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THE NCD WORD FOR THE WEEK PROJECT

THIRD EDITION – WEEK OF SUNDAY, JULY 7, 2019

TOPIC: “THE STATE HAS A PURPOSE”

The State is a purposeful enterprise with key objectives as enshrined in the foundational law of the Land, the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No. 6 of 1991. In this edition of the NCD Word for the Week Project, attempt shall be made to explain the meaning of the State or define the State as per the Law of the Land. This shall be followed by an examination of the different functions of the State especially from a constitutional perspective with room for clear conclusions in respect of the implications of the various functions or purposes of the State as they relate especially to the relationship between the governors and the governed in the context of the modern State.

Before taking on the issues, let us make plain the mandate of the National Commission for Democracy (NCD) as per its legal instrument, Act No. 3 of 1996, the NPRC Decrees Repeal and Modification Act. Accordingly, the NCD Mandate focuses attention on the following:

  1. To create and sustain awareness with the society of the principles and objectives of the Constitution as the foundational law of the Land;
  2. To educate and encourage the public to defend the Constitution at all times against all forms of abuse or violation;
  3. To formulate for the consideration of government, from time to time, programmes at the National, Regional and District levels aimed at realizing the objectives of the Constitution;
  4. To formulate, implement and oversee programmes intended to cultivate in the citizens awareness of their rights and obligations;
  5. To assess for the information of government, the limitations to the achievement of true democracy arising from existing inequalities between different strata of the population and make recommendations for redressing those inequalities;
  6. Develop and disseminate programmes geared towards: i) the cultivation of a sense of nationalism, patriotism and loyalty to the State in every citizen; and ii) prompting the citizenry to render assistance to appropriate lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order in the Country.

With these serving as the springboard for the NCD Word for the Week Project and predicated on the implications of the NCD mandate, this edition now focuses attention on the true meaning of the State as a nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government. In other words, it is the means of rule over a defined or sovereign territory. In this regard, the State is characterized by the rule of law, citizenship rights in addition to economic and social responsibilities with an executive, a bureaucracy, a legislature, courts and other institutions. In view of this, the State levies taxes, operates a military and a police force. The State has monopoly of power through the sovereign will of the people and it is exercised under the authority of elected leaders including the President, Members of Parliament, members of every elected office and other State institutions like the Military and the Police. Furthermore, it distributes and redistributes resources and wealth and it is still the dominant arena of domestic politics as well as the primary actor in international relations.

Sierra Leone as a Sovereign State fits the bill and is exemplified in the First Schedule of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No. 6 of 1991, with due reference to historical antecedents and agreements involving nearby territories as the outcomes of colonial considerations on the backdrop of existing affinities in relation to geo-politics and bilateral considerations. As an Independent State, Sierra Leone has been in existence for the last Fifty-Eight Years with its birth date as April 27, 1961 and as a Sovereign Republic such existence is captured in Section 1 in the Declaration of Republic with its own Public Seal or Coat-of-Arms as indicated in Section 2 and having a National Flag of three horizontal stripes of Green, White, and Blue coupled with a National Anthem provided for in Section 3, all of which are captured in Act No. 6 of 1991, commonly called the Constitution of Sierra Leone. It is a given that its existence is purposeful and the functions, inter-alia, are conceptualized in the foundational law of the Land, that is, the Constitution of Sierra Leone, with due consideration given to the Fundamental Principles of State Policy as provided for in Chapter 2 and other relevant provisions of Act No. 6 of 1991.

What then is the purpose of the State or what are the functions of the State? Accordingly, the purpose or functions of the State are mooted in the objectives of the State with reference to Sections 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10 of Act No. 6 of 1991 in relation to the political, economic, social, educational and foreign policy objectives of the State. In essence, the entity known as Sierra Leone can continue as a successful Nation-State when these objectives are fully realized in line with the key principles of the Social Contract. It is now time to examine the full import of these objectives as we strive to understand the purpose or functions of the State in the context of democratic good governance.

