The former Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Solomon Ekuma Berewa, yesterday, Wednesday 11th February 2008 at the Hill Valley Hotel, Signal Hill Road in Freetown, delivered a paper at a public lecture organized by the United Nations backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.
|Former Vice President Solomon Ekuma Berewa
Speaking on the topic ĎPursuing Justice and Peace in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone: Examining the Challengesí, Mr. Solomon Berewa who was Guest Speaker, referred to the topic as fascinating, saying having spent more than half his age as a lawyer and later became Attorney General and Minister of Justice and also Vice President, he has seen first hand how justice is administered in the country and has been an active participant in the process.
He said throughout this period, he has been intimately involved in advancing the policy relating to judicial and legal reform, and also played a crucial part in bringing about the peace Sierra Leone currently enjoys.
Mr. Berewa stated that the destruction of the countryís social fabric and economic infrastructure would require more than mere hand-outs from donors or mere humanitarian assistance or even a number of democratic elections, however described, to get the country firmly on its feet and get moving forward again.
"The topic for discussion is therefore most appropriate as there is the pressing need for us as a nation to pursue the peace that we now enjoy and ensure that the possibility of the country sliding back into chaos and hostilities become very remote", Mr. Berewa maintained, adding that "The eleven years old conflict in this country happened when the elements of peace and justice ceased to be treated as having a place or proper place in the governance of the country".
He described peace as the prerequisite for human development, pointing out that, "There will be no peace without tolerance, as tolerance is ingrained in peace".
Peace, Mr. Berewa stressed, is born out of the culture of accepting that people are different; they carry different views of situations, beliefs, values and backgrounds and they should be allowed to express these differences and still exist amicably with their individual differences.
Justice on the other hand, Mr. Berewa went on, connotes fairness and impartial behaviour in adjudicating between the state and individual citizens, and between citizens and citizens.
Going further, Mr. Berewa noted that the obligation to act fairly and impartially applies to every person who has a duty to make decisions, or give judgements or to make objective assessments in matters and in circumstances where the rights of a citizen may be affected.
He went on to state that the obligation to be fair and impartial does not permit the person adjudicating to be motivated or influenced by any considerations whatsoever except the relevant facts adduced before him together with the application of the predetermined and appropriate procedural rules necessary for arriving at a fair determination of the matter.
He said in so far as there is a special burden on the president and judicial personnel to do justice whenever they perform their duties, their respective oaths of office as enshrined in the countryís national constitution, require them to do justice "to all manner of people according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will".
Mr. Berewa said to be able to properly discuss the topic ĎPursuing Justice and Peace in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone: Examining the Challengesí, it would require a critical look at the causes of the decade long civil war in the country, stating further that "the proper thing to do in that direction is to accurately and shamelessly diagnose the true causes of the conflict if we intend to eradicate it for good and to now pursue peace".
Still on the causes of the conflict, Mr. Berewa stated authoritatively that leadership failure and failure of governance, outshadows all previously thought causes.
As a nation, Mr. Berewa warned that "such failures should be eliminated from our conduct and resolve to prevent their recurrence both in the governance of the state and in our own inter-personal dealings among ourselves as citizens".
He pointed out that "it is only by putting our fingers on the true causes of the conflict that that we can prevent their creeping into our national life again", adding that "It is only by our doing this that we can be said to be pursuing peace and justice in post-conflict Sierra Leone.
In pursuing peace and justice in post-conflict Sierra Leone, Mr. Berewa implored that all eyes should be firmly fixed on the road map prescribed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). "With this as our guide, we would not go astray again", Mr. Berewa added.
Peace and justice according to Mr. Berewa are inseparable, and that what binds them neatly together is true democracy. For him, democracy means the way and manner in which the people exercise power, including participation in the decision-making process, the enacting of laws and above all, their participation in the nationís wealth on the basis of equitable distribution.
The holding of regular elections and the changing of political leaders, Mr. Berewa opined, is an essential part of the democratic process.
The result of a democratic process achieved through threat, coercion, violence, intimidation, misinformation and extravagant promises, or through the complicity of those charged with the conduct of the process, Mr. Berewa furthered, is a fraud on the electorate as it negates their free will and power to choose their leaders.
This, Mr. Berewa noted, is not the kind of democracy that will promote peace and justice in post-conflict Sierra Leone.
Mr. Berewa used the occasion to break silence on what still remains topical, reiterating that the invalidation of a total of 201,670 votes cast in the last general elections, rendered the entire process suspect and unfair.
He said even though he felt openly cheated by the National Electoral Commission (NEC), he, in the interest of peace and posterity, decided to concede defeat and congratulated his opponent within minutes of the announcement of the suspicious result.
"I took the above course of action not because I wished to legitimize the obvious irregularity and lack of transparency connected with that election mentioned here, I did so because I was aware of the real likelihood of a conflagration befalling this post-war country and because of the absolute need existing to maintain the peace in the attainment of which I had played no mean role".
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.