TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL BOUTROS BOUTROS-GHALI HELD IN SIERRA LEONE ON 29 NOVEMBER
TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL BOUTROS BOUTROS-GHALI HELD IN SIERRA LEONE ON 29 NOVEMBER19951129
VOICE: Ladies and gentlemen, I want to take this opportunity to extend a very warm welcome to the United Nations Secretary-General and his entourage.
Mr. Secretary-General, Sir, we are pleased and delighted to have you with us in Freetown, our capital. Quite frankly, if I may say so, Sierra Leone has never in its history had the opportunity to receive an incumbent United Nations Secretary-General. [NOTE: Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar visited Sierra Leone on 5-6 June 1991.] This is a historic event, and I want to assure you and your delegation that we will remember this visit. We hope that the discussions that will follow your arrival here will be very fruitful and meaningful both to the United Nations system and to the people of Sierra Leone.
It is indeed a great honour and privilege to have you with us this morning. I think I must once again extend a very warm welcome to you and the members of your delegation. Welcome, again.
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: Thank you. I just want to thank my brothers and sisters for the very warm welcome I have received - myself and my delegation. This is not my first visit to your beautiful country, but it is my first visit as Secretary-General of the United Nations. I hope that, through our discussions, we will be able to obtain more peace, more security, more progress in your country. And I want to assure you that the United Nations system and the United Nations as such are here to help you achieve peace, security, progress and democracy in your country. This is the purpose of my visit, and I want to assure you again that whatever ought to be done to help you achieve those goals will be done by the United Nations system.
Once more, thanks to my brothers and sisters for the very warm welcome we have received. This is my first visit as Secretary-General, but I promise a second visit when you have achieved peace and democracy in your country.
VOICE: Your Excellency Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Secretary-General of the United Nations; Your Excellency Captain Valentine E.M. Strasser, Chairman of the National Provisional Ruling Council and Head of State; distinguished ladies and gentlemen: the Secretary-General will now brief the press on the nature of his visit to Sierra Leone. Thereafter, members of the press will ask a few questions; I hope they will consider the constraints on the Secretary-General's time.
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: I want to thank the Chairman for his very warm welcome. We have known each other since the summit meeting held a few years ago in Dakar. I trust his leadership and I believe that the discussions we had together were very constructive. The Chairman reassured me that the elections will be held on 26 February next year, that they have the support of the population of Sierra Leone for a democratic system, and that all the facilities are ready or are being prepared for the success of these elections.
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I assured him also that we will have a pledging conference tomorrow in New York and that we will obtain from the international community the support that will help the Chairman and the people of Sierra Leone to achieve the democratization of this country. This will be just the first step, because we need the reconstruction of the country, and we will not be able to participate in the reconstruction of this country without a stable and democratic system.
Again, I want to thank the Chairman for his leadership and for the very warm welcome I and my delegation have received. As I promised, I will come again once the election is completed, once you have a new, legitimate, permanent Government; and there will be participation with the various agencies of the United Nations in the reconstruction of your very beautiful country.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General, you spoke of your support for creating a truly democratic system. Ours is a troubled society. We have been hearing of the United Nations going into other troubled countries in the world to maintain the peace. Some of us might have expected the United Nations to send its troops here, at least to maintain the peace. We have been experiencing this war for years now. Some of us believe that the presence of United Nations troops in this country would somehow diminish the atrocities that are taking place. But nothing is being done by the United Nations to send its troops here to help us maintain a stable society. I want to know why.
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: The problem for the United Nations is that we are confronted by a multiplicity of conflicts all over the world, and that the presence of the United Nations costs money, and that there is a fatigue among the donor countries. The donor countries are not ready to offer the necessary financial assistance. So our role is to convince the donor countries that they must help us so that we will be able to help you in the reconstruction and the democratization of your country. But it is not easy today to obtain financial assistance from the international community.
QUESTION: Your Excellency, given the financial constraints on the United Nations, and given that there will be a pledging conference for Sierra Leone, do you think that the United Nations will get the necessary financial support to help us in our democratization? That is one question. Secondly, there has been talk of the constraints on sending peace troops to countries. Some of us hear the news about Bosnia, and about the role that you yourself have played in getting troops to go there. Some of us are wondering whether it is because we are a third-world country that we not benefitting from the United Nations in terms of peace-keeping. I am thinking of countries like Liberia.
