By Sumner Kangbap
To commemorate International Day of Democracy (IDD), the National Commission for Democracy (NCD) on Tuesday 24th September 2019 organized a Democracy Round Table Discussion Forum at the conference room of the Ministry of Information and Communications, 8th Floor, Youyi Building in Freetown on the theme ‘Participation.’
The facilitator, Dr. Emmanuel Gaima, Governance Adviser, State House, enlightened that participation should be open, elastic, that parties must be frank and honest, that participation must be purposeful, that people only participate when they have concerns, that participation should be demographic as all sectors must be taken onboard, be regionally balanced, have mutual respect, accommodating, inclusive, tolerant, responsible, fair and commitment to agree on a common agenda.
He also pointed out that the new Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) policy need to be critically looked into, assured that government would create the space for governance and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to operate as well as push for inter-party dialogue, informed that next week the Ministry of Finance would open a dialogue on the budget and that there is “excessive political goodwill” for the Constitutional Review Committee to reopen concluding that governance is all about service delivery.
The NCD Western Region Chairman, Mr. Benjamin Macfoy revealed that yearly the world observes IDD to underscore the need for countries to uphold democratic principles for which series of activities have been organized/lined up by the NCD Western Region Office and appealed to all to be frank in their suggestions on how democracy should function in Sierra Leone underscoring that the people have the responsibility to work together and quoted the United Nations Secretary General as stating on this year’s WDD that democracy is about the people, equal treatment and participation.
According to Mr. Macfoy, participation is the prerequisite for national and international development pointing out Sierra Leone is yet to realize its full potential as a nation and informed that the motto of NCD is ‘Positive Participation.’
The representative of the Office of National Security observed that the discussion forum is for participants to reflect on where Sierra Leone is coming from and where we want to go as a nation, appealed to participants to do justice to the topic and the nation, proffer solutions to the problems affecting the country and urged that all stakeholders must be brought onboard by leaving no one behind.
Dr. Jonathan Sandy of the All Political Parties Association revealed that the forum is to take stock of Sierra Leone’s democratic and economic credentials, that progress has been made in terms of peace and conduct of elections, that the country has made a lot of gains in terms of democratic principles, appealed to government to fund political parties but underscored that the most important issue now in the country is the high cost of living.
According to Dr. Sandy, there is also need for the country to reflect on the winner takes all or Proportional Representation type of democracy, social cohesion and unity, that in Africa people vote on tribal, ethnic and regional lines, that newly-formed political parties cannot contest bye-elections as they lack strongholds and even offices in the regions and asserted that political parties are not effective in supporting government programs.
The Chairman of NCD, Dr. Abu Bakarr Kargbo disclosed that democracy is a liberal and global ideology bequeathed to Africa by its colonial masters, that democracy is multifaceted, that in the developed world democracy flourishes because the people are educated/enlightened and the economy buoyant, that every five years in Sierra Leone certain tribe (s) and region (s) are at the helm of affairs thus disenfranchising the others and affirmed that democracy is also a social contract between government and the people but reminded all that It is the responsibility of citizens to pay taxes, vote and belong to political parties of their choice.
Dr. Kargbo went on to state that because protests can be hijacked by criminal elements and because the security of the state is paramount, government is at liberty to stifle protests that can lead to social unrest but noted that without basic needs, citizens can rebel underlining that it is the responsibility of citizens to participate in democracy and national development.
He also articulated that in a democracy, people must respect the views of others, strike compromises, that participation leads to development, that political parties are not viable after elections reiterating that governance is based on the economy pointing out that government should not depend on donors to run the country but use the little resources at its disposal prudently concluding that democracy should suit our own situation.
Earlier, the Master of Ceremony, Rev. Gibrilla Kargbo, Director of Communications and Public Relations, National Commission for Democracy, welcomed all to the forum informing that 15th September every year is observed globally as International Day of Democracy and that NCD has lined up a two-week program of activities to observe the day.
Representatives of the Ministry of Political and Public Affairs, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Human Rights Commission, the Institute of Governance Reform, the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change party, the Network Movement for Justice and Development, the Political Parties Registration Commission, the Alliance Democratic Party, the United Democratic Movement and the Sierra Leone Correctional Services expressed similar sentiments.