By Melvin Tejan Mansaray, Abuja, Nigeria
The Head of the Sierra Leone Delegation to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament who also doubles as the Parliamentary Leader of the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) party, Honorable Chernor Ramadan Maju Bah, has called on the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Jean Claude Kassi Brou to send a high-power delegation to Sierra Leone to look into prevailing issues which if not addressed urgently may get beyond where they are.
Hon. Bah made this request on Wednesday 1st, December 2021 at the ongoing ECOWAS Parliament Second Ordinary Session in Abuja, Nigeria in response to Dr. Brou’s ‘2021 Report on the State of the Community,’
“Mr. President, quite recently this is very important for theCommission, I believe that the Commission should be the leader in our sub-region, others outside the sub-region could come in and assist but we have had several complaints, for instance, in my country, we have talked about the judiciary, their independence; we have talked about the police being biased and not being too friendly with civilians.ECOWAS did a follow-up mission the last time but how far we have gone we don’t know. As I speak, Mr. President, there is a pending census that the government is attempting to hold but it does not have the support of the majority of the population; it does not and censuses are organized for the people. We have challenged it, we have raised issues, the international community is divided; the EU Elections Observer Follow-up Mission was quite recently in Sierra Leone, they also raised questions about the independence of the judiciary, the police, etc, so it is not just coming from within but I believe Mr. President that the ECOWAS Commission should be leading in this; the EU should be following up but the ECOWAS Commission should provide the lead. Yesterday we learned that quite soon you will be taking your exit and we believe you have done a graceful job and you want to also exist gracefully; so doing follow-up missions between now and the time you leave is also very important,” Hon. Bah said.
He added: “We have had issues and challenges with bye-elections and the local council elections are just around the corner in 2022 and general election in 2023, so your high-level visit will send a good signal. We have had several other challenges which as the Speaker says because of time we will not be able to go through all the details.
Recently, a new Electoral Commissioner for the Western Region was approved by Parliament, again, there was no consensus. There are several other issues, so Mr. President, I want to encourage you to get a team to Sierra Leone as soon as possible. There are issues which must be addressed and they must be addressed urgently.”
“You talked about the relationship between the missions you send to our respective countries, the relationship with those Missions and MPs from those countries must be visible. Most time we hear about an ECOWAS team leaving Sierra Leone, Nigeria, or Guinea, we would only know about the facts when they have left, we want to be part of the process that would share experiences. We are here to represent people of the Community, so if they go and leave without contacting us, it will not serve the purpose for which we are here. The Speaker has been making a lot of efforts in ensuring that we are visible in our respective countries, so if your teams go out and we don’t have access to them, it is a challenge. I want to encourage you to send a mission not just to Sierra Leone but other countries also in the sub-region but I am talking especially about Sierra Leone because I have first-hand experience – the census issue that the government wants to start is questionable, we challenged its legality and the population not being in support is something you must address before it gets beyond where it is. Thank you very much.”
Hon. Bah said he has been raising certain issues that are yet to be addressed citing Guinea and Mali before the ugly unfolding they are faced with at the moment.
He said: “Considering the poverty in our region, food security should not be a mortgage, it must be at the top of our priority list,” Hon. Bah said, adding that in May 2021, they talked about the Early Warning Signs on which the Commission has been doing its bit but resolved that more needs to be done, registering happiness that political situation and security has been placed in the same head.
“When signs come up they must be addressed, the economic outlook for the sub-region like most parts of the world is a challenge butconsidering the level of our poverty and lack of food security makes it difficult for some of us. The debt burden in some countries has increased over sixty percent, the average you mentioned is the sixty percent limit for the sub-region but again, some countries have gone past that and that is causing a challenge. The three percent inflation rate for the single-digit is also farfetched because in most countries – they are today above the single-digit, those that are within single digit, are far above the three percent, itself, so these issues must be addressed holistically. In my country, for instance, we are now talking about introducing a new currency reducing three of the zeros but will that be the solution – 2027 is not too far away. We should have been working as a region towards the convergence criteria that will land us to the Eco but if we start moving on to where we are, then I wonder what the chances are in achieving the single currency because we are now protecting ourselves individually.”
However, in a retort, Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament and a ranking Lawmaker representing the governing Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) in the Sierra Leone Parliament said that as someone coming from Sierra Leone, “ I support the census.”