Diaspora Unite write Open letter to President Koroma
Re: An Open Letter of Appeal to the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone calling for a Declaration of a State of Public Emergency over the Ebola outbreak.
As we mourn the death of one of Sierra Leone’s bravest heroes (Dr Khan) in the fight against the Ebola epidemic in the country, it is with a mournful heart, a compelling love for my nation and deep sense of cosmic responsibility that I write you this letter.
Let me first of all start by saluting you for the unique democratic leadership that you have exhibited in the governance of our beloved nation since you took up office as president of the Republic of Sierra Leone. I have been cmonitoring you religiously and it is no gainsaying to opinionate that you are indeed one of the few of Sierra Leone’s many leaders that has shown enormous display of pragmatism, political tolerance and selfless commitment to the progress and development of the land. History will surely remember you as the forerunner and pacesetter of the new transformative Sierra Leone.
But without prejudice to your myriad successes, it is expedient to emphasise that the true test of any success is not in its achievability but rather it lies in its sustainability. And just like Martin Luther King Jr rightly puts it, ‘’the ultimate strength of a man must never be measured in moments of comfort and convenience but rather in moments of challenge and controversy’’.
Your Excellency, you will agree with me that Sierra Leone is currently undergoing one of the most challenging moments of her history and lifetime. The outbreak of the Ebola virus and its attendant consequences on the vulnerable population cannot be over-emphasised. Never in the history of your tenure has your government and leadership being so exhausted in the search for solutions, ideas and resources to effectively address a crisis. We note with candour the enormous strides your government and the Ministry of Health has taken so far to end the Ebola menace and we courageously salute these efforts and sacrifices.
Notwithstanding however, we are of the firm opinion that there is still one important thing that your Excellency ought to have done but which has still not been done. Without presenting myself as trying to educate His excellency on his responsibilities as a statesman, this letter could perhaps be best described as a ‘gentle reminder’ to His Excellency on your sacred duty as provided for under section 29 of the 1991 Constitution.
It is for good reasons that the drafters of the 1991 constitution conferred on the President the sole power to declare a state of public emergency when the various thresholds as envisaged under section 29(2) have been clearly satisfied.
Section 29 (2) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone provides;
(2) The President may issue a Proclamation of a state of public emergency only when—
a) Sierra Leone is at war;
b) Sierra Leone is in imminent danger of invasion or involvement in a state of war; or
c) there is actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the whole of Sierra Leone or any part thereof to such an extent as to require extraordinary measures to restore peace and security; or
d) there is a clear and present danger of an actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the whole of Sierra Leone or any part thereof requiring extraordinary measures to avert the same; or
e) there is an occurrence of imminent danger, or the occurrence of any disaster or natural calamity affecting the community or a section of the community in Sierra Leone; or
f) there is any other public danger which clearly constitutes a threat to the existence of Sierra Leone.”
From the above, It is apparent that Section 29 (2) (c), (d), (e) and (f) now applies in every respect especially when one objectively considers the rate at which the EBOLA is spreading and claiming the lives of innocent citizens in virtually every district in the country. Reports from the Ministry of Health in Sierra Leone have even confirmed that the epidemic has visited almost all the districts in Sierra Leone after having wrecked serious havoc in the South-Eastern provinces of the country. Without any iota of doubt, as section 29 (2) (d) and ( e ) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone dictates, there is now ‘a clear and present danger’ to every part of Sierra Leone for which extraordinary measures are needed to avert the same’.
A State of Public Emergency if declared by His Excellency will send the right message to the international community that the crisis situation is out of control and that the government is in dire need of assistance to contain the virus. Furthermore, it will re-prioritize governments’ agenda to the extent that other pending projects will now become secondary and even deprived of resources in favour of the Ebola crisis situation. It is also vital to pinpoint that, at the moment, Sierra Leone is not the only country that is being plagued with the Ebola epidemic, but with a state of emergency declaration, priority intervention efforts will be channelled by the international community towards Sierra Leone at the expense of the other nations in the region who are yet to make such declarations. More important still, a public emergency declaration will also give organisations and social action groups that are campaigning in the Diaspora a more cogent and convincing case as they approach international agencies and oversea governments for more support to be made available to Sierra Leone to eradicate the Ebola Virus.
As I write you this letter, a total of 500 cases have already been confirmed affected by the Ebola Virus and close to 200 deaths have been recorded from across virtually all districts in Sierra Leone. This is certainly a clarion call for a declaration of public emergency to be made by His Excellency. Under Section 29(2), it is not necessarily the impacts of the crisis situation that must determine when a state of public emergency should be declared but rather, it is the ‘imminent threat of danger’ that the crisis situation poses to every part or any part of Sierra Leone that should inform such declaration. And certainly, you will agree with me that the EBOLA epidemic now poses an imminent threat of danger to Sierra Leone and even beyond. The UK government for instance has just summoned an emergency ‘COBRA’ meeting to address the pending Ebola threat even though none of its citizens have so far been affected by the Ebola virus.
As I conclude my appeal, I make bold to say that despite the laudable efforts of your government there are certainly a lot of mistakes that have been made in the handling of the Ebola crisis since the genesis of the outbreak. Starting with the delay of the closing of our borders, to the transportation of Ebola victims from Kailahun to Kenema who should have remained quarantined in their affected regions, to the pronouncement of the Ministry of Health that a medical health worker contracted the Ebola virus through sexual outplays and coupled with a Deputy Minister blasting Doctors Without Borders for expressing their professional and candid opinion over the spread of the Ebola outbreak…the list goes on….
But all this is gone past now and it’s time for us all as a nation to turn to a new page and ruthlessly address the Ebola menace that has eating deep into the fabric of our society, ravaging it beyond repairs.
Without prejudice, your colleagues in the region are currently taking drastic measures to deal with the Ebola epidemic. Her Excellency, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has declared the borders of Liberia closed and has even ordered the arrest of anyone who stands in the way of security and health officials as they do their work to quarantine affected persons. The Nigerian government cremated its first Ebola victim as a proof of their resolve to ruthlessly deal with the scourge. Ironically though, in Sierra Leone, we still hear stories of family members going to remove Ebola victims from hospitals and epic centres. This unfortunate situation must not be entertained and should be dealt with ruthlessly going forward. The doctor who discovered Ebola recommended that the Ebola virus can only be contained when stringent measures are imposed. Perhaps, a good start after a state of public emergency is declared by you is to further invoke the MACPI forces to come on board and effectively police medical facilities and Ebola victims who have being quarantined from reach by the vulnerable population.
In conclusion, I reiterate my humbly appeal to His Excellency to give us all including the late Doctor Khan a good reason to remember you after you shall have left the corridors of power by declaring a State of Public Emergency over the Ebola outbreak. We promised that if you do this, we shall boldly declare on your grave side after you would have completed your life’s mission on earth that: ‘’ Here lies a true son of the soil who served his country faithfully with a deep sense of humility and cosmic responsibility’’. It is never late to do the right thing!
Thank you and God bless you. May the good Lord deliver Sierra Leone from this Ebola scourge.
Yours Faithfully,Rashid Justice Dumbuya (in photo)
International Human Rights Advocate and Public Defender. Global Coordinator for Diasporans Unite For an Ebola-Free Sierra Leone. (DUNEFSIL).
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