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Statement by SLAJ President on launch of the Yellow Ribbon Campaign

February 16, 2015  Kelvin Lewis

Fellow Sierra Leoneans,

Let me on behalf of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists welcome you to the launching of our Yellow Ribbon Campaign this morning.

It is common that when you are running a race the last Kilometre, the last 100 metres the last few yards are the hardest to cover.

We also recall some lessons from our rebel war. The NPRC military junta started the fight against the RUF rebels with a lot of zeal. They quickly succeeded in pushing then to a small corner in Kailahun. Capt Strasser then called on the rebels to lay down their arms. It was a mistake. The war was not over yet, but the NPRC government had become complacent.

The result was that the rebels regrouped and January 6, 1999 is a testimony to the ferocity with which they came back. It is this lesson that we must draw from in dealing with Ebola. Let us not become complacent and relax, saying because the numbers are down, the fight against Ebola is over. It is not over until the last case. We must remember that there was only one case, which led to over 8,000 infections and over 2,000 deaths.

The recent upsurge in Aberdeen is a testimony that the fight is not yet over

It is against this backdrop that we in the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists decided to initiate the yellow ribbon campaign. The intention is to inject new energy into the fight against Ebola and to drive it to the end without being complacent.

The red ribbon is for HIV AIDs and the pink ribbon is for breast cancer. These are killer diseases much like Ebola. So we decided we would choose a ribbon as our symbol. The yellow ribbon has been used to bring back US veterans from the Vietnam War. Today the yellow ribbon is used to signify the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. These are good causes. We chose yellow because it is a bright colour, it does not spell doom. It is vibrant it is life and for those interested in valentine it is uniqueness.

For us the yellow Ribbon is a sign of commitment. Anyone who wears the yellow ribbon is saying I am committed to do the 4 things that would help break the chain of transmission and end Ebola. It is a personal commitment to drive Ebola to the last case.

But it does not end there. The yellow ribbon also symbolises a new dawn. It is the start of the rebranding of our country.

I have had to travel during this Ebola period. I have personally suffered the indignity of having to queue up in a line for 2 hours for Ebola check. A normal 3 hour flight has become 12 hours because of Ebola. So the yellow ribbon campaign is also saying “I am a proud Sierra Leonean. I was born in the land of iron and diamonds. I am not Ebola.”

That is the message we want to push forward. Ladies and gentlemen I implore all of you to join SLAJ let us take back our country. We are committed you too should be committed. Together we can beat Ebola. The time is now.

Long live Sierra Leone,

Long live the media,

Long live SLAJ

May God Bless us all.