Our first port of call are the Political Objectives of the State recorded in Section 6 of Act No. 6 of 1991. In Sub-Section (1), it starts with the Motto of the Republic of Sierra Leone as Unity, Freedom and Justice. It is further noted that for the State to realize its political objectives as indicated in its Motto, it should work assiduously to promote national integration and unity and discourage discrimination of all kinds through the approach of free mobility of people, goods and services across the length and breadth of the Country as well as securing full rights of residence for every citizens in all parts of the State and these are captured in Sub-Sections (2 & 3). Furthermore, Sub-Section (4) indicates that the State shall protect and defend the liberty of the individual, enforce the rule of law and ensure the efficient functioning of Government services with Sub-Section (5) providing for the State to take all steps to eradicate all corrupt practices and the abuse of power.

It is crystal clear that achieving the Political Objectives of the State has far-reaching implications for various sectors in the governance of the State. For the purpose of this edition, we are limiting ourselves to discussing such implications with subsequent editions looking at the other objectives of the State mentioned above. Who then are responsible for the Unity, Freedom and Justice of the State, what can we say about the stated approaches to realizing these objectives and where are we in realizing these political objectives?

It is the responsibility of every entity of the State including the governors through State or national institutions and the governed with the former taking the lead in ensuring the Political Objectives of the State are achieved in the best interest of all especially the citizens of the State. It should be observed that so much effort has been expended in the area of national integration and unity, but there is still room for improvement as we are still a divided nation on tribal, regional and sectional lines with room for stringent measures in line with clear policy objectives and institutional frameworks to not only mitigate, but also to prevent the possible occurrences. It could be recalled that in the immediate aftermath of the March 2018 elections, some people that had resided in other regions for several years were targeted for reprisal and some even had their professional lives disrupted as they had to flee to other places for safety despite the existence of the Constitutional provision of discouraging all forms of discrimination and making sure that citizens as a matter of right secure residence in every corner of the nation. There have also been instances wherein the free mobility of people comes under attack through claw back provisions in the same constitution with reference to Section 18 and the Public Order Act of 1965, thus giving the Police tremendous powers to work contrary to the Political Objectives of the State, but using the same constitution and other laws of the Land for their justification. Regarding the free mobility of goods and services across the length and breadth of the Country, there is the consideration for good roads even feeder roads especially in remote communities with implications for massive investment in the nation’s infrastructure. Despite the effort made so far in that direction, it still leaves much to be desired as we strive to close the distance gap between cities, towns and villages by making the free mobility of goods and services an everyday reality in the life of the ordinary Sierra Leonean. Addressing this issue brings to the fore the push and pull factors in terms of Rural-Urban migration on account of the limited opportunities in rural and remote communities as we have to deal with over-population and over-stretched facilities in urban settings with the situation deteriorating instead of improving.

It is a matter of entitlement and not a matter of favor for the State to protect and defend the liberty of the individual as occasioned in the principles of democratic good governance and as stipulated in the Political Objectives of the State. In the true sense of the word, this cannot be negotiated or mortgaged for anything as it is integral to the Social Contract between the governors and the governed. It calls to mind the role that the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRC-SL) and the Office of the Ombudsman and other rights based institutions in the State should play to ensure unfettered access to such liberty for the individual with due reference to Chapter 3 of the Constitution in respect of “the Recognition and Protection of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms of the Individual”. This brings to mind the realization that “man is born free and everywhere we see him in chains” (Rousseau – Preface to his Social Contract), thus the need for conscious effort through laws and regulations to ensure the liberty of the average Sierra Leonean is not only recognized, but also protected within the ambit of good laws that emanate from the wishes and aspirations of the people and enacted by a duly constituted Parliament representing the true will of the people and when such laws come under contention, there is fair adjudication in a competent court of law where the Rule of Law is upheld.

