Opening up Sierra Leone’s political space – The Inclusive and Equitable Governance Bill

Hon. Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella MP: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 July 2021:

Today I release the proposed “Inclusive and Equitable Governance Bill” and the concept note on diaspora voting. For three years now, I have worked diligently to open up the political space for women, young professionals and our compatriots who live in the diaspora. Over time, I engaged several colleague MPs, women leaders, and youth in conversations about the polity, their interest in politics (or lack thereof), and the barriers to their participation. It became clear that we needed bipartisan efforts to pass laws that would open the political space

Of the many options available, we chose to work on a few low-hanging fruits, fully recognizing that other issues will be covered by the comprehensive and elaborate Constitutional Review process. The issues we chose do not need to wait for a referendum on a new constitution, nor do they fall under entrenched clauses of the 1991 Constitution. We were also strategic in choosing those issues that major political parties had promised in their election manifesto or public pronouncements when they were canvassing for votes.

I am convinced that we can set up the mechanism for Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora to register and vote in their countries of residence within the shortest possible time.

The estimated cost to set up about 30 centers in our Embassies and Consulates will be between USD80-100,000, less than the equivalent of the annual cost of sending a delegation to attend the annual UN General Assembly.

In addition, we can pass legislation to grant women and young professionals greater political participation because the relevant sections are not entrenched clauses in the 1991 Constitution.

I am convinced that a public debate of the proposed Bill will set the stage for the Government’s “White Paper” on the CRC report. Both efforts can converge to yield a more inclusive polity.  The Inclusive and Equitable Governance Bill and diaspora voting concept note are attached.

Remember, these are issues that political parties in Sierra Leone had promised in their election manifesto or their public pronouncements when they were canvassing for votes.

A brief chronology of the efforts made to ensure a multiparty approach to this critical political reformFirst Bill:

Within three months of arriving in Parliament in 2018, a first bill was available. Hon. Chernor Maju Bah reviewed and edited it with the four party leaders then listed as sponsors: namely Hon. Sidi Tunis, Hon. Chernor Bah, Hon. Emerson Lamin and me. Both Hon. Bah and I signed it, while Hon. Tunis and Hon. Lamina declined to sign it at the eleventh hour.

Gazette

The first Bill was submitted to the printers for publication in the Gazette. However, when I went to collect the printed copies, the manager informed him that the office of the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dr. Priscilla Schwartz, had given instructions that the document should not be printed even after I provided a letter sent to Dr. Schwarz dated July 18, 2018.

Dakar with President Julius M. Bio

In February 2019, I had the opportunity to accompany the President to Dakar for the inauguration of President Macky Sall. His Excellency the President, Ali Kabba and I discussed the Bill and the political process required to pass it. We agreed on some modalities. My letter of February 25th, 2020 to the then Chief Minister, David Francis, summarizes the discussions with Mr. President.

Meeting with former Chief Minister

Dr. Dennis Bright, Dr. Julius Spencer, Hon Abdul Titus Kamara and I met with the Chief Minister in 2020. We held broader consultations and decided to change strategy and broaden the scope for a more progressive and inclusive political reform agenda.

Following this meeting, I sent a letter to the Chief Minister summarizing the new approach. We agreed to separate diaspora voting from those issues that required parliamentary action. In particular, we decided that since section 18 of the 2012 Electoral Act already makes provision for non-resident citizens to be registered in their countries of residence, so we should work directly with the National Civil Registration Authority and the National Electoral Commission to develop the modalities for diaspora registration and voting to be fast-tracked. I set up two drafting teams, the first to develop the concept on diaspora voting and the second to develop an omnibus Bill to cover women’s affirmative action and lower the number of months to resign from office before contesting an election.

Attorney General Anthony Brewah

I sent the broader omnibus Bill to the new Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Anthony Brewah, on July 18th, 2020. It included the amendment of section 75(a) and repeal of section 76(1)(a) of the 1991 Constitution. It also included the 30% women’s affirmative action provision. In the last paragraph of the letter, I suggested that the Bill could be made a Government bill. However, if the Government was not interested, I implored the AG to have the Bill gazetted for public review so that I could “put the Bill before Parliament on the 24th of July 2020 before it adjourned for recess that same week.”

Speaker of Parliament

On 17th September 2020, I sent a letter to the Speaker of Parliament submitting the Bill for gazetting. I followed up on 13th November 2020 with another letter after all efforts failed to get the Bill gazetted. At the end of the second letter, I stated, “After two years of going through this same run around, I have to conclude that there is a deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent me from exercising my right as an MP to propose bills. For the fourth time, I am seeking your intervention to have my Bill gazetted next week as provided for in the Constitution and SO47.”

APC Secretary-General

I met with the APC Secretary-General, Mr. Osman Foday Yansaneh, in August. In addition to giving him a full briefing on the contents of the concept note and the Bill, I gave him copies for himself and former President Ernest Bai Koroma. He assured me of his full support.

