The Bintumani III conference ended on a note of questions. Some said its purpose was achieved and some say it was not timely. The other question was; what relevance it would bring to the country’s nascent democracy.
The concept note was clear about establishing a peace commission. However, critical thought brought into cognizance the timing and targeted beneficiaries of the peace confab. At a time when the country is still experiencing a transition in governance with the setting up of the Commissions of Inquiry and heightening the fight against corruption, the B3 barely would have an impact as expressed by a senior member of the ruing Sierra Leone People’s Party one-time publicity Secretary, Victor Reider.
“What does Bintumani III have to offer against the Backdrop of the Commission of Inquiries? Sierra Leone is again making history: holding a Peace conference simultaneously as the Commission of Inquiries sit. What an interesting mix! The question, then is what would happen to those who may be found guilty of misappropriating funds from the public coffers? Would we be going to a Bintumani IV to appease them? In other words, who are the target for the call to peace? This question needs to be clarified.
Because the people are not at war with themselves So, who and who is at war with whom? If it is not the people, then it must be the political leaders. If that is so, who are these leaders that are at war with others? If it is an intraparty quarrel in the Sierra Leone peoples (SLPP) party, then we do not need a public forum to discuss it. Suffice it to say, if it were the All Peoples Congress (APC) party that is experiencing internal feud, I am sure they would not need a public forum to settle their differences.
Hence, the question remains, who is making peace with whom? Alternatively, have we now decided to create the Peace Commission that was recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)? If that is what we want to adhere to, do we need to discuss its formation? Shouldn’t we create it as we did for other Commissions including the TRC as was recommended by the Lomé Peace Accord and give it the legislative teeth that would empower it to function effectively without political interference?
Our problem has always been misplaced priority and the inability to proffer home-grown solutions to challenges confront us. It is almost sure that some foreign guest may have suggested the idea for a Bintumani III. It does not matter if we expect to have some aid, loan, or grant from the country or person that the proposal came from. Without knowing nor understanding our domestic realities, such person (or state) may have been convinced that a conference of the nature of the one that has just ended is a solution to the way forward or a magic wand that will solve all our differences. Irrespective of the source of the proposal, we had the right as a sovereign nation to resist the fallacy.
While I am not opposed to us coming together from time to time to discuss issues of paramount interest to nation building, I do not understand why we think a so-called Bintumani III is a panacea to our current divided nation. Without mincing words, I venture to say it is not! Which brings us to the refusal of the APC party to attend same.
Although the APC party’s reason may be different from the point I am advancing, but their refusal to attend makes sense given the ongoing Commission of Inquiries that are yet to be concluded. Except if as a nation, we decide to sacrifice public accountability at the altar of hogwash peace.
Moreover, this has been one of our significant problems. We are never thorough about whatever we are doing as a nation. If as mentioned above, the expectation of the so-called Bintumani III is to set-up the Peace Commission, the question is, why have we not done so since the Lomé Peace Accord floated the recommendation? Now that we have the opportunity to hold those responsible for misappropriating public funds, we are undermining our effort by introducing a belated necessity to off-set one of the real causes that led to the eleven-years fratricidal war. Corruption was identified as one of the leading reasons for the war, instead of taking a concrete step to address it head-on, we are using the formation of a Peace Commission to satisfy the culprits eventually. For God sake, let us for once have leadership with some backbone that can tackle our problems from their root causes and be sincere and thorough about it.
I challenge anyone to tell me that these Commission of Inquiries will not fizzle out and die on the platform of “how for do” and we shall return to business as usual. Then what good will the so-called Bintumani III conference be to our abjectly poor people who have never been at war with themselves save their leaders?
In conclusion, let me hasten to say that no political party has the right to fire supporters of other political parties when it assumes the reins of governance. It is wrong, and we should condemn it! The APC is a legal entity and therefore, has the right to coexist with other political parties. We must stop this local, small-minded tribal pursuit. Every Sierra Leonean has equal rights to live in peace with other compatriots without threat or fear.
Hon. Victor Reider.”
On the other hand, in the eyes of the opposition, the views are also divided. Some who supported a stay of participation from the peace and national cohesion conference prefer the silent mode as they think the Bio led administration is using a divide and rule strategy and that would not augur well for the country’s cohesiveness and lasting tranquility.
Others within the same opposition believe it is better to jaw jaw than to war war in the words of Hon Dr Alpha Sahid Abu Bakarr Kanu, who served the All People’s Congress as Publicity Secretary, and later as Presidential Spokesman, Minister of Political and Public Affairs, Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources and Minister of Information and Communications.
“Yes. I am here as an individual. I was invited to a national plea building conference. I believe peace is the priority so I came to put my own views across and to dialogue with leaders of SLPP in the government to consider A P C and northerners as their compatriots.
I have also advocated for the payment of benefits to all former ministers of the APC and ambassadors and MDAs as a good will gesture.
It has been accepted and the minister of Finance has given instructions for the payment vouchers for benefits and the activation of pensions to be prepared immediately.
He assures me that the process should be completed by early next week.
As this is one benefit of the dialogue other matters will be dealt with in due course.
I have no apology for attending as long as it is in the interest of the people of Sierra Leone and particularly our APC comrades and sympathisers.
One of the important benefits is that benefits of past government officials will be made with immediate effect.
Can you imagine what other issues could have been resolved had I not been here?
