Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 August 2016
A week ago, Sierra Leone’s human rights group – the Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI), published a statement calling on all elected parliamentarians in the country to account for the millions of dollars they are receiving annually for the development of their respective constituencies.
Today, the Sierra Leone Telegraph can report that many of the parliamentarians are not taking too kindly to being called to account.
After decades of corruption, poor governance, lack of transparency and the rule of law, Sierra Leone continues to be classed as one of the poorest nations in the world – an image the people of Sierra Leone do not deserve, given the country’s huge natural resources that many emerging economies such as Malaysia, India, and even Rwanda do not have.
Critics say that Sierra Leone’s public sector not only consumes the largest share of the country’s national income, but misappropriates over 70% of revenue allocated to its budget for the provision of essential services, such as health, education, electricity and water supply, as well as community development programmes.
And it is indeed the spending of the community development funding budget, which is channeled every year by president Koroma to parliamentarians – almost 60% of whom are members of his ruling APC party, that is of serious concern to human rights groups across the country.
But parliamentary sources have informed the Sierra Leone Telegraph that some members of parliament are not taking too kindly to being held to account by citizens. They are now resorting to intimidation, threats of arrest, and possible banning of groups calling for greater transparency and an end to corruption.
The Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) has issued another statement in response to these threats. This is what it says:
“We will not be intimidated by the Sierra Leone parliament in our accountability campaign.
“We are aware that some members of Parliament in Sierra Leone have reacted rather unprofessionally and inadequately to our press release dated, 26-07-2016, which accused Parliamentarians and officials of Parliament to have failed to properly account for over 120 billion Leones spent on Parliament by Government in the last five years.
“We are also aware that in their feeble attempts to threaten our organisation for asking these questions, they have indicated their intent to use “contempt of Parliament” as provided for in the Constitution, to intimidate and silence us.
“As a reputable and respected Human Rights, Social Policy Advocacy International Organisation that only cares for the welfare of the poor people of Sierra Leone who are being blatantly cheated by their representatives in Parliament, we consider this as outrageous, wicked and absolutely uncalled for.
“We want the House to handle this issue responsibly through public disclosure and meaningful deliberations, not through intimidation, and threat of contempt of parliament. Our parliament has to be accountable to the Sierra Leonean public.
“Parliamentarians are servants of the people for whom they make laws. They are not exempt from the laws they pass and Parliamentarians are reminded that they are not above the law but subject equally to the law in similar manner as their constituents.
“Civil Society organisations and citizens should not feel threatened for asking parliament to be accountable to voters for expressing their opinions on issues of transparency and Accountability.
“We want to assure the people of Sierra Leone that we shall continue to reiterate our call to ensure the effective implementation of existing anti-corruption legislation(s) in respect of parliamentarians and other government officials and no amount of intimidation from corrupt individual(s) in and out of Parliament would prevent us from doing that.”
Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) is a Rights based social-policy advocacy Organisation. We Draw attention to the responsibility of duty-bearers to uphold human rights, and seek to support rights-holders to claim their rights.
CHRDI is in Special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and accredited to many UN Agencies. Mr Abdul M Fatoma is the Chief Executive of CHRDI.