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Reflection: Major Events in 2017

December 22, 2017 

2017 was an eventful year. The country experienced bitter-sweet moments. As we publish our last edition this year, Concord Times reflects on the good, the bad and the ugly.

Presentation of CRC Draft Report

In January, Chairman of the 80-man Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), Justice Edmond Cowan handed over the draft report to President Ernest Bai  Koroma. The committee received hundreds of position papers presented by different interest groups across the country and held town hall meetings in every nook and cranny of the country. The report made a total of 132 recommendations, including proposing several new chapters to the new constitution – separation of the office of Attorney –General and Minister of Justice, 30% quota for women’s representation and the media, among others.

However, the government White Paper was only published in a gazette in November, rejecting all but few insignificant recommendations of the CRC. The said White Paper has been described as disappointing and one that is aimed at scuttling the wishes and aspiration of majority of the citizenry.

Launch of Citizens’ Manifesto

This was a major event that took place on July 29th 2017 at the Miata Conference Centre in Freetown, attracting hundreds of people across the country. The event was hosted by the ‘Standing Together for Democracy Consortium,’ a coalition of civil society organisations in Sierra Leone. The citizens’ manifesto, titled ‘My vote, My life’, is geared towards influencing politicians to mainstream the highlighted needs and aspirations of citizens in their political manifestos. The event brought together different actors, including political leaders, who made commitments to prioritise the demands of citizens in their manifestos.

Mudslide and Flood Disaster

On 14 August Sierra Leone was hit by the twin disaster of mudslide and flood. That tragic event reportedly killed more than a thousand residents of Motormeh in the Regent Community and Kaningo in the Lumley community, after three days of torrential rains in the capital Freetown. The disaster also destroyed hundreds of houses and left thousands homeless.

On August 17 the over 500 victims who lost their lives during the twin disaster were given a dignified burial at the Ebola Cemetery at Waterloo, just outside Freetown.

Hundreds of survivors took residence in shelters created by the government. The last ones left the Don Bosco residence this week amid accusation that the government failed to provide them with resettlement package, as promised. 

Political Activism

September was the month of intra-party politics as the major political parties prepared the stage for the crucial 2018 multitier elections. The two main political parties conducted their delegates’ conventions, electing or selecting their presidential candidates.

The ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) controversially selected Dr. Samura Kamara as their standard bearer, while the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) elected Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio as their Presidential candidate for the 2018 election. Other political parties, including the newly formed National Grand Coalition (NGC), have elected their presidential candidates. The NGC’s flag-bearer is former United Nations Climate Change honcho, Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella.

The visit of Mufti Ismail Menk, Zimbabwean-born Muslim cleric

This event, which took place on October 21 and 22, garnered a huge interest across the entire country. Thousands of Muslims and non-Muslims gathered at the Siaka Steven Stadium to listen to the renowned Muslim cleric. It was the very first time in the history of Sierra Leone for a well-Known Muslim cleric to pay a visit to the country. And the Mufti didn’t disappoint his followers and the audience; the event made headline news in the print and electronic media.

The visit of the Mufti elicited more headlines following the arrest and detention of popular Pastor and General Overseer of the Christ Revival Evangelistic Ministries International, a.k.a. Sanctuary Praise Church, Evangelist Victor Ajisafe. It followed his outburst, referring to the Muslim cleric as ‘a liar and agent of darkness.’

ECOWAS Court Verdict

The ECOWAS Court of Justice on November 28 ruled in favour of Vice President Samuel Sam Sumana. The sacked Vice President had sought reliefs  in the Community Court of Justice after the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone ruled that President Ernest Bai Koroma has right to have sacked him. Chief Sam Sumana was sacked in 2015 by President after his membership in the ruling All Peoples Congress was annulled by the National Executive Council of the party.

The ECOWAS ruling noted that the removal of the democratically elected vice president from office was ‘illegal, null and void.’ The panel of three judges added that that singular action of President Koroma did not follow due process and that Sam Sumana’s right to due process was violated as he was sacked before the expiration of 30 days, within which he could have appealed his expulsion from the APC.

But government remains defiant and adamant that the court has no power to preside over a matter which had already been decided by the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone.

Dissolution of Parliament and final address by President Koroma

On 7 December, President Ernest Bai Koroma delivered his final address to the Sierra Leone Parliament. The event also witnessed the dissolution of parliament fourth parliament of the second republic, with a new political administration expected to be ushered in March 2018.

Ebola Survivors sue government to ECOWAS Court

The Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) and two Ebola survivors filed an action at the ECOWAS Court of Justice in December, seeking reliefs against the government of Sierra Leone for violation of citizens’ rights to life and health as a result of the mismanagement of funds meant to respond to the epidemic which claimed the lives of thousands and left many more with indelible health challenges.