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Sierra Leone Committed to West Africa Stability, says President

  • Peter Clottey

Sierra Leone's president Ernest Bai Koroma waves to supporters after voting in the capital Freetown, November 17, 2012.

Sierra Leone's president Ernest Bai Koroma waves to supporters after voting in the capital Freetown, November 17, 2012.

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma says West African regional leaders have been working together to ensure regional stability and economic growth.

"We have to continue the tradition of providing a sub-regional group that is very cohesive, that is focused on deepening democracy, that will open up the region to the people to benefit from the potentials of the region, and that will also secure the region," said President Koroma.

In an interview with VOA, Koroma says the leaders have unanimously taken a zero tolerance stance against the violent overthrow of democratically elected governments in the region.

"We have taken tough stance against military coups. We have taken tough stance against incursions and we believe that nobody should get to leadership or power other than [through] the ballot box," said Koroma.

"For countries that have shown manifestation of a change of government other than the democratic process, we have taken the stance to ensure that we reverse the situation," he said. "Countries that had difficulties after elections, we have remained engaged like we had in Ivory Coast [and] like we are doing in Guinea Bissau. We are working with the sub-region in addressing the issue of Guinea Bissau."

Some analysts have raised concern about the security and political situation in some West African countries, including Guinea Bissau, Guinea and recently Mali.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) recently asked for international support to battle Islamic rebels in northern Mali, where the insurgents controlled parts of the north and implemented Sharia law.

Koroma says Sierra Leone is actively involved in efforts by ECOWAS and the international community to restore constitutional order in Mali after peace and security is restored.

"We have committed ourselves to deploy troops, and the troops are now fighting alongside with the Malians and the French to ensure that we restore normalcy in Mali," said Koroma.

Guinea Bissau has suffered from increasing political instability and regional experts say it has become a trans-shipment point for South American cocaine headed to markets in Europe. Some experts have said the drug trade is threatening security throughout the West Africa region.

President Koroma says Sierra Leone is working with other countries in the region to combat those threats.

“We have taken individual national actions,” he said. “We need international support because it is an internationally coordinated transaction. We have asked for our developmental partners -- the British, the Americans -- to work with us. It’s not an easy fight but substantial efforts are being made to coordinate that fight and we will continue with that engagement.”

Sierra Leone recently deployed about 850 troops to be part of an African Union mission to help stabilize Somalia. But, critics say the soldiers are needed back home to prevent possible violence, since they contend Sierra Leone is still recovering from the civil war that ended in 2002.

“It is a commitment we made and I think for us it is like payback time,” Koroma said. “Now if we have gotten to a point wherein we have transformed our country from a warring country to a country that is moving on in development and growth, there is a need for us to support other countries who are now in the position that we were in some years back.”