Sierra Leone Constitution Turned Upside Down
Parliamentary Standing Orders Assaulted and Diplomatic Finesse Ditched by President Bio
Political pundits think President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone, in less than two months of assumption of political authority, has violated the Constitution and Parliamentary Standing Orders, issued several redundant or autocratic Executive Orders, implemented quite a few less than conciliatory policies and made some unsavoury statements. Notably, he claims that he inherited no development and zero economy has spurred an unhealthy debate amongst politicians, civil society organizations (CSOs), social and political analysts as well as the entire plebeians in that West African Nation.
The minister of lands designate, thought that the national monthly cleaning day [from 7am-12noon] Executive Order was too weak, improved and replaced it with his perceived stronger Ministerial Order Number One towards the completion of what many have considered “forced labour”. Just when people were ready to go about their business, the Minister issued a press release that extended the cleaning to 2PM. As if that was not enough, he issued another one that extended it to 4PM without recourse to the presidency. This was all carried out before he was ratified by Parliament in violation of the Constitution. And many more minister designates have brazenly defied the Constitution in similar manners.
Notably, the proposed minister of finance arbitrarily represented the country in the USA, he came back with a commitment of about USD 17m from the Global Fund for Education and claimed was “World Bank (WC) support to Maada Bio’s overly ambitious Free Education programme”. But the outgoing minister of education was quick to state “It was already in the offing as the second tranche for good performance in education under my leadership”.
The Minority Leader of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) in Parliament called the cloak-and-dagger process of electing the Speaker of the House of Parliament a “….junta democracy” following an awkward and unprecedented incident in Parliament BBC’s Umar Fofanah referred to as “the police bundled out of Parliament 68 members of the APC parliamentarians” on Focus on Africa to achieve the election of the Speaker by a lopsided Parliament.
It is worth noting that two political parties, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the All Peoples Congress (APC) have ruled that country since Independence in 1961 save for the civil war and several military interregnums due to military coups d’ e’tat. In 2007, former President Koroma ministered a smooth transition with isolated insignificant reports of political violence unlike the widespread intimidation, provocation and atrocious acts of violence including gang rape that have marred President Maada Bio’s transition.
The transition and government vehicles recovery teams have been roaming about erratically, intimidating, molesting and violently removing government officials from their vehicles even when they were still employed. The former president’s daughter and a sitting judge could not be saved from open molestation and disgrace from President Bio’s transition teams.
The SLPP operatives, while in opposition in the past ten years of APC rule, managed to keep the debate topical on social media, local and foreign traditional media that they were responsible for the strategies and plans for all the development programmes achieved by the APC, a claim the APC has dubbed, ‘intention’ without action. The debate has however heightened when President Bio erroneously stated that the APC registered no visible development in ten years.
The above is completely contrary to the statement issued by the newly approved minister of energy on Radio Democracy, FM 98.1 that; “We know where we left electricity in 2007 and that the APC has made considerable improvement in electricity generation”. If the minister’s statement is nothing to go by, then President Maada Bio is right. Nonetheless, the foregoing is evident that there are few good men and women on President Maada Bio’s team.
Indeed, President Koroma stated that he inherited about 10MW of electricity in 2007 and left 280MW as of the time of handing over authority on 12th May 2018. He added that all major districts headquarter towns and cities are now connected by first class highways, and that the fibre optic cable landing and nationwide networking completed. He called the de-amalgamation of chiefdoms and the creation of two more districts his “flagship achievement” and explained “This will now ensure an equitable distribution of resources in the country as well as ease of accessibility to people in deliverance of social democracy in far flung chiefdoms.
President Koroma’s handing over notes copiously refuted President Maada Bio’s claim that he inherited zero development by citing late President Kabbah’s handing over notes that were replete with empty ‘intentions’, which he stated “were not even at tangible funding negotiation stage”. Indeed attentive Sierra Leoneans know too well that late President Tejan Kabbah’s sense of development was trapped in colonial understanding of constructing shoddy single lane roads and grading others, which he referred to as “completed highways”.
On the economy, President Koroma simply explained that; “We cannot keep money in the bank while the people suffer.” He also stated that he left US 507M in the reserve as opposed to President Bio’s claim that he left nothing. The foregoing was ascertained by a press release issued by the Bank Governor of Sierra Leone. “I am proud of my record especially in protecting impoverished Sierra Leoneans from highly competitive rise in price of global commodities,” the former president stated.
