Sierra Leone at 50
It has been exactly 50 years ago, on April 27th, 1961, when our nation was born and the green, white and blue flag was unveiled for the first time. Our new state declared three days of public holiday and thousands of Sierra Leoneans of all backgrounds took to the streets to celebrate. The capital city, Freetown, was engulfed with people and the streets were decorated with the colors of our new national flag. (Photo: Hassan Jalloh, author)
Following the brisk wind of political change that swept across the continent, Sierra Leone became the latest of West African states to gain its independence after more than 150 years of British rule. This was pioneered by the visionary leadership of brave men and women across Africa. In good faith, these leaders worked tirelessly to overcome colonialism. They put aside personal differences and interests for the good of their nation. In addition, they realized that the success of our country depended on our ability to control our own destiny. They understood the need for political freedom and the need to put an end to colonial rule.
Our Past and Current Position
Today, we celebrate half a century of self governance. Let us use this occasion to reflect on our setbacks – to celebrate our achievements – and to look to the future with hope and optimism.
Many of us present today know that our country, just like many other African countries, suffered from decades of failed leadership – a leadership that was fueled with greed and selfishness. As a consequence, we endured a 10-year brutal civil war that cost the lives of thousands of Sierra Leoneons. These stories and images are still with us and sadly, will remain indelibly etched in our country’s history.
On the other hand, we also know that our nation can boast of a proud history and of recent success stories. Over the past few years, we have held internationally acclaimed democratic elections which led to a peaceful and successful transition of leadership.
A Look to the Future
As we look to the future, we see countless opportunities and challenges. We must be prepared to make the change necessary to take advantage of the opportunities and deal with the challenges.
We are engaged in an era of global competition for raw materials, skilled workers and market access. It is a world that is increasingly global and interconnected. Boundaries have become transparent and technological advancement has made it easier to outsource work abroad. However, with each of these dynamics, our countries fail to position themselves to fully benefit from the global phenomenon that is transforming countries like India, China and Brazil. As a result of our passivity and inaction, we suffer from the dire consequences of this global trend.
As more and more countries compete for Africa’s limited natural resources, we see our cultures eroding and our traditions quickly eradicating before our eyes. Our citizens are dying from preventable and curable diseases and hunger. Therefore, it is critical now more than ever before, that African leaders begin to think in new ways that allow them to adapt to an environment that is constantly changing. They must have a broader understanding of the global economy and of the political contexts in which they are expected to respond. African leaders must be prepared to deal with the challenges of the 21st century.
We cannot continue on a path of leadership that is in any way less than effective. Therefore, it is time for a new direction. It is time to invest in our transport and technology infrastructure, building roads, rail, airports and seaports to allow the free flow of people, goods and services. These are the incentives that attract foreign direct investment. We must harness the power of technology to effectively deliver social, educational and healthcare services.
Educating our citizens with knowledge and skills needed to compete in a global economy will create a better future for us and in time, propel our country to greater heights. We must toil and cultivate our land, use new farming tools to increase our harvest and turn our country into a food exporting nation. It is time to invest in cost effective, reliable and renewable energy that power our industries, homes and machinery – so that our country can once again become the illuminating light of hope in Africa.
These goals may seem lofty, yet they are achievable. To accomplish them, we must start with changing the mindset of our people. Put an end to the idea of blaming others for our missteps and failures. No longer can this be an excuse! We need to usher in a new era of optimism and personal responsibility. Unyielding determination to rebuild and transform our country must replace the old order of thinking.
We need to redefine our relationship with other countries by focusing on building strategic alliances. We should approach our partners with clearly defined project proposals – proposals that communicate our value. This in time will help us break the cycle of aid dependency and transform our country from one with urgent needs to one of prosperity – one that is a success story in Africa.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we celebrate our country’s 50th independence anniversary, I want us all to please remember that the task of rebuilding our country does not lie in the hands of the NGO’s and those charitable organizations whose aim is to save humanity through helping the poor and the needy. The responsibility of rebuilding our country lies squarely in the hands of the people right here tonight. It lies in the hands of Sierra Leoneans out in the Diaspora and Sierra Leoneans back home.
The success of our country’s mission lies in our ability to come together as people of one country working together hand in hand to achieve the goal of rebuilding and transforming our country and make it a better place for all.
Long Live Sierra Leone
By Hassan Jalloh, USA
Hassan Jalloh is the CEO/President – Voice Data Solutions. Jalloh founded Voice Data Solutions, LLC, an IT Services company located in Montgomery County, Maryland that provides high quality IT support service solutions to government and local businesses in the Washington DC area in a cost effective manner.
He has over 12 years experience in the Information Technology sector, working for both private and government agencies in the United Kingdom and USA. Education: BSc. Hon Applied Computing, Leeds Metropolitan University, United Kingdom, and MSc. Information Systems Management. United States.
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