November 24, 2016 By Abu-bakarr Sheriff
Justice Edmond K. Cowan has spent the better part of his adult life, spanning more than half a century, serving Sierra Leone diligently as an officer of the court, public servant, judge, speaker, ombudsman and chairman of the 80-man Constitutional Review Committee(CRC).
The two posts he is currently serving in. Yet, if you are new in the country or a novice of its political dynamics, and have been reading pro-regime newspapers and columnists, you will be forgiven for thinking he is a villain who has let his country and people down!
In fact, the senior statesman and retired jurist ought to be celebrated by well-meaning Sierra Leoneans and posterity for doing the right and equitable thing – chairing an 80-man CRC that has done a fantastic job of reviewing our 1991 Constitution, which badly needs to exorcise the bad vestiges of a political morass that dwarfed and continues to stymie the country’s political maturation.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, among several recommendations, urged that this constitution be reviewed. President (late) Tejan Kabbah started the process, which he characteristically gave the freehand to Dr. Peter Tucker and his committee to review; their report was reference point for the Justice Cowan-led CRC.
In November 2014, President Ernest Koroma inaugurated the 80-man committee, comprising political party actors, civil society actors and other interest groups in society. It is worth to note that the selection process, including appointment of the chairman, was done by former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Frank Kargbo (no doubt with the approval of State House).
From the outset, it must be noted that the task given to Justice Cowan was a poisoned chalice; many neutrals doubted he would be neutral to deliver for country and people without fear or favour. But he has exceeded all expectation and earned more respect among his compatriots and observers all over the world.
Instead of being thanked for a job well done, his distractors have gone for his jugular, castigating him for merely capturing the views of Sierra Leoneans.
To them, the venerable former justice and current ombudsman has suddenly become bad! Someone they had appointed with glee, in their partisan belief that he would play ball and tilt the process in their favour. To their disappointment and disdain, he has followed his conscience and justly presided over, like Solomon, a CRC process that majority of Sierra Leoneans are very proud of and anxiously await its conclusion.
Although billions have been spent on the process since 2014 and hours expended by men and women to produce a report which had the input and validation of our compatriots, the plot to jettison the report has gathered pace as his distractors are up in arms. Suddenly, a man they gave a seal of approval to has become a bad man!
Yet, in the prophetic words of a Yoruba proverb, “When the evil-plotter beats his drum for the downfall of the innocent, the gods will not let that drum sound!
Justice Cowan has earned the respect of his peers, compatriots and the international community. Thus, even as his distractors beat war drums, vilifying a national hero we should all be proud of, the respected senior statesman should rather dismiss their shenanigans with a wave of the hand as “the good ruler who stands for the people becomes a victim too soon.”
Well-meaning Sierra Leoneans though should stand firmly in solidarity with Justice Cowan and other men and women of valour in his Committee by not allowing few partisan bigots who only care for their individual group interest (party) and not our collective interest (country) to ride roughshod with us.
By so doing, we will embolden others in various positions of public trust to emulate the CRC chairman and stand up against all forms of intimidation and vilification perpetrated by people who mean no good for this country but only care for their vested parochial interest.
Indeed Justice Cowan has proved a hero, no amount of blackmail will turn him into a villain.