As the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation of British MPs return to the UK, delegation leader John Mann MP reflects on their time in Sierra Leone.
I had the great honour and privilege to lead a delegation of three UK parliamentarians (including Angela Rayner MP and Justin Madders MP) to Sierra Leone for the week of 17 September. What a beautiful country and what a warm welcome – thank you so much.
We came to Sierra Leone as part of a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK (CPA UK) programme. Based in the UK Parliament, CPA UK works across the Commonwealth, helping MPs and staff from Parliaments learn from one another. Our close relationship with Sierra Leone has been of great mutual benefit over many years and following the recent election, CPA UK has been keen to maintain that friendship.
That week, our focus was on working with over 40 newly-elected MPs, from a variety of parties, including the government and opposition. We were impressed by their energy, enthusiasm and commitment. Through open dialogue and mutual learning, we looked at how to ensure members of parliament can be most effective: making laws, holding the government to account and representing their constituents. We practiced debates in the Well of Parliament, and Committee hearings. We looked at how to ask good questions and to obtain and use good evidence.
We talked a lot about collaboration and consensus. From my perspective in the UK, there are passionate disagreements between the major parties. This has been, and will no doubt continue to be, a feature of our democracy. Over time, we have found ways to maintain the debates within and across our party politics while keeping in mind that the best interests of our country and our citizens must come first. That aim is something many of your newly elected parliamentarians clearly shared and supported.
In Sierra Leone you have had some tough years. It struck us that you and your politicians have a rare opportunity at the moment to use the recent election results to forge a new relationship between Government and Opposition. You have passed through challenging elections without the level of violence or chaos some feared. You have a delicate balance of power. After frank conversations with President Bio and with the Opposition leadership, and from what we witnessed, I am optimistic about Sierra Leone’s future. You have young men and women in politics and beyond who have the desire to make that balance of power work for the country. To make that balance deliver real improvements in service right across the country. And to make that balance build lasting economic growth after the struggles of recent years.
As one of your MPs rightly said, it is for Sierra Leoneans to make that happen, not others, from the UK or anywhere else. But you can be assured that the United Kingdom will continue its interest and investment in a successful future for Sierra Leone. With the UK taxpayer giving millions in development spending to Sierra Leone, we will remain interested in working with the government to tackle key issues like women’s reproductive health and access to education. We were truly impressed with the many effective projects we visited during our visit. And CPA UK will keep working with your Parliament as its members and staff work hard to earn your trust and support.
Thank you again for a memorable visit, and our best wishes for a successful future.
Speaker of Sierra Leone Parliament opens the Post-Election Seminar
Ahead of Post-Election Seminar with Parliament of Sierra Leone, the CPA UK delegation meets UN Women to learn about the issues faced by women & girls
Understanding current political and social context in Sierra Leone continues for the CPA UK delegation with visit organised by DFID to a Marie Stopes family planning outreach service