Multi-party local government councils are vital for Sierra Leone’s democracy – Op-ed

Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden OOR: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 December 2020:

Before proceeding with the main point of this article, let me briefly state that only an inane thinker will not easily recognise why the SLPP and President Bio are obsessed with bringing down Sylvia Blyden in this country. Who else, as a single person, holds the record of serving as the most efficient Opposition voice since April 2018 to date if not Sylvia Blyden? Who else? Nobody! Who else, as a single person, has effectively tackled issues under the Law, since April 2018, more than Sylvia Blyden has done in this country today? Who else? Nobody!

Meanwhile, for those who could not watch my recent address (Complaint) to the Nation on Facebook, my Office has finally compressed the reloaded version, with complete sound, into a single video file of less than 60MB in size and a single audio file of only 5MB in size. I am sharing them both with this my piece. Now to my topic for today.

The credit for resuscitation of elective Local Government Councils actually belongs to H.E. Former President Joseph Saidu Momoh of APC. (see Section 33 of 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone).

That credit does not belong to SLPP or Former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. President Kabbah merely implemented the Vision of President Momoh as already enacted by President Momoh when Momoh signed into Law, the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.

Let us search historical records well. Let us teach our children and youths the truth about APC’s glowing legacies which are so many.

I listened to the fine voice of a young APC councillor praising SLPP Kabbah for what he should actually have been praising APC Momoh. A seemingly fine young gentleman exhibited lack of knowledge of his own APC party’s wonderful legacy.

These are all the narratives that I continuously say need to be corrected in this country. It was President Momoh of the APC who enacted for the restoration of elective local councils through political parties contests. Just like it was APC’s Momoh who enacted for an Ombudsman, a PPRC, an Independent NEC, etc. etc. etc. In all those cases, all what Former President Kabbah did for Ombudsman, PPRC, Local Government Act, NEC, etc. etc. was to follow what the Momoh 1991 Constitution had already mandated.

Indeed, it was the NPRC Coup which aborted the plans of President Momoh that had been well in place to restore elective local councils through multi party democratic contests. Check the records well my people.

A simple reading of the 1991 Constitution which H.E. President J.S. Momoh bequeathed on Sierra Leone, also shows clearly that Local Councils elected under Multi Party contests, is a firm constitutional mandate. (See Section 35(1) of Constitution).

Those in the SLPP Maada Bio government who are currently dreaming that they can just do away with that great Legacy of Former President J.S. Momoh of the APC by sitting in their Cabinet and coming up with a so-called ‘proposal’ to do away with a constitutional mandate, should please wake up. You cannot easily overturn that great legacy of president J.S. Momoh of the APC. No way!

Let me tell President Bio and his regime that to remove such a constitutional mandate is not going to be easy. Although the 1991 constitutional clauses on Political Parties and Local Government Elections are not entrenched clauses (requiring a Referendum) but President Momoh, with the assistance of his then Attorney General – Dr. Abdulai Conteh, made it very difficult to just change the 1991 Constitution willy-nilly.

To remove multi-party partisanship from Local Government contests, certain steps have to be first followed as per Section 108(1) and 108(2) or else it is TREASON according to Section 108(8) and 108(9).

Let me detail these constitutional steps and then ask whether SLPP or H.E. Maada Bio can succeed to follow the dictated steps below:

1. The proposal (Bill) to remove constitutional mandate of Section 35(1) for political parties to freely contest Local Council elections, has to be discussed 3 different times in Parliament. There should be a First Reading, a Second Reading and a Third Reading of the proposal to remove Multi Party contests from Local Council elections.

2. Before it is even discussed, it should be published in two different issues of the Government Gazette with a period of at least 9 days to elapse between the first publication and the second publication.

3. Members of Parliament should vote on whether to pass in to Law, the Bill to remove multi party partisan contests from Local Council elections. The votes should be counted one by one and not by Ayes Nays voice acclamation.

