The President used the occasion to commend the effort of the Commission amidst serious challenges in the consolidation of democratic good governance and encouraged the Commission to continue its good work in educating the public to uphold the fundamental values of democracy as the country prepares for the Referendum and 2018 elections.
He underscored the need for the people to be fully informed and actively take part in the democratic process, noting that with openness and community participation the process of implementing democratic principles will be easy. President Koroma further reiterated the significant role of the Commission saying that democracy is not just an activity but involves a whole process that includes building people and developing certain values and cultures that will ensure that the people become democratic in everything they do and say.
Assuring the Commission of his commitment to democracy, the president did admit that stringent measures were taken during the Ebola period that limited certain democratic values because, according to medical experts, there was the need for those measures to be applied in order to curb the dreaded disease. He however maintained that his government never intended to violate the fundamental human rights of any individual but the situation at the time warranted the adoption and application of such strict measures.
The president noted that he is aware of the Commission’s huge task of educating the public about democracy and good governance which is why he has noted the challenges the Commission highlighted in its report and assured it of his support.
Presenting the Commission’s Annual Report, the Chairman NCD, Dr. Abubakar H. Kargbo, said the Commission is presenting its annual report in fulfillment of its statutory mandate stipulated in the Act of Parliament No. 3 of 1996 and the performance contract signed with H. E. the President which requires the Commission to report on the activities implemented with regards its obligations.
Dr. Kargbo told the President that the Commission has been very proactive in sensitizing the public to educate them about their civic rights and responsibilities despite the challenges posed by the Ebola epidemic. In an attempt to demonstrating how seriously the people needed education, the Chairman cited an instance wherein the presence of the Commission’s green, white and blue Public Education Broadcast Van was frowned upon by people in some of the provincial areas who perceived it as being responsible for the spread of the disease.
The Chairman further informed the President about the Commission’s active role in the Constitutional Review process noting that the Commission played a crucial role in educating the public in several parts of the country about the need to participate in the process of reviewing the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.
Dr. Karroo appealed for adequate resources to make the Commission more efficient, effective and sustainable noting the huge task the Commission has ahead in preparing for the Referendum and 2018 elections which he said will contribute to promoting sustainable democratic consolidation.
Highlighting the importance of Civic Education, the Chairman of NCD reiterated how significantly important a civic education campaign would be to ensure that the over seven million people understand the governance process of the state which hinges on civic responsibility, nationalism and patriotism.
He said there would be the need to capacitate the Commission in order to augment the current preparedness of the Commission for both the Referendum and the forthcoming elections to enable the Commission to effectively contribute its own quota in promoting credible, peaceful, transparent, violent-free Referendum, Presidential and Local Council elections.
“The Commission is, however, optimistic that with the timely provision of adequate resources, its civic education drive will reach the entire nation even at the chiefdom level. NCD is, therefore, calling for support from the government, the donor community, the people and all friends of Sierra Leone interested in the country’s progress and well-being. We must learn through experience and live with the practical reality in our effort to promoting democratic good governance. It is, therefore, a given that a well-informed public will contribute positively to the ideals of democratic good governance,” he appealed.
The Chairman also used the occasion to present the second edition of the Commission’s Good Governance Magazine and “the Way to Happiness”, a common sense guide to better living with implication for increased civic consciousness in being good citizen. He implored the President to support the popularization of “the way to happiness” across the country saying that the Commission is poised to raise the standard of civic education to another level if it is provided with the necessary support.
The NCD Chairman also drew the attention of the President to the need to duly constitute the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) pointing out that the absence of a Chairman gravely affects the effectiveness of the PPRC. He said “the significance of this appeal is contingent on the realization that with the ongoing political impasse in the leading opposition party in the Country, PPRC can be very pivotal in the successful and amicable resolution of the issues, a move that is very vital given its implications for the consolidation of democracy in our beloved motherland.”
In his vote of thanks, the Commissioner for the Northern Region, Bai John Conteh, expressed the Commission’s appreciation to H.E the President for according it the opportunity to meet and listen to its presentation in spite of his busy schedule. The Commissioner further reiterated the Commission’s desire for the President to go through “the Way to Happiness” and if it catches his eye, lend it the necessary support so that the twenty one (21) points therein will be widely disseminated.
Explaining the concept, Commissioner Conteh said “the Way to Happiness” is something on social engineering which the Commission considers to be useful in bringing happiness to the nation. He said the Commission believes that, if approved by the President, they will work together to adopt part of the twenty one (21) point theory and see how much they can make Sierra Leoneans understand the tenets of democracy and how society fits into their general trajectory to get them to being a happy nation.