At Bar Association AGM… Human Rights Commission Vice Chair Urges Commitment to Constitutional Roles for National Development

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By Esther Wright

At the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Sierra Leone Bar Association, Victor Idrissa Lansana Esq, the Vice Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, delivered a poignant address on Friday, May 17, 2024, in Kenema. Under the theme, “Unconstitutional Change of Government and its Threats to Democracy,” he called upon both the Government and citizens to diligently adhere to their constitutional roles, citing sections 5(2)(b) and 13 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991.

Victor Idrissa Lansana emphasized the historical backdrop of Africa’s struggle against human rights violations, ranging from slavery to colonialism and the more contemporary issue of unconstitutional changes in Government. He highlighted the significant impact of such unlawful transitions on the enjoyment of fundamental human rights, including the rights to life, privacy, freedom of assembly and association and freedom of expression and press, as well as economic, social and cultural rights.

Reflecting on the post-independence era, he noted the optimism that accompanied the liberation from colonial rule. However, he lamented that subsequent governance often fell short, with some regimes resorting to repressive measures that exacerbated suffering, sometimes leading to unconstitutional changes in power. Citing the African Peer Review Mechanism Report of 2023, he revealed that Africa had witnessed 18 successful attempts at unconstitutional takeovers between 2003 and 2023.

Addressing the obligations of Government, Victor Idrissa Lansana stressed the dual responsibility of upholding both international and national/constitutional obligations. He emphasized the duty to protect, respect and fulfil human rights aspirations at the international level, while domestically, the Government shoulders the responsibility for the welfare and security of Sierra Leonean citizens. The Vice Chair underscored the imperative for Governments to meet those obligations, cautioning against viewing Governmental failures as justification for unconstitutional actions.

Turning to the role of citizens, he referenced Section 13 of the Constitution, which outlines the duties of citizens, including patriotism, lawfulness and respect for national institutions. He highlighted instances of citizen misconduct, such as illegal electricity abstraction, as detrimental to national development and urged citizens to actively participate in governance processes while holding authorities accountable.

He concluded by calling upon the Government to prioritize the development aspirations of the people, foster a vibrant civic space and expand opportunities for citizens. Similarly, he urged citizens to engage constructively in governance and uphold their responsibilities as outlined in the Constitution.

The AGM concluded on Saturday, May 18, 2024.


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