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: Paying a visit today to Freetown and Monrovia is a way to mobilize public opinion, by saying, "Look, I was there; I have met the leaders; there is political will to solve the problems; there is political
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will to proceed with the elections; there is political will to reorganize the country; there is political will to begin the reconstruction of the country". By saying this I will facilitate my job, which is to convince the donor countries that they must pay attention to what is going on in Sierra Leone, to what is going on in Monrovia.
QUESTION: Your Excellency, you said that you are going to try to convince the international community to help Sierra Leone. But you are here at the moment and, as far as I know, you will not be in New York until around 13 December. And the conference you personally called will be chaired by your deputy, Marrack Goulding. From the look of things, it appears that the 26 February deadline you talked about will not be adhered to if we do not have substantial external funding for the 26 February presidential and parliamentary elections. According to your policy, whatever form of democracy can be fostered here will be conditioned by our armed conflict.
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: I can never interfere in the internal affairs of a Member country. You have to decide what form of democracy you want. We are here just to offer you the necessary assistance to make up your mind. The United Nations cannot intervene. Each country has to choose the system that will fit with its own traditions. We are there to help you. I hope that my presence today will help tomorrow's meeting - the pledging conference - to obtain more money. You see, this is important: to say to public opinion, "Look, I was there; I had a long talk with the Chairman; I was convinced by the Chairman that everybody wants the elections, that everybody is serious about the elections; I was convinced; I spent one hour with the Chairman; he convinced me". This may help us in New York to obtain the necessary finances. And we build on this: if we obtain the first pledging conference, we may move to a second stage where we will ask something more for a specific project - the reconstruction of a road, or the reconstruction of a factory - and then the process will become easier. You see, we will create a momentum.
The fact that the day before yesterday the Security Council adopted a presidential statement is important too. This was in response to the report I presented.
The United Nations has no money; it has no equipment; it has no soldiers. Each time, we are borrowing from the Member States the money, the equipment, the soldiers. But to be able to borrow the money from the Member States, the equipment from the Member States, we need to convince them. And one of the ways to convince them is to do what we are doing now, to say, "Look, I was there; I discussed things; there is a reality; there is political will; there is a consensus". Yes, you can find certain people who say that, first of all, you must have peace before the elections, but the great majority believe that they can have successful elections in spite of whatever may happen. Look at what happened in Algeria. This will help us to obtain the support of the international community.
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The problem is that you have a competition all over the world; we have 20 or 25 situations that are asking for money. Why will the international community pay attention to Sierra Leone and not to Afghanistan, or not to Tajikistan, or not to Georgia, or not to Guatemala? So it is important to attract the attention of the international community by this visit, by the pledging conference, by a Security Council presidential statement.
We are creating the mobilization to help you, but you must help us. It takes two to tango.
QUESTION: Your Excellency, your Special Envoy has been here for about nine months, and we have not seen any success in getting the rebels to the negotiating table. But the elections are growing very close now. What other steps does the United Nations have to end this conflict?
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: We must have more negotiations. This is what he is doing; this is what you will try to help him with, and to continue the negotiations. If we are successful in our negotiations, okay; if we are not successful, the best response is to have the elections in spite of the agitation on the ground.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary-General, it is an open secret that Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire have been training grounds for the Revolutionary United Front. They are Members of the United Nations, and I wonder whether the United Nations is thinking of getting in touch with their authorities to see how they can influence the Revolutionary United Front to come to the negotiating table.
The SECRETARY-GENERAL: From tomorrow I will be talking with both of the two countries you mentioned. This is part of the process of negotiation, trying to help to find a solution to this problem.
Once more, I want to thank the Chairman, to wish him success in his endeavours and to wish the people of Sierra Leone success. I say to the people of Sierra Leone that the international community is backing you; the international community wants to help you to solve your problems. And you are able to solve your problems. I was here in this country during a summit meeting in 1980, 15 years ago. So there is no reason why you will not become again a very important centre for all of West Africa. Your university is known all over the world. You have a role to play not only inside your own country but within Africa. And I hope that in the next months, in the next years, Sierra Leone will become again what it was in 1980 - an intellectual centre, a commercial centre, a financial centre - and that you will help the other countries all over Africa to solve their internal problems.
Good luck, Mr. Chairman.
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