‘Providing enforceable duties and responsibilities for citizens under the new constitution will not only make for responsible citizenry but will further confer on the people of Sierra Leone a legitimacy to hold their governments accountable when they fail to fulfil their own side of the social contract’.
Rashid Justice Dumbuya
Many states in the world do not only guarantee the rights of their citizens but also provide corresponding duties and obligations that citizens are required to do under their constitutions. The reason for this is predicated on the fact that a responsible citizen must not only enjoy fundamental rights in the state but must also have corresponding duties and obligations to the state. This situation, it is argued, will make for the efficient running of the state and the progress of the society. Some countries have even gone to the extent of prescribing punitive sanctions for any breach of the duties and obligations by the citizens within the state.
Clear attempts have however been made in Sierra Leone to list out some duties and obligations expected of citizens in the country. Theseduties are enshrined within the 1991 Constitution under section 13 of Chapter 2 of the Fundamental Principles of State Policy. However, by section 14 of the 1991 Constitution, it is made clear that the provisions contained in Chapter 2 of the Fundamental Principles of State Policy are not enforceable in any court of law. This therefore means that, the duties under section 13 are void of sanctions in the event of any breach by the citizens.
This situation has been quite worrying to many patriotic citizens both within and outside of Sierra Leone. Many critics have in fact considered the 1991 constitution as not only weak and nebulous but the very precursor for irresponsible citizenry in the country. The need for its reform therefore cannot be over-emphasized.
Justification or reasons as to why the new constitution must contain enforceable duties and responsibilities of the citizens
Good reasons exist why the new constitution of Sierra Leone should reflect enforceable duties and responsibilities of the citizens.
Firstly, it will make for responsible citizenry in a state. Secondly, it will make for the smooth running of the affairs of government. For example, when taxes are paid by the citizens, the government will be able to carry out its operations and further address the welfare of the people in the country.
Furthermore, it will provide an opportunity for the citizens to be able to fulfil their own side of the social contract.
More important still, it will embolden the citizenry and gives them legitimacy to hold their governments accountable when they fail to fulfil their own side of the social contract. Also, there is need for this because the current provisions under section 13 of the 1991 constitution are not only inadequate but are also lacking in terms of enforceability in the courts of law. Moreover, when certain duties of citizens such as the payment of taxes are enshrined within the constitution, it engenders dynamism in the collection and accountability of such revenues in the state. Finally, when duties of citizens are backed with sanctions, it will compel compliance and obedience from the citizens within the state.
It is recommended that our new constitution prescribe enforceable duties and civic responsibilities for the citizens of Sierra Leone. Furthermore, it should also be made clear that any breach of these duties will attract punitive sanctions. Below is a list of some suggested enforceable duties and responsibilities that must be reflected in the new constitution of Sierra Leone. The list is not in any way exhaustive.
ENFORCEABLE DUTIES AND CIVIC RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE CITIZEN:
Every citizen shall obey the constitution and all other laws of the land.
Every citizen shall ensure to pay his or her taxes at all times including local council taxes.
Every citizen shall ensure to defend the nation at all times including the rendering of voluntary military services whenever the need may arise.
Every adult citizen shall ensure to serve on a jury or in a trial as witness whenever called upon.
Every citizen shall ensure to attend school especially primary and secondary school which is free and compulsory.
Every citizen shall ensure to be loyal to the state, assist in the maintenance of law and order and the reduction of crime within the society.
The above duties are the things that citizens are required to do and any deviation from them will attract either fines or imprisonment or both.
Every ADULT citizen shall ensure to take part in democratic processes and vote in an election.
Every citizen shall ensure to respect the rights of others.
Every citizen shall ensure to give volunteering services to the nation whenever the need arises.
Every citizen shall ensure to be informed about the works of the government so as to be able to speak up, criticize, make informed decisions or contribute to the governing of the country’s affairs.
Every citizen shall ensure to be tolerant with others irrespective of their beliefs, practices, religion, tribe or political affiliations.
Every citizen shall ensure to keep the country clean, protect public property and refrain from grabbing or illegally occupying state lands and protected areas.
Every citizen shall ensure to respect the national anthem and the national flag at all times.
The above civic responsibilities are also enforceable in the courts of law especially where they are wilfully violated in the state.
The need for having in place clear enforceable duties and responsibilities of citizens enshrined in the new constitution of Sierra Leone cannot be over-emphasized. Among other things, it will create a deep sense of patriotism and cosmic responsibility among the citizens of Sierra Leone and further ensure the efficient running of the affairs of the state by the political class.
*All Rights Reserved
Rashid Dumbuya is a practicing Barrister and Solicitor from the Republic of Sierra Leone as well as an international human rights advocate and Public Defender. He is currently a state prosecutor at the Anti- Corruption Commission and a part-time lecturer in the Department of Law, Fourah Bay College University of Sierra Leone.
For further inquiries, please contact RASHID DUMBUYA Esq.via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org