The Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), Justice Edmond Cowan, has informed members of civil society that Sierra Leone has very good laws but that enforcement is a challenge, citing the Sunday Observance Law that has been in existence since Colonial days.
Justice Cowan was addressing representatives from civil society in Sierra Leone who presented a Position Paper ‘The Right to Food in Sierra Leone’ to him at the Miatta Conference Hall, Youyi Building in Freetown.
Focus 1000, OXFAM, Scaling Up Nutrition, UNICEF, FAO, Irish Aid, Actionaid and Christian Aid are pushing the campaign for Sierra Leone to guarantee every Sierra Leonean to realizes his/her human right to physical and economic
access at all times to adequate food in quality and quantity or means for its production.
It was also observed that Government has demonstrated willingness to address the food
and nutrition security in the country by signing up to several commitments as well as
establishing structures to fulfill this interest, underlining that by doing so, Government has
understood the need to invest in food and nutrition security in a holistic manner to ensure a
healthy and prosperous nation.
The representatives however noted that Civil Society holds the view that the recognition of the right to food as a human right within the Constitution will legitimize the right to food, leading legislators and citizens to abide by the right as this is recognized in the highest legal framework in the country.
Right to Food Coalition representative, Mr. Frank Webber, said the Government of Sierra Leone has showed strong commitment to improving food and nutrition security for all in Sierra Leone.
He said the Secretariat for the Right to Food was established in the Office of the Vice President in 2001, thus resulting to the strengthening of the institutional capacities of the Ministry of Agriculture in addition to setting up a Food and Nutrition Directorate in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.
He also disclosed that Government ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1996 that has huge significance as it binds Government to commitments enshrined in the covenant.
Article 11 (2) of the Covenant states ‘Governments should recognize the fundamental rights of all their citizens to be free from hunger and shall take, individually and through international cooperation, the measures, including specific programs to improve methods of production, conservation and distribution of food by making full use of technical and scientific knowledge, disseminating knowledge of the principles of nutrition and by developing a reforming agrarian systemin such a way as to achieve the most-efficient development and utilization of natural resources.
Government must also take into account the problems of both food-importing and food-exporting countries to ensure the equitable distribution of world food supply in relation to need’.
The Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), Justice Edmond Cowan, said he was delighted to receive the position paper on the Right to Food to be reviewed in the
Constitution, stressing that the mandate of the Committee “is to try as best as possible to
reach out to all Sierra Leoneans to express their views on the Constitution.
He further stressed that the Constitution is the supreme and source of law for which it is
paramount that the people are involved in the review process.
He said in the past, only a few people, educated and politicians, reviewed or wrote the Constitution, as was the case of the first Constitution that was framed in England and the founding fathers of independence only invited to sign.
Justice Edmond Cowan furthered that the people are involved in the review of the revised
Constitution, that the people are sovereign, that the Constitution empowers the people to
appoint and sack all state officials, that after Parliament has approved the revised Constitution,
a referendum would be conducted before the President signs the document.
According to the CRC Chairman, the Right to Food Coalition should have examine the
Constitution “holistically” as the right to food is tied and interrelated to many other issues like
Land, stating that international treaties and conventions have to be ratified and
domesticated before implementation and stressed that policies are not laws as they are not
Sanctioned by Parliament.
He also promised that the CRC would do its best to look at the position paper to “capture
some of the recommendations” affirming that Sierra Leone has very good laws but that
enforcement is a challenge, citing the Sunday Observance Law that has been in existence since Colonial days.
Justice Edmond Cowan continued that the CRC wants a “credible document to stand the test of time” revealing that the Committee is now collating all the position papers received from
institutions, organizations and individuals, stressing that the review process is not political.