How successful can the Bintumani III Conference be without the active participation of the APC?
By Lawrence Williams
The 2018 multi-tier elections were characterised by high level of violence and intimidation. The use of tribal rhetoric during the campaign leading to the runoff election exacerbated ethnic tension between major tribes in the country. This led to an escalation of violence between supporters of the country’s two major political parties followed by indiscriminate attacks on unsuspecting people because of their tribe/political party affiliation; indiscriminate burning down of houses, destruction of market stalls, separation of exogamous marriages/relationships, amongst others. In one instance, it was reported that hundreds of people fled their homes in the Kono District due to real or imagined threats from unsuspecting miscreants.
Following these unfortunate incidents of violence, there have been constant agitation by patriotic Sierra Leoneans across all spectrum for a national conference to address the challenges of a country deeply polarised by ethno-political differences and to foster unity and coexistence among its peoples. This agitation, it is believed, resonates with the president’s vision for building a cohesive nation through an Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion as espoused in paragraph 203 of his address to Members of Parliament on the occasion of the State Opening of the Second Session of the Fifth Parliament on 2nd May, 2019.
He said: “Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I am pleased to report that Government has prepared for the establishment of the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion. A Green Paper has been submitted for consultation on how to achieve inclusive governance and improve on the infrastructure for peace and democratization. Together with the Green Paper on Democratic Consolidation and National Cohesion, we shall host a National Dialogue Conference to be called Bintumani III on Democratic Consolidation for Peace and National Cohesion scheduled for 23-25 May 2019.”
Though many people have welcomed the holding of the Bintumani III Conference on the scheduled date, it can be argued that the theatrical walkout staged by members of the main opposition All People’s Congress in Parliament on that fateful day have created a twirling effect on the significance of the proposed Conference. Among many questions raised by well-meaning Sierra Leoneans is how successful can the Bintumani III Conference be without the active participation of the main opposition All People’s Congress who have already threatened to boycott the process for very obvious reasons.
On this note, I humbly submit that Bintumani III be postponed to allow room for more political dialogue between the executive and opposition members. I also advise that in order to give it a national outlook and to enhance public confidence and trust in the process, greater space must be created for an active public participation through our elected representatives representing us in local councils and in Parliament; including the participation of key governance institutions, major civil society groups, traditional and religious leaders, media practitioners, amongst others.
© Fritong Post Newspaper Wednesday May 8th, 2019.