Beyond Business as Usual: Looking inward to change our story

A new paper from the Institute of Governance Reform suggests ways the new president of Sierra Leone, HE Julius Maada Bio can make a fundamental shift in institutionalised practices, systems and norms that are binding constraints to good governance in the country.

In it the authors Andrew T. Lavali and Fredline A. O. M’Cormack-Hale write:

"In keeping with the mandate of the New Direction Manifesto, the Bio administration has undertaken several bold reforms in their first six months. On the economic front domestic revenue figures have almost doubled. The government also recently received a favourable review from the IMF which applauded them for taking many corrective actions to improve revenue and budget performance. After a year of suspension from the IMF for fiscal indiscipline, Sierra Leone may well be on course to rejoin the IMF. In education, the government has launched a Free Quality Education programme targeting over 1.5 million pupils. The government is also working on enhancing rice self-sufficiency and tackling graft.

"Despite the scope of reforms, there are enduring concerns. On-going programmes and measures are yet to translate into tangible improvements for citizens, who continue to grapple with the most basic needs, including access to food, water, housing, and roads. The 2018 UN poverty index shows that Sierra Leone has fallen further down the poverty scale. Access to justice also continues to be constrained as exemplified by incidences of electoral violence across the country being met with excessive police force."

The authors continue:

"Successive regimes have often been too timid to challenge entrenched beliefs, practices, and behaviours, out of fear of eroding their support base. Instead, they have preferred to rely on externally sourced development assistance to promote change, rather than looking inward to change the story. We argue in this brief that while international support in the form of aid and expertise is helpful, lasting solutions to Sierra Leone’s enduring challenges have to come from a hard and honest look within, and the courage to challenge the entrenched norms and ways of thinking that have contributed to holding the country back."

The paper concludes with a list of recommendations:

1. Increasing transparency around aid and international investments: Government should make conversations around international aid and investments open and inclusive and harmonised with Sierra Leone's poverty reduction agenda and national investment plan developed by the Sierra Leone Export and Import Promotion Agency (SLEIPA). Sierra Leoneans should be provided opportunities to comment on investment and aid opportunities with platforms provided for such feedback to be included in the final decisions taken. Moreover, information around the benefits and disadvantages of aid and investments should clearly be articulated and communicated. Government must ensure that donors meet internationally set guidelines of donor accountability, such as the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action.

2. Deepen Decentralisation:

Government through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the Vice President’s Office should consider convening a stakeholder conference on decentralisation to tackle the challenges in devolution and its effects on service delivery at community level; find ways to make structures for local decentralisation functional; deepen the devolution of services to local councils; and minimize tensions within local councils, and between local councils and central government. The role of the Local Government Association is crucial in this regard.

3. The Role of the President:

In keeping with the constitutional mandate that the president is a symbol of national unity, the Office of the President should design and launch a special national diversity management project. Such a project should develop concrete indicators on national cohesion and invest in the use of national activities such as games, sports, dance troupes, as well as leverage and promote symbols of our collective integration such as religion, and intermarriage.

4. One Country, One People:

The government should also promote policies that confer benefits to all of Sierra Leone, irrespective of region, or ethnicity as well as ensure that there is no favouritism in the application of law. This includes fair resource distribution, and equitable administration of justice and security as ways to strengthen stability and social cohesion. One example would be to show zero tolerance to violence. As a matter of urgency, all acts of violence by political actors in the last election and recent bye election in Kambia and unprofessional conduct of state security agencies should be investigated and punished.

5. The new Civic Education Programme:

Government should consider the reintroduction of civics in schools with a special focus on educating the youth on the expectations and roles of politicians; the expectations of productive and engaged citizenry, as well as inculcating values such as good citizenship, tolerance, honest and transparent leadership will help to instil a sense of national pride.

Read the full report here:

Beyond Business as Usual

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