4. AT LEAST Two Thirds of Members of Parliament (i.e. AT LEAST 98 Parliamentarians) should vote on BOTH the Second Reading and the Third Reading to remove Multi Party contests from Local Council elections as currently dictated by Section 35(1).

So, my people, can H.E. Julius Maada Bio succeed in getting 98 Members of Parliament to remove that beautiful Legacy of APC’s H.E. Former President Joseph Saidu Momoh as enacted in 1991 Constitution? I don’t think so. Nope. No way.

President Bio is just wasting his time on this. He cannot get 98 Members of Parliament to vote as he wants on this. So Local Council elections will continue to be held with multiple political parties fielding in candidates – as that is what the J.S. MOMOH 1991 Constitution dictates.

May God bless the soul of the late Former President Momoh and may God bless Sierra Leone. Amen.

REFERENCES:
Sections 33, 35(1), 108(1), 108(2), 108(8), 108(9) of 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.

19 Comments

  1. I am delighted. Fast forward, it was J.S. Momoh who appointed a 35 member constitutional review commission to bring recommendations to him of the constitutional changes required to dump the one party state outfit into the dust bin of history. The commission’s recommendations resulted in the new 1991 constitution of the republic that re-introduced competitive party politics.

  2. The point is not whether the late President J.S. Momoh was Democratically elected, handpicked or what have you, in 1986 or the country was under a one party state. But rather, was J.S. Momoh the president in Sierra Leone who commissioned the constitutional review, which culminated in the 1991 constitution? If this was true, then the point of the article is that, president J.S. Momoh deserved the credit for the inclusion of elective local council provisions found in the 1991 constitution today. What this tells us is that, even an undemocratically elected government can be capable of enacting democratic laws and reinventing itself. The late President Momoh was heading a one party state. It was a fact. However, this fact is not the point of the article. Thinking in all or nothing terms is dangerous.

    • Folks, please sometimes let us try to educate one another on this forum, some of us always making quotation remarks “1961 and 1991 constitution” but without a single explanation. Most of the readers do not have access to those history “books”, can we take home some knowledge from you please? I said it before and let someone contradict me if possible, the late President H.E. J.S. Momoh, may his gentle soul rest in peace, was not elected but hand-picked, I hope I’m right. That is why I was so mad at Dr. Sylvia O. Blyden, when she mentioned Momoh’s name on this noble platform – somehow unacceptable. Momoh took power in 1986, at the time our Sierra Leone currency, the Leone, was valued a USD1 was equal to 1 LEONE.

      The bottom line is, Momoh is no longer alive and Abdulai O. Conteh was his former deputy before APC party was kicked out of power. His commission of constitutional review which he culminated in 1991 constitution; I am totally flabbergasted about this, can someone enlighten me please?. Thank you….

  3. You are 100% correct Mr. Thomas. I forget that she is no longer a public official because she has been constantly on the news and social media since the APC lost the 2018 presidential election.

    • Give me a break Mr Alusine Fallay. How can you forget? Forgetting in such manner is unforgivable in my view. Goodnight Mr Alusine Fallay and may God bless you.

    • I Have always maintained that SLPP officials and their sympathizers have very little respect and regard for women. Imagine someone that has been acting as if he is as righteous as a religious monk on this glorious forum uttering such a rude, insensitive and callous statement.(lol) This one thing I know, Saidu Conteh never once tried to demean or belittle any of the women that were contributing on this glorious forum. He had his fights with men but never with women.(lol)

    • Mr Brima Sesay, I am not a constitutional expert. As I understand it, the constitution of each country is basically the fundamental rights written in law, and agreed by the people through their elected representatives, how they want their country to be governed by their government. The right to life, free speech, security, property, family and protection from arbitrary detentions by the state. These are your fundamental rights regardless of the constitution, or when it is written or amended. And they are guaranteed. So Sierra Leone gained its independence on the 27th April 1961 . So we had our first constitution. So this is a parliamentary independence constitution and the British Queen as our head of state. And she was represented by the Governor General.

