THE AFRC COUP, OMRIE GOLLEY'S ARREST & DETENTION IN GUINEA & HIS EFFORTS FOR PEACE & THE RETURN TO DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE IN SIERRA LEONE
It can safely be said that the period between the 25th of May 1997 when the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) staged their coup and the return of the Tejan Kabbah administration in February 1998, was one of the darkest moments in the history of Sierra Leone.
DIALECTICS OF THE PEACE PROCESS, WITH THE FAILURE OF THE ABIDJAN PEACE ACCORD, THE INCARCERATION OF FODAY SANKOH, AND THE MILITARY COUP AGAINST TEJAN KABBAH
Days after the historic meeting in Yamassoukro, Republic of Ivory Coast in March 1996, the leader of the NPRC Julius Maada Bio, handed over the reign of Government to President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah who swiftly formed a new administration and continued with efforts to achieve peace and reconciliation in the country.
The telephone conversation at a safe house in Danane, Ivory Coast with Corporal Foday Sankoh was to become the foundation upon which Omrie Golley’s role in the peace process was built. It was through that safe house bush radio conversation that Golley was able to detect an uncanny desire for international recognition and acceptance from the RUF leader.
The formation of an external delegation by the RUF was no small measure an attempt to establish diplomatic contact with the outside world and it had become obvious that the RUF leadership wanted to be taken seriously.
Golley met Foday Sankoh for the first time on the 24th March, 1996 at the City of Yamassoukro, Ivory Coast, 450 kilometres north of Abidjan. This was a couple of months after the meeting at Danane with the RUF external delegation.
He had returned to London after that initial encounter to escalate his engagements with International Alert, the ICRC, the Commonwealth Secretariat, UN and occasionally, through telephone conversations, with members of the RUF he had met in Danane.
It didn’t take Golley long to learn that a meeting had been scheduled between the NPRC military government of Sierra Leone and the RUF. In his quest to see a peaceful resolution of the conflict, as well as the realization that the said meeting would afford a wonderful opportunity for his group (operating under the umbrella of the National Convention for Reconstruction and Development NCRD) to meet with Foday Sankoh and the RUF leadership to continue the process of dialogue and encouragement for a sustainable peaceful resolution of the conflict, he wasted no time to mobilize other members of his organisation to travel with him to Yamoussoukro for the historic meeting.
He contacted Oluniyi Robbin-Coker, Osman Yansaneh, Lans Gberie, Ambrose Ganda and other Sierra Leoneans and offered to meet the cost of the travel for the whole Group, from their respective departure points in the UK and West Africa.
The Late Ambrose Ganda, penning details of the historic event in his Focus on Sierra Leone in March 1996, wrote:
"I arrived in Abidjan Sunday morning 24 March, determined to witness the historic meeting between Maada Bio and Foday Sankoh, but not knowing what the program of events was. I checked into my hotel room and was just about to steal a wink - having travelled on a night flight from London - when the telephone rang only for me to be told that both men were due to arrive in Yamoussoukro that very evening.
"I hurriedly surrendered my keys at the reception and checked out. I was in the company of three compatriots - Omrie Golley, Chairman of the National Convention for Reconstruction and Development - which also paid for my trip as with an earlier visit, Mr Osman Yansaneh, a personal assistant of ex President Momoh, who travelled from Conakry, and Mr Lans Gberie, editor of Expo Times, who had travelled from Freetown as an independent observer. We boarded a hired jeep, and headed with a rendez-vous with history, nearly 450 kilometres in the North of Ivory Coast.”
Golley and his fellow compatriots arrived late that evening, finding accommodation at the same hotel where both the Government of Sierra Leone delegation together with that of the RUF were residing, and sent word to both delegations that they had arrived to witness the historic event, expressing a desire to meet with them.
Golley and the rest of the group that accompanied him received immediate word from Foday Sankoh that he was very keen to meet with them.
Warmly welcoming Golley and his fellow Sierra Leoneans, Sankoh went on to berate Ambrose Ganda, in a friendly way, for some unflattering remarks Ganda had made months earlier about the RUF, in one of his publications which had been brought to his attention. Sankoh was equally swift on putting that episode aside, engaging the group in an informal manner. He then went on to speak copiously about the reasons why the RUF had embarked on what he termed ‘an armed struggle’, and giving a lecture on what he termed the core of the thinking of the Movement - Pan Africanism- and the need for grass roots involvement in the political dispensation of Sierra Leone which he described as lacking.
