afrol News, 30 September - As the UN Security Council has lifted the sanctions it imposed on Sierra Leone more than 12 years ago, the Freetown government is "excited" to move onto a new step in history.
The UN unanimously decided to lift the sanction late last night after strong lobbying from the current democratic government of Sierra Leone. The lifted sanctions, imposed in 1998 as a reaction to the brutal Sierra Leonean civil war, included an arms embargo and a ban on diamonds exports.
Sierra Leone's Foreign Minister Zainab Bangura was present at the UN in New York and had headed the country's lobbying for a lifting of the sanctions. "We are, of course, excited," she told the press in New York.
The impoverished West African country now could turn a page in history, Minister Bangura explained, now being ready to focus on national development. "I think we are all proud today," she added.
The Sierra Leonean government under President Ernest Bai Koroma had worked hard to see the last sanctions against the country lifted. Focus lately had been on anti-corruption legislation and institutions to assure public revenues finally are channelled into social development.
Also Sierra Leonean Information Minister Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo sees the lifting of the sanctions as a milestone. Economic growth so far has been disappointingly slow in post-war Sierra Leone, and foreign investors still are hesitant. Minister Kargbo hoped the lifting of the sanctions would "give confidence to investors."
"When the sanctions were in place until today, insurance companies were very leery about handling insurance matters and, therefore, the shippers and, therefore, the people who imported goods and services to Sierra Leone paid extremely high insurance premiums because Sierra Leone was still listed as an unstable country because of the non-lifting of this ban," he told 'VOA'.
The UN Security Council had waited so long with the lifting of the sanctions because its 1998 resolution obliged the UN to wait until "the control of the government of Sierra Leone has been fully re-established over all its territory, and when all non-governmental forces have been disarmed and demobilised."
The UN body however stated continued concerns over the situation in Sierra Leone. It therefore decided to extend the mandate of its peacebuilding million UNIPSIL for yet another year.
It further called on the Freetown government, with the support of UNIPSIL and others, to "step up efforts to combat corruption, improve accountability, and promote the development of the private sector to generate wealth and employment opportunities."
In his latest report on UNIPSIL, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cited youth unemployment as one of the biggest hurdles facing the country, noting that "immense challenges" remain in generating jobs for young people, especially in the current economic climate. Some 800,000 young Sierra Leoneans are currently unemployed.
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