15 June - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today hailed the “tremendous progress” Sierra Leone has made in consolidating peace and development less than one decade after the end of the West African nation's brutal civil war.

“Sierra Leone is one of the world's most successful examples of post-conflict recovery, peacekeeping and peacebuilding,” Mr. Ban told reporters in the capital, Freetown, today after meeting with the country's President, Ernest Bai Koroma.

Its Government and people “have proven that peaceful and democratic change is possible,” he stressed.

The country is a model for peaceful and development in the region, as well as an “example of a multilateral approach to consolidating peace that can be emulated elsewhere,” Mr. Ban said, citing remaining challenges, such as creating opportunities for young people and improving education.

He also noted that in Sierra Leone, the United Nations' “smooth transition” from a peacekeeping mission to a peacebuilding support operation will serve as an example for other countries emerging from conflict.

The Secretary-General also attended the inauguration of the independent Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), a result of a long-standing partnership between the country's State-controlled station and UN Radio.

The world body's efforts in the immediate post-war period to transmit information via radio “helped Sierra Leone tune itself to the frequency of peace,” he said at the event.

“We must work to ensure that this new station will build on the best traditions of its two successors,” Mr. Ban stressed, commending the country's parliamentarians for passing a unanimous bill to create the SLBC.

But the hard work begins now, he said, with political leadership necessary to ensure that journalists can practice their work freely, while media professionals must respect the principle of non-partisanship.

“And the SLBC must be the very embodiment of its founding principles – the impartiality and accuracy that are essential for any truly independent public broadcaster,” the Secretary-General emphasized.

Yesterday, the Secretary-General attended a football match in which the players were amputees who lost limbs during Sierra Leone's long-running conflict.

“You are much better than World Cup soccer players,” he told participants. “You are very courageous and I am just moved by your courage to overcome your difficulties.”

After the match, he announced that the UN Peacekeeping Fund will provide $100,000 for their support, training and education.

Also yesterday, at a State dinner in Freetown, Mr. Ban underlined the need for peaceful, free and fair presidential, parliamentary and local elections in 2012.

“But here, too, I am convinced that your country will set a new standard.”

While in the country, he also visited the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), the UN-backed war crimes tribunal set up to deal with the worst acts committed during the civil war which ended in 2002.

The Special Court is an independent tribunal established jointly by Sierra Leone's Government and the UN in 2002. It is mandated to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for atrocities committed in the country after 30 November 1996.

This is Mr. Ban's latest trip to Africa – the second of three to the continent this month alone – and it also took him to South Africa, Burundi, Cameroon and Benin.

Early this month, he visited Malawi and Uganda, and later in June he will travel to Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).