September 30, 2019
By Frederick V. Kanneh
Deputy Head of delegation of the European Union to Sierra Leone, Jamila El Assaidi, has observed in a statement made on the International Day of Democracy that one of the major setbacks to the development of Sierra Leone has been the winner takes all politics.
“For too long politics has been based on a winner takes all approach. This has been detrimental for society in Sierra Leone and stands in the way of a balanced and durable development,” she said.
She noted that a major responsibility of political parties is to reduce political tensions among citizens in the country, adding that the EU can help in building robust institutions, but that political leaderships should also provide education and guidance of party supporters and militants in order to protect the said institutions.
She said EU has observed that there is the capacity of engaging into developmental activities and working together with Sierra Leoneans to realise shared ambitions provided if they are given the free hand, as that is all what democracy is about.
“In the specific context of Sierra Leone, continuous commitment to strengthening democratization is not just a question of promoting fundamental values and the right to representation that any person should enjoy but also about moving away from fragility and projecting an image as a modern nation with functioning institutions, and respect for the rule of law, that also offers opportunities to attract more and credible investors and provides the hope and confidence to ordinary Sierra Leoneans to invest in their future ,” she said.
She declared that every woman and every man must be free to participate in the political, economic and social life of her or his country.
“No one should fear to speak up, to demonstrate peacefully, to go to vote or to expect fair and inclusive policies from a government. Democracy functions if participation between governments, state institutions and citizens is guaranteed.”
She said in Europe and elsewhere in the world, the erosion of civil liberties and manipulation of information, especially during electoral campaigns, are on the rise.
“The EU has been at the forefront in unveiling disinformation and taking action against the risk of interference and malicious manipulation of the public debate, online and offline. In 2018, the EU among others adopted measures aimed at ‘Securing Free and Fair European Elections’ and agreed the Action Plan against Disinformation, to set standards to defend and safeguard democracy,” she said.
She disclosed that when announcing the priorities of her team, the new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, also noted that: “We want to bring new impetus to Europe’s democracy. This is our joint responsibility. Democracy is not only about going to vote every 5 years. It is about having your voice heard and being able to participate in the way society is built.”
“This is a reminder that in Europe and everywhere else in the world, work for democracy should remain a top priority, and that we must work hand in hand with local authorities and civil society representatives, to contribute to more equitable and prosperous societies globally.
She said through its external action, the EU was supporting its partner countries to put in place and preserve participative, representative and accountable democratic and electoral institutions.
“EU electoral assistance has amounted for more than €250 million in the last five years, delivering capacity-building, technical and material support to electoral processes in 50 countries. EU actions also focus on access to information, freedom of media, support for party systems and accountability of state institutions, including via the support to investigative journalism.”