Also, the State serves the purpose of enforcing the Rule of Law in carrying out its Political Objectives as enshrined in the foundational law of Sierra Leone. However, it has been observed by many that the Rule of Law has come under serious attack through overt and covert means over the years with no end in sight as we still contend with the infamous “orders from above” with institutions meant to police the Rule of Law falling far short of expectations. The entire legal system in the Country should be examined for what it is in the context of the Rule of Law as we reflect on the sacred role of the Bar, the Bench and the Police in Sierra Leone. We must understand the Rule of Law as implying that every person is subject to the law, including people who are lawmakers, law enforcement officials, and judges. The hope of a very democratic Sierra Leone is hinging on upholding the Rule of Law in the best interest of all without room for meddling with the law and not having different laws for different people, but having a situation wherein politics and law converge in the best interest of the citizens of the State regardless of the status of the individual involved.

As we continue to examine the Political Objectives of the State, it should be clear to all that the State is duty bound to ensure the efficient functioning of Government services in respect of service delivery. On the issue of efficient and effective service delivery, the entire State machinery should play a part in line with the dictate and spirit of the Social Contract as the governed should benefit from the resources of the State through the even distribution of these resources by the governors as social amenities are made available to the people in every region and corner of the Country without other parochial concerns or interest. Over the years, we have seen the unfair distribution of resources through projects implemented in the different regions of the Country depending on which political party is in power and if we are to go by the letter and spirit of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No. 6 of 1991, everything should be done to change the situation to reflect the fact that every region or district of the Country is inhabited by Sierra Leoneans that should enjoy the dividends of democracy regardless of their tribal or partisan affiliations. By the letter and spirit of the Constitution, the State of Sierra Leone is for all Sierra Leoneans and as such no one Sierra Leonean should be subjected to any form of discrimination as we foster effective and efficient service delivery with every sector of the Society making conscious effort to enforce the provisions of the Constitution even if it is just advocacy. We must not be silent in the face of real or perceived threats to the provisions of the Constitution. The orientation of State institutions should be service delivery in pursuit of the Social Contract and not the mindset of doing favor to the general citizenry with evidence of abuse of office in most instances. In this regard, State institutions should be made accountable especially through the oversight functions of the people’s representatives with room for public broadcast of such accountability mechanisms.

It is also heart-warming to note that as part of its Political Objectives with reference to a constitutional provision, the State should take all steps to eradicate all corrupt practices and abuse of power. It should be noted that the overall objective is to eradicate and not minimize all corrupt practices and abuse of power. We should commend the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission and the work that it has done so far. As we consider the approaches used in the fight against corruption, especially embezzlement, we must endeavor to employ every front including the home, the family and religious institutions to address the issue of rampant corruption that is casting a serious slur on meaningful and sustainable development in the Country. We cannot afford to make the fight against corruption a private affair, but a national endeavor with the involvement of all using the appropriate channels of the Law without room for compromise. Regarding the abuse of power, the laws and the choices of the people should make it difficult for holders of offices including politicians to continue in that direction with Civil Society keeping them on their toes as we live out the ethos of the Constitution of Sierra Leone.

As we conclude on this edition, we must remind all that the State as an entity is tasked with various responsibilities or functions, among which are the Political Objectives as presented above and as we continue with this citizenship or civic education through this platform, we encourage all as a matter of civic responsibility to understand the purpose or functions of the State and demand that they be fulfilled for every citizen in Sierra Leone. We must make it a matter of must to hold state functionaries accountable as effort is made to realize the Political Objectives of the State. We will continue with the other functions of the State in subsequent editions.

Please spread the message and make Sierra Leone a better nation!

For further information, please contact Rev. Gibrilla Kargbo, Director of Communications and Public Relations, National Commission for Democracy (NCD), on ncdemocracy@yahoo.com and on + 232 79 236 761 or + 232 80 295 382.