Why Sierra Leoneans should give Bintumani 3 Conference a chance

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.

About the author

If you wish to discuss any of the issues mentioned in this article, you can contact the author – Habib Bakarr Munda, as follows:

Tel. +232 76 100 056, or email mundahabib@rocketmail.com

10 Comments

  1. I am John Senesie Kalawa, an activist, a social worker, a volunteer. My personal view for this peace conference as a youth ambassador of Sierra Leone is that President Bio should have a genuine heart to call for a permanent national cohesion and ensure opposition tolerance, tribal tolerance and respect for international interventions. He should ensure the restoration of the United Nations democracy demand.

    On the other hand, former president Koroma – the chairman of the APC, should be able to demonstrate constructively and peacefully as the world is looking at him to be very outstanding in leading the peace.

    Generally, I am calling on the international authorities to ensure that the 2023 elections of Sierra Leone are held and coordinated by the intervention of the United Nations and ECOWAS authorities for credible elections. These international authorities should start the process now and monitor the Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission. We all know that there have been major concerns raised by majority of the people of Sierra Leone that the 2018 elections were not professionally managed.

  2. My personal opinion about peace in Sierra Leone is that the major fear people are having is a war between the two largest tribes – the Mendes and Temnes, which I believe will never happen since they are both unlike poles that will always attract each other.

    They are both bipolar – the one from the north pole, hot headed and are perceived to act spontaneously which in Krio we call “GBOS GBOS or HALA HALA”; and the other from the South Pole that are perceived to be cool headed because even when they are insulted or slapped in public, their first reaction will be to ask the perpetrator if they really did it and will also try to have a witness to proceed to court instead of retaliation – that means in Krio “DEM LEK CASE“.

    So Bintumani 3 in not really about peace but discussion about the ways and means we can learn to coexist because deep inside there is secret love and admiration for each other, especially in trading and education.

    Lastly the APC and the SLPP will always have different ideologies; so they will mostly disagree on policies, since one believes in communist / democratic ideology, and the other believes in socialist / democratic ideology. So all we need is to learn to agree to disagree and to coexist with each other.

  3. The Bintumani 3 is necessary and could have called years back. The National Peace commission should have established before many other established commissions according to the Lome Peace Accord amd the TRC report. Bravo to H.E. Bio for initiating this long awaited dream. The fact is that the country is divided so let us find solution to it. Bintumani 3 is the solution. Let’s go and dialogue.

  4. In my view, Bintumani 3 could trigger further division between the two political divide in the country – the south Eastern SLPP stronghold and the North Western APC dominance. The ongoing political tussles between these two political parties as we can see in our parliament are the reasons for such outcome. Getting things right for proper governance, we do have well established state institutions in the country.

    Our constitution is second to none by international standards. All that is needed to do is to make state institutions functional and effective across the country. The provision of the constitution and the laws of the land should be applied to the letter, no two ways about it.

    It only takes for our political leaders and authorities in governance to demonstrate duty, responsibility, integrity, sincerity and result-oriented performance to deliver quality services to the state and the populace, placing the right people in positions of authority who can deliver the goods to the nation.

    Surveillance and control standards upgraded to ensure checks and balances are in place and effective than ever before, for all positions of trust in governance. This is exactly the panacea to treat and cure the woes of our society.

  5. Attitude change is the surest way for progress…period! I don’t care what sermons, lectures, preaching you all may give out or put up whether on newspapers, social media outlets, mosques, churches, etc, in my view CHANGE IN ATTITUDE is the only way Sierra Leoneans will not only leap but sprint forward to better life, development and prosperity.

    With change in attitude..there will be: Proper, real, right application of rule of law; No corruption; No tribalism, regionalism, sectionalism; No pa u bobor dae; No food shortage; Better or even best economy; Right decisions are made; Always the right thing to do; Equal opportunity for all; Equal rights and justice for all; Freedom for all Party supporters; people will tell their leaders, members to do the right thing for SL – not for party sake or group sake; Every one will do the right thing for all of us (Sierra Leoneans) not just for one person or group. And above all Sierra Leone will be a country of ‘less or no problem!’

    However, if the attitudes of the country people are on the opposite side of DEVELOPMENT, then forget it because everything we are advocating for will just be like ‘energy wasted – no work done!’If parliament don’t change attitude na void. If president don’t change attitude na void. If the country people don’t change their attitudes as well, then that will be the saddest of it all for those of us who want to see betterment and have already changed attitudes or are ready to change attitude.

    Until every Sierra Leonean or person living in Sierra leone change their mindset and attitude, we will continue to speak through media outlets the same things over and over forever, and ever with nothing to count on/or for.

  6. It is sad for a country like sierra leone to be seen in a direction of division due to tribe, region, political affiliation and misrule of state institutions.

  7. I believe that Sierra Leone needs a second house of senate in which our paramount chiefs, old politicians, lawyers, reputable conventional religious leaders among others could sit and participate in the smooth running of the state regardless of political, regional or any differences we may have. A politician should be rest assured that his five or ten years term is not the end of his/her career. People are sometimes involved in corrupt practices when they aren’t sure of their future.

  8. Sierra Leoneans would need a complete overhaul of attitudes before the sinking ship is set afloat and steered towards sustainable development for ALL. What is the essence of a Bintumani III conference – intended to iron out national differences in various aspects including: democratic governance, alleged human rights abuses, equitable distribution of resources, initiative on a new relationship between local and national government, property rights, and most importantly the integration and development of the various regions or tribes – when it is actually perceived by a large section of the population that a particular tribe (or group) has already been systematically placed at the upper echelon of power, leaving void spaces for other tribes to occupy as second fiddles?

    Many did not imagine that Sierra Leone would be subjected to the politics of yesteryears. This is the 21st century, the country has come a long way since independence in 1961. And, in spite of the present harsh economic climate, Sierra Leone does not have to retrogess 50 years, or more, backwards in terms of tribal relations and national cohesion.

    Sierra Leone politics should not be a dynasty – the Mende group or South-Eastners now, then the Temne group in the North-West next, or vice versa. What about the rest of the human capital, experience and expertise that other groups like Krios, Kurankos and Susus, to name a few, that can input into the economy?

    Whether the current political stalemate was predetermined by external forces, as the writer implied, “it is a widely accepted view among most citizens that, our current political settlements and procedures as a country are poorly institutionalised and externally enforced”, the Bio led Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) government must accept the simple fact that they won the Presidency, but somehow lost Parliament to the main Opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) party. An unprecedented outcome in the history of Sierra Leone’s politics.

    If the SLPP is committed to fostering a fair and amicable democratic environment, they should stop acting like ‘cowboys’ in parliament, and as well as across the country – before a proper and genuine Bintumani III conference could be convened. The political atmosphere is very pungent and cloudy.

  9. I always try to compare peace to the air that we breathe because we can never have enough of it, so let us continue to pray for more and more peace. I hope they include one prominent uplifting and positive thinking Sierra Leonean Joe Abbas Bangura in this process.

  10. Fascinating Stuff. I have a question of interest for the writer of this well thought article.
    My question to you Hon. Munda is this – WHY IS IT THAT BINTUMANI 1 + BINTUMANI 2 + BINTUMANI 3 = PRESIDENT BIO’s ADMINISTRATION? All are going to be held under President Bio’s Leadership.

    Is there going to be a BINTUMANI 4 till BINTUMANI numberless without PEACE and UNDERSTANDING among Sierra Leoneans? Am I right to say that the BINTUMANI’s are not achieving what they are supposed to do? Is the President a problem?

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