Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 November 2022:
With barely seven months before general, local, and presidential elections are held in Sierra Leone, President Bio’s last-minute bid to change the country’s voting system from the constituency first past the post to district block proportional representation, has tonight been dealt a massive blow by some of the most experienced lawyers in the country.
Four of the country’s best lawyers – Dr Abdulai Conteh (Photo) who is a former Attorney General of Belize, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara – former Attorney General of Sierra Leone, Ady Macauley – former Head of the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission and a seasoned Barrister, Lawyer Wara Serry-Kamal and others, are challenging the president’s directive.
They say that the president’s directive is unconstitutional and have applied to the Supreme Court – the highest court in the land, to examine the president’s proposed local council and district block proportional representation regulations laid before parliamentarians last week but yet to become law.
The Proportional Representation instruments laid before MPs last week, attracted much anger among opposition MPs, bringing parliament to a standstill, with some MPs going on a violent rampage which was brought under control when police walked opposition MPs out of parliament.
Writing in a published statement today, this is what the lawyers said:
I personally believe that former Vice President Abdulai Conteh under the one party dictatorship of the APC for 25 years still holds a grudge against Retired Brigadier President Maada Bio, who is now the Commander In Chief and Fountain of Honor, for kicking him out of power in 1992 and restored democracy in 1996.
As Attorney General, he orchestrated the killing of his predecessor late Vice President F.M Minah by accusing him of planning a coup against his boss, and he was rewarded as his successor.
He was also one of the architect of the 1991 constitution which gave the president extra ordinary powers which he was hoping to benefit from as president since his boss late President J.S Momoh publicly admitted that he was a failure.
His APC party has been in a DESTRUCTIVE MODE since their IMPLOSION as was evident in the August 10 insurgence and the recent Parliamentary barbaric attack on our Honorable Speaker and deputy Attorney General. After all these failed attempts “to make our country ungovernable” , now they are pretending to follow the rule of law.
Proportional Representation is not only practiced in Sierra Leone, but in over 38 countries around the world that haven’t even experienced war, so it is a form of democratic process like winners take all. Based on our constitution, the president has the mandate to instruct the Electoral Commissioner and not the former lifetime leader of the APC.
Maada Bio has been showing all the signs of a head of state with dictatorial tendencies. But for the alertness of a handful of true Sierra Leoneans, both in mainstream and social media, Bio would have surpassed late former President Siaka Stevens in shoving down the throats of Sierra Leoneans whatever took his fancy. At the moment they are running neck and neck .
Here are some of the similarities between Siaka Stevens and Maada Bio. They are afraid of opposition. They are ready to kill to hold on to power using different methods; Stevens used fabricated charges of treason to set his opponents on a collision course with the hangman at Pademba Road Prison. Bio thinks the Stevens method is too time consuming, he sends in his soldiers and other security personnel to do the job, that’s why he singled handedly abolished the death penalty.
In the Stevens years only prospective MPs who Sheki liked were given party symbols, their opponents were locked up until nominations were over, and those picked went unopposed, forming the background of who the president would be. Bio would gleefully lock up all opponents if given the the chance, but we are now in a different era, we are into the 21st century, the world of social media and alert people. Therefore Bio wants to use rule changes in the middle of the game to ensure victory in 2023, hence his sustained attempt to usher in proportional representation. The nation should be thankful for the challenge mounted by Dr Abdulai Conteh and others. But we must be prepared to block another below-the-belt blow from Bio, he can feel the loosening grip he now has on power.
When Rt Major Paulo Alfred Conteh was cleared of all charges of the so-called attempt on Bio’s life by taking a gun to State House , on the invitation of Bio during the out break of the Covid 19 pandemic, majority of fair minded Sierra Leoneans both home and abroad hailed the landmark ruling as important and set a precedent of how our judiciary have taken a giant step of being not only Independent but is seen to be independent in the history of our nation . So it is only right that Dr Abdulai Conteh and others challenge the constitutionality and the legality of the directive given by Bio to change our voting system from first past to post to proportional. Representation . And it doesn’t make any sense to anyone .This is more like trying to change the goal post in the middle of the game .How can Bio that claimed to respect the rule of law and took an oath to defend and protect the Constitution of Sierra Leone can claimed to be a true believer of the oath he took back in 2018 . Bio was elected on a mandate to govern not to change they way we chose our representative in our parliamentary democracy . If he gets his way , he will not only undermined our democarcy but put our country’s security at risk as demonstrated by the present core of minority of hooligan MPs that were trading blows in the wells of the parliamentary estate last week.
“The principal role of the judiciary is to protect the rule of law and ensure supremacy of the law .It safeguards the rights of individuals , settle disputes in accordance with the law and ensures that democracy does not give way to individual or group dictatorship.It provides protection against state power , ensures government , public bodies and regulators can all be held accountable .Without effective system of judicial review , other fundamental constitutional principles such as parliamentary sovereignty will be weakened “.Which is what this case is all about .We need a strong judiciary like the way the judiciary carry out it works independently in Kenya , South Africa and even Nigeria .One can say Nigeria has a mix bag of bad governance , but when it comes to their judicial arm of government you can fairly give them credit for their independence .And it is the only way we can have a fair and open democracy .Bio’s government is civilian only in name .
The reality of course, he thinks he is still the chairman of the 90s NPRC military junta. Under military dictatorship you can run a government by decree .Under parliamentary democracy you govern by concession by working with the opposition. That is what representative government is all about .The best form of transparent and accountable government working for the interest of the whole of the country not a small clique of fat cats politicians that continues to flip -flop from one policy to the other .