The Bintumani III Conference was intended to develop a framework for Peace and Reconciliation in Sierra Leone. The conference had a wide audience and participation from all sections of society including representatives of our international development partners, although boycotted by the main opposition party. As a group, let us examine some of the key issues that were highlighted at the conference
Key Issues and Agreements In speeches, position papers presented, panel discussions, audience contributions,
participants raised the following key issues:
1. Participants were concerned about the following:
a. Lack of political will to implement progressive citizen-centered recommendations from past national consultative processes including Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report of 2004 and Constitutional Review Committee 2016;
b. Misuse, abuse, and weak oversight of governance processes;
c. Lack of accountability and transparency;
d. Poor public service delivery;
e. Unfair, inequitable, unrepresentative and unjust allocation of public resources; 3
f. Lack of representation or inclusion of women, children, youth, persons with disabilities across all spheres;
g. Unfairness and unrepresentative employment practices;
h. Breaches of the Constitution and the lack of access to speedy and fair justice;
i. Discriminatory access to land and natural resources;
j. Inflammatory and hate speech; and,
k. Failures of decentralization
We were told that the Conference was aimed at soliciting the views of all stakeholders on the Green Paper that was produced by the Chief Minister, an expert in Peace and Conflict Resolution. As we eagerly await the White Paper that will form the basis of a Bill in Parliament for the establishment of a Peace Commission, consideration should be given to the key issues raised at the Conference some of which are beyond the remit of any proposed terms of reference for the Peace Commission.
For me the main focus should be on the following:
- Breaches of the Constitution and lack of access to speedy justice
The purpose of the Constitution is to protect the rights of individuals, and to limit governments power. The constitution is the body of fundamentalism laws setting out the principles, structures,and processes of a government. Several attempts have been made by successive governments to review our Constitution without success. Even the current President in his inaugural speech to Parliament stressed the need to update the constitution in line with the expectations of all Sierra Leoneans and to correct past wrongs that were the result of ambiguities in the 1991 Constitution. Is the President going to back his words with deeds?
- Discriminatory access to land and natural resources
Throughout history, land has been recognized as a primary source of wealth, social status, and power. It is the basis for shelter, food, and economic activities; it is the most significant provider of employment opportunities in rural areas and is an increasingly scarce resource in urban areas. Access to water and other resources, as well as to basic services such as sanitation and electricity, is often conditioned by access to rights in land.
The willingness and ability to make long term investments in arable land and in housing is directly dependent on the protection that society affords the holders of rights. Thus, any concept of sustainable development relies heavily on both access to property rights in land and the security of those rights. Is this government prepared to address our land policy such as the Land Tenure Act that we inherited from our colonial masters?
Failures of decentralization.
Decentralization means to hand over political, financial and administrative authority from central to local (district/city) governments, so that the government can facilitate and guarantee better public services for the people. Decentralization of the system of governance and management of resources to regional/local government should, however, be viewed as a positive development to bring public services closer to the people as well provide the opportunity for their actual participation in the decision making process. Is this government prepared to implement the policies enshrined in the local government act that deals specifically with the empowerment of local authorities to decide the nature and pace of development within their respective areas?
These are issues that can not be handled by any proposed Peace and Reconciliation Commission but are pertinent to the rights, privileges and obligations of every citizen in Sierra Leone. President Barack Obama once commented that:
” “Development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long,”
“Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions,”
I hope these words resonate in the minds of our leaders especially now that this government is trying to woo international investors. They should also be mindful of another advice from President Obama:
“No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers.
“No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the Port Authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery.
God Bless Mama Salone and Papa Government.