By Olusegun A. Ogundeji – Members of the Sierra Leone Policy Watch (SLPW), a public policy think-tank and a civic engagement group that seeks to promote transparency, accountability, responsible and responsive government through missions of investigative reporting, litigation and public policy advocacy, empowering citizens through civic education has completed a draft bill titled “Diaspora Voting Right” on behalf of all Sierra Leonean residents in the Diaspora.
Whereas, the constitution of Sierra Leone has conferred the right to vote to every Sierra Leonean as enshrined in Chapter IV Section 31, this proposed draft bill is in fact, an affirmation of such fundamental right of citizenship. Recognizing this right, therefore, which cannot be conferred by this act, the Sierra Leone Policy Watch, on behalf of all Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora, is requesting for all eligible citizens to be afforded the opportunity to exercise their constitutional mandated right to vote by setting up voting facilities in our foreign establishments including embassies, consulates, missions.
It must be noted, however, that this is not an attempt in any way, shape or form to legislate outside the constitutionally mandated role of parliament. As a matter of fact, we strongly believe that our members of parliament (MPs) by virtue of their responsibility to the people of Sierra Leone and their allegiance to the constitution of Sierra Leone reserve the right to make any changes as they see fit as long as Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora are accorded the same right to vote with their brothers and sisters at home. We believe voting remains the primary means of political participation for every eligible citizen.
With the passage of such a bill in the not too distant future, we believe the National Electoral Commission (NEC) would have been granted the necessary mandate to afford Sierra Leone residents in the Diaspora who already contribute greatly to national development to exercise their right to vote. As stakeholders in Sierra Leone’s development, we are cognizant that we are called upon to make worthy contributions in the democratic process taking place in our beloved Sierra Leone.
That such a historic venture has been undertaken by Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora, it is clear, we believe, the passage of such a bill will add immense value to the strengthening of our institutions of democracy and underscores our shared commitment and responsibility to Sierra Leone.