Speech delivered by His Excellency Ambassador Bockarie K. Stevens on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations in Washington, DC
Wednesday, April 27, 2011 marked the 50th Independence Anniversary of the Republic of Sierra Leone. The joy and happiness that mesmerized the citizens and friends of Sierra Leone in celebrating this day is unimaginable. Sierra Leoneans and friends of Sierra Leone throughout the Americas celebrated this day with pomp and pageantry. This spectacular occasion was celebrated in Washington, DC where dignitaries from the U.S. State Department including the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, William Fitzgerald, a Member of Congress, members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited in Washington, DC, Secretary General of the APC, Mr. Victor Foh, citizens and friends of Sierra Leone converged at Ambassador Steven’s residence to celebrate this wonderful occasion. (Photo: cutting of a special cake on the occasion of Sierra Leone’s 50th Independence anniversary)
In his well articulated and heart rending speech, Ambassador Stevens said, On April 27, 1961, Sierra Leone regained her Independence. Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of that great moment, and we are gathered here to register our generation’s appreciation of the great men and women who regained for us the instruments of sovereignty. We are happy the government and people of the United States of America are joining us to celebrate our freedom; this is a great manifestation of the strength of our partnership and commitment to the cherished values of freedom, independence, peace and international cooperation.
We are also gathered here to reflect on the responsibility placed on the people of Sierra Leone to make independence worthy of our custody. There have been moments when our custody of the promise of independence has been in great danger; moments our pursuit of the purposes of liberty was almost derailed. But the overwhelming majority of Sierra Leoneans have stood up to the challenge and asserted faith in the great ideals enshrined in our country’s motto: Unity, Freedom, and Justice!
We fought a war, but we have sustained a peace that is the envy of the world; we have had spells of unelected leadership, but we are today a shining example of a country that is consolidating its democracy. The theme of our anniversary is 50 Years Forward, Celebrating a New Sierra Leone. We chose that theme because we are dedicated to moving forward with the great values that we have asserted even in the most trying moments of our history.
Religious tolerance is our inheritance and we have proved ourselves worthy of that heritage as one of the most religiously tolerant nations in the world; the pursuit of freedom is embedded in the history of our country as haven for slaves from the Americas and England; and this present generation of Sierra Leoneans is making itself laudable guardians of that legacy of freedom, and justice; inter-ethnic harmony is a birthright we have asserted even in the midst of conflict.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Sierra Leone is today staying true to our aspirations for democracy, peace, and development. Guided by our Agenda for Change and inspired by committed leadership from our President, His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma, our commitment to development is visible in the construction of roads and power stations, the greater access to healthcare and the assertion of freedom of expression and association through community radios, political parties and progressive organizations. We are revitalizing our private sector as our engine of growth, we are attracting huge investments in many sectors of our economy; we are fighting the negative trends of corruption and drug trafficking with great determination and strength, we are revitalizing our information and media systems by transforming the government owned broadcasting services into an independent broadcaster controlled by civil society and headed by a member of the opposition. We have not yet reached the summit of our capabilities, but our sights are now on the heights and we are working towards the direction of greatness foreseen by the founders of our nation.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, our people are mostly clear about what our country should become in the next fifty years; a developed democratic country that is a global example of inter-ethnic harmony, religious tolerance, gender equity, unity, freedom and justice. Our government’s Agenda for Change is an action oriented interpretation of these aspirations. To ensure that we continue the momentum, we seek partnerships in the expanding opportunities in oil, iron ore, gold, diamonds, agriculture and infrastructural development. We have created mechanisms and processes that are universally lauded and that are ensuring investments in iron ore mining, oil exploration and agriculture worth billions of dollars. We crave the participation of the United States of America and nationals of other friendly countries in these expanding opportunities for mutual benefit.
Let me also take this opportunity to salute our international friends who stood by us at critical moments in our history and asserted their belief in the capacity of our country for renewal, democracy and development. We will continue along the path of peace, democracy and development that our partnerships promise, and we shall deliver on our international commitments.
Excellencies, distinguished guests,
The relations between the United States of America and Sierra Leone remain excellent, and indeed, the United States was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Sierra Leone at independence, scaling-up its presence from Consulate to Embassy level in 1961. Our relations are also qualified by a historical perspective going back to the 19th Century when American Missionaries began arriving in colonial era Sierra Leone. The friendship between our Peoples is based on mutual respect and understanding and has been mutually beneficial.
Both the United States and Sierra Leone share common positions in international fora in the search for solutions on some of the most pressing challenges of our time.
I would at this opportune moment like to acknowledge the United States’ continued support and assistance to the Government and People of Sierra Leone, particularly in the consolidation of peace, democracy and human rights and also in health and education. Our gratitude cannot be completely expressed if we do not mention the return of the Peace Corps Volunteers whose work in Sierra Leone dates as far back as 1962 and whose contribution to nation building of the newly independent Sierra Leone, principally, in the areas of education and health has been tremendous.
In closing may I take this opportunity to thank you all for joining us to celebrate this remarkable day in the history of Sierra Leone. To all Sierra Leoneans in the United States, I wish youHappy Independence Anniversary. Long live the United States of America, Long live the Republic of Sierra Leone Long live the friendship and cooperation between Sierra Leone and the United States.
Making remarks on behalf of the United States government was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Mr. William Fitzgerald. He said, though he has never been to Sierra Leone but he is impressed with President Ernest B. Koroma’s governance and democratic principles he is implementing and sharing with countries in the West African region. He cited an example with Ivory Coast in which President Koroma played a key role in enhancing democracy and respect of human rights. Mr. Fitzgerald commended the government of Sierra Leone and all Sierra Leoneans for celebrating this remarkable 50th Independence Anniversary and hopes to visit Sierra Leone to see the beautiful beaches and people.
The occasion was climaxed by cutting of a special cake on the occasion of Sierra Leone’s 50th Independence anniversary. Attendees will later served with food and drinks and entertained by melodious and thrilling music.
By Joseph S. Sherman, Washington, DC
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