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Journal of Democracy 13.3 (2002) 183-188

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Documents on Democracy

Sierra Leone

In the first presidential election since the end of Sierra Leone's civil war and the disarming of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (RUF), incumbent president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was reelected on May 14. Excerpts from his May 19 inaugural address appear below:

The people have spoken. They have made what I described two weeks ago as one of the most far-reaching decisions in the current history of Sierra Leone. They have chosen the men and women who they would like not just to lead, but more importantly to serve this nation in the next five years. They did it in the democratic way—freely, transparently, and peacefully.

Let me therefore start by congratulating the entire electorate for successfully demonstrating to the rest of Africa and the world at large that Sierra Leone is indeed a democracy, and that we are determined to resume our status as a model of peace, stability, and democracy in the African continent. . . .

In these elections that we all agreed were not a war but a friendly contest, there are no losers. As a matter of fact we should all consider ourselves winners. We are all winners because, irrespective of the results, we succeeded in making this one of the most violence-free electoral processes in Sierra Leone since independence. So to you, my former contestants, be assured that there is a place for each and every one of you in the service of your country. I say this because the privilege of serving the people is not limited to a seat in Parliament, or occupancy of State House and the Lodge. You know as I do that there are other seats, offices, and positions available in all sectors of our country from where we can each make a contribution to improving the lives of our fellow compatriots. There are also important and positive roles that each individual can play in helping us achieve that objective.

Those who care, and I have no doubt that we all do, need not to be reminded that we have a lot of work to do in this country, and that no [End Page 183] single political party, no single government can do it alone. I would therefore like to appeal to you, whatever your party affiliation, whatever your party symbol, and whatever your ideology, to join me in building a new coalition for national development. . . .

Fellow Sierra Leoneans, we all acknowledge that corruption has over a long period been eating deep into the fabric of our society. This is why I requested the help of the Government of the United Kingdom to establish the Anti-Corruption Commission. . . . This fight against corruption will continue to be one of my major preoccupations, and I will expect you to join me in this fight. . . .

As a member of the international community, the people of Sierra Leone have already demonstrated their resilience under extremely difficult circumstances. For over ten years they struggled to rid themselves of the terror and scourge of a brutal rebellion. They stood firm against the tyranny of military juntas and military/rebel regimes. They fought valiantly for the restoration of democracy. In this regard I am sure that the people of Sierra Leone have earned the admiration of the international community. They have convinced the world that Sierra Leone is worth all the support and cooperation the international community can muster to facilitate political stability, security, and sustainable development in this country.

Finally, to my fellow Sierra Leoneans, let me remind ourselves that elections, important as they are, are not an end in themselves. Now that we have reaffirmed, through the ballot box, the principle that sovereignty belongs to the people, from whom Government derives all its power, authority, and legitimacy, we should all rededicate ourselves to serve the interest of the nation above self.


On May 7, the Democracy Coalition Project, an initiative sponsored by the Open Society Institute, released a "Call to Action to Build Open Democratic Societies," signed by 19 prominent democracy advocates from around the world, including Madeleine...