"This naked and despicable conduct of the President is contradicted by a memo addressed to the Minister of Local Government and Community Development in August 2002, by no less a person than the President’s number two, Vice President, Solomon E. Berewa."
BY Charles F. Margai,Interim Leader, PMDC
President Kabbah is a Lawyer by profession, even though he may not have darkened the walls of a Courtroom. Notwithstanding, he has available to him in the Legal field, the likes of Solomon Berewa, J.B. Dauda and of course, the Political Attorney-General, F.M. Carew, whose knowledge of the Law may not be of much assistance.
On assuming office as President of this Nation, President Kabbah must have read the Constitution of Sierra Leone with particular reference to Section 40 through to Section 53 thereof, to acquaint himself with what encompasses that high office, in fact, the highest office in the land.
On Friday, 29th March, 1996, Alhaji Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, took the Oath of office as President and promised to preserve, support, uphold, maintain and defend the Constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone, as required by Section 46(4) of the Constitution. SECOND SCHEDULE - PRESIDENT’S OATH “I ............ do hereby (in the name of God swear) (solemnly affirm) that I will at all times well and truly discharge the duties of the office of the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone according to Law, that I will preserve, support, uphold, maintain and defend the Constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone as by Law established, and that I will do right to all manner of people according to Law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will. (So help me God)”.
How well and truly has the President adhered to the above solemn Oath of office? Taking a walk down memory lane, I could immediately recall to mind, the following: - Section 32(4) of the Constitution provides that - “a person shall not be qualified - for appointment as a Member of the Electoral Commission if he is not qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament” Section 76(3) of the Constitution states: - “Any person who is the holder of any office the functions of which involve responsibility for, or in connection with, the conduct of any election to Parliament or the compilation of any register of voters for the purposes of such an election, shall not be qualified for election to Parliament”. Section 56(2)(a) of the Constitution states - Section 56(2) - “A person shall not be appointed a Minister or deputy Minister unless - (a) he is qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament”. Section 76(1) “No person shall be qualified for election as a Member of Parliament - (b) if he is a member of any Commission established under this Constitution, or a member ..... or employee within twelve months prior to the date on which he seeks to be elected to Parliament” (As Amended)
Dr. James Jonah’s appointment both as Sierra Leone’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations with cabinet rank and subsequently as Minister of Finance transgressed the Constitution having conducted the 1996 February/March Parliamentary and Presidential Elections. 2 Apart from Dr. Jonah’s case, the following appointments to Ministerial and deputy Ministerial positions flagrantly violated the Constitution, to name but a few: - Dr. Ahmed Ramadam Dumbuya (Lecturer F.B.C.) Dr. Alpha Wurie (Lecturer F.B.C.) Momodu Koroma (Lecturer N.U.C.) Dr. S.U.M. Jah (Surgeon Specialist - Government Service) Dr. James Boima (Surgeon - Government Service) Pascal Egbenda (Lecturer F.B.C.)
3. The announcement by the President of the date for the Presidential and Parliamentary elections to be held on the 28th day of July, 2007, especially where both elections will be fused, clearly usurps the authority of the Electoral Commission see - Section 42 of the Electoral Laws Act No.2 of 2002, which states “The time for a General Election of the ordinary members of Parliament shall be appointed by proclamation made by the President after consultation with the Electoral Commission” (emphasis mine). Section 28(1) - “There shall be a Presidential ..... under Subsection (1) of Section 49 of the Constitution” Section 28(2) & (3) of the said Act - Section 28(2) provides - “The vacancy to be filled by any Presidential election shall be declared by the Electoral Commission by proclamation made after consultation with the President (emphasis mine). Section 28(3) “where the vacancy in the office of the President occurs - in any of the ..... a period during which the Presidential election shall be held, shall be determined by the Commission in accordance with Section 43 of the Constitution; (emphasis mine). in any other case, the electoral commission, may in the proclamation referred to in Subsection(2), fix the actual date of the election (emphasis mine).
4. Following the unexpected resignation by Dr. Abdulai Timbo, as Chairman of the Political Parties Registration Commission, he having been nominated by the Judicial & Legal Service Commission in fulfilment of Section 34(1(a) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No. 6 of 1991, the President in disregard of the Constitution to wit, Section 34(1)(a), Section 2(1)&(6) & Section 5(2) of the Political Parties Act No. 3 of 2002, proceeded to appoint Mr. R.A. Caesar, who incidentally is a nominee of the Sierra Leone Bar Association (see Section 34(1)(c) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone) with utter contempt (emphasis mine)
5. As if the above violations were not enough, the President, contrary to all norms of civility, issued a press release challenging NEC’S right to conduct the BIRIWA Chieftaincy election, by arrogating that function to the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development.
This naked and despicable conduct of the President is contradicted by a memo addressed to the Minister of Local Government and Community Development in August 2002, by no less a person than the President’s number two, Vice President, Solomon E. Berewa. As the entire contents of the memo have been fully published in some of the Local tabloids, I shall only refer to extracts.
The memo states thus: - “I write with reference to your minute of 2nd August, 2002 addressed to me on the subject of the pending elections of paramount Chiefs in the 64 Chiefdoms in the whole country in which vacancies exist. I also wish ...... the commission’s Constitutional right to conduct the said Paramount Chieftaincy Elections by virtue of Section 33 of the Sierra Leone Constitution relating to their commission’s functions vis-à-vis the said elections.
It is therefore quite clear that the pending elections of Paramount Chiefs in the 64 vacant positions will be a dual process. There is in it a role to be performed by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development as represented by the Provincial Secretary of the Region and also by the Assessor Chiefs who are the repository of the traditions and customs of the area. As an initial step in the process the provincial Administration will proceed along the usual procedural lines to revise the chiefdom councillors lists in each of the affected chiefdoms, arrange for the appointment of Assessor chiefs who in turn will identify the candidates. Thereafter the National Electoral Commission in the performance of its Constitutional role will step in to conduct the elections in accordance with the laid down rules and procedures using the Chiefdom Councillors in each case as the electors. In this way the election takes the nature of a public election. This is in consonance with the Attorney-General’s position referred to in the minutes of the Executive Secretary of the National Electoral Commission forwarded together with your minutes.” (emphasis mine).
From the above memo, the following questions call for determination: - was the President aware of the said memo when he issued the press lease stopping NEC from conducting the BIRIWA elections, describing Chieftaincy elections as being outside of Local Government and public elections? by the President’s conduct, was he deliberately trying to mislead the Nation into believing that Chieftaincy elections were outside the purview of NEC, notwithstanding the provisions of Section 33 of Act No.6 of 1991; relied on by the Executive Secretary of NEC and approved and supported by the Attorney-General and the Vice President in the memo? was the President conscious of the sacred duty bestowed upon him with regard to the Oath of office aforementioned?
I am not in any way attempting to sit in Judgement over the President’s behaviour but rather, to bring into focus what are in my humble view, matters of grave concern, necessitating those entrusted with the appropriate authority, to call in aid, Section 51 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No.6 of 1991, captioned “MISCONDUCT BY THE PRESIDENT”, to curb what has now become a ‘culture of impunity’ (emphasis mine). Parliament being the watch dog of the people of Sierra Leone, has a moral responsibility to ensure due compliance and observance of the Constitution by the citizenry not least, the President, especially where the independence of the Supreme Court has been seriously eroded by its very composition!