      The head of government was the prime minister Sir Milton Margai. So in 1971 we had a new constitution and abolished the parliamentary system in favour of presidential system. The Queen was no longer the head of state in the new year constitutional arrangement. Siaka Stevens, who right until that time was the prime minister, became the head of state and head of government as the new president of the republic of Sierra Leone. That constitution lasted until 1978, when we voted in a referendum for a new constitution effectively making Sierra Leone a one party state under Stevens’ All Peoples Congress party.

      Which brings us to the new 1991 constitution, that we have today after the last RUF war and the absolution of the one party state constitution. Despite all these changes, your fundamental rights remains the same as was embodied in the 1961 independent constitution. The only time those rights are partially taken away from you is military take over. Or during a state of emergency. And the latter has to have the blessing of parliamentary approval. So Bio, or any elected president cannot declare state of emergency without justification. And the state cannot detained you without a valid reason.

  4. I personally believe that this article is very refreshing based on the fact that the constitution always takes precedence over any other documents in our country.. I also believe that the only good thing late President Momoh did during his term was to admit that he failed the nation and should have done the Honorable thing of resigning rather than waiting to be forced out by our young and gallant soldiers during the most powerful and popular revolution our country has ever encountered. I wish Sylvia Blyden will show some respect for our leadership just the way she is now showing to late President Momoh. Unfortunately the lifetime chairman of the destructive APC party made a mistake by rewarding her with an executive position after he disrespected him with a cartoon which portrayed him as Satan.

    But the way that the lifetime leader humiliated her during his presidency speaks volumes about her character. But under the leadership of President Bio and the new direction government, there will be no appeasement especially when it comes to the respect of law and order. I am still trying to figure out how she ended up contesting a presidential election which she was not even a candidate if it’s not only trying to seek attention, because in her mind she believe that she is the only opposition leader of the APC.

    My only advice for Sylvia Blyden is to learn to respect our democracy and any leadership even within her party as long as they have been chosen through an election, because the voices of the voters is the voice of the Almighty. I personally will continue to silently hope and pray that she can find a lasting relationship with a good man which I personally believe will change her perception about respect for relationship and leadership.

    • Mr Fallay said: “I personally will continue to silently hope and pray that she can find a lasting relationship with a good man which I personally believe will change her perception about respect for relationship and leadership.” Please Mr Fallay – try to keep the personal life of our writers out of comments. She is not a public official, whose personal life must also be respected – as and until it starts to impinge upon the discharge of their public office. Thank you.

    • Mr Brima Sesay, I forgot the fundamental right of peaceful protest. As a citizen of a State, it is not always possible to agree with what policy, or policies your government is pursuing. The right to peacefully assemble, or join another political party is a must in our constitution. You shouldn’t lose your life over such a civil act. But if we have learnt any lessons in the past few months, under Bio, that is not a given. Pademba road, Tombo, Lunsar and Makeni, are stark reminders. When you have a government that doesn’t respect the constitution it becomes the laws of the jungle. More like survival of the fittest. For example president Bio’s government might one day decide to build a road that you think will require you to move your home, or sell it, or he will declare war against Liberia.

      In the constitution you have the right of meeting up with like minded citizens to gather peacefully, and protest against such policies. That right is also fundamentally guaranteed in the constitution. A recent example is the unfortunate killing of youths in Makeni. That was their right to protest peacefully.

      Although members of the security services, who I very much doubt know anything about our constitution including their commanders, thought these young men and women of Makeni were just out there spoiling for a fight with well armed indiscipline members of the SLP and RSLAF. Or protesting because they want to make the country ungovernable or they are terrorist as Bio of all people who was supposed to know they were just exercising their rights to protest against a government policy, or in this case moving a standby generator that would impact Makeni as a whole.

