Map of Sierra Leone
Map of Sierra Leone

As Sierra Leone celebrates its 49th independence anniversary April 27, its ambassador to the United States said the country is ready to return to its once glorious days as a repository of knowledge and a beacon of hope in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ambassador Bockari Kortu Stevens said that after enduring 11 years of civil war beginning in the early 90s, Sierra Leoneans are ready to once again make their country an important part of the community of nations.

?After 11 years of civil war which was a situation of total anarchy, destruction and loss of life, I would say we?ve come out of the woods?but as a nation we want to put most of those vices behind us,? he said.

Ambassador Stevens said President Ernest Bai Koroma?s agenda of change calls on all Sierra Leoneans to be part of the country?s development.

?Nobody else can develop Sierra Leone for us. We?ve seen a lot of misery, but right now I think we see light at the end of the tunnel. There has been some physical development. We?ve seen development in the provision of electricity, we?ve seen development in the provision of roads, and development in the provision of health care,? Stevens said.

He said as part of Tuesday?s Independence Day festivities, President Koroma will launch Sierra Leone?s free health delivery system.

?The president is going to make a landmark announcement whereby pregnant women and children from five years under will be entitled and will receive free medical attention from the health sector. It?s a big achievement,? Stevens said.

He said the Koroma government hopes to in the future provide free health care and education for all Sierra Leoneans.

As part of the 49th independence anniversary festivities, the Sierra Leone Embassy in Washington is holding a symposium entitled ?Rise and Shine Sierra Leone, for a Better Tomorrow.?

Ambassador Stevens said the theme was selected to reflect on Sierra Leone?s once admirable standing in Sub-Saharan Africa.

?Sierra Leone used to be the Athens of Africa; Sierra Leone used to be the repository of knowledge in Africa. Furahbay College was a very significant institution in that area. We chose that the theme of the symposium to reflect on this idea that we were once a beacon of hope in Africa south of the Sahara,? Stevens said.

He said through hard work by all Sierra Leoneans the country will be able to once again take its place in the world of nations.

Ambassador Stevens said he values highly the contribution of the Sierra Leone Diaspora in North America in the Sierra Leone's economic and social development.

?That is why one of the things I did when I took over in the United States was to develop a data base of the Sierra Leone community to create the awareness among the Diaspora population to let them know that they owe a duty to Mother Sierra Leone. Was it not for Sierra Leone they will not be here. They should not turn their backs on Sierra Leone,? Ambassador Stevens said.