By Foday Moriba Conteh
In a bid to improve the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone’s continued planning and conduct of transparent and fair elections in the country, His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio in his address during the opening of the Sixth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone in the Chamber of Parliament Building on Tower Hill in Freetown on Thursday, 3rdAugust 2023has revealed that a National Electoral Systems Review Committee will be established to assess the planning and management of the 2023 electoral cycle in the country.
President Bio also recalled that the June 24 multi-tier elections identified some logistical limitations that were, however, assessed as not negatively impacting the overall outcome of the elections. He disclosed that the Committee would have a broad membership that would eventually produce a report to lay the foundation for critical reforms in the electioneering process with reference to the ECSL and all other election management bodies in the country.
“In this very Parliament, where no party has attained a two-thirds majority, the need for dialogue and negotiation resonates with utmost urgency. We must find common ground within the political divides. Through unity, we can achieve stability, progress and prosperity in our democracy,” the President affirmed.
He said that the recent elections witnessed a commendable 15% rise in women’s representation, with 30.4% of directly elected representatives now being women, adding that women are not merely women, as they have erroneously defined them in the past but that women are also policymakers and leaders, constituting the backbone of our society, the very anchor of various families.
The President maintained how the presence of more women within the current Parliament and the country’s democracy enriches the tapestry of the nation, infusing it with compassion, empathy and resilience.
He pointed out that the Sixth Parliament presents an opportunity to showcase the maturity of the country’s democracy and that any political party’s absence of a two-thirds majority necessitates constant engagement, encouraging all to amplify all voices and engender a more harmonious, stable and prosperous Sierra Leone. “By fostering collaboration, cooperation, and negotiation we can transcend political divides for the ultimate benefit of the people,” the President enjoined.
“Today, I stand before you with immense pride as we embark upon a new five-year mandate that echoes the call for continuity. With great honour, I present the “New Direction: Consolidating the Gains and Accelerating Transformation Agenda”.
He informed that the ambitious vision builds upon the principles outlined in the 2023 People’s Manifesto of the SLPP furthering how the agenda encapsulates the spirit of progress, seizing the new found opportunities the country has forged while confronting emerging challenges and propelling Sierra Leone towards a middle-income status by 2035.
President Bio pointed out that his new administration’s national development agenda will emphasize five key initiatives that will shape the course of the nation of which he said first and foremost, “Feed Salone” which, according to him, will ignite agricultural productivity, safeguard food security and foster inclusive economic growth, laying the foundation for sustained prosperity.
Secondly, he said Human Capital Development,” with a deliberate focus on gender equality, will nurture the skills required for the industries of the 21st Century, empowering the country’s workforce for a transformative future.
Thirdly, he mentioned the Youth Employment Scheme which he said will unleash a focused initiative to create abundant job opportunities, providing young talents with a platform to flourish and contribute to the nation’s progress.
Fourthly, he highlighted “Technology and Infrastructure Initiative” which will serve as an engine for sustained economic growth, harnessing the power of innovation and robust infrastructure to propel Sierra Leone to middle-income status and finally “Revamping the Public Service Architecture” will usher in a new era of delivery, efficiency and professionalism, enhancing the efficacy of the country’s public sector institutions.
The President underscored that these strategic initiatives form the bedrock upon which they shall usher in profound change, serving as catalysts to revolutionize economic growth, alleviate hunger and poverty, elevate public service efficiency, generates abundant employment prospects and foster resilience in adversity.
The President called on other national leaders to put the nation’s interest first, transcending party lines and forging alliances beyond political affiliations, adding that it was the duty of Parliamentarians to embody the spirit of statesmanship and seek dialogue and common goals, even in the face of differing opinions.
The President used the opportunity to express gratitude to the country’s security forces, Judiciary, the Media and Civil Society, describing them as a pillar of strength in advancing the cause of democracy in Sierra Leone.
He pledged to uphold their independence, for there can be no democracy without the rule of law, no democracy without security, and no democracy without a Free Press that informs, educates and holds public officeholders accountable.