H.E. President Ernest Bai Koroma has, with pride, lustily waxed on historical development of varied Constitutions for Sierra Leone since the 1800s through the 1900s up to date.
Please see below.
“Our Country has the deepest tradition of Written Constitutionalism in West Africa”…President Koroma says
By Augustine Samba
His Excellency President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has said in Freetown that Sierra Leone has the deepest tradition of written constitutionalism in West Africa. He made this statement as he officially launched the CRC (Constitutional Review Committee) in Freetown on Tuesday 30th July 2013.
Delivering his keynote address, President Koroma said Sierra Leone started constitutionalism in West Africa; with the first constitution fashioned by Granville Sharpe for the freed men & women of the Province of Freedom. Then, there was the Blackhall Constitution of 1863, the Slater Constitution of 1924, Stevensons Constitution of the 1950s.
He said Sierra Leone gained independence with constitution modeled along a monarchist Westminster one; Established Republican presidential system in 1971, one party constitution in 1978 and reverted to a multi-party system in 1991.
President Koroma went on that Sierra Leone has had constitutions imposed from above, with little regard for the opinions of the people, but it has also had constitutions that sought inputs and mandate from the citizens.
He called on all Sierra Leoneans irrespective of region, district, ethnic, political or religious affiliation to support, fully participate and take ownership of the entire review process. Democratic constitutions he went on, are covenantal and are genuine pacts amongst citizens to constitute themselves into a policy that they would love and honour and whose interests they would put above all else.
The president also pointed out that the review process was borne not just out of the fact that the 1991 Constitution provided for its own renewal as stipulated in Section 108, but also as recommended by the Lome Peace Accord, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Sierra Leone Conference on Development and Transformation as well as the enduring calls from the women, youth and the physically challenged demanding greater inclusion within governance.
He said on becoming President of Sierra Leone, he took an oath to uphold the constitution, whilst recommit his government to honour, respect, and uphold the spirit of the Constitution in Section 108 that provides for the alteration of this constitution.
The Chief Executive urged all to ensure that the review process meets international best practice of modern constitutionalism and maintained that this was the best way Sierra Leone can become a truly modern nation.
President Koroma mentioned supremacy of the constitution, the rule of law, respect for human rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, independence of the judiciary, judicial review, equality before the law, civilian oversight of the military and free, fair elections as the fundamental elements of modern constitutionalism that should guide the review.He admonished the committee to pay close attention to those sections and provisions of the 1991 Constitution that appear to be constitutional ambiguities, ensure clarity of statutes, and rationalize the country’s governance processes.
Executive Representative of the United Nations Secretary General in Sierra Leone, Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, said the review of the constitution, though long awaited, is an important provision of the Lome Peace Agreement of 7th July 1991, and also a key recommendation of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He said the review process comes at an opportune time in the country’s transformation from a post-conflict to a development phase, with remarkable achievements to build on and important new challenges to tackle.
Toyberg-Frandzen said the United Nations welcomes the political commitment and leadership demonstrated by the Government of Sierra Leone, in particular President Koroma, to an inclusive and transparent constitutional review process, adding that they are pleased that the review process, from its very start, is led and owned by the government and people of Sierra Leone.
Minority Leader of Parliament, Hon. Bernadette Lahai called for an all inclusive process reflecting the real aspirations of the people of Sierra Leone. To loud applause, she made an impassioned call for women’s rights to be recognised without cultural and other hindrances to the equality of the sexes.