Sierra Leone constitutional crisis: “Open your eyes to see the sun” – says John Baimba Sesay

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 April 2015

APC LOGOThere have been calls by a handful of opposition supporters for nationwide protests, following the appointment of Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh as Vice President of Sierra Leone, after the sacking of the former vice president by president Ernest Bai Koroma.

They seem to be also dictating what should be the outcome of the Supreme Court proceedings.

Without any attempt to prejudice the Supreme Court proceedings, it would rather appear extremely disingenuous, deceitful and politically ill motivated, on the part of the opposition to seek to use this issue as a camouflage in their bid to gain behind-the-curtain attention.

My reason: Any reasonable group or organization, would rather advocate for patience and respect for the rule of law, than seeking to resort to public protest and demonstration, more so, as the matter is now in court.

Only the Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to give a clear interpretation on the legality or otherwise, of the decision taken by the president, based on the country’s 1991 Constitution.

It is practically unimaginable that opposition pundits are expecting a ruling in their favour, forgetting that the law will be interpreted differently from the way the layman sees.

John B Sesay 2As a country, we have come a long way not to be seen advocating for the use of force, or violence in seeking redress or clarification on issues of national interest.

The president and government were elected by the people through the ballot box, and not through the jungle of political warfare. (Photo: John Baimba Sesay).

Only when a clear understanding of Section 124 of the 1991 Sierra Leone Constitution is sought, would those clamouring for the use of protest as a means of seeking an interpretation, know that Sierra Leone is governed by laws and not by sticks and stones, or jungle warfare.

For ease of reference, Section 124 of the 1991 Multiparty Constitution states that:

“The Supreme Court shall, save as otherwise provided in section 122 of this Constitution, have original jurisdiction, to the exclusion of all other Courts – a. in all matters relating to the enforcement or interpretation of any provision of this Constitution; and b. where any question arises whether an enactment was made in excess of the power conferred upon Parliament or any other authority or person by law or under this Constitution.”

It is therefore advisable that the opposition make use of the judiciary, and allow the law to take its course, than literally imposing their expected outcome on people.

That said, Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh’s appointment as vice president of the country means a lot for the country’s development efforts, especially in our quest for a better Sierra Leone. He will certainly help in bringing more support to the presidency, and play a lead role in wooing more investment opportunities for Sierra Leone.

Victor Foh and President Xi Jinping of ChinaDuring his two years as Ambassador to China, with accreditation to several other countries in the Southeast Asia Pacific, Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh succeeded in not only opening more doors of bilateral ties, but also in lifting the bars of cooperation ties between his country and China, as well as with those countries where he was accredited.

No doubt, China remains a strategic partner of the African continent. This has been the case since and even before the formation of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation in 2010.

In fact, during the 2012 Fifth Ministerial Meeting of FOCAC held in Beijing, the then President Hu Jintao highlighted a five point action plan for cooperation between China and Africa, which included opening up new prospects in building a new type of China-Africa strategic partnership; opening up new prospects for the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership, in terms of working towards strengthening the political mutual trust between China and Africa; working towards expanding practical cooperation between China and Africa, increasing cultural and people-to-people exchanges, increasing coordination and cooperation in international affairs and working towards making FOCAC stronger.

And in pursuing the Sino-Africa relations, investment institutions like China-Africa Development Fund (CAD Fund) and Export-Import Bank (EXIM Bank) are key.

EXIM Bank is the world’s third largest export credit agency, with a mandate to “implement state policies in industry, foreign trade and economy, finance and foreign affairs”.

The vast majority of infrastructure financing arrangements done by China in the African continent are financed through the China EXIM Bank. The Bank has financed over 300 projects in Africa, with infrastructure, being the core of its undertakings.

CAD Fund was established in 2006 as the first equity investment fund in the country. Its primary focus is investment in Africa. It has an aim of enhancing China-Africa economic cooperation and promotes Africa’s development through direct investment.

In Sierra Leone, China continues to play a crucial role in her development agenda. Ambassador Foh succeeded in pushing these relations during his tenure as Ambassador.

There is a lot that could be offered by China when it comes to development, especially in line with infrastructure.

We are talking about a new airport, which, as it is well known, is being funded by the Chinese.

road construction in Grafton freetownAt present, there are a number of ongoing or completed Chinese supported projects in Sierra Leone; the Regent-Grafton road (completed); the multi-million dollar new airport project on the mainland (to soon start); Rice and rubber project; and Charlotte hydro dam project, coupled with the China Friendship Teaching and Referral Hospital (completed) and the new Foreign Affairs Ministry building (completed) which were all commissioned in 2012.

