March 20, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi
The West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) Sierra Leone Chapter has been officially unveiled after free, fair and transparent elections that brought in a new executive led by Andrew Lavalie.
While addressing journalists and CSOs at the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists’ Harry Yansaneh Hall, Chairman Lavalie said he was pleased his colleagues have accorded him respect and responsibility to direct the affairs of the national chapter of WACSOF for the next three years.
He said he was ready to work with all stakeholders, including the government, development partners, foreign missions, existing civil society groups and networks to contribute to building accountable and viable states in West Africa.
“We are particularly grateful to the past leaders who worked so hard to build the WACSOF Sierra Leone platform and we hope, by the grace of God, to push the boundaries of efforts and become the most formidable platform in West Africa. The question for today is: why are we in the national platform of WACSOF? We are all drawn to be part of this WACSOF national platform because we want to contribute to the broader goal and mission of WACSOF,” he told the audience at the investiture of the new executive.
He said: “Our mission is to serve as receptacle civil society organisations feeding into the ECOWAS system processes, and to empower them to exploit the public space at the national and regional levels, in order for them to contribute to an integrated, stable and developed West Africa. WACSOF’s mission is therefore to create the avenues through which CSOs can more constructively engage with the authorities at the national level as well as the institutions of the ECOWAS system.”
Lavali further noted that WACSOF has both regional and national level objectives, adding that civil society has a big responsibility in the failure of development, backwardness in member states of West Africa and the incubation of dictatorships.
“For too long CSOs have betrayed the very people they stand for on the altar of personal gains. In this handing over, our team is called today to make a strategic choice between working for the interest of the people or serving personal rewards and agendas; between seeking our comfort in the face of adversities and demonstrating that we are driven by the desire to address injustice and misrule in our nation states.
“So it’s time to ask whether we are driven by personal rewards or national results. And there is no better time for civil society in Sierra Leone to reflect on this question than this time when poverty levels are rising, unemployment in rising, disease is threatening, ignorance is on the increase, yet the institutions of governance and service delivery are threatened and crumbling,” he said.
He declared that their intent was for Sierra Leone to be a good example of civil society-state engagement for other countries in the sub-region.
He said the new executive had spent the past two weeks to study the core mandate and thematic areas of WACSOF, plus existing projects and the current situation of Sierra Leone, noting that they were ready to promote internal accountability within CSO members of WACSOF as building democracy in Sierra Leone starts with ensuring accountable citizenship and responsible civil society.
Over 40 civil society organisations across Sierra Leone constitute the membership of the local WACSOF chapter, which has a rationale to ensure that activities of civil society organisations and human rights activists are well coordinated.