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SALNAM President's 57th Independence Address in Winnipeg, Canada

Abu Bakarr Biggie Kamara (pictured),

President of SALNAM.

Good evening fellow Sierra Leoneans and friends; and welcome to Sierra Leone's 57th Independence Anniversary Celebration here in Winnipeg.

For starters, Sierra Leone gained its independence on April 27, 1961. SALNAM with community support, organizes this event every year as our contribution to promoting multiculturalism in this town, and to give Sierra Leoneans here in Winnipeg and their friends the opportunity to participate in the celebrations.

There is no doubt that the achievement of our national independence from colonial rule, was a great feat, as it has given us the opportunity and the freedom to dictate our own destiny as a nation. Independence meant that we were charged with the responsibilities and the challenges of nation building. It meant that no one was expected to sit on the sidelines and expecting others to do the hard work of nation building. Independence meant hard work in all of its manifestation.

It also meant, people coming together to promote the collective values they believe in for the purpose of creating a dynamic country which will become the pride of every Sierra Leonean.

This celebration is a time of reflection in terms of our individual and collective contributions to national development, and as the president of SALNAM, I encourage you the members of our community to continue finding creative ways, individually and collectively, to contribute to nation building in Sierra Leone.

Independence per se, is not a sufficient condition for a people to enjoy higher standards of living through the provision of quality education, or a workable health care system for every citizen. For these to happen, it requires the involvement of responsive and responsible leadership at different levels of society.

Citizens have to ask the uncomfortable questions about the pace of development in our country. We cannot shy away from these debates, hoping that the problems will go away. The love of our country is much more important than the love each of us has for our tribal groupings. Are we satisfied with the pace of development and with the distribution of the county's natural resources since independence?

Some for obvious reasons, are happy with the status quo, while the vast majority, are sitting on the margins wondering what is going on. We cannot pretend that every thing is hunky-dory for every body.

As they say, social change starts with the individual. We cannot continue to be rigid in our thinking by allowing our personal issues to minimize our individual or collective abilities to make the maximum contributions vis a vis the promotion of socio economic development in our country.

Fortunately, our community, through SALNAM, has not been sitting idly by and expecting others to do the heavy lifting in nation building. SALNAM has been and I have no doubt, will continue to be a crucial partner in development initiatives in our country. Our contributions have been modest but vital.

As we celebrate tonight, we should also identify the current state of our community in the process of integration with other communities in this multicultural milieu of Manitoba. Operating on the margin should no longer be an option if we care about building the Sierra Leonean identity, and making our community as a strong and a vibrant entity in this province, which has become a welcoming home away from home.

Community success means that we cannot continue pointing fingers and throwing mud at those who are doing the hard work and making the sacrifice necessary for our community to move forward as an entity to reckon with. Productive disagreements are healthy for a purposeful community. When necessary, we should embrace it as a development philosophy.

On the other hand, it is worth noting that SALNAM continues to work with other organizations including community organizations, to promote the aspirations of our community for integration in the wider community of Manitoba.

As stated also, SALNAM with community support, has made modest contributions to assist in improving the socio-economic and human conditioning of our people in Sierra Leone.

We have helped in the promotion and development of the educational and health sectors in the country according to our ability.

We have provided relief in times of natural disasters and disease outbreaks: For example, we made financial and material donations to humanitarian organizations during the Ebola disease outbreak including the flood and mudslide crisis in Freetown to alleviate the suffering of those affected.

Also, last year, at a meeting held in Winnipeg representing African Community Leaders and Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; we appealed to the Minister, to assist Sierra Leoneans come to Canada as temporary farm workers. This is a program that has provided employment opportunities for farm workers from certain third world countries.

The Minister responded that it was the responsibility of interested governments to contact the Canadian Government directly. SALNAM is yet to pass this information to the Sierra Leone Government for their consideration.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I said earlier on, the challenge to make Sierra Leone the best country in the world is our challenge. The question now is: Are Sierra Leoneans ready for the challenge?

Please note that for the purpose of tonight's celebration, our distinguished guest speaker, Pastor Marcella Ngegba will be talking about the Opportunities and Challenges in Nation Building in Sierra Leone. We are confident that in her speech, she will throw some light on this subject matter.

Be assured that tonight’s celebration will not only be about speeches per se, but that you will also be entertained with good food, music and great cultural performances all night long, including a special performance by Alaska Turay.

Feel free to move around and entertain yourselves; enjoy the food, the music, and share the camaraderie with old friends as you make new ones; and as you do, I also appeal to each and everyone of you to be fully attentive during the keynote address which really is the crux of the matter of our celebration per se.

Finally, as this is my final year of celebrating this occasion as SALNAM president, I would like to use this opportunity briefly, to thank the founders of SALNAM who set the stage back in 1980 for our community to have an identifiable presence in this Province.

It should also be noted that there would have been no Sierra Leonean community with a purpose, without the support of its members. You are the people who have made it possible, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I welcome you all once again, and I wish you a happy anniversary celebration.

Happy 57th birthday Sierra Leone.

Thank you.