Attorney-General Brewah & Vice President Jalloh

In November 2020, Dr Bright and I visited the H.E. the Vice President and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to seek their support. They informed us about the work of the Ministerial Committee on the Justice Cowan Constitution Review Committee report. We gave them copies of our documents. They promised that the Coordinator of the Committee would contact us. To date, we have not yet been contacted.

Note: I met with H. E. the President twice this year on the above issues. He promised to act. I look forward to meeting him and his team again in the near future.

From the above narration, one could discern our strenuous efforts for bipartisanship to mobilize support for a progressive and inclusive governance agenda.

In conclusion

I urge that:

  1. We set up the mechanism for the diaspora to register and vote in their countries of residence within the shortest possible time, and
  2. Pass legislation to grant women and young professionals greater political participation.

I am convinced that a public debate of my proposed Bill will set the stage for the Government’s White Paper on the Constituion Review Committee report. Both efforts can converge to yield a more inclusive polity.

Addendum: 

In March 2013, Mrs Cheri Blair and I lobbied former President EBK for the 30% quota.  Having women contest in “safe seats” is one way to work towards the 30% quota for women (this yields 32 seats out of 146, or 22%).  In a proportional representation system, you can require all party lists to have at least 30% women, and they should be high up on the list (not at the bottom). NEC can review the lists submitted by political parties.

So there are many ways to achieve the affirmative action for women in politics. The safe seats approach is the minimum, my 30% proposal is midway to the 50/50 parity level. The  public  debate could yield other pathways. That is why gazetting the bill is necessary to allow the  discourse.

9 Comments

  1. “Some men are wise and some otherwise”. When politicians are in office of trust and then addressing sensitive issues of inclusiveness in either governance or civil service is brought forward to them, they feel guilty of circumstances. Circumstances such as party loyalty, who knows who, regionalism, nepotism the list goes on and on least they forget that what goes around comes around. Perhaps the effect can not be felt by you, but your generation to come. Sometimes these politicians by themselves were not forced to change course, but the opposing wave of either their loyalty to their party or friends may render them powerless to do what they were intended to do that is of national interest. Or perhaps based on their individualism they just don’t like things to work that way. Fellow Sierra Leoneans, gone are the days when this nation was losing brains who could have helped change our economy to a better standard. Gone are the days when this nation was loosing brains who could have helped improve our agriculture system to enable us have food sufficiency.

    Gone are those days when this country was losing brains who could have helped improve our health system so that every district in this country can benefit from the health services. Gone are the days when this country was losing brains who could have helped improved the available technological infrastructure this country has developed over the emerging years. Gone are the days when this country was loosing brains as a result of fear and retribution for speaking out loud the honest truth. Gone are the days, I assure you once more. We are tired of hearing about the backwardness of our country while we hear of other nations moving forward. These nations were not built overnight, but it takes the courage and mindset of the people to bring improved change to their nation. A change that has helped them to live a better standard that is enviable by many people around the world. A change that has helped them to be classified among better nations in the world.

    Do you want to say that this country have not produced brains in the past and even present? Where was the Sir Milton Margai who fought hard for Sierra Leone independence without shedding blood, Doctor Kerefa Smart, Dr. Abdul Karim Bangura the most educated Sierra Leonean, Dr. Issa Fofanah and Dr. Muneer Jalloh of Njala university both combined to create the department of physics and computer science, Dr.Samuel Sangawulo Jibao who in recent times improved the economy of the state, Ambassador Anthony Navo Jr of AYV media empire, Dr.Julius Maada Wonie Bio father of Democracy and free education for pupils, Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkela former UN energy champion and now politician, Dr Moinina Sengeh technology guru, Captain Tom Nyuma, Ali Kondowa(kamajor chief), Brigadier Kellie Conteh, Sengbeh pieh, Bai Bureh all being our fearless and renowned liberators from brutal wars and defending mama Salone, Mr. Francis Ben Keifala ACC commissioner being the first commissioner to make people publicly admit that they were corrupt, Mr. Morie Lengor (former AIG) a fair, courageous and obedient and fatherly police officer. The list goes on and I believe my audience also have people in mind too.

  2. Herein presents the dysfunction in our polity; “the APC Party is firmly entrenched in most of the North and North-Western Provinces while the SLPP Party remains untouchable in most South-Eastern Sierra Leone apart from Kono District, where the C4C Party holds sway”.

    I was almost eight years old during the General Elections of 1967. The results, disputed or not, clearly indicated the divide then and as current. Kono has always reserved its right to choose the most agreeable ‘suitor’! In the final analysis, our ‘troubled land’ is not a nation-state. That is a land wherein the inhabitants are settled on a common purpose and destiny.

  3. You have to admire Dr Yumkella and the leadership of the NGC Party more generally for their tenacity in seeking to reshape through legislation the workings of the Sierra Leonean polity. Their engaging in multipartisan consultations is a measure of their honesty and openness and of their willingness to present a common front with other parties in crafting and passing into law bills aimed at enfranchising the Sierra Leonean diaspora, empowering women and young professionals and promoting ethno-regional balance within the structures of national governance, all of which are critical to bringing into being a united and cohesive society underpinned by the values and virtues of inclusivity and progress.

