Annan exhorts Sierra Leone President, parliament to work on people’s behalf

Annan exhorts Sierra Leone President, parliament to work on people’s behalf

As Sierra Leone inaugurated its new President and Parliament today, the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, encouraged the elected leaders to work in a democratic manner on behalf of the country’s people.

The people of Sierra Leone “have shown their preference for the route of democracy as the foundation for sustainable peace,” the Secretary-General said in a message, delivered on his behalf by Oluyemi Adeniji, his Special Representative to the country, to the inauguration ceremony for the President and the opening of Parliament.

“As their elected representatives, you must now, in your conduct and deliberations, uphold and sustain this new image of Sierra Leone,” he stressed. “This can only be done through good governance, responsible leadership, mutual respect and the politics of inclusion.”

The Secretary-General paid tribute to the country for being able to hold elections “in a free, fair and transparent manner” just five months after the end of a brutal, decade-long civil war, and praised all the political leaders for spontaneously and immediately accepting the results.

Yet the most urgent task now was to consolidate the newly found peace, Mr. Annan said, urging the new Government to take the lead in addressing the unfinished aspects of the peace process: the reintegration of ex-combatants; the effective restoration of State authority and basic services throughout the country; and the promotion of justice, human rights, national reconciliation and the rule of law.

The Secretary-General also stressed the need to develop the capacity of the police and army so they can maintain security without the presence of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL).

“Indeed, it is the interest of the people – and in particular their hopes for a rapid improvement in their socio-economic conditions – that must guide your approach to the issues before this Parliament,” the Secretary-General said. “The devastation that is so evident throughout the country requires that all Sierra Leoneans capable of rendering effective service be given the opportunity to do so, irrespective of their political persuasion.”