Posted in News by AGavin on November 16th, 2007
Agence France-Presse, FREETOWN: Ernest Bai Koroma was sworn in as Sierra Leone’s new president on Thursday and promised a “new dawn” for the war-scarred and corruption-tainted west African country.
“My inauguration marks a new dawn with unlimited opportunities,” Koroma said at his colorful inauguration ceremony at the national football stadium in the capital Freetown.
Elected on promises to fight corruption and turn around Sierra Leone’s fortunes, Koroma said it was time for some shock therapy in the world’s second most impoverished nation.
“The country requires a radical change in attitude to work and … responsibility,” he said after being handed the golden presidential baton, the symbol of power, by former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.
“Our values have been undermined and eroded,” he said, citing the constant abuse of donor funds and equipment by state officials.
“This must be changed, and we need a radical break from this behavior,” he said.
“Unless we change our attitude towards corruption, our determination to eradicate this stigma, will be futile,” he said.
Tens of thousands of people, including five African heads of states and senior officials from the United States and Europe’s governments, attended the ceremony.
The African leaders included presidents Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Yahya Jammeh of Gambia, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia.
The United States was represented by assistant secretary of state for African Affairs - Jendayi Frazer.
Dressed in a white African robe with a matching head scarf, Koroma rode into the stadium on the back of a white horse draped in Sierra Leone’s national colours of green, blue and white to prolonged wild cheers from a 70,000-strong crowd.
Traditional dancers and a military band kept the crowd entertained during the half-day ceremony.
Koroma, 53, a leader of the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) won a second round election with 54.6 percent of the votes against former vice president Solomon Berewa who gained 45.4 percent.
The elections, given a clean bill of health, were the first to be held after the pullout of a giant United Nations peacekeeping force following a gruesome decade-long civil war.
Sierra Leone was ravaged by the war which was fuelled by so-called blood-diamonds and ended in 2001 after claiming the lives around 120,000 people.
Tens of thousands of others had their limbs amputated and others traumatised in one of the most brutal conflicts in modern times.
The former ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) boycotted Thursday’s event in protest at the alleged intimidation of its supporters by the new government.
Koroma’s APC also won a majority 59 of the 112 elected seats in the single chamber parliament in which the SLPP took 43 seats, down from 83 in the previous assembly.
Copyright © 2007 Agence France-Presse
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