To jaw jaw is better than to war war. Dialogue leads to resolutions. No war is concluded on the war front. It has to be resolved at the negotiating table.
Our party still has the opportunity to correct our past mistakes which are not grave ones
Our problems are not insurmountable but we must solve them ourselves.
Tomorrow. I will be moderating an important session. I would like some of our comrades to attend. We can put our issues across.
I am the chair and so time is available for healing and reconciliation.”
Hon: Dr Alpha Kanu
The pressure groups such as the Sierra Leone Bar Association and the civil right action groups made quality inputs into the discuss. The baseline for the B3 conference was premised on the desire to build a platform of independence, neutrality, democracy, dialogue and existing local culture and traditions; based on localised drivers of conflict; draw lessons from other countries with similar conflict backgrounds; identify elderly statesmen and eminent personalities locally; assess other existing commissions to be able to use; and work on the mandates of other existing commissions.
Day 2 was full of presentations
Moderator: Alhaji Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella of the National Grand Coalition, NGC drew inference from: Rwanda –Fidèle Ndayisaba “Rwanda was almost deleted off the map coz of bad leadership, violence, lack of peace through genocide. It accumulated to hate speech, genocide ideology started by simple discrimination. Principles learned from Rwanda to uphold
- Stay together
- Thinking big
With leadership again, Rwanda restored peace and cohesion. Leadership make things happening but we need institutions to make things lasting. The participation of the community is paramount driver to establishing a lasting peace. I encourage this leadership to do this from a grassroots level and throughout. It would work. Promote peace; promote unity; promote reconciliation.
Neutrality and independence of the Peace and National Cohesion Commission:
- The calibre of commissioners counts. Not permanent and are independent (not paid by government), knowledgeable and eminent, patriotic and are from the private sector and CSO
- Positive attitude also counts
- Having the means of delivery, you can’t rely on aid, if you do you suffer. Report to the President by constitution and to the Senate (Parliament).
Peace or development which to start. With peace you can sustain development. Without peace you can even destroy what you have achieved.
Kenya –Hassan Mohammed says “If you don’t take care of the youths they could be easily used. It is important to embark on education, vocational and programs such as peace clubs
Any ethnic group cannot take more than 30% in employment. Ethnic audit helps in ensuring this happens. Mediocracy cannot override diversity. we’ll never allow it.
How to select commissioners? The national assembly does
Investigation on issues like hate speech. Politicians are monitored on this. Guilty people are fined 5 million shillings or imprisoned.
Equitable distribution of resources. We conduct a research to check on this and condemn any deviation from it. Because some leaders will always favour a particular place because it is their ward or region.
The commission reports to parliament.
Set up an equalization fund
Recruit commissioner either part time or full
When we talk of infrastructure for peace, the whole government, the people are part of the process. Everybody counts as we all desire peace.
Instrument to drive the sustenance of peace
Civic education commission
The various commissions work together for a common goal.
Gender allocation of cabinet ministers is 50/50. As of today, in Rwanda women make up 60% in parliament.
Gender equality and women empowerment is very important in development and it has helped us transform Rwanda. It is not about praising women because they are our mothers, but it is about right, inclusiveness and equal opportunities.
- Hate utterances are prohibited and perpetrators are penalised.
- We do regular audit t individuals, private and government institutions.
- We have free toll line
- We have capable staff
- Empowering the CSO helps us to be everywhere in the country
Basita Michael –Sierra Leone Bar Association
“The TRC is a blueprint of our nation’s development. We have a very little progress that’s why we are still talking about peace building.
Division does not encourage peace but perpetrate insentient. We are preaching peace yet we are undermining those institutions which foster peace. You can’t preach peace when you are sacking people. You cannot preach peace when you are making appointments on tribal lines. You cannot preach peace when there is deprivation of the hearing of cases. We should take concrete steps to foster peace and development. To do this
- The present government should give immediate attention to those feel aggrieved or marginalised.
- The office of first lady should cool down her rhetorics. The office of the first lady is very important to development.
- The issue of Ministry of Lands. Recent account of forceful possession of lands. This s not good for foreign investment. It discourages business
- Adherence to the rule of law.”
Session 3 Nexus between development and peace building
Moderator: Dr Alpha Khan
“I am here not for my own party APC, but in my own frivolous. I am here because I believe in peace and what the incumbent government is doing. I believe that whosoever thinks well for Sierra Leone would have attended this conference. Sierra Leone grew well during the reign of former President Ernest Bai Koroma to an extent the country was rated to be one of the fastest growing economy. We anticipated that the current government would have met with the opposition to build tolerance as it used to happen in previous government transitions, but such didn’t happen. Building peace and national cohesion is the very right step in development. When we were in governance, I was the spokesman but now I am a country spokesman.”
3 Madam Marcella Samba Sesay –CGG
w“The current situation of Sierra Leone today is as a result of decisions we made in the past. If we failed to make rational decisions today, the future will be worst. I think we have not sufficiently answered the question of managing diversity. There is no premise in development ‘that says that is what the previous government has done before and so we too are going to revenge.’ You cannot talk about cohesion without cohesiveness. It is only an inclusive society that can be cohesive. Finally, we need to review the 1991 constitution.”
Dr. Charles Silva (APRM)
“Diversity is very important but we must change our attitudes towards the state and not the government. Once the state is strong, majority of these problems will be a thing of the past