July 2, 2015 By Mohamed Faray Kargbo
The Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) has concluded public consultations in the 14 electoral districts of Sierra Leone. The consultations, which attracted participants from various walks of life, were not only inclusive but participatory as well. Paramount chiefs, chiefdom speakers, tribal heads, principals and head teachers, retired civil servants, market women, motorbike riders, students and pupils, the physically challenged, youths, women and other categories of people made invaluable contributions to the process.
In May this year, the sub-committees of the CRC traversed the length and breadth of the provinces popularizing the review process, whilst simultaneously seeking the wishes and aspirations of the people. In June, similar public meetings were held in the Western Rural and Urban areas. Eight thematic sub-committees, including the Executive, Judiciary, Legislature, Local Government, Natural Resources, Information, Education and Communications, State Policy and Human Rights and Research, did extensive consultations. Thought-provoking suggestions and recommendations were made by the people to the CRC.
Prominent among them were the separation of the Office of Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the retention of the death penalty; the establishment of a second chamber of parliament; the establishment of a House of Chiefs; the inclusion of local government into the revised Constitution; the creation of a whole chapter on citizenship; and the reduction of the powers of the President, among many others.
The post-consultation period would witness the compilation of draft recommendations from the thematic sub-committees and their subsequent presentation to the plenary of the CRC. Upon successful completion of their reports to the CRC plenary, the sub-committees would then seek the mandate of the people to validate the recommendations for a revised Constitution.
The CRC is reviewing the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991 in tandem with the 2008 Report of the Commission to Review the 1991 Constitution. By March 2016, the committee is expected to submit a report containing recommendations for constitutional amendments to the Government of Sierra Leone. Government would release a White Paper for the drafting of a revised Constitution that would be sent to Parliament. After their inputs into the revised statute, Parliament would send the final document to the President for his assent.
Prior to the President’s endorsement, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) will seek the mandate of the people by way of a National Referendum. If endorsed, the President will sign the new Constitution into law and the country would be governed in accordance with the provisions of the 1991 Constitution as amended.
80 persons from ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), civil society organizations (CSOs), and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were charged with the responsibility of reviewing the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 together with the Peter Tucker Report of 2008. The committee was to have completed its assignment by March 2015 but the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) forbade it from achieving that goal.
CRC Chairman, Justice Edmond Cowan, revealed that the committee requested for an extension to March 2016 to give them ample time to thoroughly seek the views of the people.