The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Leader fights for citizens’ freedoms

Dan Brombach | Tuesday, September 27, 2011

While delivering his lecture before a packed auditorium, President Ernest Bai Koroma of the Republic of Sierra Leone stated that his efforts to improve the average standard of living in his country will also serve to eliminate the most substantial threat to the freedom of its citizens.

Elected in 2007 on a platform promising drastic change, Koroma has undertaken numerous projects during his term to improve the nation’s food security, energy, healthcare, infrastructure and education.

“It has always been my belief that the greatest threat to freedom is the absence of props to support it,” Koroma said at his lecture “Faith, Tolerance and Progress” on Tuesday. “We will face challenges in our agenda for change, but we are determined to sustain our freedom with strong material foundations.”

Koroma began the lecture on a lighter note by congratulating the Notre Dame football team on its victory over Pittsburgh, but quickly moved into a discussion of the current state of religious tolerance in Sierra Leone.

“Religious tolerance in Sierra Leone is an article of faith,” Koroma said. “People here of different faiths, whether Muslim, Catholic or Protestant, have striven over time to emphasize their commonalities and now have equal opportunities to succeed in life.”

As important in Koroma’s mind as religious tolerance is the existence of true freedom, which he recognized has not always been a reality in Sierra Leone. He argued that, although unity and security are crucial to the wellbeing of a nation, they should not be used as excuses to suppress individual freedoms.

“Unity and security are not exclusive to freedom,” Koroma said. “Freedom is an inalienable right of humans beings that must remain a centerpiece of Sierra Leone, and thus security should be pursued only without negating the advance of freedom.”

Touching once again on the importance of religious tolerance, Koroma emphasized that it is crucial for maintaining freedom.

“The absence of tolerance in any individual makes that individual very frightening to freedom,” Koroma said. “Because Sierra Leone is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world, we simply cannot afford to be intolerant.”

Praising Notre Dame for its persistent encouragement of knowledge, tolerance and enterprise, Koroma also expressed his hope for creating a constructive and lasting bond between Sierra Leone and the University.

“We are here to strengthen links and build a bridge for the exchange of knowledge and faith between Notre Dame and the universities of Sierra Leone,” he said.

To conclude his lecture, Koroma encouraged the audience to act as ambassadors to help spread the word in America that Sierra Leone is now a free and democratic nation on the rise.

“Help us tell the world that the civil war in Sierra Leone ended 13 years ago, that we are a democracy that saw a peaceful transition of power to the opposition party, that documentaries like ‘Blood Diamond’ are not accurate portraits of what is happening in our land, that we have a history of freedom and tolerance and, most importantly, that we have a bright future,” he said.