In just about a day after the Global Peace Index report shows that Sierra Leone has beaten Ghana to become the most peaceful country in West Africa, a high-powered delegation of the United Nations Peace Building Commission (UNPBC) has completed a two-day visit to Sierra Leone to emphasize the Commission’s role in the country’s peace building process.
The Commission further seeks to highlight its role in harnessing the pledges made for the recovery priorities. The UNPBC also recognizes the country’s efforts in becoming a success story of peace and is exploring on how it could continue to help in sustaining the peace process in Sierra Leone. At the end of the visit today, 14 June, 2016, the head of delegation Mr Macharia Kamau debriefed his Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma on the outcomes of the several consultations the team had with political parties, Civil Society, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as well as the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) and the National Electoral Commission NEC).
“We come away feeling that this country is on the right path; this country is not where it was ten years ago. Something fundamentally different has happened; this country has experienced great transformation”; said Mr Kamau. The head of the UNPBC delegation emphasized that under the leadership of President Koroma, “the people have found their voice and developed self-belief which is something that comes only with strong leadership”.
On his meeting with the political parties, Mr Kamau said several issues were discussed and some concerns were also raised including the Census Provisional Results. The head of the delegation however informed President Koroma that “we expressed the view that according to the information we have from the international community on the ground, the census provisional results were credible and truly reflect the situation and so we have no objections to those results.”
Mr Kamau also informed the president about the Commission’s views regarding the political parties request for support stating that; political parties should not rely on external support rather; the Commission could support institutions like the PPRC and NEC, which he said, have done a great job. He also said that there is comfort in the fact that the CRC is poised to carry on with its work.
On sustaining peace and security, the delegation highlighted several observations regarding the youth, women (political) empowerment, health, education and skills training, agriculture and food security. The delegation commended President Koroma on his various initiatives in these various sectors. Mr Kamau however observed the need to remove the administrative road blocks to the Mano River Union integration/cooperation which he said would ensure stronger cooperation within the MRU; promote the free movement of people and enhance regional trade.
The head of delegation also shared observations on the need for the police and the judiciary to be able to perform their functions more fairly and in a more credible manner. In the same vein he highlighted the importance for a free press especially in the fight against corruption and in ensuring credible, free and fair elections.
“The country has moved from peace building to peace consolidation and now it’s on the path of normal. This is why we believe that to sustain this progress we must align our withdrawal with your 10-24 months recovery programme because the decision to withdraw didn’t envisage the Ebola outbreak”
Dr Ernest Bai Koroma applauded the delegation for the great work done in just few hours and was magnanimous about the credit for Sierra Leone’s peace laurels. “The credit should go to our people, they have shown great resilience”, he stressed.
The president reflected on the fact that Sierra Leone was fast moving in terms of socio-economic development but the country’s internationally acclaimed gains were reversed by the twin shocks of the Ebola outbreak and the fall in the prices of iron ore in the world market.
“But we have repositioned ourselves to move the country forward; we have just completed the first phase of the recovery plan. On Monday we will be launching the 10-24 months recovery programme” he said.
Speaking on the health sector, President Koroma assured that his government will continue with the Free Health Care Initiative to serve children under-five, pregnant women and lactating mothers. The president also stated that his government is on course to improve the education sector by getting more children to go to school, improve the quality of the learning environment by building more classrooms. We are also engaged in discussions to introduce the school feeding programme to help a good number of kids to stay in school. President Koroma also informed that his government is working hard to ensure rice sufficiency by timely providing fertilizers and seed inputs. He however acknowledges that the implementation of all these activities definitely require resources and the support of its partners.
On the political issues, the president acknowledged that there are challenges but assured the delegation of continued dialogue. “There is need for more training equipment for the judiciary and the police as well as personnel recruitment especially in the judiciary”, he stressed. He expressed satisfaction about the capacity at NEC which he said is hundred percent Sierra Leonean managed with commissioners and other senior cadre staff who have served for over a decade. And while he reiterated his commitment to achieving the 30% quota for women in governance before he leaves office; he assured the visiting UNPBC delegation that his government is in continuous dialogue on the aspect of the 1965 Public Order Act which members of the media are anxious about. However he also emphasized the need to protect the public from an errant press. “We will continue to encourage a free press but one that is responsible”, President Koroma averred.
On stronger cooperation within the MRU, the president acknowledged the need for the free movement of people, goods and services within the three countries but drew attention to the challenges in regional infrastructure to link up the MRU countries. He therefore commended the EU for the tremendous support it has provided for the construction of the Sierra Leone to Guinea and the Sierra Leone to the Liberia border trunk roads. While the MRU leadership is working hard to deal with the administrative issues, it is also important to build the infrastructure to allow movement, President Koroma concluded.