Society needs to feel catered for – says Sierra Leone’s vice president Juldeh

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 May 2019:

The controversial peace and national cohesion conference – Bintumani Three, staged by president Julius Maada Bio as a precursor to the establishment of a National Peace and Cohesion Commission has ended. Now the hard work begins.

Boycotted by the main opposition All People’s Congress Party (APC), the Coalition for Change (C4C), and the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), there were doubts as to whether the conference could survive, after sceptics both within and outside the ruling SLPP party, questioned the rationale for staging the Bintumani Three conference.

Despite loud calls for its cancellation so that the government can get on with the challenging business of governing the country and address burning economic problems that are causing enormous pain for millions of ordinary Sierra Leoneans – who may say that their peace is not under threat, Bintumani Three has come and gone.

So where does Sierra Leone go from here now?

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the conference, vice president Juldeh Jalloh said he welcomed the communique drawn up by those who took part in the conference deliberations, addressing the need for a National Commission for Peace and Cohesion.

This is what he told delegates at the closing ceremony of Bintumani Three yesterday, Saturday 25th May, 2019:

I feel very honoured to formally close the National Conference on the establishment of the proposed Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion.

On 10 May, 2018, at the State Opening of Parliament His Excellency the President clearly laid out the need and purpose for this commission in the following fine words: “In the last ten years, the building blocks of national cohesion and the feeling of belonging of all citizens have gravelly crumbled” and “there is a need to promote Unity and National Cohesion”.

Following that, His Excellency the President announced the launch of a Presidential Initiative that culminated in this National Conference, geared essentially to solicit the views and inputs of Sierra Leoneans to enable us establish a solid infrastructure for Peace and National Cohesion in this country.

As indicated, since the start of this Conference, there is a consensus that Bintumani I and II is about laying the building blocks for a stable democratic politics and Bintumani III is no doubt about consolidating and solidifying those building blocks.

Therefore, it is with humility that I receive the final communique containing the key highlights of the deliberations over the last three days including today.

Judging from the contents as well as the context, it is evident that the Conference has to a large extent responded to the need to stimulate consultations among broader range of actors from across the length and breadth of our beloved country.

Watching and following the deliberations; you will notice that the quality of the discussions, the range of participant’s points to the inclusive nature of the conference. I see Paramount Chiefs, Community Based Organisations, well established CSOs, Human Rights campaigners, young boys and girls, media practitioners and local councilors.

I see revered political dinosaurs, the likes of the Solomon Berewas, Victor Foh, Dr. Joe Demby, the maestro, Dr. Alpha Khan, Kandeh Yumkella, Dr. Denis Bright, Hon. Tamba Lamina, and many more vibrant social actors.

I see Intellectuals, Religious leaders, opinion leaders, ordinary Sierra Leoneans, I can discern varying facets of the conference, I see an intellectual face, I see a civic face, I see a political face but above all I see a grassroots face.

From all assessments and indications, I will say with certainty that Bintumani III has unquestionably achieved its intended purpose. The purpose as His Excellency rightly puts it, “is to capture the voices of Sierra Leoneans”.

The people have spoken, often times with passion. But be rest assured that you have been heard loud and clear.

Most of you have expressed the desire to see a commission that is representative and inclusive; a Commission that will enjoy enormous support from government to enable it carry out its mandate; a Commission that is independent with the requisite capacity to respond to the multifaceted challenges of peace building in this country; a Commission with solid institutional outlet at various levels including at chiefdom, district and national levels; a commission with a gendered and youthful face.

More importantly, you want to see a commission that can adequately capture the sentiments, desires and continued quest of a people that believe in the vital importance of peace and national cohesion.

Mr. Chairman, Distinguish Ladies and Gentlemen let me say here with all modesty that the outcome of your deliberations in all its forms will constitute the basis that will shape the contours of the white paper from which the commission will stem.

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, drawing from my experience working over the years for the United Nations in Europe, West Africa and the Sahel and engaging with the dynamics of building sustainable peace.

I have come to realize that viable state society relation is vital to National Cohesion. State – society relations is not solely driven by political considerations but by broader dynamics that hinges first on state capacity.

Therefore, dwindling state capacity over the years coupled with deep seated dysfunctionality of the state have resulted in the progressive disengagement of society from the state.

Such disengagements are usually characterized by widespread frustrations, shocks and even confrontations.

A State that cannot guaranty essential services such as the rule of law, effective policing and basic services cannot strengthen its hold over society. Society needs to feel catered for.

It is normal for society to have expectations of the state and the state to acquire capacity to meet those expectations.  On this promising note, let me thank the Chairman and Co-Chairman including those who worked tirelessly to drive this conference.

Let me also thank the numerous participants from civil society activists to politicians, including local leaders, youths, children and women’s groups from across the country who gave this conference an inclusive tone and coloration.

You captured the moments; it has been a fulfilling National Conference which this country will remember for a very long time. The communique will be presented to His Excellency and let me assure you that we are in the right direction, which is the new direction. (END)

2 Comments

  1. Impressive BINTUMANI THREE with many controversial stuff, when you compare some of the details in the green paper and what was said or done during the conference. The conference has now ended but, what should we expect to come out of the white paper? There are a lot of things about this conference to comment on, but will only comment on a few for now.

    Some of us suggested to form a government of national unity or at least a political dialogue preceding BINTUMANI THREE. It was not for fun or talk sake that such suggestions were made. How can one find a solution to a problem when you don’t know the problem or refuse to discuss it before hand? Personally, I was not happy about the APC, C4C and the PMDC boycotting the conference, but at the same time, I don’t condemn them for not participating. They have legitimate points which, unless you are a hypocrite, will not want to accept. Bottom line, neither the parties which attended nor the ones which abstained WON on this argument.

