The last couple of months have been intriguing. Amidst rising political tensions, we witnessed another round of talks on national cohesion between the President and the leadership of the main opposition APC. Since our last edition, we saw our electoral systems and process undermined by the destruction of ballot boxes in constituency 110, an attack that itself targeted our collective conscience as a nation.
The level of divide along partisan and regional backgrounds is ever-increasing, much to the discomfort of advocates of a unified country. The courts have not been helpful either, giving verdicts on petition cases that run in tandem with the expectation of the ruling elites whilst yet to deliver any decision on those cases or petitions filed by opposition parties. Depending on who one talks to, the police have themselves had their ugly portion, ever accused of dancing to the dictates of political players of the day.
There is the better side of things if we ignore the political postures or call it tantrums on display. The commissioning of close to 300 female soldiers into the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Force is a better way of demonstrating real inclusion and empowerment of women in our governance system as well as policy-making drive. We would encourage them to now give their best service to the country.
In this edition, we look at the decision by the government to seek billions of dollars for the construction of a bridge to Lungi, as part of its infrastructural development package. The choice of a bridge was made when government cancelled a $315m project, which would have been funded by the Chinese, for the construction of a new airport. Reactions to the proposed bridge proposals have been divided. What is clear though is that there is yearning on the part of government to pursue national growth. The challenge is being able to prioritize those growth commitments.
Recently, we also followed another encouraging development. Through a Cabinet decision, government approved the repeal of the criminal and libel law which has been in existence for over five decades. A draft Bill will soon be tabled in Parliament by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. In this edition, we discussed the need for the urgent repeal of that obnoxious law, mindful of the gains such a decision would bring to the growth of our democratic credentials.
Our cover story dealt exclusively with a review of our democratic credentials; the extent to which political actors have gone to undermine institutions critical to the growth of democracy. We discussed the role of the National Electoral Commission and above all the extent to which the courts today serve as a pathway to frustrating our efforts in preserving our democracy.
In our exclusive interview, Honourable Kandeh Yumkella of the National Grand Coalition discusses a range of national issues, including his views on the current parliament. On national unity, he agreed that the country remains sharply divided along regional and tribal lines, which “is a danger to social cohesion, a danger to good governance.” This in-depth interview revealed a lot including why he accepted a ministerial position under the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC).
Governments, past and current, have made political commitments to use agriculture and tourism as bedrocks for economic independence. By 2002, government had pledged “…to work even harder to ensure that by 2007 no Sierra Leonean goes to bed hungry.” Till date, we have not seen much in terms of agriculture productivity, with the country still importing its staple food, rice. We reviewed this commitment and called for a shift from political rhetoric to taking the necessary measures to bring this commitment to fruition. We did the same for the tourism sector, where our immense potential remains largely unfilled.
We have also looked at the banking sector and discuss how going digital would help provide efficient and better service. We spoke with a CEO in the industry who is of the view that “the solution is digital” as “there is no way banks could survive today in a world that is going aggressive every day without having a digital solution to what it does.”
On human rights issues, we called on the government to either abolish the death penalty or commit itself to the existing moratorium. Sierra Leone has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which recognizes right to life and gravely limits the imposition of the death penalty.
Happy reading and best of luck!
John Baimba Sesay