Is Koroma poised to impose an extension to his two terms in office?

Mohamed Kunowah Kiellow

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 February 2014

Alpha kanu and Logus KoromaThere are suspicions that sections of the ruling APC party are egging the president on, to tamper with the country’s constitution, so as to see him through a third term in office.

And for many in Sierra Leone, such manipulation of the constitution will certainly be regarded as nothing other than the president overstaying his welcome at State House.

But such miscalculated political manipulation, could also, prove costly for the APC government.

According to policy analyst – Mustapha Wai: “It has become obvious that a successful third term bid for President Koroma, would require not only the support of key stakeholders in his own party, but perhaps a constitutional amendment, a possible referendum, and victory at the ballots for the third time in a row.

“But the president’s greatest threat seems to not come from the opposition, but from within; as stakeholders within his own party, many of whom believe it’s their turn to take a shot at the presidency. It’s clear that they are not about to let the president get away with a third-term easily. This – coupled with the fact that public perception regarding a third term bid is becoming more and more negative.”

Mr. Wai further commented that; “what the masterminds have created is an environment where a business case can be made that it is cost prohibitive to conduct parliamentary elections every five years.

“And on such grounds, a draft bill is allegedly underway requiring general elections to be held every seven years. With APC now guaranteed a two-third majority in parliament – after questionably using the courts to take two seats from the opposition SLPP, one can be rest assured that such a bill will pass, just as did the recent amendment to Section 79 of the Constitution, which changed the requirements for selecting the Speaker of Parliament without a referendum.

“If all goes as planned, the president will lay claim to the two-year extension for himself, on grounds that he was elected at the same time as the current parliament. And besides, presidential elections cannot be separated from general elections on the same cost prohibitive grounds.”

In order to achieve this, the president has embarked on giving gift to members of parliament, so as to win the hearts and minds – not only of members of his APC party, but also those of the gullible opposition.

Mr. Wai alleged that “the gifts were nothing but brand new smart phones apparently paid for using public funds and programmed with free unlimited minutes for calls to every other member of parliament.”

One thing that caught my eyes reading Wai’s article, was a comment made by a ruling party parliamentarian: “we dae bring am na the floor and pass am. If you nor wan dae na parliament, leave and we go bring somebody else for replace you.”

It is sad to know that a parliamentarian, who is expected to represent his people in a manner that should bring economic, social and political well-being, could make such a comment in favour of extending the misrule of a failed government.

It is true that most parliamentarians contribute to the passing of bills into law without even knowing the content of such a bill.

But above all, it is also true that most parliamentarians do not even have an iota of knowledge about the contents of the country’s Constitution. It is no wonder, therefore, that most of these MPs think that they can easily amend sections 46 and 85 of the 1991 Constitution the way they did section 79.

State House - FreetownThese sections of the constitution are entrenched clauses as provided for in section 108(3) of the Constitution. An entrenched clause or entrenchment clause of a basic law or constitution is a provision which makes certain amendments either more difficult or impossible.

To amend such a clause may require a form of super-majority, a referendum submitted to the people, or the consent of another party.

Section 46(1) states that no person shall hold office as President for more than two terms of five years each, whether or not the terms are consecutive. Section 85(1) provides that Parliament shall stand dissolved at the expiration of a period of five years, commencing from the date of its first sitting after a general election. However, extension is allowed in cases of public emergency, and should not exceed six months.

It follows that the term of the president and the members of parliament cannot be extended beyond five years – unless during a state of public emergency. But, according to section 108(1) parliament has the constitutional right to amend the constitution as they did in the case of section 79 of the Constitution.

But a clear-cut difference between section 79 on the one hand and sections 46 and 85 on the other, is that the former is not an entrenched clause.

Therefore, the amendment of section 79 should not pose major problems. On the other hand sections 46 and 85, in conjunction with section 108(3), can only be amended through a referendum.

By virtue of section 108(3) of the Constitution, a bill to alter sections 46 and 85 shall not be submitted to the President for his assent and shall not become law, unless the bill after it has been passed by Parliament and in the form in which it was so passed, has, in accordance with the provisions of any law in that behalf, been submitted to and been approved at a referendum.

Most wishful thinking parliamentarians, who are not au fait with important provisions of the constitution, are of the opinion that they can easily alter sections 46 and 85 as they did in the case of section 79.

This is going to be a long and trying journey for the APC and the president.

The possibility of the people of Sierra Leone voting for an alteration of these sections of the constitution is highly unlikely, because the government has failed the people in no small way.

Parliamentarians have failed to represent the people effectively and in ways that will bring change to the socio-economic lives of their constituents.

Such failure is in contravention of section 97(b) of the Constitution, which stipulates that all members of Parliament shall regard themselves as representatives of the people of Sierra Leone and desist from any conduct by which they seek improperly to enrich themselves or alienate themselves from the people.

Poverty in saloneMany parliamentarians were voted for, based on promises of providing clean drinking water, electricity and other amenities that will improve their constituents’ lives.

There is huge hue and cry among Sierra Leoneans that the MPs have failed to live up to their election promises. There are complaints that some of them have never visited their constituencies since elected to parliament.

Therefore, there is no denying that the people of Sierra Leone will never vote for an extension of the five-year term of a parliament that has proved to be ineffective, incapacitated and improvident.

It is a shame that our president wants to profit from this constitutional rape that will indirectly extend his five-year term.

The president should realize that the people of Sierra Leone are feeling the brunt of his failed policies and his indifference to their plight.

For a president to get a third term extension, the people of Sierra Leone will have to vote through a referendum, according to section 46 in conjunction with section 108(3) of our 1991 Constitution.

But the president already knows the result of such a referendum when it is called: NO TO EXTENSION.

Moreover, the president knows the reasons why the people of Sierra Leone will reject any request for an extension: no clean water, no electricity, rampant corruption, human rights abuses, bad roads, poor educational system, etc.

Parliamentarians who think that they will get a third term extension of their unwelcomed overstay, should also think twice before voting for such a bill in parliament when it is brought before them.

The people of Sierra Leone will not be fooled again by the ruling APC. A big NO awaits them.

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