    That this well-meaning drive to make our country work for every citizen irrespective of their gender, age, ethnicity and place of residence is being thwarted at every turn by the Bio administration is completely unacceptable. It seems to me that for the NGC Party to succeed in revamping the polity for the better, it should throw all its energy into gaining real, hard-edged power, which in the context of Sierra Leone, means executive power – power over and beyond the very limited legislative one it currently exercises. To do so, it must broaden its electoral appeal by reaching every electoral nook and cranny across the nation. A herculean task certainly because as things stand, the APC Party is firmly entrenched in most of the North and North-Western Provinces while the SLPP Party remains untouchable in most of South-Eastern Sierra Leone apart from Kono District, where the C4C Party holds sway. A strategy aimed at moving the electoral goal posts and getting voters to flock to the polls in the name of the party in 2023 is key.

    To put it simply, the progress the NGC Party has made since the 2018 general election in reaching beyond its current strongholds in Kambia District will determine whether it will bring to fruition the political change it envisions for our country. A non-partisan commentator, I wish the party well none the less in its endeavours aimed at taking our country forward.

    • Yes, sir! From another non-partisan commentator, kudos to Kandeh Yumkella, Dennis Bright Julius Spencer and others in their efforts to address our dysfunctional polity through legislation. Keep up the good work!

  4. To those of you folks who do not know what it means to go the Whole Nine Yards to get an incompetent President to listen to pragmatic ideas that will facilitate peace,security,equity and prosperity in Sierra Leone,the tirelessness displayed Hon. Dr Yumkella in these matters of critical importance should aptly suffice as a gleaming example and pointer as to how such things are done. The facts of the matter being discussed still remain lucid and clear; There are men in positions of authority and power today that are causing more harm than good to our little struggling country that resembles an ailing,aging heart patient about to collapse at any moment. Old dinosaurs like Abass the “UNPRODUCTIVE and CORRUPT” Bundu that many believed should have been extinct are still at the helm of our affairs wrecking havoc.

    Someone, anyone put your little pinky finger on something of substance that Mr Abass Bundu has done for our Sierra Leone in the interest of progress. Answer – What’s so special about Abass Bundu this grumpy,disruptive old man that is gravely compelling us that he should be allowed to hold on to power. What? This man is corrupt to the bone and marrow;He once sold Passports of Sierra Leone like a common street hustler and thief to foreigners because of wads of cash. And this bloodsucking leech is who SLPP dummies have empowered to become Speaker of our Parliament?(lol) Geez! You guys can’t be serious.

    But in all fairness Mr Bundu is just a product of a totally rotten and corrupt environment – its the law of nature that roses must bring forth roses and prickly thorns and thistles their own kind. Our country is hopelessly contaminated by corruption like an old infected wound oozing profusely with smelly bacterial pus. It will take the best and most selfless among our people to cure this wound – Yep,we would need a Master Surgeon with unflinching hands for such an impossible task to be accomplished.(lol)

  5. The whole thing is hypocrisy. There were several members of the A.P.C and the S.L.P.P cabinet who are citizens of Western countries.

  6. According to OECD, “Inclusion in terms of both process(how decisions are made and who is included in that process and how and why) and outcomes (how wealth and prosperity are distributed and shared across a population and why) is a leading priority”. For any long term sustainable development goals a government or society is aiming for. The report went on to say,” over the long term, more open and inclusive states, and societies tend to be more prosperous, effective and resilient. ” Since Dr Kandeh Yumkella, have taken the role of the devil’s advocate, and given the efforts he had put in for fighting for an all inclusive ways of doing politics in our country, and the reforms needed to achieve it, and fighting on behalf of minorities, like more women’s representation, and active voter participation by the diaspora minority communities, he seemed to have able to draw the attention of our political classes about how things should be done, rather than the way our country is doing more of the same since independence.

    Thanks to Dr Yumkella, he have identified a forgotten Sierra Leonean ethnic group no one ever acknowledged of its existence, that pay their share amount of taxes to government coffers , set up business, creating more employment for our country’s development agenda, and when disaster hit, is the first to receive emergency SOS calls, and is always monitoring events in Sierra Leone, and above all else never raise hell for the sitting government. And this ethnic minority group,and despite being denied all their rights as citizens, is still happy to help develop our country. For education purposes we will call this ethnic group, perhaps the most disadvantaged and discriminated people the “DIASPORA” The truth is everyone is welcome.

    I hope he succeed, because decisions made in the Sierra leone Parliamentary chamber affects all of us. So is only right people elect members of Parliament that represents their interest. Anything short of that, is democracy in a state of flux.

  7. Now you’re talking and walking the walk . Get louder and keep amplifying the sounds to echo in every corner of our globe. These paopa blokse knows what lies in the diaspora voting potentials. They nay never vote it but will again use to cajole their milking external base.

    • “These Paopa blokse know what lies in the diaspora voting potential”. Funny to assume diasporas are a one-dimensional constituency or are a monolithic block of opposition voters. This is not only reductive, but it is simplistic. Paddy man, all diasporas do not share one political perspective. So opening the space for diasporas to participate in the election will not translate to votes for your man.

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