• September 12, 2023

CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW MUST WAIT – Legal professionals, opposition parties, diplomats, and citizens

CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW MUST WAIT  – Legal professionals, opposition parties, diplomats, and citizens
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There is a fear that given all that has happened since the announcement of the disputed presidential elections result in Sierra Leone, the proposed constitutional review by the state authorities will be yet another potential powder keg or explosive situation.

The constitutional crises that have hit west, central and east Africa have caused many here at home to call for caution as the prevailing situation in the sub region is not ripe for such a move in Sierra Leone.

The people are of the belief that the constitutional review will be aimed at furthering the president’s mandate and even expanding on his powers beyond what they presently are, all in the pretext that it will be to protect the constitution and our democracy.While we do not see any reason for a review of the constitution at such a critical juncture in our democracy when we are at such an impasse that has caused militaries in other countries to intervene in the process all in the interest of also protecting the constitutional order, the difference say the people is that the regimes are attempting what have amounted to an institutional coup by changing laws and capturing other state institutions just to extend their mandates, while the soldiers the people say were forced to overthrow the regimes in the interest of the state and democracy.

‘Based on the examples of regimes wanting to change their constitutions across the world we can see that they were made to add further powers to the political administration that is in power. Most of what they demand is really against their constitutional mandates. Sierra Leone is not at a point where we should be reviewing the constitution. We feel like this is rushed and it is being rushed through such a period of great divide in the country. We do not want this constitutional review to also become another point of contention. What we should be doing at present is to try and sort out our presidential results situation before acting as if all is well and proceeding with a situation that is as critical to our democracy as a constitutional review,’ said a member of the Sierra Leone Bar Association that spoke on condition of anonymity.

He said that former Bar Association president, Basita Michael recently advised against the review as the timing is not right, even the intention. She called for the review process to be in the interest of the state and not the president.

It must be recalled that Sierra Leone is not presently at peace as all over the place people are calling for peace in the absence of a declared war.

‘The reason for the call is that since the announcement of the presidential results of the 24 June 2023 elections the whole nation has been on a standstill as the presidency has been accused of stealing, with the complicity of the electoral commissioner, the people’s mandate. Our international partners, including the main opposition and all other political parties and well-meaning organisations are calling for the release of the disaggregated polling station data from across the country,’ said a member of the main opposition All People’s Congress – APC.

She said the nations that are demanding the release of the result that has been flat out refused by the electoral commissioner form the cream of the crop of our international donor support to our government’s budget. They include the US, the UK, EU, ECOWAS, AU, and international lending agencies, all of whom are demanding the ECSL releases the polling station results.

The impasse is that what was announced as the presidential result was not the same as what was tabulated across the country based on data these countries collected on polling day, claiming that the commissioner must have played magic with the results that were announced.

The dispute over the elections results have led to the main opposition APC party boycotting taking part in government at the parliamentary and local council levels. The boycott had mainly held and is successful as the government has not been able to fully operate from just one side of the aisle. The result is a parliament that was forced on recess while all business activity, especially government activities seems to have been stuck since 24 June.

‘The reason why this constitutional review is not being proposed at the appropriate time and why we do not trust that it is being proposed in the best interest of the state is that this regime has not done anything in the interest of the state since 2018. Everything that has been done is done in the interest of the regime and based on how people are kicking against them that they were against all of the regime’s plans and actions. What we are afraid of is that the constitutional review process in Guinea resulted in Alpha Conde being overthrown. Alhassan Ouattara in Cote d’Ivoire changed the constitution to give him another term in office and Mackey Sall of Senegal attempted the same but was unsuccessful. All these reviews were done against a backdrop of a disputed elections process. We see that the trend across Africa is for the incumbent to change the constitution to suit their interests, not to strengthen the constitution from further abuse,’ said a member of the ruling party government that said president Bio is trying to consolidate power in the midst of all that is happening across the continent.

Speaking to some members of our diplomatic community they said ‘president Bio should focus on trying to settle this elections issue before trying to fix the constitution’. They continued: ‘At present you guys have a problem with trying to call a spade a spade. If you cannot agree about an elections result that has put you in the same league as all the countries where military coups have taken place in west and central Africa, then it is really naïve even dangerous to try and play with the constitution, especially if you attempt to change or amend it to give the presidency more powers or extended mandates.’

Today, the people of Sierra Leone are complaining that president Bio is so desperate to continue at State House that he does not care how that affects the people as long as he has his way. This, they say is not the change they voted for and are calling on the international community to take note of how things are progressing in Sierra Leone, claiming that the regime is building up a case against itself for the International Criminal Court.

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