  5. Decentralization should be seen as a means for people to take ownership of their localities. It is a mechanism for the equilibration of resources in a country. For many years, centralisation caused difficulties for people residing far away from the capital Freetown – from acquiring further education to minor aspects of obtaining a driving licence and registering a birth certificate. With only two universities in the country, Fourah Bay College (FBC) in the West and Njala University College (NUC) in the South, a prospective student from Kabala in the North or Koidu Town in the East, had no other options but to travel all the way to Freetown or Njala for further education. Thus, one of the basic steps in decentralization should be the multiplication of various institutions across country.

    The Paopa SLPP visualize decentralization as an opportunity to destroy DEMOCRACY and reinforce TRIBALISM. Instead of trying to alleviate problems including the above-mentioned, their focus is to polarize ethnicity and disintegration. In the absence of political parties representation, imagine one hundred independent candidates contesting for the mayorship position in a cosmopolitan city like Freetown. The most prominent question that will feature in the voters’ minds is the ethnicity of a certain candidate: is s/he a Temne, Krio, Limba, Loko or Fullah and so on. If s/he is a Krio, how Krio is s/he? A Krio-Krio, a Sherbro-Krio, a Mende-Krio, a Limba-Krio, or a Loko-Krio? At the end of the day, the qualities of the candidate become a secondary issue.

    The Paopa SLPP are quite aware that they are heavily outnumbered in Freetown. Any government that does not carry the weight or popularity of this famous city, stands to lose some kind of viability and substance to the eyes of the people. Having up to one hundred independent candidates to share the votes for any particular position in a specific area, creates more room to rig the outcome in favour of the ruling party. Therefore, Councillors and Mayors across the nation would indirectly materialize through mere appointments instead of being genuinely elected. Maybe the Paopa SLPP intends to hold on to power forever and hence change the demographics of the country.

  6. “I am tired of advising this good sister.” you are not alone. Blame the KIND OF EDUCATION this good sister has received. Knowledge without the WISDOM of her Maker.

  7. I always pray not only for myself but for the country and it’s leaders as well. The past and current, for their safety and good ending, in Arabic language(qhitaam marou). I was surprised indeed these days when the late President Momoh’s name was mentioned, which was so ridiculous by the praise and commitment. Friends and readers of this noble platform, let us come on board together and say the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We don’t actually love Sierra Leone – if we do we will act differently. Bio is not going to rule this country forever, I wish him a good ending.

  8. To refer to constitutional matters in this way is very undemocratic. Joseph Momoh was an unelected president imposed by the APC on the people of Sierra Leone. No wonder he was undemocratically removed.

    • What are you talking about Mr Peter Dauda on this glorious platform? Your argument is baseless, ridiculous and appalling. Please explain to me right here and right now what you meant by “Joseph Momoh was an unelected president imposed by the APC on the people of Sierra Leone.” Was Sierra Leone under JUNTA rule or a constitutional one party rule? Another question for you Mr Peter Dauda. Do you prefer the illegitimate and unconstitutional NPRC Part I and II KHAKI recruits to that of the legitimate and constitutional government of the former President J S Momoh?

      I would like us to debate this issue on this glorious platform for clarity to our numerous readers and colleagues. You can’t say things without proof on this glorious platform. Finally, I hope you answer my questions and accept my invitation to debate this issue. Showdown between Mr Sahr Matturi and Mr Peter Dauda. God help Mr Peter Dauda. Yeah.

  9. Dr. Sylvia, I personally say thank you for this article, but surely I ain’t happy at all for you to use the late President’s name – H.E. J.S. Momoh, and to give the opportunity to some folks to use any language on him. Momoh passed away many years ago, may his soul rest in peace. As we all know, he was not an “elected” president. Can someone dispute that? I can’t Quote, but according to our constitution if the president can no longer take up his duty as a president accordingly, who should step in, is the VP. Now you tell the readers of this noble platform, when and where the election took place when J.S. Momoh became president in 1986 and who were his opponents?

