Hopes drawn out make the heart sick, but a dream come true is a tree of life. For a very long time the people of Sierra Leone have been greeted on a daily basis with a preponderance of unsettling negative news, take the fire at the cotton tree, some of which have been having very bad social reverberations in the length and breadth of the country. Many have really been splitting opinions right down the middle. On 16th February 2016, the Constitutional Review Committee released their abridged draft proposals for the review of the 1991 Constitution. This document is very remarkable because the review Committee echoed the views of many well-meaning compatriots. This piece will bring out the importance of some of the proposals. For me apart from the sensational president’s term of office, the most radically strategic proposal is the one on the Local governance. According to the CRC proposal, local council elections will be conducted on non-partisan lines. I particularly like this as I had been echoing this in several articles over the years. The icing to this proposal is the fact that the term of office of councilors will now be in tandem with Parliament. This makes a lot of sense when you consider the resource implications. If we look back some of the local council elections in the past have been having negative effects considered for a democratic standpoint. In the first place the results have somehow predicted the manner of voting for the Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Most people follow the winning team. This invariably reduces commitment of opposition candidates looking forward to recapturing ground taken in the previous election. This way, so much time is lost in political bickering’s. The issue of partisan representation does not actually fit our situation. Local governance deals with our compatriots most of whom are poor illiterate and depraved people. One thing that the new non-partisan local governance will reduce will be inter-party violence. It will drastically reduce violent local champions whose main trade is thuggery. This is not to say it will completely eliminate violence. It could be recalled that during the one-party state even siblings were fighting each other. A good case in point was Morado aka Radomatic Machine in West 1 Constituency or so, whose fierce rival was a near sibling, late president Steven’s Son. Well the Radomatic Machine went on and won with 6,646 despite attacks threating his life. Those were fierce periods in our electoral history. Ironically every candidate belonged to the same party. Well with the new proposal, it will be a field day. They will not have to fight for a party symbol which had been very grueling moments for candidates. Whatever new/ additional criteria the laws set will be somehow a field day for candidates. We have always suffocated democracy by tying candidates to parties and we have seen that partisan candidacy has actually not the positive results we expect. There have been cases where the ruling party took all the council seats but then the councilors spent years fighting to remove the chairman. It is also true that the councils dominated by the ruling party have not necessarily performed to the people’s expectations. They will commit monumental blunders and corruption scams and yet they will be bluffing that their party was in government. Many Councils could not finish all the projects they started in 2008 or so. You remember the Sewa grounds market? The Victoria Park? Their most interesting one is the proposed City hall and offices. This took off only at the end of the two terms. Sometimes I really doubt whether some Councils will do anything remarkable. Why we have to keep people in positions even where they don’t perform is something that continues to baffle me.
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The other brave proposal is the one having to do with the Presidency and presidential term of office. This completely buries any sycophantic “More Time” balderdash. You know they say it is better to keep quiet than you open your mouth and speak and clear all doubt that that you are stupid. So the new proposal keeps the Presidential term as it is, that is two terms of five years each whether consecutive or not. This means that if you are elected president and do only one term, if after five years you make a comeback; it will only be for 5 years since you had done five years previously. This one is real sweet isn’t it? There are also issues around the presidency after president Koroma’s unprecedented sacking of his vice after his party had expelled him. Well in the CRC recommendation, no President or Vice President will be sacked simply because he or she has been expelled by their party. They only lose office according to the prescribed procedures in the Constitution. This is implying that the President was wrong in sacking his Vice. The nation was lucky to escape another disaster at a time we were still reeling under the Ebola carnage. If you ask me, we should have a close look at all the appointments the constitution allows the president to make. Kenya revised their Constitution and removed most of the critical powers that the president had. Today they are better able to manage crisis because it is not left to the whims and caprices of any megalomaniac. Do you see the point? Or are you still blinded by blind party loyalty? Like I said earlier quite some social mobilization mechanism is to be put in place. Another issue to consider is the criteria for party registration. Today we have so many parties that could not even win a single seat. Some are even in disastrous financial states and their credibility hangs in the balance. Why do we keep parties that do not have the wherewithal to run? This is at best a trajectory of democracy. Democracy also deals with qualitative analysis, not only quantitative. In this twenty-first century where social accountability is demanded, we cannot go on registering dumb parties. If you the antelope think the lion is dead, why not find out by pulling its tail?
By Beny SAM.
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