By Abdul Malik Bangura (Sierra Leone’s ECOWAS Parliament Press Corp Member)
This day 9th March in 2020 has gone down the archives of history that a Sierra Leonean for the very first time was elected and sworn as Speaker of the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament.
Rt Honourable Sidie Mohamed Tunis, a native from the provinces, serves as Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) MP for Constituency 101 in the Southern Provincial district of Pujehun. He took over as Speaker of the regional parliament with all the vision, enthusiasm and aspirations to showcase the relevance of the parliament to the citizenry of ECOWAS.
Despite that, his first year was fraught with the greatest challenges faced by humanity in modern day, that is the Global Coronavirus Pandemic (which precautionary measure restricts movements of people nationally and internationally), thus forcing ECOWAS parliament to hold one extraordinary session and one ordinary session via videoconference.
Nothwithstanding, Rt Honourable Sidie Mohamed Tunis’ resilience and steadfastness towards delivery was never impugned.
In the midst of all webs of difficulties in his first year as ECOWAS Parliament Speaker, the vision to take ECOWAS Parliament to the people was very well actualized. First and foremost, in August 2020, Speaker Tunis met with the President of the Republic of Niger, who was the Chairman of ECOWAS Council of Heads of States to present a memorandum to him on the roadmap for successful establishment of direct universal suffrage of ECOWAS MPs. The key vision to this is to see all MPs in the regional parliament directly elected by their nationals and not the usual nominations by the leaderships of their national parliaments or assemblies.
Meanwhile, despite him being elected Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament on 9th March 2020, travel restrictions caused by the global Coronavirus means Honourable Sidie Mohamed Tunis had to stay out of the seat of ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja for over five (5) months until he finally visited on 28th September 2020, on which occasion he met with staff and acquainted himself with happenings in the office. In Abuja, he also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Parliament of Niger on ICT.
Furthermore, after a successful tour of his office in Abuja, Honourable Sidie Mohamed Tunis hit the ground running with a series of events geared towards taking ECOWAS Parliament to the people of the region. On 5th – 9th October 2020 he was in the Republic of Guinea to attend the occasion of the solemn opening of the first ordinary session of the Parliament of the Republic of Guinea. During that visit, he addressed the Guinean National Assembly, met with the Guinean President Alpha Conde and also engaged the Guinean Independent Electoral Commission on their then scheduled Presidential Election.
In addition, from the 3rd to the 21st November 2020 under the direct supervision of Speaker Tunis, ECOWAS Parliament held three (3) joint committees delocalized meetings in Benin, Guinea Bissau and Togo. The joint committee meeting in Cotonou, Republic of Benin on 3rd to 7th November 2020 discussed “Africa continental free trade area. How feasible in the face of cross-border threats: Terrorism and Insecurity, Pandemics, Protectionalism”. The second meeting in Bissau, Guinea Bissau was held with the theme “ECOWAS Food Security; Agricultural Production and the fight against COVID 19”, whilst the final committee meeting in Lome, Togo centered on “ECOWAS in the Era of COVID 19 and beyond: Focusing on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to promote Distance Education and Training in the ECOWAS Member States,”
Following the 3 joint committee delocalized meetings, Rt Honourable Sidie Mohamed Tunis held an Ad-hoc Committee meeting in Lagos, Nigeria 7th – 13th December 2020 to assess the feasibility of the direct universal suffrage in the ECOWAS region.
Also, in his bid to foster peace and democracy in the region, from 26th February to 5th March 2021, Rt Honourable Tunis, along with his delegation, were in Bamako, Capital of the Republic of Mali to gather necessary information from stakeholders on the progress of the transition process in Mali.
Despite all these regional meetings, Honourable Tunis made ECOWAS Parliament visible in virtual conferences also. He attended the Kwara Conference on Gender Development, IPU Conference on Agriculture and also a town hall Meeting on Drug Abuse in West Africa.
All these efforts made within just a year since taking over as Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament show how the Rt Honourable Sidie Mohamed Tunis has been so focused and determined to uphold the respect, hope and confidence Sierra Leoneans bestowed on him. From a humble family as the first son of Alhaji Mohamed Ahmad Tunis, a renowned Muslim cleric and Haja Massa Massaquoi, a Paramount Chief’s daughter in Zimmi, Makpele Chiefdom, Pujehun District, Tunis has emulated his parent’s legacy and continues to provide humanitarian services while securing the equitable delivery of social services to his people. His ability to plan, organize, propose innovations as a team player and builder as well as his flexibility to rapidly respond to emerging circumstances, has produced excellent results for him just one year since taking over as Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament.