This initiative is a component of CGG’s Accountable Governance, Justice and Security programme and framed within the Access Sierra Leone project to be implemented by Partners for Democratic Change in the United States and BudgIT in Nigeria, explained CGG Programme Director Marcella Samba-Sesay.
She also explained that the activities within this programme are aimed at creating space for sustained engagement between members of the judiciary and civil society including fostering confidence and building mutual partnership through exploring innovative strategies, new approaches and models for enhancing access to justice in Sierra Leone.
In her statement, CGG’s Executive Director, Valnora Edwin, explained that CGG’s mission is to increase citizen’s participation in governance through advocacy, capacity building and civic education in order to build a more informed civil populace.
“We envisage these sessions as a civic education space for both citizens and the judiciary seen from a service provider and user perspective,” she accentuated.
She also emphasized that the “activity is situated within a broader initiative of the project, titled ACCESS Sierra Leone funded by the US States Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs working on the theory what increasing citizens participation through innovative means.”
This, the Executive Director said, will improve transparency and accountability within the justice and security sectors, two areas highly conservative and closed to public scrutiny.
Ms Edwin underscored that the broader project and this specific activity is situated within a wider global and national framework. “It seeks to address the challenges identified by the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Report 2004 that identified injustice in all its forms as one of the contributing factors of the rebel war and provided recommendations to address this.”
In the Chairperson’s opening address, Mrs Yasmin Jusu Sheriff explained that justice is worth having, it is not a privilege but a right.
She said that the link and the bond between Civil Society and the Judiciary should be very strong, since they share a lot that unite them than divide them. “The two are crucially important to each other; neither CSO nor the judiciary can function effectively without each other,” she said.
In his presentation, Aruna Kallon, the editor and communications officer, Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CRAL) underscored the importance of introducing Information and Communications Technology (ITC) in the judiciary, which he referred to as e-Judiciary.
In his lucid statement, the Master and Registrar, Sierra Leone Court, Stephen Yayah Manasary, noted that the problems they have with Civil Society boiled down to key questions such as: What particular interest are they pushing forward? How accountable are they to themselves? Who are the funders and what interest are they projecting?
He also noted that the Judiciary is straight jacketed and that anyone who is not inside the system is seen as an outsider or a stranger. However, he stressed that transparency in the judiciary is imperative.