A two-day interactive civic education and mediation session for winning councilors, chairpersons and mayors in the Kenema district has ended at the Opportunity Training Center (OTC) along Maxwell Khobe street in Kenema city. The session was organized by Democracy Sierra Leone (DSL) and sponsored by National Democratic Institute (NDI) for International Affairs.
Earlier in his opening remarks, coordinator Bertrand Smith (alias Batilo), who is also one of the facilitators of DSL, said the purpose of the meeting is to interact with the councilors to know what problems they experience before, during and after the local council elections with the aim of having a focus for development.
Speaking about the functions of the local council and its members, he said a local council shall be the highest political authority in the locality and shall have legislative and executive power to be exercised in accordance with this Act or any other enactment, and shall be responsible generally for promoting the development of the locality and the welfare of the people with the resources at its disposal.
With such resources and capacity, council can mobilize from the central government and its agencies to national and international organizations and to the private sector.
Batilo pointed out the following as specific functions of a local council: To mobilize the materials and human resources necessary for the overall development and welfare of the people in the locality; to promote and support productive activities and social development in the locality; to oversee chiefdom councils in the performance of functions delegated to them by the council; and to cooperate with relevant agencies to ensure the security of the locality.
Batilo added that councilors shall maintain close contact with their ward or chiefdom, consult the electorate on issues to be discussed in the local council and collate their views, opinions and proposals for that purpose, and present them to the local council.
In her presentation, Agnes Isata Conteh of DSL spoke on the formation of ward committees and their functions. She said the local council shall establish a ward committee for locality, and that a ward committee shall consist of the following: Every councilor elected from the ward; the paramount chief of the ward (in the case of localities with a system of chieftaincy); and no more than ten other persons – at least five of whom shall be women residents of that ward – who are elected by the ward residents in a public meeting.
The ward residents shall be given seven days notice of such a public meeting. Ward committee members shall not receive any remuneration or allowances.
Mr. Eku Scotland, the focal person for DSL in Kenema district and also a facilitator for DSL, spoke on the function of chairperson/mayor, saying that a chairperson shall, in addition to supervising the local chief administrator, have important duties such as reporting to the council every month on activities of the council, including the implementation of the council’s decision and policies. Some of the recommendations that came out of the meetings included: To see an atmosphere where two or more political parties engage in a combined rally and that there shall be a representation at the campaigning ground of the other party; to have a pre-campaign sensitization period where party members are reminded about the code of conduct; to stop street rallies and concentrate on parks and other public centers for campaigning; and for civil society to sensitize/educate the people at chiefdom, urban and rural settings, among others. At the end of the meeting a mediation team, comprised of five members from all the political parties and the press, was formed. Handouts titled, ‘‘A Guide for Members of Parliament and the Role and Responsibilities of Members of Parliament” were distributed to participants to climax the ceremony.