By Ishmail Saidu Kanu
The Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) together with the Review Committee of the Citizens’ Manifesto (CM) Steering Committee on Thursday 7th July, 2022 launched the Assessment Report on the Citizens’ Manifesto in order to develop citizens’ capacities as decision-makers in selecting the type of leader they wish to elect and to make political leadership more responsible through persistent dialogues between citizens and political leaders.
The ceremony which took place at the New Brookfield’s Hotel in Freetown brought together Steering Committee members including Civil Society groups and the media to discuss the report.
According to the Executive Director of IGR, Andrew Lavali,the idea of a Citizens’ Manifesto (CM) is to place citizens at the forefront of shaping a democratic and accountable political system in Sierra Leone. “The initiative is a collaborative action of several established civil society agencies, media outlets, and formal and informal institutions that are dedicated to improving good governance in Sierra Leone”, he added.
Mr. Lavali continued: “In November 2017 when the country was preparing to hold its presidential and parliamentary elections in March 2018, there was a tense political atmosphere between the two major political parties, the APC and the SLPP, and a vibrant presidential flagbearer from the NGC party. The Citizens’ Manifesto initiative intended to shift the growing tension in politics to policy-driven discussions by helping voters better understand the value of their votes rather than simply relying upon self-serving politicians, hence, the “My Vote, My Life” catchphrase.
“As the nation is now preparing for its upcoming June 2023 elections, the general political discourse is bordering largely on “ethno-regional politics, hate messages spread via social media, especially from those who reside abroad and send abusive and incendiary messages into the country, and intimidation of dissenting voices by “security personnel”. These unpleasant developments have potentially devastating consequences on the country’s democratic consolidation process.
Making her presentation, IGR’s Governance Expert Emmanuella E. Sandy mentioned that the review process looks at the commitment made by political parties/candidates during the Launch of the CM. “It assesses the extent to which issues raised by citizens were adopted into party manifestos and/or policies leading up to and after the March 2018 general election. It also provides an assessment of the incumbent’s uptake of citizens’ demands in the first year of administration. Seven issues were identified in the 2017 CM; these issues have been reviewed to highlight the progress made, as well as to make recommendations for robust advocacy efforts and monitoring of the indicators”, the Governance Expert noted.
She further outlined the key contents in the report: “The seven issues in the CM are Asset declaration, Women’s political representation, Youth political representation, Representation of persons with disabilities (PWDs), Citizens’ shares in mining and agricultural investments, Transparency in campaign financing, and Commitment to the following targets in the first year of the winning (incumbent) administration. These targets are the right to food, housing, health, education, and a national cohesion policy to unify the nation, 20% of national revenue allocated for education, 20% of domestic revenue allocated for health, repeal of the criminal libel law, and the execution of programs to save the environment.
“The Review process further aims at revisiting the intent of strengthening citizens’ capacities as decision-makers in choosing the type of leader they seek to elect and making political leadership more accountable through sustained dialogues between citizens and political leaders. The objective or goal is that through this process a people-centered political system and leadership that is responsive to citizens’ priorities would emerge”.
Speaking on the methodology, Mrs. Sandy pointed out that the review process is in two parts; the first six issues identified within the CM have to do with the commitments of the 2017 presidential candidates, saying it looks at the uptake of the indicators by the candidates while the second aspect concentrates on the seventh indicator, which has six sub-indicators that comprise the incumbent’s uptake on the commitment to the sub-issues.
“Generally, uptake of the CM by the presidential candidates was minimal. The commitments from political parties/candidates are gauged by party manifestos as well as policies/laws that have been enacted by the incumbent that speak to the seventh indicator. The latter has achieved some progress, although some of the achievements were not accomplished within the first year of administration as prescribed in the CM. Additionally, some issues were not achieved as citizens requested”, she stated.
She concluded by saying that there is a need for continuous advocacy campaigns on identified CM indicators after every election, maintaining that asset declaration is an approach that seeks to minimize corruption in a nation that routinely scores high on corruption indices over the years by anchoring the issue of ethics and integrity to the political class. “Hopefully, the next district consultation captures and expounds on this so that CSOs can design a robust campaign on Assert Declaration”.
The report was launched by Josephus Ellie, Governance Advisor of Irish Aid SL.
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