By Millicent Senava Mannah
During an epoch making and well attended event that took place at the Bintumani International Conference Hall, at Aberdeen in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s President, Dr. Julius Maada Bio, through his representative, officially launched the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion (ICPNC) and its Free Toll Line 898 on the 20th April, 2023.
Delivering the keynote address, the representative of the President, Chief Minister, Jacob Jusu Saffa, noted that the antecedent causes of the country’s civil war taught all why it is very much important to keep the nation intact and united.
“The deliberate failures and effects of bad governance coupled with unrestrained corruption undermined the very survival and essence of the State,’’ he asserted.
He added: “Every Sierra Leonean must not only feel the sense of belonging, but must also be assured that his or her voice matters and the future of the nation also matters, ’’ he philosophically averred.
He furthered that the President loves to learn from the past, and he had no option but to adopt one of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which is manifesting itself in the launching of a very important national infrastructure to promote national cohesion.
Chairman of Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion, Rev. Shodankeh Johnson, in his welcome address expressed how they are profoundly grateful to the President and his Vice for their moral support in setting up of the Commission.
He further said that setting up the Commission was one of the recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its principal responsibility is to maintain peace and unity throughout the country.
Rev. Shodankeh Johnson applauded President Bio for establishing the Commission through an Act of Parliament in December 2020 and also congratulated the Board Members for their relentless contributions to the launching of the Commission which all are witnessing now.
He revealed that the Commission has fifty members right across the country, furthering how the Commission envisions a just, peaceful and cohesive country.
‘’The mission is to facilitate coexistence, equity and inclusivity, to build the networks of competencies for conflict prevention, resolution and management for National Development. The main mandate amongst others, is to device strategies and measures to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts and to build, promote and maintain sustainable peace through National cohesion in the country,’’ he made reference to the Commission’s mission and mandate.
The representative from ECOWAS, applauded the Government of Sierra Leone for such a laudable initiative, which according to him, is an ECOWAS mandate saying it is very timely as the country is about to have its multi-tier elections.
He assured the audience that, ECOWAS is committed to support ICPNC to ensure that peace and equity is maintained in the country, and how ECOWAS is also an independent body for peace and equity in the region.
The UN National Coordinator, Babatunde Ahonsi, also commended the President for launching the Commission maintaining that it marks another milestone in the country’s history underscoring how it is an important initiative.
He maintained that it was constructed by the Government through an Independent body supported by UN also disclosing how the country has been acclaimed as one of the most peaceful countries in the world.
He further revealed how the UN subscribes to any effort that is geared towards reducing violence and addressing injustice more especially as the country will soon go to the polls.
The Representative from the Inter-religious Council assured the audience that they as religious leaders will ensure that they continue to preach peace to their different congregation right across the country, underscoring that it is their own role of maintaining the peace and equity in the country.
Other personalities from other international organizations, including local organizations in the country, like the Women’s Forum, Youth Council Rep., and the Children’s Forum Network made salient contributions.
Performances depicting the essence of maintaining the peace and enhancing national cohesion were demonstrated by various groups including Blind School, Rev. Justin Marva and the Sierra Leone Sports Amputees.
The climax of the event was the launching of the Peace Commission on behalf of the President.