Bintumani III Today

 

A representative cross section of Sierra Leoneans from various walks of life with the exception of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party will meet today at the Bintumani Conference Centre at Aberdeen, Freetown to hold discussions on the dynamics required for the eventual establishment of a Peace and National Reconciliation Commission.

Commenting on the decision by the main opposition APC not to be a party to the Bintumani III deliberations, Presidential Press Secretary and Spokesman, Kekehtoma Sandy lamented that it is unfortunate that APC has excused itself from the proceedings as both the ruling and the opposition need to work hand in glove to find the way forward in terms of peace consolidation.

He noted that the government, opposition and the people have responsibilities – with the government providing the people with security and economic opportunities. The Presidential Press Secretary and Spokesman reiterated that it is unfortunate for the main opposition to abdicate its responsibility which, he said, is unfair to the people, including its members and supporters.

On the issue of the APC Deputy Chairman and Leader asking at the party’s consultative meeting at its headquarters on Tuesday that “we dae go or we nor dae go?” with regards whether or not the APC should take part in the conference, Kekehtoma commented that we should not trivialize national processes.

He explained that the President’s vision is to have a cohesive nation for the purpose of development, whilst he conceded that peace is a process that that requires continuous engagement.

The Press Secretary furthered that it is the responsibility of everybody to maintain and sustain peace in the country; hence the importance of the Bintumani Conference which, he said, would lead to the setting up of the Peace Commission. He cited examples of other post-conflict African countries that have established Peace Commissions, including Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Ghana, noting that in Rwanda, both the government and the opposition came together to push the process forward.

The Press Secretary further explained the rationale behind Bintumani. According to him, it is not to talk about the three Commissions of Inquiry which, he said, were enacted by Parliament. Also, he said, the conference is not to talk about the election petitions in court which fall under the authority of the Judiciary which, he said, is independent. Kekehtoma furthered that the conference is not a dialogue between two political parties, but an inclusive national consultation to establish a Peace Commission; how to put in place the structural mechanisms for it to operate; what its composition will be; how to make sure it is cascaded to grassroots levels of the society; and, what the role of different society stakeholders such as civil society and the human rights commissions would fit in it.

Kekehtoma stressed that the opposition has a responsibility that as a country, we come together to consolidate the peace. On this note, he said the APC Secretary General’s assertion that the party was not consulted was incorrect. “That is not correct and unfair to the people of this country,” Kekehtoma said, noting that if the APC scribe, Ambassador Dr. Osman Foday Yansaneh had said they were not taking part in the conference because of the election petition cases; that would have been understandable.

Meanwhile, two religious leaders, Rev. Christiana Sutton Koroma and Sheik Konneh have commented that God puts us in Sierra Leone as one people and that as such, it becomes incumbent upon all of us to come together to do the things that would move the country forward.

Rev. Christiana Koroma pointed out that for peace to reign in the country, everybody has to join hands as we all have a role to play. She added that peace is a process and that as such, Bintumani III is a consultative programme to which all citizens should contribute ideas leading to the establishment of the Peace and Reconciliation Commission. “Our hearts and minds should be together in our diversity,” she said, adding, “We need to change our attitudes and thinking by not looking at the things that divide us but what unites us.” She therefore appealed to the citizenry to consider what the benefits of the conference would be.

Meanwhile, with APC having decided that they are not part of the process of establishing durable peace in the country, many people have said it is not too late for President Julius Maada Bio as Father of the Nation to engage on a one-to-one basis with APC’s leaders and other political leaders in the country. Pictures of such friendly engagements with other political leaders individually and collectively posted on social media and other outlets will send a very big signal at home and abroad that Sierra Leoneans, in spite of their differences, are tolerant of each other and therefore peaceful.

Democracy involves engagement between sometimes antagonistic forces in society. As Father of the Nation, the people say he has to take the lead and take the bull by the horns to continuously be preaching peace that will gradually lead to healing of the nation’s wounds. Many concerned citizens are therefore encouraging him not to be despair but to stay spirited and engaged to unite the county as there would not be any development without peace.

Well-meaning Sierra Leoneans therefore believe that the Bintumani III is a good start that should be consolidated with other such engagements at different levels of society.