    As I said sometime ago, there is a POLITICAL FIRE ENGINE STATIONED next to PARLIAMENT waiting for a driver and operator to put out the political fire raging in our PARLIAMENT. BINTUMANI THREE should have been the best driver and operator if the preparation to it should have been done correctly. Don’t ask me when that POLITICAL FIRE ENGINE will leave.

    The problem we are now facing is not coming from the civilian population, party supporters, sectoral divide, the military, the police, the chiefs etc. This whole impasse is from the PARLIAMENTARIANS who are representing the people or their constituents. What people fail to remember is this – the constituents are most times very loyal to their representatives. So, if for example the APC, C4C and the PMDC do not attend as is the case, then almost more than half of the electorates are absent.

    Let us not forget that the SLPP won by a very small margin which of itself is a recipe for collaboration with the other parties to get things done. Also, the SLPP has no majority in parliament which makes it difficult for it to pass legislatures alone in parliament. Using executive powers all the time or manipulating in parliament or some judicial loop holes to get things done is a very dangerous precedent.

    We were told that BINTUMANI THREE is not about politics. But that was not correctly explained in my view. Nearly all what was said and asked about, were directly pegged with politics. Let us take for example what MP’s like Dr. Yumkella, the Speaker and one of our revered paramount chiefs were saying. What struck me was the absence of the Mayor of Freetown in whose city the conference was held. This shows one how undemocratic and unfair(party rules) our political parties are. I wonder if they even pay their TAXES. The problem we now face is just political. PERIOD.

    I was astonished when the speaker said we have a HUNG PARLIAMENT, so we should not be surprised about what is going on. Just one walkout is acceptable. He also noted that, the party in power is in the MINORITY. But how can a PARTY in the MINORITY win the SPEAKERSHIP? In fact, my heart jumped into my mouth when he was talking, thinking, he will make a gaffe that will be damaging and costly.

    Then came Dr. Yumkella who was talking about passing a transition act in parliament. He also mentioned, the sacking of people and the non payment of benefits to people. I found that really annoying and unacceptable. Why should Dr. Yumkella wait for BINTUMANI THREE to voice out such concerns? He should have done that a long time ago in the well or parliament and trigger a debate on the issue. So, personally, I am not convinced that he will do anything to solve any of these issues.

    These MPs are most of the time sitting very quietly in parliament and just staring at each other. I was impressed with the proposals of one of our paramount chiefs and believe that, the present Minister of Local Government Mr. Tamba Lamina will take action and deal with his concerns swiftly. No doubt about that.

    BINTUMANI THREE has come and gone. So, what should we do to go forward? The white paper will be handed over to the president who will then send it to parliament. Will all the political parties take part in the debate? Will parliament pass the white paper without the participation of the other parties? Let say that the government through parliament adopts this white paper. Will a APC, C4C or PMDC government continue with it if they win and take power? My last question is what I am most worried about. Continuity only exists within the parties themselves. It does not exist when for example the SLPP is handing power to the APC vice versa. When will this TIT FOR TAT end? That is why a POLITICAL DIALOGUE is inevitable to any lasting UNITY, PEACE and COHESION in the COUNTRY.

    Finally and to be honest with myself and everybody, we have a very difficult road ahead of us to achieve PEACE and COHESION, if the root causes are not addressed first. I hope all the political partys collaborate in parliament to work on this white paper. DIFFICULT STUFF.

  2. Someone needs to tell the Vice President that the highest and foremost priority of any legitimate government is to provide for its citizens – whether they feel the need to be catered for or not is absolutely irrelevant. Its the same thing as a family structure, where it is the principal obligation of a Father as head of the household to cater for the needs of his family, whether he likes it or not – Its called being a responsible parent.

    It should be obvious by now that this government is already knee-deep, stuck in political mud and lost inside a complicated labyrinth designed to enhance leadership and responsible governance – and worst of all, it evident they have no way of getting out.

    And Folks, it doesn’t end there, protecting citizens from inflicting harm on each other and against foreign enemies is another sacred responsibility of the government, that must be practiced with vigilance, consistency and great care. I didn’t hear any trumpets proclaiming such a thing, even though SLPP thugs and vigilante groups were seen attacking and harassing harmless APC supporters in broad daylight.

    Obligation – its such a beautiful word, whose intricate meanings must be instilled in the heads of these dullards of the SLPP. The word is loaded with meaning, like a dump truck fully packed with granite. It recommends and ensures that government should create safety nets against adversity and hardship for the most vulnerable in our society – the mentally Ill, disabled, old, pregnant mothers and their suckling infants, without any excuses must be provided and catered for…Tell the SLPP I am insisting its a priority, whether people feel the need for such provisions or not.

    It is a right duly owed to them by government…and I Challenge any of them to prove me wrong – anytime, any day, anywhere. Now let’s move on. Bintumani 3 is over – the charade and parade of the most gullible masqueraders my eyes have ever seen has finally come to its conclusion and fruitless end – lots of precious time and huge amounts of monies wasted, accomplishing nothing. True.

    I am quite sure, no one has seen anything like this also ever before – where the owner of a house organises a meeting to discuss rental agreements and reaches his own halfwitted conclusions, without a single tenant being present, contributing or being involved. What can they then boast of accomplishing? Absolutely “Nothing!”

    Well, if nothing tangible was accomplished after spending a lot of money in this ridiculous buffoonery by those claiming they believe in strict austerity measures, then those monies should be returned promptly – let them feel free to beg, steal or borrow, but replacing it is must. Austerity must be practiced to the letter – across the board. A government that flips flops on policies should not be taken seriously at all…Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

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