Hon. Habib Bakarr Munda: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 May 2019:
Both Bintumani One and Two were contentious. The former was a demand by citizens for the National Provisionary Ruling Council (NPRC) administration to negotiate peace with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), as citizens had lost trust in the military to end the war. And the latter, citizens demanded for a multi-party general election: elections before peace, over an extended military rule.
In both circumstances, the state and the general citizenry evolved in its democratic transformation processes, over individuals and groups contending demands at that time.
Similarly, for the proposed Bintumani Three, citizens are again demanding, after the fifth democratic general elections and peaceful transfer of power from one civilian government to the other, for certain reform measures, in order to strengthen our democratic governance arrangement systems: transparency and accountability, rule of law, property rights, constitutional reform, electoral system, women’s right, youth empowerment, and our decade old chieftaincy norms to name a few that can suit the current demands and trends of our society.
To achieve this, I hold a strong view that, Sierra Leoneans should give Bintumani Three conference a chance. This will enable us all as a country and people to evolve through the required stages and processes of a democratic and good governance pathways.
At the end, citizens and our state stand to gain the most over contested interests of individuals and groups of actors, as we today experience the good outcomes of Bintumani One and Two.
It is a widely acceptable view among most citizens that, our current political settlements and procedures as a country are poorly institutionalized and externally enforced.
Sierra Leone’s political governing elites since independence, are continuing to face significant constraints that are producing less incentive to respond to the demands of our society today.
Among one of the root causes is poor quality of governance. Stable and robust states constitute the practice of sustainable political and socio-economic settlements that exist between contesting political institutions and other interest groups and actors.
The settlement of contesting issues that are impacting on citizens and society are channelled through state institutions rather than the use of violence. Policy differences and the allocation of state resources are resolved through routine and agreed-upon rules and practices, as the responsibilities of government agencies and other actors are clear, and succession of political leaderships are routinized relatively smooth.
Arguably, there have never been sustainable political settlements in Sierra Leone politics. The safety of citizens and the state have always depended on the political balancing skills of its leaders and their ability to build and sustain coalition of elites and their patronage networks.
Political transitions in Sierra Leone have never been smooth as at any given period when our leaders lose their footing, the results have often been a coup. This is one of the thematic issues the Bintumani Three is hoping to examine and formulate solutions.
Sierra Leone’s social and political make-up can also help to explain this false start or the causes of its fragility.
The state’s lack of accountability to its citizens
The ways in which informal institutions and practices interpenetrate the more formal offices and institutions of the state, accounts for the country’s chronic political and economic underperformance since independence.
These deep-seated structures; the political topography of our state, elites and elite networks, the role of ethnicity and regionalism, our electoral system, property rights, women’s rights, youth empowerment, our mineral resources and its rent distributions, our institution of chieftaincy to name a few are going to be the main focus of this Bintumani Three conference.
In appreciating the degree to which these deep-seated structures have created a wedge in our society and political works, help us to understand why all Sierra Leoneans should support the hosting of the Bintumani Three conference.
I am convinced when managed well, with the support of all, our state and its general citizenry stands to benefit the most, and it will surely lay the steppingstone for fostering and stitching our pro-poor and institutional transformation processes.
Sierra Leone’s colonial history sets a number of patterns to which the country’s political economy continues to cohere. Crucial among the many is the creation of a spatial and political divide between Freetown and the rest of the country.
This branching between areas of direct and indirect governance, which our post-independence political leaders made little effort to resolve in extending formal state control into the countryside, have continued to inhibit Sierra Leone to attain sustainable growth and tangible development efforts.
Keeping it thus far, explicitly means maintaining the colonial system of indirect rule is arguably impeding our country’s growth and transformation processes in the following forms:
FORESTALL OUR STATE GOVERNANCE PENETRATION
Sierra Leone as a country has in no time in its history been able to penetrate its rural areas to a degree, that would enable it to deliver goods and services or to build a citizenship relationship to a degree of accountability between the state and its citizens.
CRUMBLE OUR STATE INSTITUTIONS
Our formal institutions of state are yet to become robust, deeply rooted or routinized. Informal institutions such as personal patronage networks and social forms of governance are more prominent in our dealings.
MONOPOLIZE THE AUTONOMY OF OUR STATE
Our state and its offices tend to be vehicles for social and economic advancement of only individual politicians, bureaucrats and their extended networks rather than for the poor in the provision of public goods and other social and economic opportunities; enforcement of dual-economy relationship.
CREATE A NON-PLURALISTIC SOCIETY
There are few independent social groupings or interest groups that can effectively hold government to account and demand change for the good of society, as issue-based politics is yet to develop over personal politics.
LESS TRANPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
There are a few formal mechanisms in our society for holding government to account. Our governments over the years are more responsive to donors and other external partners or actors than to their own citizens.
Successive administrations, since our independence have continued to rely on chiefs to control the countryside, to garner revenue and to secure votes. This strategy has continued to reinforce the political divide between Freetown and the rest of the country.
In effect, it has also weakened the state generally, in limiting its penetration of rural areas and stifling the development of a sense of citizenship.
Despite the ongoing decentralisation process, chiefs continue to operate as a tier of government. Although the chiefdoms serve a modern state administration, they remain separate from the central government.
Many functions of chiefdom administration, especially those relating to law and order, justice and political representation, duplicate the functions of modern state agencies.
The chiefdoms therefore serve to insulate the bulk of the rural populace from the modern state and help to block the extension of modern methods for delivering those functions into the countryside.
This has greatly distorted our institutional, democratic and development efforts.
Invariably, any state in this 21st century is committed to the under mentioned goals:
Survival of the state and the strengthening of national political and economic independence;
Modernization of society through industrialization, social development, the application of science and technology, and changes in socio-economic relationships and behaviour;
Increased participation, thereby bringing about representative institutions, political plurality and equality, participative governance and guarantee of property rights, collective and individual human rights.
The above discussion in my view, should form the core issues and outcomes of the Bintumani Three conference.
These are important pointers, as governance and institutional development processes to be attained by any developing country are difficult and often quick fixes. Temporary solutions create new problems.
To conclude, transition processes in every democratic society is a “sand work act” that requires patience, tolerance and respect for individual and group values in other to reach the destination of peace, and a cohesive society – a primary focus of the Bintumani Three conference.
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