Golley and Ganda in their own individual comments mentioned to the RUF leader that they had come as independent observers to the peace meeting, not being part of any official delegation. Golley went on to add that they would probably be waiting outside the hall - where the meeting was to take place - until it’s conclusion, and that the Group had come to Yamassoukro to give moral and where necessary, practical support to both sides.
Sankoh’s immediate response was;
"We are all Sierra Leoneans, aren’t we? We are here to talk about peace for our country. Every Sierra Leonean must be welcome! You do not need an invitation for that, do you? You should come to the hall tomorrow to make your presence felt."
Golley remembered this initial encounter in which these historic deliberations also brought with it an amusing moment.
‘’We were all seated in the inner suite of Foday Sankoh’s quarters with Sankoh resplendent in traditional ronko attire, with us listening animatedly to him dilating on the reasons why the RUF took up arms.
In the middle of this discourse, Sankoh got up suddenly to attend to a call of nature. Thinking that this brief interlude, would afford the group a few minutes to compare notes on our individual feelings, we were surprised to witness Sankoh enter the bathroom, sit on the toilet seat, bathroom door ajar, continuing with his discourse as if there was absolutely nothing wrong with this particular mode of engaging in public conversation” said Golley.
The scheduled peace talks eventually took place, the following morning, on Monday 25th March 1996. It was a historic meeting between the NPRC Leader and Head of State Brigadier Julius Maada Bio and the RUF Leader.
This initial encounter was itself preceded by high drama for which Omrie Golley and his brethren had not expected.
Just before the event itself started one of the NPRC Delegates came into the Hall and formally objected to Golley’s group, naming him in particular, stating that he (Golley) and his team were neither part of the government delegation nor part of the RUF Delegation.
The meeting stalled and escalated into a serious stalemate.
The RUF Delegation maintained that, as Sierra Leoneans, Golley and his Group, were perfectly entitled to remain as observers of the Meeting. The Government delegation on the hand argued that the NCRD team was not illegible to attend as they weren’t part of the official or RUF delegation.
“For my part, initially I dug my heels in, stating that as observers recognized by the hosts in the Ivory Coast, together with one of the participating Delegations who had insisted that we attend, we couldn’t simply leave the Hall because the Government Delegation objected’’
The Stalemate sadly continued, with the delegations maintaining their respective positions. Tempers flared.
‘’The historic Meeting was on the verge of collapsing even before it started. One side, it seemed, had to back down or give in’’
It was however not long before Golley relented, taking the view that his being singled out by one of the Parties to the peace talks, objecting to him and the Group witnessing the occasion, was a small price to pay, taking into account the reason why he was there in the first place - giving peace a chance, and doing everything possible to end the hostilities and bring about a lasting and sustainable peace to Sierra Leone.
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ECOWAS Parliament Meets to Discuss Food Security, Agriculture Production & the Fight against COVID 19
Monday 9th November 2020: Bissau: Action Against Hunger, the world expert on hunger and malnutrition with over 40 years operational experience confirmed during the World Food Day on Friday October 16th 2020, that over 7% of the world’s children under age five – approximately 47 million children in 2019 suffer from acute malnutrition. It further says that world hunger is projected to rise to an additional 132 million people this year as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Population growth and urbanization; climate change and deterioration of environmental conditions; market dynamics and food supply; natural disasters, civil conflicts and food crises; gender inequalities; and most importantly poverty and inequality have all been identified by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations as determinants of food insecurity and malnutrition in particularly the West Africa region.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), hunger and malnutrition are worsening in parts of the West African continent because of the coronavirus pandemic, especially in low-income communities or those already stricken by continued conflict.
FAO called for robust measures by West Africa states to maintain four pillars such as food availability, access to food, stability and nutrition.
The basis of the robust measures being taken so far by members has led the regional Parliament of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) under the distinguished leadership of its Speaker, His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis to convey a meeting of joint committees on Agriculture, Environment, Water Resources and Sustainable Development/ Industry and Private Sector/ Health/ Energy and Mines/ Social Affairs, Gender and Women Empowerment to discuss the most vital theme of “ECOWAS food security and agriculture production program and the fight against COVID 19.”
The general objective of the meeting, which is scheduled to take place from Tuesday 10th to Saturday 14th November 2020, in Bissau, the capital city of Guinea Bissau is to enable the Joint Committee interact with the ECOWAS Commission and assess the status of COVID-19 pandemic, agricultural production and food insecurity in the ECOWAS region.
Also worthy to note is that this meeting of ECOWAS Parliament Members of Parliament (MPs) which is conveyed by the Speaker himself, comes exactly two (2) weeks after His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis served as chair of a high level regional meeting with West and Central Africa parliamentarians on mobilizing parliamentarians and keeping nutrition as a priority during COVID 19. In that meeting, Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament called on regional law makers to prioritize advocacy on the protection of the right to food.
