6 March 2018

Sierra Leone: 'Election Is Not Warfare'-Xanana Gusmao

Photo: J. Patinkin/VOA
Supporters of the ruling All Congress Party ride a truck during a rally in Port Loko, Sierra Leone

H.E. KAY RALA XANANA GUSMAO-FORMER PRESIDENT AND PRIME MINISTER OF TIMOR-LESTE AND EMINENT PERSON OF THE g7+

Eminent Person of the g7+, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, has cautioned Sierra Leoneans to see election as an opportunity to choose leaders and not to foment war. Instead, he said, elections provide opportunity for citizens to assess their leaders so as to be able to make informed choices.

"The process of achieving that might be challenging but as a people, the greatest choice is whether you want to put your country on fire or pursue the path of peace and development," Xanana Gusmao noted, pointing out that joy of victory and the anguish of losing should be intertwined to produce a "sweet-better" answer of "peace in the interest of all".

"Elections should not be a cause for war or violence or chaos or anything that can destabilize a state. It should be a moment of reflection on who and who to choose to form the set of your leaders. It is therefore very important that peace is maintained in the interest of the development of Sierra Leone,"HE Gusmao stated.

He is in the country on the invitation of the current Chair of the g7+, Sierra Leone's Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Momodu Lamin Kargbo. HE Gusmao is in Sierra Leone to share his experiences as a Guerrilla Leader and a Democratic Leader of Timor-Leste an Island-state between Indonesia and Australia in the Pacific. He led his resistance movement against Indonesia for seventeen years; served prison for seven years and was released on 7th September, 1999 and in 2002, Xanana Gusmao was elected as the first President of the new Republic following its independence. In 2007 he was elected Prime Minister of Timor-Leste and re-elected in 2012. As Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao led his people towards peace and built a strong foundation for a successful state and nation.

He expressed optimism about Sierra Leone's growth from fragility and saluted the resilience of the people to withstand shocks and forge ahead. "My first impression about Sierra Leone therefore has been that it is a country on the move despite the challenges it is faced with," Xanana Gusmao noted.

He maintained that the role of the g7+ in observing the 7th March 2018 elections in Sierra Leone is different from what other observers may do. "As g7+ we would not be reporting to the world what our observations are, rather, we would be reporting to our group as a tradition from where we will discuss and try to find remedies where challenges are noted," Gusmao stated, adding that as g7+ they believe as countries that have experienced conflict and disasters, they are in better position to suggest remedies and advocate for change in their interest rather than outsiders commenting. Advocating and seeking solutions to their problems.

He described Sierra Leone as country moving away from its dark past into the bright light of democracy, where every citizen has the right to vote for a leader of his or her choice. He therefore called on Sierra Leoneans to "keep and maintain the peace" the country has enjoyed since the end of the rebel war in 2002. "I strongly believe that Sierra Leoneans are committed to peace and the development of their country and they would want to preserve that," the g7+ Eminent Person noted, adding that he very much appreciates what has transpired so far in the electoral process.

In his brief welcome statement, Minister Momodu Kargbo noted that as a member of the g7+, Sierra Leone prides herself as a peaceful and stable nation and that the election is just one part of the democratic process sanctioned by the national constitution.

He disclosed that as an agent of Government, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has made all disbursements to the National Electoral Commission (NEC) for the conduct of the elections and also for any possibility of a runoff.

"I am very confident to state that all amounts in the agreed budget between NEC and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development including funds for the holding of a possible runoff have been disbursed to the election conducting body," Mr. Kargbo stated.

H.E. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao arrived in Freetown on Sunday, 4th March 2018 accompanied by the Secretary General of the g7+ Dr. Helder da Costa. They are due to depart Freetown on Tuesday, 6th March.

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