    Momoh did not struggle neither suffered to become president. He practiced O.J.T. (on the job training) in the oval office just like that! Sister, he was lucky indeed. The gallant, brave NPRC men did not match to Freetown with the intention to overthrow the APC, no – not at all. Their main reason was to make a demand and demonstrate in front of their leader. But as we say- a coward die many times before their death. That was the end of Momoh’s presidency. Now let me tell you, Momoh was not smart, neither was he a brilliant commander in chief. He was in neighbouring Guinea Conakry when the journalist Robbin White interviewed him on air. I don’t want to go over that or else Mr. Rashid might not publish my response. Only if he wants me to, then I will. Bio, was one of the best gentlemen in the supreme council of state of the NPRC gov’t.

    I don’t understand Dr. Sylvia with all due respect. What kind of fame are you looking for. You’re well educated no doubt, a good looking woman with a fine career as a journalist. What is actually instigating you to lose all this dignity? I am tired of advising this good sister. Thank you.

  10. Bio might have exchanged his military camouflage uniform for Armani suits, and expensive sun glasses, the cost of which can feed a family of five for months. Of course the reality is, he has never shed his military mentality of either my way or the Highway. Apart from trying to engineer the dismantling of local district councils of local representation, his behaviour has shown that since taking office he has waged an all out assault on our democracy and constitutional order, or the arrangements that have so far glued our country together. Before we decide to revisit the 1991 constitution, we need to ask ourselves hard but difficult questions, what is not working, why, and what can we do to change it?

    We the people have the answers to this questions. It is not for Bio to venture answering them on our behalf. Any tinkering of the 1991 constitution has to be with consent of the people. A referendum and a massive public consultation, together with mass education of the population about the changes involved, and how are they going to affect me and you, both locally and nationally. And they have to be debated transparently at all levels of society, Chiefdoms, local district councils, and village communities, to able to scrutinise the issues at hand and come up with a road map of how we intend to go about such changes. Sierra Leone doesn’t belong to Bio, or should not be seen in that context by his fanatical supporters.

    Bio should be made aware he is elected by less than 60 percent of the population. And his stay in power depends on the will of the people. Right now, Bio thinks he can bulldoze himself to absolute power. He thinks of himself more like an emperor than a president. There was one such president in the Central Africa Republic – Emperor Bendel Bokassa in the late 70s. He had a miserable ending. We cannot have that in Sierra Leone. Bio should deliver on his manifesto. His promises of tackling corruption and improving the quality of life of Sierra Leoneans. Then its up to the voters to decide whether to keep him in office, or try someone else. At the moment he is trying to amass power either by hook or crook. May God bless Sierra Leone.

  11. Yeah. The legacy of one of Sierra Leone’s best Presidents and one who was committed to bringing democracy to Sierra Leone must live on. Period! SAD that he was unlawfully overthrown by a bunch of rogue KHAKI recruits, who later became the worst violators of human rights in the history of our country. Argue or Deny if you have the guts. Finally, may I take the opportunity to thank Mr Abdul Rashid Thomas and staff of the most popular and respected online Newspaper, the Sierra Leone Telegraph for giving many Sierra Leoneans and myself, the opportunity to analyze and dissect into the “In To Tos” of corruption and injustice in our beloved Sierra Leone in 2020.

    Happy New Year in advance to you Mr Abdul Rashid Thomas and his staff. Happy New Year in advance to all forumites of this glorious platform. Happy New Year in advance to Dr Sylvia Blyden for her brilliant and excellent article. God bless Mr Abdul Rashid Thomas, Editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph and Dr Sylvia Blyden. May the soul of one of our heroes, former President and former Commander in Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, Major General J S Momoh rest in perfect peace. Amen and Amen. Father God.

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