Meanwhile, according to research by the writer, the Right to Food has been accepted as a legally binding obligation by all West African states. According to the ECOWAS Revised Treaty in Article 25 says “Member States shall co-operate in the development of agriculture, forestry, livestock and fisheries in order to: a) ensure food security; b) increase production and productivity in agriculture, livestock, fisheries and forestry, and improve conditions of work and generate employment opportunities in rural areas; c) enhance agricultural production through processing locally, animal and plant products; and d) protect the prices of export commodities on the international market.”
In addition, this right has been binding obligation on states that are parties to and have ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). It is also binding on ECOWAS states that have ratified human rights instruments relevant to the Right to Food, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which Article 12 recognises the right of pregnant and lactating women to special protection with regard to nutrition; and Article 14 recognises the right of rural women’s access to land, water and services. In addition, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Article 25 recognises the right to health, including nutrition; and Article 27 the right to an adequate standard of living, including nutrition. Also, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Article 6 recognises the right to life and Article 7 the right to be free from inhumane and degrading treatment.
In the fight against COVID 19, West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO), observed that there is 92.7% recovery rate of COVID 19 cases in West Africa. However, the measures adopted to curtail the spread of the virus in the region have caused more problems as experts are projecting increased in the rate of hunger and malnutrition in the region. Thus the need for various stakeholders in the region, including the ECOWAS Parliament to take-up measures to protect food security and agriculture production program during the fight against COVID 19.
ECOWAS Parliament Speaker Urges Regional MPs to Prioritize Advocacy on the Protection of the Right to Food
Speaker of the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis has today Monday 26th October 2020 whilst serving as chair of a high level regional meeting with West and Central Africa parliamentarians on mobilizing parliamentarians and keeping nutrition as a Priority during COVID 19 called on regional law makers to prioritize advocacy on the protection of the right to food.
President of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, His Excellency Dr. Jean Claude Kassi Brou, has on Saturday 25th July 2020 congratulated Speaker of the 5th Legislature of ECOWAS Parliament His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis, and pledged the Commission's total support to the Parliament.
Whilst delivering his speech to the regional members of parliament at the ECOWAS Parliament’s 2nd extraordinary session of 2020 held via videoconference between Monday 20th to Saturday 25th July 2020, the President of ECOWAS Commission said: “It is together, strong and united that we will win, that we will triumph over the evils which overwhelm us to turn resolutely towards the objectives of regional integration. In this regard, I would like to assure you that the Commission and all the other ECOWAS Institutions stand ready to work together with you for the achievement of all the objectives of our Organization.”
In addition, the ECOWAS Commission President dilated that for ECOWAS Parliament to be able to play its role, they must work in “coordination and synergy, revitalize and re-establish our framework for exchanges between Parliament's standing committees and Departments of the ECOWAS Commission; contribute in a concrete and effective manner to the development and implementation of Community programs which have an impact on our populations; strengthen institutional dialogue and communication; cooperate in a judicious manner to make the ECOWAS area a space of peace, security and development; put to good use the input, utility and support of Parliament for the visibility of ECOWAS in member states.”
Furthermore, HE Dr. Jean Claude Kassi Brou added that the Community Levy (PC) remains the most important source of income and funding for ECOWAS programs and activities. However he said, one of the harmful consequences of the coronavirus pandemic is the significant drop in imports in the region, which necessarily affects the mobilization of products from the community levy. Thus, he said “as of June 30, 2020, the Community has only succeeded in mobilizing 11.8% of PC revenue. This is why we ask you to advocate for the mobilization of your respective Parliaments for the timely contribution of your countries to the fruits of the Community Levy. In doing so, the Commission will include in its field missions, the Honorable Members of the Parliament of ECOWAS to reap the fruits of the PC in accordance with the strengthening of inter-institutional cooperation.”
Moreover, the ECOWAS Commission President added that the significance of the gathering for the second time in the Extraordinary Session of the Fifth Legislature of the year 2020 is in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Additional Act relating to the strengthening of the prerogatives of Parliament that the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS adopted on December 17, 2016, in particular in its Chapter V, relating to the competences and the processes of adoption of the community acts, in Article 5 relating to the modalities of participation in the processes of the community acts which stipulates that: "the Parliament express its opinion when adopting Community acts, either by: Notice or Compliant notice."
Meanwhile, in his closing remarks, the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis on behalf of the members expressed their profound gratitude to the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Dr. Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, and his “team of competent Commissioners and Technocrats, for the collaboration between our two important Institutions.”
