A few weeks from now, the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) will begin winding up its activities. The committee was established in 2013 to review the current 1991 constitution taking into account views from the public and lessons from other countries. This 80 member review body has been constituted by an eclectic mix of representatives including amongst others, market women, political parties, youth groups, civil society organisations, professional associations, traditional authorities, government bodies and academic institutions.
The CRC claims to have received thousands of suggestions from the public through its standard submission forms as well as dozens of position papers from institutions and individuals within and outside the country. The last date for submission to the CRC is 30 November 2015 after which the committee will set about collating the multiple diverse submissions into a readable and presentable report for the attention of government. The CRC has always been at pains to point out that its mandate is circumscribed- a sort of constitutional clearing house.
Recently the committee’s secretariat issued a press release in which it promised to soon release the “first draft report containing recommendations for constitutional amendments”. The undated release also sought to clarify that the CRC will release a “draft report” and not a “draft constitution” as media houses had erroneously reported. The release vaguely hinted at the post-CRC phase. Once the report is validated and finalized, it would be submitted to the government. In accordance with the constitution, the government will issue a White Paper “accepting the recommendations and a draft constitution would then be produced.”
This lack of clarity about arguably the most important component of the constitutional review process- i.e. writing the constitution itself – is concerning. Who should or would draft our new constitution? What should or would be included or omitted from the new constitution? A simplistic answer to the first query is likely to be, the government of course, which would then predict the answer to the second query – the government determines what does or does not make it into the new constitution.
When he launched the CRC in July 2013, President Koroma called on “all compatriots irrespective of region, district, ethnic, political or religious affiliation to support, fully participate and take ownership of the entire review process”. The president asserted that “this is the best way to make the resulting document a true covenant amongst all of us to honour our common aspirations.”
Clearly, at the outset, the whole review process- from collation of views to drafting and approval by referendum- was intended to be inclusive, consultative and objective. The resulting 80 plus membership of the CRC was a nod in that direction. Contrary to the impression being created by the CRC’s press release, the review process should not end or cease to enjoy these qualities after the final report is presented to the government. It must not suddenly become a government-only process. If the CRC is genuinely in the dark regarding the post-collation review process, it is therefore imperative that government quickly and publicly outlines how the rest of the review process would unfold in the same spirit of participation and national ownership.
The drafting phase, in constitutional reform, is perhaps the most sensitive as could be seen from the experiences of other African countries like South Sudan and Kenya, some of the comparative lessons for our own process. In Kenya – the locus of a recent learning tour by the CRC- the drafting process for their 2010 constitution was a study in consultation, negotiation and compromise. A broad-based committee of experts drawn from “diverse religious, ideological, political and other persuasions” was mandated to draft the new constitution instead of a wholly government entity. This draft was then subjected to several reviews including one by the public before it was finally approved by referendum.
Departing from the culture of openness, inclusivity and objectivity engendered by the CRC in the drafting phase would completely undermine the value of the work that was carried out and amount to a betrayal of the “covenant” even before it is formalised. At the very least, an open, inclusive and objective drafting process would show that the government does not have something up its sleeve.
In addition, having received thousands of submissions from the public in the last two years it is inconceivable that every single suggestion or position would make its way into the new constitution. To guarantee the credibility of the content of the new constitution, it is important for an objective criteria to be applied to the content question. What makes it into the new supreme law should not be an arbitrary decision.
As the president said at the launch of the CRC in July 2013, “Good constitutions are not imposed.” They are the outcome of open, inclusive dialogue, negotiation and compromise.
Sonkita Conteh is Director, Namati Sierra Leone
This OpEd originally appeared in The Awoko Newspaper.
Last updated January 30, 2013.
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Last updated: May 25, 2018
This Policy describes our privacy practices and sets out your obligations and ours with respect to your use of the Site and the Forum. This Policy applies only to the Site and the Forum and does not necessarily apply to our offline collection of information.
Namati may collect and retain two types of information about Site and Forum visitors: (i) personal information that individual visitors voluntarily provide when interacting on the Site or Forum or on certain other occasions (such as via forms or in emails); and (ii) tracking data, which is data that is automatically collected from every Site and Forum visitor as they use and browse the site.
We may, from time to time, store and archive the information you submit to or through the Site and Forum. The information that we gather may include your name, title, and address, telephone number, email address, credit card number or other elements of personal information. In addition, if you contact us, we may keep a record of your correspondence, including any information contained therein.
You may decline to provide any personal information, but please realize that you thereby may be unable to register or to participate in activities or services offered on the Site and/or Forum.
In addition to the information you submit to or through the Site and Forum, we also may collect and store data from and about you gathered in the course of your use of the Site and Forum. We call this “tracking data.”
