In any fledgling democratic State, the significant roles played by Civil Society Organizations cannot in the least be underestimated. Existing as interests groups, they champion the causes of their constituents or in some cases the entire citizenry especially during crucial and sensitive moments.
Raising their voices on vital State matters, they most times make meaningful inputs that greatly contribute in shaping Government’s decisions and policies on a wide range of issues. The number of Civil Society Organizations have indeed increased over the recent years but we cannot dispute the fact that there are those that are really genuine were as others have hidden agendas far from what they proposed to stand for.
We can again say there are those who are easily influenced by certain politicians to become sympathetic to their causes or ideologies. Recently, we have seen the robust stances that some Civil Society Organizations have taken on emerging national events or issues, applauding some as good, critically condemning certain Government policies and actions and calling for the reversal of decisions already taken.
However, it has been noticed that the current APC led Government has not been comfortable with the stances of these various Civil Society Organizations which has therefore seen the harsh and blanket condemnation by Government, going to the point of stating that they are fronts for the opposition SLPP. Indeed, one cannot totally conclude that such a postulation by the Government do not have an iota of truth as had been already established that some members of those interest groups could be politically influenced for one reason or the other. However, as has been stated inter alia, there are those Civil Society Organizations that are quite credible and really seeking the collective interests of the masses.
We have organizations like Centre for Accountability and the Rule of Law (CARL), Campaign for Human Rights and Democracy (CHARDI), Health for All Coalition, Centre for the Coordination of Youth Activities (CCYA), OSIWA, Campaign for Good Governance (CGG),Heal Salone just to name a few which have been very vociferous on various national issues. We cannot sweep under the carpet that currently majority of the citizenry are going through grueling and harsh economic times as the prices of basic commodities and services have skyrocketed and keep rising beyond the reach of most below the poverty line.
There has been a recent rise in the prices of electricity bills with an imposition of an increase in tariff on service cost and 15% of GST, fuel as a result of removal of subsidy with cascading effects in the rise of the prices of transportation fares, foodstuffs resulting into low standards of living. Times are really tough! The Government has argued on various occasions that the shocks experienced due to the Ebola outbreak and the fall in iron ore prices in the World market are the main reasons why there is now an economic slump.
There is, however, a school of thought which maintains that even though we are in a Post-Ebola Recovery phase, the economy should for now not be in a bad state. It further opines that the colossal amounts of money that have been poured into the agricultural sector should have gone a long way in helping to stabilize the economy adding that only unchecked corruption in revenue generation drive and bad fiscal management are at the bottom of where we now find ourselves.
Conscious of the precarious state in which the economy is now in that is why the Government decided to institute austerity measures geared towards cutting down on Government expenditure. But how effectively that will salvage the economy is another complete kettle of fish. As far as the truth stands, the bread and butter issues are what Civil Society Organizations of late have been raising their voices on, calling for steps to be taken to restore a sound economy.
There should be nothing wrong for these Civil Society groups to comment on national issues that are not going down well for the majority of the people. Therefore, it is could be a fallacy of hasty generalization for the ruling Government to conclude that all of these Civil Society groups are surrogates of the SLPP simply because they are criticizing the Government for taking certain national socio-economic decisions.
The Government should wake up to the realities of the times and take pro-active steps to salvage the economy rather than giving Civil Society Organizations a blanket characterization that they are advancing the interests of the SLPP and that its members do belong to a particular ethnic group said to form a political stronghold. But for now we are quite aware that because of the development interventions by the Ernest Bai Koroma led Government in every region of the country the APC and SLPP do not have strongholds within the political landscape.
Things should really be called by their right names!
By Brima Sannoh
The Times SL Newspaper