On Tuesday this week, July 30, 2013, the Government of Sierra Leone launched a Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), which is charged with the task of examining this fundamental document and coming up with recommendations for amendments to the laws of the nation based on its findings.
This is obviously not a quick process but it is surely in the interest of Mama Salone to observe patiently and follow the progress of the review. Especially since the President cites women’s demand for changes in contradictory laws in the current constitution regarding women’s rights as one of the many reasons necessitating this review. In his keynote address at the launching ceremony, His Excellency, President Ernest Koroma made reference to this demand stating, Women are advocating for the review of the 1991 constitution to ensure that we do not have a constitution that protects and promotes their rights with one hand and then draws back these protections in other clauses… At least now we know someone has been listening.
The 80-member CRC, the President says, is made up of a diverse group of citizens from all regions and various political and socio-economic backgrounds. It has two years to complete its findings and submit a draft recommended amendments to the President, who would then present it to Parliament for approval and then to the people of Sierra Leone through referendum.
In his speech, the President emphasized the need for full support and participation by all citizens in this process; however, if the people of Sierra Leone are to have faith in his words, the process should start off as transparent as possible and the committee should be more representative. According to some critics, the CRC is primarily composed of members of the two main political parties (APC and SLPP), it has also been pointed out that the CRC is not gender balanced. The CRC in that case seems to have the same flavor as other governmental appointments in Sierra Leone; based on political and inner circle connections within the political elites. There are so far no indications of civil society’s involvement in these initial stages of the process and none on how citizens’ participation will be ensured.
We assume the best of intentions on the part of the president and his government. however, we cannot help but wonder whether such a select committee could come up with recommended amendments in the best interest of women and other vulnerable groups?
Only time will tell!
Read President Koroma’s Keynote Address here