President Bio boasted of generating enough domestic revenue in few days of his presidency to pay salaries without bank draft. But financial analysts have some reservation to that statement; “Those moneys were already stacked in the money generation agencies, accrued over time, payable into the consolidated fund by an Act of Parliament passed by the Koroma government.” The million-dollar question remains, “Would these government agencies pay the same amount next month when the reality sets in?”
Political analysts on the other hand have weighed in heavily on the debate; stating that the SLPP indeed demonstrated much competency in developing strategies and plans for development, which hardly attained implementation phase for the benefit of the people. But when stacked against the APC tangible development records, “There’s no gainsaying that major visible development projects can be credited to the APC,” one political analyst stated.
Even in the First Republic, social commentators have faulted the APC for monopolising power, but not the visible infrastructural development and deliverance of social democracy, which is the core value of the Congress. On the other hand, the SLPP has always heavily depended on tribal trump card to gain votes without regards to hard work. That strategy hardly worked in Sierra Leone body politicks of the Second Republic. This is mainly because whereas individual or group descent became necessary in the body politic of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone, the APC’s unwavering commitment to indiscriminate social democracy core value, good governance and free and fair elections, succeeded in persuading and influencing South/East (SLPP political stronghold) support base more than the SLPP has succeeded in the North/West (APC political stronghold).
This is why the APC supporters are visibly unhappy with the outcome of the 2018 general elections. Not only that they found difficulty in understanding how people in an unsophisticated society like Sierra Leone could vote for an APC council and parliament and yet lost the elections for president but also believe that the SLPP does not have the support base to win elections against them in a free and fair elections on a one-man-one-vote basis.
Analysts have argued that the foregoing is only possible in the USA where it is possible to win the popular vote and lose the presidency through an electoral college but not in Sierra Leone. And there’s strong sentiment amongst the plebeians that there was election fixing influenced by the global sphere of trade war between East and West Europe. Nevertheless, both the plebeians and the APC leadership, adhering to the great reprimand of the civil war, have accepted the outcome of the elections but have avowed to address the daylight rape of democracy in the election of the Speaker of Parliament.
The above scenario indeed attracted the ECOWAS Parliament to what they called “threat to democracy in Sierra Leone Parliament”. Meetings were held and recommendation amongst others that all 68 parliamentarians be sworn in and admitted in Parliament. Whereas the SLPP government is foot-dragging on the rest of the ECOWAS recommendations, the APC supporters think that their representatives in Parliament are too weak to assert themselves as the majority in Parliament – it means that by the Constitution and Parliamentary Standing Orders, the APC leader should by properly addressed as the Majority Leader and not “leader of the opposition” coinage by convenience. As well, the APC is looking forward to their parliamentarians to cause a review of the election of the Speaker. But that would only be possible “if our men and women in Parliament negotiate from a position of strength,” one APC stalwart stated.
And the suspected foreign influence of the elections in Sierra Leone cannot be unconnected to the APC’s commitment to its core value to the deliverance of social democracy. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank had stressed Sierra Leone to lift subsidies from major consumables such as rice, the staple food and fuel as well as pressure from the West to severe economics ties with China. But President Koroma insisted on using taxpayers’ money to cushion global rising price of world food and fuel through subsidies as well as signed the construction of Mamamah airport with the Chinese, which is anathema to Western interest represented by IMF and WB.
What is more, the Government of Sierra Leone financed the entire elections process only for the international community to interject into the process an unholy assistance of electronic tally system and European technical assistants. It left many APC supporters bemused how come the campaign team did not understand that both the electronic tally system and the technicians were unnecessary in the tallying of less than three million votes. And some analysts have called that the Achilles heel for the APC.
Nonetheless, some unscrupulous interest groups in the APC leadership are now trying very hard to plant seeds of discord amongst the less sophisticated APC voter population by apportioning blame on President Koroma for selling out despite the apparent international regime change conspiracy, which affected the outcome of the elections at the end of the day.
Yes, may be to a certain extent, because the APC campaign team was his making and the team was less inclined to understand the influence of neo-colonialists anachronistic geopolitics on the outcome of elections in Africa and the entire third world. And apparently the campaign team was not capable of resisting that strong international influence and pressure on the elections at its best – it was inadequate; the team was unable to protect the votes, which in my opinion, was not the responsibility of an outgoing president in a situation in which the world came into the process with an unfair position and looked up to him for fairness.
By Steven Gains
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