After dates for the 2023 elections were announced by the Chief Electoral Commissioner, the National Commission for Democracy (NCD) saw the need to prepare the ground for a peaceful and politically tolerant atmosphere before, during and after the electioneering period and decided to bring together Paramount Chiefs from across the regional and ethnic divide to discuss their roles in enhancing peaceful and politically tolerant elections in 2023.
It is in fulfillment of one of its core mandates that the NCD organized a cross-regional dialogue session for traditional authorities by hosting Paramount Chiefs from the East and Northern regions in Kenema, at the Lambayama Training Center and from the South and North-Western regions in Portloko at the Portloko District Council Hall on the 12th and 17th May, 2022, respectively.
The Cross-Regional Dialogue sessions were also used to officially launch the Citizen’s Platform for Political Tolerance at the Community level with the Paramount Chiefs, who command huge respect in their communities, to take control of the Platform at the Chiefdom level and use it accordingly to address issues of early warning signs even before ugly issues would escalate into violence.
The sessions which attracted institutions from both the Government and Civil Society Organizations including the media, saw the active participation of Paramount Chiefs on their roles in promoting political tolerance and peaceful elections before, during and after the 2023 elections in their respective Chiefdoms. The event was quite educative and revealing with presentations delivered by three erudite speakers, Dr. Charles Silver, a celebrated Political Scientist, who also doubles as the Chairman for the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), presented on the topic: “Political Tolerance, National Unity and Cohesion as Tools for Democratic Consolidation,” PC. A.T. Fasuluku Sonsiama III, Chairman for the National Council of Paramount Chiefs, on the topic: “the Role of Paramount Chiefs in Promoting Political Tolerance and Peaceful Elections before, during and after,” and Rev. Gibrilla Kargbo, Director of Communications and Public Relations (NCD) on the topic: “Rallying Around the National Colours in the Context of the National Identity and National Service”.
Representing the Minister of Political and Public Affairs, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Political and Public Affairs (MPPA), Dr. Joe Fayia Nyuma, underscored the need for the Paramount Chiefs to be engaged by NCD because of the significant role they can play in maintaining law and order in their Chiefdoms. He said Paramount Chiefs are the custodians of the Land and traditions of their people. Further emphasizing the significance of Paramount Chiefs, the Permanent Secretary noted that Paramount Chiefs are crucial in promoting political tolerance and peaceful elections because they are the custodians of our democracy. Officially opening the programmes and subsequently launching the Citizen’s Platform for Political tolerance, Dr. Joe F. Nyuma urged Paramount Chiefs to provide a level playing field for all registered political parties and encouraged them to remain neutral.
In her brief statement, the Ag. Chairman of NCD, Madam Marian Angela Samu, thanked the Paramount Chiefs for attending the programmes noting that their coming was a testament of the fact that there is the willingness on their part to engage and address issues of political tolerance in the context of the 2023 electoral cycle and beyond.
Madam Samu used the occasion to run a short commentary demonstrating her conviction on what she believed to be the foundation for sustainable and inclusive national development. She said she is concerned about what she referred to as constructive nationalism that she couched in a rhetorical question, “Are you a Sierra Leonean?” The Ag. Chairman urged participants especially, the Paramount chiefs, to reflect on this very important question in good conscience so that the deliberations will take them beyond their ethnic, partisan, regional or tribal affiliations and put the country on a national pedestal where they think, breath, live and act Sierra Leonean so that their individual and group affiliations do not matter anymore but with more emphasis placed on their Sierra Leoneaness.
The Chairman, Council of Paramount Chiefs, Amadu Tejan Fasuluku Sonsiama III, thanked NCD for engaging Paramount Chiefs on the need to promote political tolerance and peaceful elections while noting that the Paramount Chiefs play a crucial role in ensuring that law and order prevail in their various Chiefdoms. The Paramount Chief noted that they are most times accused of being active members of political parties because of the role they play in their Chiefdoms but assure the meeting that Paramount Chiefs are not card carries of any political party even as he urged his colleagues to provide equal opportunity for all political parties in their chiefdoms.
The Chairman for the occasion who is also the Executive Secretary of NCD called for Paramount Chiefs to be apolitical saying that PCs should provide a level playing field for all political parties in their Chiefdoms. Statements were also delivered by other key stakeholders including the NCD Commissioner for the Eastern region the Mayor of Port Loko City, the Host Paramount Chiefs and representatives of the Resident Ministers who reiterated the importance of the role of Paramount Chiefs in consolidating the Country’s democracy. They noted that the Paramount Chiefs are highly listened to by their subjects and can therefore play a vital role in promoting political tolerance and peaceful elections in 2023.