HE Tunis furthered that: “Over the years since the inception of the Parliament, our collaboration with the Commission had grown wider; covering virtually all areas associated with the integration process. Ours is a symbiotic relationship, in which we as politicians are expected to promote the ideals of the Community at the level of Member States, while the Commission, with its team of competent technocrats, is to ensure total implementation of programmes and policies. We are determined to reap maximal benefits out of this relationship and we expect it to yield adequate rewards for the promotion of the vision of our founding fathers.”
In addition, HE Tunis said, unfortunately, the 5th Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament had to encounter a great challenge almost immediately after inauguration due the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic. He added that “there is no doubt that the remaining part of 2020 and early 2021 would be highly challenging, both economically and socially. Ours is to collaborate with our Governments, both at national and regional levels, to ensure that we protect the interest of our people and work towards easing their affairs during this anticipated difficult period.”
Whilst concluding and closing the 2020 2nd Extraordinary Session, ECOWAS Parliament Speaker HE Tunis said their “duty as Community Parliamentarians is not restricted to when we hold meetings or other activities. We remain Community Members of Parliament where ever we find ourselves. We should, therefore, endeavor to preach the ideal of ECOWAS at all times and in all places.”
Meanwhile it could be recalled that for the very first time, the community parliament met via videoconference for a six-day virtual extraordinary session to consider some referrals from Community institutions on germane issues that border on the wellbeing of the people of the sub-region. Notable among the referrals are: Request by the President of the ECOWAS Commission seeking assistance from the Parliament in implementing the ECOWAS protocol on the community levy; That Parliament takes decision relating to the contribution of ECOWAS Member States to the African Union Solidarity Fund in the fight against COVID-19; Referral from the ECOWAS Commission on the fight against COVID-19, the stabilization and recovery of the economies of ECOWAS Member States amongst others.
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has urged member states to collaborate in academic researches.
This point was raised during the discussions on Wednesday 23rd July 2020 at the Joint Committees meeting of the Committee on Education, Science and Culture and the Committee on Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) of the ECOWAS Parliament held virtually.
During the session, the ECOWAS Parliament committees were to consider and also present to the plenary the referral from the ECOWAS Commission on: (1) Adopting the Rules for the Support Programme for Research and Innovation; and (2) Adopting the ECOWAS operational Strategy for Spatial Sciences and technologies.
Meanwhile, as the session continued, one of the ECOWAS parliamentarians who dilated on the significance of regional collaboration on academic researches, Honourable Chantel Fanny called on regional governments to teach at the preliminary stages all three regional languages such as English, French and Portuguese as she said this can help greatly in regional integration.
Deputy Speaker 4 of the ECOWAS Parliament, Honourable Adja Satu Camara Pinto spoke about the importance of research in Agriculture. She called on the ECOWAS Commission to look into issues of researches into insecticides and flooding which she said are direct link to scientific research.
ECOWAS Commissioner on Education, Science and Culture Professor Leopoldo Amado whilst responding to points raised by the Honourable Members said the commission scientists are all working together irrespective of country of origin. He said it would be prudent to use traditional languages like Hausa, Madinka and Fullah which are non-Western languages to help in academic researches.
Director of Education, Science and Culture at the ECOWAS Commission, Professor Abdoulaye Maga was pessimistic that teaching the three regional languages has not been met. He cited that it is very difficult for West African schools to get expert teachers in all three regional languages, apparently because of what he referred to as funding issues.
In addition, Professor Abdoulaye Maga said that the harmonization of West Africa schools’ curriculum and certificates would be very difficult. Hence he said it would be very much not useful if we harmonize tertiary institutions’ curriculum and certificates without first of all harmonizing the primary and secondary schools curriculum.
Meanwhile, on her side whilst addressing and presenting the report of the ECOWAS Commission on Education, Science and Culture to Parliamentarians virtually, Mrs. Rachel Ogbe, Principal Programme Officer (PPO) on Education of the ECOWAS Commission, stated that ECOWAS seeks to achieve a number of specific objectives, the first being to develop regional criteria for the harmonization of pre-university qualifications, in particular the period of study, content of curricula, qualification assessment and other prerequisites for the establishment of equivalence of Member States’ accreditation systems.
This according to her presentation will involve defining benchmarks/criteria to match university and professional qualifications in the region, draw up a list of courses in Member States’ universities as well as admission requirements, number of years of study, required credits and certificates.
Other specific objectives contained in her presentation will be to clarify the classification of academic qualifications (certificate, diploma, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, etc.) in Member States and develop a road-map for the implementation of the ECOWAS Convention on equivalence of certificates.