Sierra Leone | Diaspora Voices in Constitutional Review 1

Sierra Leone's constitutional review, which was not expected to resume until after the 2012 elections, finally kicked off last week. President Koroma officially launched the national Constitutional Review Committee at the Miatta Conference Center in Freetown on Tuesday, July 30. The move is part of his government’s steps towards modernizing state governance and actualizing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Lome Peace Accord respectively,  Awareness Times reported.

The current Sierra Leone constitution has been in effect since 1991, when the country was under one party rule. In one archive report, a coalition of civil society groups that spearheaded the campaign said that the constitution, crafted in a transitional period that was interrupted by the eleven-year civil war, had surpassed its relevance as Sierra Leone`s democracy grows.

The report also said major issues for review include a clause on the declaration of state of emergency, the death penalty, as well as the continued combination of the offices of Attorney General and Ministry of Justice.

For Baimba Kamara, a Sierra Leonean counsel based in Houston, Texas, the thorny issues of citizenship and the land need to be tackled. Below is an excerpt from his note to the Constitutional Review Committee:

Any one born in Sierra Leone, is a Sierra Leonean citizen without qualification. Every Sierra Leonean, no matter his or her ethnicity, will enter into a legal contract including the purchase of land in any corner of Sierra Leone without discrimination.

"Many Lebanese born and bred in Africa are not considered real citizens even though the Lebanese ha[ve] lived and worked in the continent for hundreds of years," explained Gibril Koroma in a Sept 4, 2010 article "Sierra Leone: Uproar over citizenship"

In another opinion piece "Sierra Leone: Whose Land is It Anyway?" published in March 2007, Maurice Garber described the problem of land thus:

"The world renowned African Jurist, Dr. T. O. Elias quoting the comments from a Nigerian Chief in 1912 on the issue of land ownership states, "I conceive that land belongs to a vast family of which many are dead, few are living and countless members are unborn." This statement made almost a century ago unfortunately in my opinion reflects the state of land ownership in Sierra Leone today; retrogressive, discriminatory, archaic and in need of urgent reform."

Notes Baimba Kamara:

"We cannot be proud Sierra Leoneans if we discriminate against selected classes of Sierra Leoneans. For example, the Creoles are not legally allowed to buy and own land in the provinces. But provincial people are legally allowed to buy and own land in the Freetown Western area. We must as a people be bold and courageous to get rid of all discriminatory clauses from our constitution; because they are obsolete in the 21st century and not representing of our interest.

"The debate is ongoing on most of the Sierra Leone Internet fora. The Review Committee must include the agenda of Citizenship. They must get rid of the discriminatory clause and insert that every one born in Sierra Leone is a Sierrra Leonean citizen, without qualification.

"Secondly, every Sierra Leonean will have his/her legitimate right to purchase, including land in every corner of Sierra Leone.

"And finally, any Sierra Leonean who overthrows the constituted elected government of Sierra Leone, by forceful means, will never hold any government position including the presidency of Sierra Leone.

"These are issues that must be reviewed. Particularly the Sierra Leone citizenship Act, 1973.

My name is Baimba Shek Kamara, JD. I'm an in-house counsel with the City of Houston Legal Department, Texas. My private job is with Portz and Portz, Houston. I've spent eight years with the city and thirteen years with Portz and Portz part time.

Why law?

When I was in Holy Trinity Secondary School in Kenema, I used to admire the late lawyer Francis Mishek Minah who was a family member, and the late C. B. Rogers Wright, who was the Baimba Kamara family lawyer. I strongly believed that they did very good in their fields of study.

My activities and responsibilities include code enforcement--Uniform Commercial Code under the statutes. But privately, I have done immigration for clients. As board president of Brighter Future Inc. and a certified workforce development professional, I have created employment enabling environments in areas where unemployment is rampant within the workforce system in the City of Houston.

I am a people person. I like to help. And if there is anything I do not like, I work on it to make it better. I believe that every human being is good. What I find not only difficult but dangerous is when people play the tribal card. I want every one to first consider themselves as Sierra Leoneans and work in the interest of all Sierra Leoneans.

Sierra Leoneans can overcome anything anywhere if only we have respect for each other. Without respect, it will be difficult to unite. Unity will only come if there is collective respect.

My future expectation: To return to my beautiful Sierra Leone and make a contribution. I am from Sulima, Sorogbeima Chiefdom, Pujehun District--there where I will retire by the beautiful beaches.

Baimba Kamara earned a JD from Southern New England/ University of Massachusetts School of Law at Dartmouth, Massachusetts, a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Houston, Texas and a diploma in computerized accounting from the American Vocational Center, Houston, Texas


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