Sierra Leone: (NeCOVERC) mounts efforts to debunk Covid-19 myth

By Isaac Unisa Kamara.

Faced with denials and traditional practices affecting government efforts to control the spread of covid-19, the National Covid-19 Response Center unveils 50 national ambassadors to engage the people nationwide to dispell false news and myth surrounding the spread of the virus.

Solomon Jamiru, spokesperson for the National Covid-19 Emergency Response Center (NeCOVERC), said during the unveiling at Cockerill North, Freetown, that the initiative is rolled out by the Risk Communication and Social Mobilization Pillar, with a purpose driven plan that will bring on-board active people into the fight,
Information and Communications Minister, Mohamed Raman Swaray told the Ambassadors to be of one mind in supporting Government’s commitment to win the fight.

“You shouldn’t compromise any situation of someone who shows symptoms of the virus, but rather do what is expected of you by making a prompt report,” the minister urged.

UNICEF Sierra Leone communications specialist, Tapuwa Mustseyekwe commended the initiative as one capable of playing an essential role that would raise awareness among communities in promoting preventive measures that will help fostering the desired changes in health behaviors.

“The pinpointed role of the Ambassadors should be to create and also share mere facts about the pandemic on different media outlets to discourage fake opinions,” he noted.
The Risk Communications and Social Mobilization Pillah of NaCOVERC works in partnership with UNICEF Sierra Leone to role out the venture.

New Deputy Ministers and Commissioners of Local Government Service Commission Subscribe to Oath of Office at State House

Newly approved Deputy Ministers of Finance and Health and Sanitation and Commissioners of the Local Government Service Commission have subscribed to the Oath of Office before His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio during a short ceremony in Freetown.

Mr Sheku Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura was sworn in as Deputy Minister II at the Ministry of Finance and Dr Amara Jambai as Deputy Minister II at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. Donald Augustus Ngegba is the Chairman and Mrs NyillaOathman, Madam Janet Jabati, Mrs Sia Alice Bockarie Torto and Mr Jacob E. Quee are now Commissioners of the Local Government Service Commission.

The commission was established in 2004 with the responsibility of providing regulatory, performance management and management functions to the system decentralised government as provided for in section 38 (1) of the Local Government Act of 2004.

In his statement, President Bio congratulated the new officials, saying that they were meticulously chosen because they would bring value to the state. He said the task ahead was an extremely difficult one and noted that his government had done quite a lot to correct the wrongs of the past. He stated that his government was committed to delivering for the people and urged them to make the necessary sacrifice.

Deputy Finance Minister II said that they were thankful to God for His divine hand in the leadership of President Bio and for making their appointments possible. He noted that the government had focused, in the last twenty months, on designing the roadmap for implementation of strategic pieces of President Bio’s vision, which were now solidly in place.

Mr Bangura assured that they would unreservedly commit to deploying and exerting to the fullest, their capabilities, experience, networks and unrelenting efforts to foster through teamwork to ensure effective delivery of the President’s vision as espoused in the New Direction Agenda and the National Development Plan.

On their part, the new Chairman, Local Government Service Commission expressed sincere appreciation to the President for appointing them to serve in his government.

He said that the Local Government was key to the delivery of services in the nation and assured that they were determined to serve the country with loyalty an commitment.

Journalist detained for cross-checking an alleged US1.5 million fraud

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has called for the release of managing editor of Times SL Newspaper.

Sallieu Tejan Jalloh

A team of CID officers and military personnel arrested Journalist Sallieu Tejan Jalloh at Circular Road.

Sierra Leone police confirmed the detention of journalist Sallieu Tejan-Jalloh of the Times newspaper.

According to BBC correspondent Umaru Fofona, the head of CID, Chief Superintendent John Alpha said it was in connection with an SMS the journalist sent to the county’s Chief Minister Prof David Francis, enquiring about an alleged payment of $1.5 million into his private bank account by SL Mining which had its license cancelled recently by the state.

Police aren at Ecobank seeking to confirm the alleged payment, the CID boss told me. The Chief Minister could not be reached for his comment.

New IMF Chief meets President Julius Maada Bio, discusses plans for partnership

New Mission Chief of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, to Sierra Leone, Ms. Karen Ongley, and its Resident Representative, Dr Monique Newiak, have met President Julius Maada Bio to discuss further ways of partnership.

Ms. Karen Ongley said she was delighted to be in the country, adding that the measures and progress made so far had been very good. She noted that more important was the fact that Sierra Leone and the IMF had a really good partnership.

She said she was impressed with the government’s strategy around innovation and digitalisation.

The IMF Resident Representative, Dr Newiak, said that it was an honour to meet the President and noted that she had wanted to be in Sierra Leone because she had heard so many good things, including reforms underway.

She added that she was in the country to support the government in its reforms through partnership and collaboration.

In his response, President Bio said that Sierra Leone was genuinely committed to making progress economically and socially. He said his government was making efforts to surmount the challenges and for which he needed genuine partners. He assured that his government was willing and ready to partner and collaborate with the Fund to help achieve its goals.

