April 10, 2018
Executive Director of the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, Ibrahim Tommy Esq., has in an open letter urged President Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio that his administration should prioritize accountability for alleged financial and economic crimes under the previous administration as well as for those human rights violations that occurred immediately before and after the 2018 elections.
‘While you were campaigning, you highlighted instances of financial mismanagement in government projects, public procurement, and misappropriation of funds meant for disaster response, among others. I urge you to investigate allegations of financial mismanagement and human rights violations under the previous administration with the view of recovering funds and prosecuting any crimes arising therefrom. The annual Auditor-General reports have repeatedly highlighted recurring problems of weak internal controls, cash management and procurement procedures. I urge your administration to put in place immediately a system to respond to the many recommendations that were ignored by the previous administration, and to launch an investigation with the view of establishing whether probable cause exists to hold public officials criminally liable for the huge amount of unaccounted funds. It is important to rectify wrongs of the past for the sake of the future,’ the letter noted.
Layer Ibrahim Tommy also urged the president to support the autonomy and authority of institutions of justice and accountability, including the judiciary, the Sierra Leone Police, Parliament, the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL), and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
‘The laws exist, but nothing will change until there are consequences for flouting rules, both for individuals and for ministries. Holding to account those who committed misdeeds in the past will convince the public of their government’s commitment to stop corruption, and ensure efficient resource management and disciplined leadership.’
He further urged the need for the enhancement of women’s participation and resolving the dearth of female representation in public office, noting that the lack of female participation in governance remains a critical issue.
‘Over the last decade, CARL has worked on issues pertaining to the protection of women’s rights, including enhancing access to justice for victims of gender-based violence, increased female participation in decision-making and leadership processes, and other empowerment programmes. Some progress has been made, but many challenges remain. CARL believes that increased participation by women in the public sphere, especially in the areas of policy formulation, and decision-making, is pivotal to advancing change,’ he urged.
He noted that women represent 52% of registered voters in Sierra Leone, though their representation across public sector institutions remains low and that such does not bode well for the economic and development aspirations of Sierra Leone as a whole.
‘Intervention is needed to narrow this disparity. Your leadership offers an opportunity to rewrite the current chapter on female representation in governance. To this end, we urge you to consider the inclusion of competent women in your cabinet and ministries, departments and agencies.’
He continued that women have aspired to 30% representation, but it would be inspiring to exceed this threshold, but that the number of women in President Bio’s transitional team fell below that threshold, ‘and it is my genuine hope that your future appointments will have a more positive outlook in terms of women’s representation.’
He further called on the need to resume the Constitutional Review Process, stating that the foundation of any just society is law.
He recalled that Sierra Leone began a constitutional review process more than a decade ago and that despite the huge resources spent by the Government of Sierra Leone and its international partners, the country was still without a new or revised constitution.
‘Let me use this opportunity to register my organisation’s displeasure and disappointment at the mismanagement of the review process, mistreatment of the Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), and the ignoring of the Commission’s report by the All People’s Congress administration. It showed utter disrespect for citizens’ voices and meagre state resources. You have the opportunity to make things right,’ he said.
He said the recommendations of the CRC Report, if included in the revised constitution, would substantially improve current provisions in the country’s constitution and that there was still room for improvement beyond the recommendations contained in the report.
‘I urge you, therefore, to set up a small panel of experts to review those recommendations with a view to making a more progressive constitution. Given the dynamic nature of society, we cannot let our laws become stagnant; certainly not the supreme law of the land – the Constitution. I urge you to revive the review process so that we can produce a new and better Constitution of Sierra Leone.’
The CARL Executive Director urged the need for national cohesion and inclusive governance and bridging the divide.
‘Our country is deeply divided. Voting patterns show mistrust among citizens towards those from other places or ethnic backgrounds, based on outdated tribal allegiances and perceived differences. Your commitment to lead Sierra Leone on the maxim of “One Country, One People” is laudable, though actions speak louder than words. Now is the time for action,’ he said.
‘We urge fair apportionment of funding for development programmes with need, competency and merit trumping ethnicity, geography and place of origin. It serves no good to provide quality education services in the north, for example, while the kids in the south and east lag behind. We will only be stronger as a country if we empower and prepare everyone to contribute. Let justice, fairness and respect – not resentment and revenge – inform your leadership. We hold you to lead from the front. The people have spoken and voted for change and so change must win out. It is time to break with the past and to ensure the composition of your government reflects the ethnic and cultural diversity of Sierra Leone. It is time to move forward so Sierra Leone can work for its entire people. Division and discrimination along ethnic and party lines will not solve the social, economic and development problems this country faces, and can only lead us down a path of self-destruction. May your administration take the higher road.’