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Cablegate: New Parliament Opens with Pomp and Ceremony

VZCZCXRO7263
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #0616/01 2841814
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111814Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1448
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 FREETOWN 000616

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/W

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID ECON KDEM PGOV PREL SL
SUBJECT: NEW PARLIAMENT OPENS WITH POMP AND CEREMONY

REF: FREETOWN 573

1. (U) Summary: Amid impressive fanfare, and on schedule,
the third parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone
was officially opened on Friday, October 5 with an opening
address by President Ernest Bai Koroma. Ambassador, DCM and
AF/W Director Tom Dougherty attended the ceremony. The new
Parliament includes 124 members, 12 of whom are Paramount
chiefs chosen through a separate electoral process. Of the
remaining 112 seats, 16 are women. The seating of Parliament
marks the culmination of months of campaigning and electoral
activity. End Summary.

2. (U) President Koroma officially opened parliament and laid
out an ambitious plan to address Sierra Leone's ills. He
gave himself 36 months to achieve his goals. He recognized
the challenges and high expectations of those who voted him
into office and his speech was punctuated by applause from
the majority of members and observers. However, at one point
he lost the applause of the opposition SLPP parliamentarians
who met his observation that "...when a government reneges on
its promises to effectively serve the people, that government
is destined to be rejected by the people," with glum
discontent.

3. (U) In this, his first public speech since his September
22 swearing in, Koroma laid out a list of the initiatives the
country needed in order to move ahead, including civil
service reform, tackling corruption, improving national
security and defense, combating trafficking in persons and
money laundering, improving justice and the rule of law,
promoting peace and national reconciliation, delivering clean
water, restoring energy and power, improving health care
delivery, reducing poverty and expanding education,
increasing agricultural production and regulating
environmentally responsible mineral production. He gave
great emphasis to private sector development, noting Sierra
Leone's low ranking as a place to conduct business. (Note:
Full text of speech is being transmitted to the Department.)

Emphasis on Anti-Corruption Efforts and Electricity
--------------------------------------------- ------

4. (U) President Koroma laid great stress on anti-corruption
initiatives and repeated his September 17 promise made at his
swearing-in that he would have "zero tolerance" for
corruption (reftel). Amid applause, he also pledged that he
and his ministers would submit personal asset reports, and
pledged that he would reinvigorate the Anti- Corruption
Commission to increase its independence and ability to
investigate and prosecute corruption.
He thanked international donors and the support of the
international community, perhaps by way of acknowledging that
Sierra Leone will not be able undertake this effort alone.
The President declared that a first priority of the new
government is to restore electricity to the country and
pledged to set up a Presidential Energy Emergency Task Force
immediately with the objective of rapidly restoring the
supply of electricity. He promised to accelerate completion
of the Bumbuna hydroelectric project, aiming for completion
in 2009. The Bumbuna project was started years ago, but never
completed. He vowed to would seek interim solutions until the
hydroelectric power is available.

5. (U) Noting that Sierra Leone ranks at the bottom rung of
the UN Human Development Index, as well as being rated among
the 20 worst places in the world in which to do business by
the Doing Business Index, President Koroma pledged to remove
impediments and barriers to investment. He added that his
government will pursue a strategy of adding value in the
agro-business sector while developing marine, mineral and
tourism potential. He also announced that a Commission to
focus on Small and Medium Scale Enterprises would be
established.

The Parties Show Their Colors
-----------------------------

6. (U) The opening session was marked with ceremony, with an
emphasis on correct costume. On the floor of parliament, the
former opposition, the 59 members of All People,s Congress,
APC, proudly took their seats on the majority side,
resplendent in party colors of white and red. The former
majority, the 43 members of Sierra Leone People,s Party
(SLPP) were, in comparison, arrayed in subdued shades of
their party color, green. The 10 new minority members
representing presidential candidate Charles Margai,s SLPP
breakaway Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC)
entered together to take their seats, brightly robed in

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outfits tailored from the same orange cloth representing
their party color (leading a wag to dub them "Charlie's
Angels").

Comment
-------

7. (SBU) Expectations are high following successful elections
and the promising speech by President Koroma. Public
statements and press commentary suggest Sierra Leone's new
leadership is well aware of the challenges it faces and is
eager to meet them. International support will be essential
in addressing the country's future development and growth.
End Comment.

PERRY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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