By Aminata Tholley and Momoja Lappia
Residents of Kenema on Tuesday last week tasked the Government to unreservedly empower the Attitudinal and Behavioral Change (ABC) Secretariat with its required moral and financial support.
This request was made by social activists during a one-day sensitization programme on political tolerance organized by the Secretariat at the Kenema District Council Hall.
According to the residents, political violence is just one form of bad behaviour that keeps derailing national stability and progress, which they described as serious bottlenecks to speedy development, and not restricted to major cities alone but also to towns and villages countrywide.
Against this backdrop, they recommended that Government should provide more funding for the ABC Secretariat so that all citizens could be reached wherever they live in the country.
They also stated that in the absence of this capacitating drive, the President’s Agenda for Change will not achieve its targeted objectives.
At the meeting representatives of the five registered political parties (APC, SLPP, PMDC, NDA, and UDM) made meaningful contributions in support of political tolerance and promised that the elections in 2012 will be violence free.
Officially launching the session, the Resident Minister East, Hon. William Juana Smith, complained about political narrow-mindedness in the eastern province, which he said keeps setting families and communities apart.
He informed the participants that this partisan malice continues to deprive the district of any meaningful development despite it being endowed with valuable natural resources and intelligent people.
He thanked the ABC officials for sensitizing his people on the disadvantages of political violence and encouraged them to take this assignment to the least community within the country.
“I am impressed by the new ABC Secretariat for bringing various political parties together to discuss issues of national interest. The impact that the new Secretariat has created around the country tempts one to ask what the old executives were actually doing. Let me take this opportunity to thank President Ernest Bai Koroma for choosing the right people for this all important job. With them I am confident that the President’s dream of turning the country around by his Agenda for Change will soon materialize. This can be done if the least man is reached, because they are the ones that are normally incited by political heavy weights to unleash violence,” he noted.
He promised that he will always support the work of the ABC Secretariat and that he will influence Government to properly capacitate them.
A civil society activist who chaired the session, Mr. Augustine Sannoh, classed the meeting as another golden opportunity for people to know that patriotism is more important than party loyalty, and called on other organizations to emulate the new ABC Secretariat executives, who, he said, are addressing the major problems of negative behaviours facing the country.
He pointed out that both the ruling and opposition parties owe great responsibilities to maintain political tolerance and peaceful coexistence.
“Ruling parties must by all means exercise patience and understanding, and this has to be reciprocated by minority parties showing reverence for rules and regulations that promote good governance and national stability,” he stressed.
In his statement, the Executive Director of ABC Secretariat, Dr. Ivan A. S. Thomas, called on political parties to exhibit respect for each other, and denounced incitement, provocation and violence before, during and after elections.
According to him, power lies in the electorate and must be entrusted to politicians who they believe possess the attributes for leadership.
Dr. Thomas concluded by encouraging politicians to start seeing themselves as partners in national development and not enemies. He described political violence as a serious national and international crime.
In her contribution, the National Coordinator of ABC, Madam Nannette Thomas, called on political parties to focus on presenting agendas that are developmentally oriented.
She said the masses should assess contesting political parties on the basis of how they can efficiently carry out their promises or pledges, noting that political parties should not use violence as shields for their incompetence.
She denounced political violence of any form, because, according to her, it has no benefits.
She commended President Koroma for empowering state institutions to arrest, judge and punish alleged perpetrators of the recent political violence in Kono and Bo without fear or favour. She entreated every Sierra Leonean to cultivate positive attitudes and behaviours.
She concluded by stating that politics is a turn by turn game and only those who do not understand how it is played look at it from a fanatical point of view.
She encouraged everyone to take the 2012 elections seriously and make it free from violence and intimidation.