With Ebola virtually coming to an end, we definitely will have to focus our attention to meeting those components of development trajectory as contained in the Agenda for Prosperity. President Koroma and Vice President Foh could definitely succeed in their desires for a better Sierra Leone.

Vice president Foh will definitely make use of all the influence he has had in Asia; from his personal contacts with the EXIM Bank to FOCAC; and other Chinese development institutions in the PR China, to those in countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam – all for the betterment of Sierra Leone.

In fact, one begins to wonder whether the opposition is really calling for protest against the decision of the president, or against the palpable development prospect of our mother land – Sierra Leone.

If it is genuinely a protest against the decision of the president, then some of our legal fellows advising the opposition should go back for legal training in rules of legal interpretation.

They will not tell you it is for the latter, but why won’t you open your eyes to see the sun.

7 Comments

  1. Your views about the constitution and the Chinese are two contradicting thoughts. Even before V B Foh became ambassador to China, the Chinese were bent on moving into the African economy as a means of improving their markets and global competitiveness.

    It has nothing to do with him being an ambassador. I will not delve much into the legality of the president changing his VP, as the matter is with the supreme court. Bearing in mind I have no sympathy for the VP, as he was just a puppet in the administration, enriching himself as the others.

    The question is, was Victor Foh the right replacement. Ask yourself about the legacy of victor Foh. Is the APC regime and the government of EBK judging the intelligence of the average sierra Leonean, before taking actions?

    I will reiterate here that time will tell. As the saying goes: “There is time for every purpose under the sun”. You guys will one day be held accountable for the contempt of Sierra Leoneans.

  2. This writer seems obsessed with the Chinese. He honestly and foolishly believes that the Chinese love us so much that they are ready to transform Sierra Leone into a middle income economy.

    The Chinese will come with all their skills and manpower – they will bring their workforce comprising mainly of newly released ex convicts to do a lot of the manual work. and a few of our youths will be used only as labourers who will learn nothing – no skills and will be paid pittance.

    Bearing in mind that these ex convicts have been in prison for long and then released unto our streets, in no time, we will start seeing half Chinese babies all over the country.

    Unfortunately, once their tour of duty is over, they will leave Sierra Leone never to be seen again. Then, who will care for these children? I hope I am wrong, but they have done this before in other parts of Africa.

    By the time the Chinese have finished with us, we will regret having ever ‘laid in bed’ with them

  3. I say to the writer, you open your eyes and see the sun. The issue is not about personalities but rather about respect for the constitution and its dictates.

    This is a very serious issue for every Sierra Leonean no matter where they may find themselves. If we allow our Constitution to be shredded now, we open the door to much worse action in the future.

    Yes, let the legal review take its course but in the meantime, I do believe that demonstrations are very useful in reminding those legal minds reviewing this matter that Sierra Leoneans and friends of Sierra Leone are watching. The future of the country rests on your shoulders. History will be your judge.

  4. Mr Attache is missing the point. Whatever Victor Foh is capable of bringing to Sierra Leone in terms of economic development is not what we are interested in.

    We are talking about the violation of the constitution. Be it someone who has no clout to bring economic development to Sierra Leone, as long as that person was elected to that position using the correct procedure or channel, we have no problem with it.

    In essence, as long as someone is “capable”in your own words, it does not matter how he gets the job. No wonder all of you guys were simply handpicked without undergoing any HR procedure.

  5. It is a pity that Sierra Leone has this class of zero IQ lawyers and they are allowed to practice Law. I am sorry for the country

  6. It is pathetic and presumptuous of you to suggest that people who demonstrate or express their God-given rights about a development that most fair minded people would see as an existential threat to our nascent democracy.

    It is people like you that are ready to sell our country to the Chinese for few kilometers of road. Until we start looking inward, and not relying on donors, all the so called development projects you are shouting about are just another example of the sorry state of affairs in our country.

    Sierra Leone politicians should emulate the examples of Paul Kagame of Rwanda who has transformed his country following one of the most brutal genocides in recent history without selling his country to the highest bidder.

  7. Mr. Information attaché in one of the most corrupt Sierra Leone embassy in the world, that is the Sierra Leone embassy in China, which happens to be the last office held by Victor Foh, the usurper to the throne, you are confusing peaceful protests with violence.

    It is the democratic rights of people in a democracy to protest in a nonviolent manner and to express their views on matters that concern them.

    Peaceful protests and the work of the supreme courts are not mutually exclusive in a democracy. The two can go hand in hand without the protest influencing the outcome of the Supreme Court , that is provided

    the judges are nonpartisan. So let those of us who wish to express our views about the ‘constitutional crisis’ facing our country do so without being lectured by people who are well known to be utterly partisan and biased in favor of the status quo.

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