In 1994, when the National Commission for Democracy (NCD) was put together by NPRC Decree # 15, a huge responsibility was placed on the Commission to spearhead the democratic transformation of Sierra Leone, badly needed after years of one party rule and the concomitant dictatorial tendencies inherent therein. With that as an inception background, NCD lived up to the expectations of the Sierra Leonean populace with several activities to kick start the return to civilian rule on the backdrop of a war situation. Significant on the national agenda for the mandate of NCD at that inception period was the implementation of Bintumani 1 and 2, conferences that brought together stakeholders to chart the course for the nation’s return to civilian rule. With the motion set on course, the key goal of the Bintumani Conferences in relation to the return to civilian rule was realized in 1996. Such an important goal in ensuring the full participation of the people in the governance of Sierra Leone, albeit entrance legitimacy, was realized on the leadership provided by NCD. As a nation, we cannot forget in a hurry the sacrifices and courage exhibited by that team of dedicated and patriotic Sierra Leoneans who risked everything for the citizenry to know that there is a way out from one party and military rule in Sierra Leone.
With the return to civilian rule in 1996, the huge responsibility of NCD to deliver on its good governance mandate was given a boost through the Superseding Act # 3 of 1996 (the NPRC Decrees Repeal and Modification Act). With such a legal document providing legitimacy to the operations of the Commission, so much has been done over the years with significant contributions to developing and implementing civic education campaigns across the length and breadth of the Country especially to fill the gap or void that existed on account of the decision to expunge civics from the national curriculum.
It should be noted in very categorical terms that NCD contributed immensely to the peace process in Sierra Leone with reference to the “National Consultative Conference on the Peace Process in Sierra Leone”. A key product of that conference was a report titled “the Road to Peace”, a document that served as a reference book during the Lome Peace Negotiations. The significant role of NCD during that negotiation was acknowledged through the fact that it was the Commission that chaired the Socio-Economic and Human Rights Committee with pivotal contribution to the overall outcomes of that all important negotiation as part of the peace process to usher the badly needed peace after years of civil war. Year in and year out, such consultative conferences have characterized the modus operandi of NCD in addressing national issues with a view to consolidating the nation’s peace and democracy. In this regard, the National Consultative Conference on National Unity and Cohesion of 2013 remains unforgettable.
Today, the nation benefits from the time-tested and truth-revealing values that are enshrined in the National Pledge, a pledge that reminds Sierra Leoneans about their nationalistic and patriotic duty or responsibility to extricate the nation from the grip of backwardness and poverty through selfless service to the motherland. For most people that Pledge is a corollary to the National Anthem that embodies the very ideals on which the nation should stand as the developmental paradigms are implemented. Apart from the fact that the National Pledge is the brain child of NCD, the Commission provides continuous education on these national symbols to include, but not limited to the National Anthem, the National Pledge and the National Seal (Coat-of-Arms). The strong conviction is that development should be anchored on a national ideology that expresses the values and aspirations of the people with a mindset of a national identity that takes root through a method of education that makes available knowledge, skills and dispositions with a view to producing good citizens who can contribute significantly to meaningful national development.
Also, getting a national curriculum on Civic Education has been a serious challenge, but with the assiduousness of the team of dedicated workers at NCD, the nation of Sierra Leone can now boast of “the Non-formal Curriculum for Civic Education in Sierra Leone”. At this critical juncture in the drive for civic consciousness in our beloved motherland, NCD has taken the lead in producing a blueprint for this multi-dimensional subject matter with issues relating to Peace Education, Voter Education, Education in Democracy, Political Education, Human Rights and Gender Education and Development Education. For some time now and in accordance with its mandate it has been championing the re-introduction of Civic Education to the schools and the young, an assignment that it has carried out very well with the formal curriculum from Primary to Junior Secondary Schools absorbing it as Social Studies and Civics. This has been long in coming, but the effort of the Commission has been crowned with some success with more appeal for a standalone course.
Since its inception and modification from National Commission for Democracy (NCD) to National Commission for Democracy and Human Rights (NCDHR) and back to the National Commission for Democracy (NCD), the bold and audacious contributions to the promotion of democratic good governance are evident in the length and breadth of the nation with the use of many and varying channels of communication in terms of conferences, seminars, workshops, the use of both the regular and social media, the use of our monumental Green, White and Blue Public Address vans, the dramatization of the issues, the production and dissemination of posters, jingles, audio and video clips, songs on different and pertinent issues that have impacted the nation positively. Additionally, the Commission has produced many handbooks and addressed issues from a governance perspective as they relate to transparency, accountability, gender parity, decentralization, civil-military relationship in a democratic dispensation, human rights, the rule of law, inclusive participation in the governance of the nation, decentralization and many others in a bid to consolidate the nation’s democracy.
Furthermore, the work of NCD has shed tremendous light on the objectives of the National Constitution as the foundational law of the land. Its significant contribution in producing an abridged version of the National Constitution (Act # 6 of 1991) provided a tremendous boost to the work of the Constitutional Review Process with resounding commendation emanating from the membership of the Constitutional Review Commission. With the abridged version of the National Constitution, the Review Process in the local communities was done with ease as the translated version aided the process immensely. These translated documents of significant portions of the National Constitution in Krio, Kono, Limba, Mende and Temne were complemented by the audio-visual versions that were utilized for Town Hall meetings to aid the comprehension of the National Constitution as the masses of the people gave their candid opinions about the laws that are meant to influence the governance of the nation.
The significance of the work of NCD on the governance landscape with a clear view of producing good citizens in Sierra Leone cannot be overemphasized and it can only be made better with more support from both Government and Donor Agencies as the frontiers of democracy are expanded. Essentially, if the nation’s democracy is to be fully consolidated, the work of NCD should be given more attention to keep it going as effort is made to keep it in tune and in sync with best practice across the nations of the world. The nation’s effort at democratic consolidation warrants a calculated attempt by all and sundry to provide the enabling environment for the nation’s governance image to be improved.
The NCD initiative should be seen as a lasting legacy in the nation’s drive to consolidate its democracy. It is an initiative that started with NPRC, continued by the Ahmed Tejan Kabba led administration and maintained by the Ernest Bai Koroma led administration. It then becomes incumbent on the new administration led by President Maada Wonie Bio, a former NPRC strong man, to keep the legacy going with massive support and make the Commission a leading democratic institution to help in the proper interpretation of the New Direction.
It should be recalled that many Sierra Leoneans have contributed significantly to keeping this democratic legacy going. We are reminded about the contributions of Dr. Kadie Sesay, the pioneer Chairman of the Commission. She gracefully handed over the baton of leadership to Professor Joe Robert Pemagbi and on completion of his own national assignment through NCD, he then bequeathed this monumental democratic legacy to Mr. Coleridge Taylor. He also played his part very well as head of the institution. In the transition to the current leadership, the institution was briefly headed by Madam Fatu Sesay. She kept the fort and was succeeded by Dr. Abubakar Hassan Kargbo who is now at the helm of affairs.
With a legacy of patriotic work for the betterment of Sierra Leone, NCD is more than ready to contribute its quota to national development through the promotion of democratic good governance as Sierra Leone is positioned for the next phase of its development. With the right mindset, what appears insurmountable can be very easy and for NCD the present and the future are full of endless possibilities with a vision of a better Sierra Leone that can compete effectively with other nations of the world.
Kudos to democratic good governance!
Kudos to a peaceful and united Sierra Leone!
The legacy lives on!