displaced and Sierra Leoneans who lived as
refugees in neighboring Liberia and Guinea, and other countries in the
sub-region like Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.

The International Community also funded the Government of Sierra Leone
for institutional reforms and the establishment of new ones.
The security apparatus was given a face-lift; democratic
institutions that had never existed in the country were created
through donor assistance. Institutions like the National Revenue
Authority (NRA), Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), National Social
Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT), National Public Procurement
Authority (NPPA), National Commission for Privatization (NPA), the
Independent Media Commission (IMC), are among the new democratic
institutions that were established by the Government of Sierra Leone
after the end of the rebel war. These institutions have enhanced
democratic good governance, revenue generation, economic governance,
and fight against corruption.

The current President of Sierra Leone, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai
Koroma has built on the solid foundation he inherited from his
predecessor, the late ex- President Kabbah. When he acceded to
power in 2007, the development oriented President did not mince words
when he pronounced that he had no “sacred cow” in his government. In
order to march deeds with words, President Koroma ensured that
Parliament amend the 2002 Anti-Corruption Act in 2008 to give the Act
prosecutorial powers and to enable the commission to charge on
corruption offences. Some officials have been tried and convicted for
corruption offences, ranging from ministers, professional heads, heads
of government agencies and department to CEO’s in the Private Sector.
This is a clear manifestation of the President’s determination to
fight against corruption in his administration; despite the fact that
there is no society that can be totally corrupt-free.

With the strengthening of the democratic structures he inherited from
his predecessor, which are working more effectively than before,
President Koroma has moved further with national development. Under
his regime, many archaic laws have been revisited in line with
international standards. For instance, the new business laws in Sierra
Leone have made it relatively simple for any business person to
register his/her business in Sierra Leone in less than 48 hours. All
bottlenecks that used to delay business registration for weeks or
months have been renewed from the Business Laws. Little wonder that
multinational investors are jetting down to Freetown on a daily basis to
explore the possibilities of long-term business there.

Many multinational companies and smaller ones are operating in Sierra
Leone – some in the mining industry such as African Mining Limited
(AML) and London Mining which mine iron ore, while others have
invested in agriculture, marine industry, transportation, and many
other potential areas. Both foreign and local companies are still
registering their businesses as the business policy of the Koroma
administration is described as friendly. The President told Sierra
Leoneans prior to his first election in 2007 that, if elected to State
House, he would run Sierra Leone like a business. And today, business
is booming in Sierra Leone because of President Koroma’s friendly
business policy.

There is marked improvement in the national infrastructure as more
roads have been constructed in the country, particularly major roads
leading to the capital city, provisional cities and towns. Many feeder
roads have also been constructed especially in the agricultural areas
so that farmers will have access to the market to sell their products.
By and large, Sierra Leone is a post-conflict state that is back on
track in terms of investment opportunities. It is a peaceful country
with hospitable people who love strangers. As an emerging democracy
and good governance that believes in the rule of law, human rights,
freedom of expression and of the press. The authorities uphold the
values and tenets of democracy and see the civil society and the media
as partners in development.

Though there are still monumental challenges after 53 years of
independence, there are indicators showing that the national economy
is growing rapidly based on the assessment of the IMF, World Bank and
other International financial institutions. For example, for the last
three years, Sierra Leone has been ranked as the fastest growing
economy in the sub-region. This is because the multinational companies
mining iron ore in the country have increased their production and
exportation and government is collecting huge revenues from these
companies. With time, the production of iron ore will rise
tremendously when a Chinese multinational company starts mining in
Tonkolili District in the Northern Province where the largest deposit
of iron ore has been found.

In Saudi Arabia here, investors have been visiting Sierra Leone to
explore investment opportunities in the country. Chairman of one of
the world’s most successful diversified investment companies, Kingdom
Holding Company (KHC), His Royal Highness (HRH) Saudi Arabia’s Prince
Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Limited is one of the ‘big
time’ Saudi investors that have expressed interest in investing in the
tourism sector in Sierra Leone. He was in the country on Monday 10th
June, 2013. During the visit, His Excellency President Dr. Ernest Bai
Koroma decorated His Royal Highness with the highest National Award in
the country, the Grand Commander of the Order of the Republic of
Sierra Leone (GCRSL). Other prominent Saudi investors have also
started visiting the West African state to explore similar investment
opportunities. Since the Billionaire Prince’s visit to Sierra Leone,
the country has attracted a good number of Saudi and other investors
from some of the Gulf States, including, the United Arab Emirates
(UAE), Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain.

With Sierra Leone being potentially rich in almost every natural
resources, it is only a matter of time when the country will be ranked
among the middle-income countries of the world. And as we celebrate
the 53rd Independence Anniversary, it is hoping that fellow Sierra Leoneans at
home and abroad will contribute to the bright future of the country we love.

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