Ambassador Thomas Hull, the outgoing United States envoy has said that private sector enterprise is the engine that will power Sierra Leone on the path to prosperity.
Speaking during a reception to mark the 231st Independence anniversary of the United States, he noted, “It is business that generates sustainable employment and produces the capital necessary for continued development, not Government and not donor assistance.”
Ambassador Hull went on “we look to Government to both facilitate and regulate the private sector, including foreign investment, and to respect contracts and international agreements”.
In that respect, he opined, “I applaud the recent passage in Parliament of new business legislation. As with all legislation, its value lies in its implementation, another challenge for the new Government”.
Ambassador Hull cautioned “I also want to draw attention to what I see as a growing threat to Sierra Leone’s security, namely transnational crime. Smugglers, such as narcotics traffickers, are increasingly transiting Sierra Leone”
He went on “some have been intercepted at the airport, which serves as a warning to others, but Sierra Leone must become even more vigilant lest narcotics become corrosive to Sierra Leonean society as they have elsewhere in the world”.
In this context, the envoy said, “I am concerned that Sierra Leone’s porous borders may be seen by international terrorists as an invitation to do mischief within your country” adding that, “although Sierra Leone is peaceful and seemingly far removed from trouble elsewhere in the world, the reality is that terrorists can strike anywhere and often do so where least expected.”
He assured Sierra Leoneans that “In this respect, America’s security assistance to Sierra Leone will continue”.
The soon to depart envoy further noted that Sierra Leone is making progress, but like the proverbial glass half-full, much more remains to be accomplished, while opining that the outgoing Government and Parliament are to be commended for the many laws that have been enacted that now provide a structure to enable the next Government to address the challenges ahead.
Reflecting on his assignment he emphasized that, “my three years as ambassador have passed all too quickly. But I am gratified by the legacy that I shall leave, observing that “I am pleased that virtually all of the priorities that I established at the time have been fulfilled, as well as some that emerged later, such as renovation of Fourah Bay College’s JFK Building that we are undertaking through CRS”.
He noted that the Sierra Leone’s national anthem, “has always been very meaningful to me” stressing that, “the music is beautiful and dignified, and it brings back memories of my years as a Peace Corps teacher in Gbinti where we sang the anthem every day before school. I still remember those lyrics, but they are regrettably rarely sung at public occasions these days”.
The anthem concludes, “We pledge our devotion, our strength and our might, Thy cause to defend and to stand for thy right; all that we have be ever thy own, Land that we love, our Sierra Leone.” Those lyrics are not only beautiful, but also still pertinent, and should be sung proudly more often,” he stated.
Turning to the forthcoming elections he said, “as Sierra Leone approaches a milestone in its resurrection from war with the first transition from one elected leader to another, the devotion of Sierra Leoneans to democracy and to their country will be put to the test.”
He went on “The respect that the Government and political parties have shown for the constitutional independence of the National Electoral Commission and the Political Parties Registration Commission augurs well for the credible, free and fair elections that Sierra Leoneans and the international community are expecting”.
Ambassador Hull noted that the mere fact that people do not consider the election results to be foregone conclusions is a positive indication of Sierra Leone’s progress in democratization.
“Sierra Leoneans and the international community also expect those results to be respected and the transition to the new Government to be smooth, and every indication is that they will be. By showing that 2007 is unlike 1967, Sierra Leone’s stature will rise in the global community of democracies,” he emphasized.
On his government’s contribution, he said, “the United States is pleased to have contributed to the electoral process through USAID funding to the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and IFES, for example to help the PPRC become established throughout the country”.
“The United States has contributed to Sierra Leone’s development during my tenure in too many ways to enumerate, but most notably to the peace and security that Sierra Leone enjoys today and to the food security that the country is striving to achieve. I am also pleased that the United States is the largest contributor to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and we will continue to support the Court as it brings those most responsible for Sierra Leone’s suffering to justice,” he ended.