Such tracking data may include, but is not limited to, information regarding the number and frequency of visits to the Site and Forum, the websites that you access before and after you visit the Site and Forum, the software and operating system used to access the Site and Forum, and your IP address and Internet service provider.
Our use of your Information involves various forms of communication with you, including:
We will not disclose any personal information to third parties, except:
Information provided to third parties is limited to the information needed to perform their functions. We seek to limit third-party use of information; however, we are not responsible for such third-party use of information.
We retain the right to transfer or assign all information pursuant to a merger, purchase or other transaction relating to Namati or our assets.
The current list of third-party service providers we use include:
Personal information you submit via your member account, other than information provided or content posted by you to public areas of the Site as described below, is deleted from Namati’s records following the deletion of your account. However, such information may continue to be retained by third-party service providers to which it has been disclosed for one of the reasons listed above.
Your Information is stored on Digital Ocean servers in New York, USA.
We take reasonable precautions to protect your information from loss, misuse or alteration. You should recognize, however, that there is no such thing as “perfect security” on the Internet, and we cannot guarantee the security of your information. In addition, because Internet communications are unsecure, it is also possible that the information you supply to us or your access of any information via the Site will be intercepted during transmission. We are not liable for any breach of our systems or interception of our transmission, and we hereby fully disclaim, to the fullest extent possible under law, any liability associated with any claim relating to a breach of security, data or information.
You should be aware that any information provided or content posted by you to public areas of the Site, including but not limited to interactions on the Site and information posted to the Member Directory (via your profile), the Tools Database and the Forum, may be read, collected or used by other visitors of the Site, who may not need to log in as a member to view the information. Namati is not responsible for the third-party use of any information provided in such manner. By participating in the use of the Site’s interactive features, you consent to Namati’s use or disclosure of any content that you submit. For more information on posting content, please see our Terms.
The Forum uses data about your posts and other activity to make automated decisions about whether your posts are spam.
The Forum may also use data about your posts and activity to award you badges and calculate a trust level for your account. Your trust level may affect how you can participate in the Forum, such as whether you can upload images, as well as give you access to moderation and management powers in the Forum. Your trust level, therefore, reflects Forum administrators’ confidence in you, and their willingness to delegate community management functions, like moderation.
From time to time, we may email users of the Site or the Forum information regarding important developments affecting Namati and/or the Global Legal Empowerment Network. We may also email users on occasion regarding the Site or the Forum. Such emails may be sent to users of the Site or Forum even if they have not requested to receive any communication from us.
You may choose to unsubscribe from future emails by using the unsubscribe link included in all mass email correspondence from Namati and the Global Legal Empowerment Network.
If a user elects to use our referral service to inform a friend about the Site and Forum, we request the name and email address of the friend. Namati will automatically send the friend a one-time email inviting the friend to visit the Site. Namati stores this information for the sole purpose of sending this one-time email, and, while a third-party mail service provider may retain the information in its database, no additional emails will be sent by Namati without further action by the friend.
Because Namati is concerned about the privacy protection of children who access the Internet, we comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Accordingly, the Site and Forum are not intended for use by anyone under the age of 13, and we do not knowingly collect information from anyone under 13 years of age without the consent of a parent or guardian.
We reserve the right to disclose any information to comply with any law, regulation, decree, judgment, order, subpoena or any other governmental order (“Order”) without any obligation to contest or verify the accuracy of such Order.
This Policy will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of New York, without regard to any principles of conflicts of law. You agree that any action at law or in equity that arises out of or relates to any use of the Site will be filed only in the state or federal courts located in New York County, and you hereby consent and submit to the personal jurisdiction of such courts for the purposes of litigating any such action.
The section titles in this Policy are for convenience only and have no legal or contractual effect.
The Site, the Forum, and any third party services they use, may be subject to additional terms and conditions regarding privacy and use of information. Your use of the Site and the Forum is subject to those terms and conditions, which are incorporated into this Policy by reference. In the event of an inconsistency between this Policy and any additional posted conditions, the provisions of the additional conditions shall control.
We may need to change the Policy from time to time in order to address new issues and to reflect changes on the Site or in the law. We reserve the right to revise or make any changes to the Policy, and your continued use of the Site subsequent to any changes to this Policy will mean that you agree to and accept such changes. You can tell if the Policy has been updated by checking the last revised date posted on the top of this page.
You can also access, remove, update or correct your information, and raise any questions or concerns regarding the Site or the Policy, by emailing email@example.com, or mailing:
Namati Data Protection Officer
1616 P Street NW, Suite 101
Washington, DC 20036, USA
If you live in a country which has adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (EU; 2016/679), you have a right to lodge a complaint with your relevant supervisory authority about this policy and its application.
The Policy was updated in May 2018 to comply with the General Data Protection Regulations.