December 7, 2015 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara
An expert team member of the Advocacy for the Development of a Citizens Constitutional Project, Emmanuel Gaima, has called on journalists and civil society organisations to keep close eyes on the current constitutional review process, chaired by ombudsman Justice Edmond Cowan.
Gaima was speaking Friday (4 December) at an event organised at the head office of Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) to popularise citizens’ position paper that was presented to the Constitutional Review Committee a fortnight ago.
The governance specialist noted that a constitution can be considered as the ‘head stone’ of governance in every state and one that should stand the test of time.
He urged media practitioners to continue to explain the issues in every position paper presented to the CRC.
“Constitution making is a process driven. It is fine to observe and know the contents of every paper presented to the CRC and raise a red flag on critical issues. The end process of the constitution will affect us either positively or negatively, so keep an eye on the degree of participation and inclusiveness of issues around best practice,” Gaima urged.
The Chairman of the event, Francis Sowa, a lecturer at the Mass Communication Department at Fourah Bay College, who is also a member of the expert team, commended the Open Society Initiative for West Africa for their support to the project.
He said the media is an important partner in development, and called on journalists to popularise the contents of the citizen’s position paper. He said the advocacy was launched for some eight months to garner the views of ordinary citizens that seldom have their voices heard.
CGG’s programme manager, Bernadette French, noted that reviewing the constitution was a very important process. She said with the help of OSIWA, citizens were given the chance to participate in the review process to ensure that the final document represents their views.
“We targeted 1600 ordinary citizens to get them understand the provisions enshrined in the present constitution in a lay-man manner and allowed them to propose what they want to see in the constitution,” French said.
She said the scientific research employed informed that the citizens’ position paper which was submitted to the CRC, adding that the intent was to popularise it and ensure that issues raise therein would be included in the new constitution.
Programme Officer of OSIWA, Nancy Sesay, said they partnered with CGG because they knew they (CGG) have the capacity to mobilise citizens to have their say in what would become our next constitution.
Marcella Samba-Sesay of CGG said her institution conducted a survey in the fourteen administrative districts across the country to collate the weight of citizens’ preference and position.
She said they have had a broader engagement with the review process since 2007, complementing and accompanying state and non-state actors by cushioning gaps and challenges that might limit and undermine inclusiveness and participation in the process.
Some of the issues in the citizens’ position paper include the need for the state to progressively realise the fundamental principles of state policy and make economic, cultural and social rights justiciable, that the reviewed constitution should have enhanced provisions for the protection of human rights, dispensing with provisions and powers that encumber the security of elective offices, and enable local governance.