July 31, 2017 By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
Sierra Leone has on Saturday, July 29, launched the Citizen’s Manifesto which detailed the aspirations of the public ahead of the March 7, 2018 multitier elections in the country.
Ahead of the 2018 elections, a coalition of civil society groups, Standing Together for Democracy Consortium, conducted a survey right across the country, asking the opinions of citizens on what they would like their elected representatives to do for the country. The survey was conducted countywide and the launch of a district -to -district views, was done at the Miata conference hall in Freetown. Various political parties, including the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) were in attendance.
Speaking during the occasion, Head of Department, Peace and Conflict Studies,Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, Dr. Memunatu Pratt, said the launch of ‘My Vote ,My life campaign marked a historic moment in the history of Sierra Leone.
Dr. Pratt observed that Sierra Leone hasn’t changed with regards the thinking of politics since independence.
“Research has indicated that Sierra Leone’s politics is divided on ethnicity, nepotism and patrimonial lines, amongst others,” Dr. Pratt stated.
She highlighted that many issues have affected elections in Sierra Leone and that the citizens Manifesto would enable citizens to be drivers, while politicians would be passengers in the democratic dispensation of the country.
“The country has not done enough with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) recommendations as research has suggested,” she said.
In her address during the program,Dr.Pratt added that the song ‘My Vote ,My life means a lot as she puts it “your one vote should increase your life expectancy; your vote will make decision on how it will benefit you and everybody , ensuring the rights of disables ,women’s participation and youth is guaranteed.
“The word, ‘my vote, my life’ will guide the discussion for political parties when they are writing their manifesto campaigns,” she lamented.
Also, Abu Brima, Director of the Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD), while dilating on the National Resolution, said citizens were trying to set the agenda for politicians in Sierra Leone and that they needed participation for governance in Sierra Leone.
“The citizens have made it so simple, and that the resolution across the country shows that the citizens needed about seven Key priorities,” he said.
He highlighted some of the aspirations of citizens which includes asset declaration of all political representatives, women’s Political representation, representation of persons with disabilities (PWDs),citizen’s share in mining and agricultural investments ,transparency in campaign financing and commitment to the following targets in the first year of any administration.
“The Citizen’s manifesto is highly comprehensive as its sets priorities for citizens,” he said.
He asked political parties to take the citizen’s Manifesto as it is very important to the development of Sierra Leone.
On her own part, President for Women’s Forum, Maude Peacock, thanked the Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) and all those that worked in diverse ways to successfully getting the views of citizens and making the launch of the citizens Manifesto a reality.
Executive Director IGR Andrew Lavali, said there were binding constraints and that such constraints must be met if the citizens Manifesto should succeed.
He highlighted among other things that, elections management bodies might have limited room and mandate to promote the citizen’s Manifesto and that election violence might hamper the uptake of the citizen’s Manifesto by women and youth and persons with disability. He also cited the winner take all politics that has the potential to limit uptake of alternative policy proposals amongst others.
Mr. Lavali said some of the recommendations should be taken seriously because they have a role to play in advancing democracy in the country.
At the end of the program, certain recommendations were reached at and they include-the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) should support political parties to develop policies on women, youth and PWDs inclusion.
They recommended also that steps should be taken to resolve existing community tensions identified during the nationwide consultations to prevent such situations from escalating.
He thanked various partners including Search for Common Grounds, Campaign for Good Governance (CGG), National Elections Watch (NEW) ,50/50 Group ,Independent Radio Network(IRN) ,West Minister Foundation, amongst others, for their enormous support to the successful outcome of the citizens manifesto.
Speaking during the program, Archbishop Tamba Charles of the Catholic Dioses in Freetown, said the importance of religious leaders in the political discuss of the country cannot be over emphasized.
He acknowledged the steering committee and IGR and the government for creating the enabling environment for maximum political participation.
President Inter- Religious Council in Sierra Leone, Sheikh Abu Bakarr Conteh, said they as religious leaders are unique in the civil society realm, as they interface with scriptures.
Representatives from different political parties responded on the Citizen’s Manifesto.
Speaking on behalf of the APC, Deputy Secretary –General, Franklin Bai Kargbo said, “I want to first of all thank the standing up consortium for putting the document together.
He added that the document is patriotic and nationalistic in nature and thanked them for creating the platform for them as political parties.
“It behooves us all and as a party and I will report and we will deliberate on the issues of the exercise,” he said.
Chairman and Leader for the main Opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP),Sumano Kapen, said the Manifesto targeted three key areas including social contract ,social conscience and social engineering He said the SLPP has worked in women’s participation and related issues which are on the citizen’s manifesto, adding that the future and hope of the country is in the youth.