The new IMF Mission Chief joined the IMF in 1998, bringing a wealth of experience to her role. She was previously Mission Chief for West Bank and Gaza and has worked on a range of low and middle-income countries, including Afghanistan, Albania, Egypt, Jordan, Nigeria and Yemen.

Sierra Leone: Five Journalists on trial for defamation

Proprietor and managing editor of the Standard Times newspaper, Philip Neville, and four other journalists in Sierra Leone are standing trial for alleged defamatory publication and undermining the government of Sierra Leone.

Philip Neville

Philip Neville, Clifford Kabbia and Mustapha Sesay of Standard Times Newspaper together with Ibrahim Alusine Kamara and Moisa Keikura of Sierra Express Media and Future Newspaper respectively on Wednesday 15th May, 2019 made their third appearance before Magistrate Hannah Bonnie of Court No. 1.

The trial of the journalists just happened after the president promised Sierra Leoneans during the State Opening of Parliament on 2nd May 2019, that he is committed to repeal the seditious libel law, section of the Public Order Act 1965, which criminalizes defamation and seditious libel.

Few days after President Bio’s pronouncement, the CID Director, Gabriel Tommy, filed charges against the journalists alleging the five journalists defame his character in the Standard Times and Future Newspapers.

Each defendant was granted bailed in the sum of Le 20, 000, 000 and the matter adjourned on Wednesday 22nd May, 2019.

How using the military in Nigeria is causing, not solving problems

Soldiers patrol the Nigerian city of Jos, in the central Plateu State, in a bid to quell religious violence. EPA/George Esiri
Sallek Yaks Musa
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Stellenbosch University
Disclosure statement
Sallek Yaks Musa received funding from Lisa Maskell Fellowship of the Gerda Henkel Foundation in Germany as administered by the the Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University and the Social Science Research Council’s Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa. He is affiliated with the Jos Stakeholders Center for Peace Collaborative of the Search for Common Ground, Nigeria.

Stellenbosch University provides funding as a partner of The Conversation AFRICA.

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Governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens against external aggression and internal violence. The first is usually the responsibility of the military. The second duty falls on the police.

But in Nigeria, the government often deploys  the military to restore order and to keep the peace. This is largely due to the inability of the police to contain violent conflicts, particularly in areas where armed groups are active.

This is the situation in Jos, the capital of Plateau State in the centre of Nigeria, just north of the administrative capital Abuja. The military has been used to maintain security since violence broke out between Christians and Muslims in September 2001.

The violence has evolved into one of the most enduring conflicts in Nigeria. Initially, angry young people used crude implements such as axes, sticks and machetes. Now various organised ethnic and religious militias wield small arms and light weapons. The conflict has spilled over into most parts of the state, with a pattern of hit-and-run attacks developing.

Several studies have indicated support the use of the military as a “necessary evil” to ensure the return to peace in the region.

But my study found that using the military to quell internal conflicts and restore order causes several problems. These included undermining the legitimacy of the military mission, as well as failing to quell the violence. In my PhD thesis I concluded that the conduct of soldiers only worsens the security situation for ordinary people.

I identified two factors as responsible for the problems. The first was a lack of military professionalism. Soldiers often intimidate and coerce civilians. They also engage in corruption and extortion, especially at military checkpoints. Some soldiers also subject civilians to psychological and emotional abuse. Yet others engage in blatant and flagrant acts of sexual and gender-based violence.

The second factor I identified was the fact that the command-and-control structure of the military is at odds with the way society operates.

These problems could be addressed with effective civil control of the military. But the study argues that civil control is weak in the country.

The use of the military

The response of the Nigerian government to growing levels of insecurity has increasingly been to use the military. Several peace and security conferences and commissions of inquiry have been instituted. But these yielded little or no result due to the lack of political will by the government to implement the recommendations.

The military has been deployed because of the weaknesses and inadequacies of the Nigerian police. Inadequate training, shortage of manpower as well as policing equipment, coupled with excesses have added to the erosion of public trust in the police and their legitimacy.

But the use of the military has introduced a host of new problems.

In my study I set out to understand whether the Nigerian state is exercising adequate civil control of the military to ensure that it doesn’t become a threat to the citizenry and exacerbate insecurity. I conducted 55 one-on-one interviews with civilians in six local government areas in Plateau State.

The study found that civilians see the military as exacerbating insecurity. For example, increased militarisation has led to people’s movements and activities being severely restricted. And several emergency rules have been declared. These have involved suspending civilian government and replacing it with military administrators.

Another finding was that dereliction of duty is rife among soldiers, with some choosing which distress calls from citizens to respond to or not.

On top of this, there’s tension between military culture and civilian values. The military operates a culture which follows an authoritarian leadership style, and is combat-focused. For their part, civilians are more likely to seek resolution to issues and to use the criminal justice system to adjudicate problems.

This has led to relations between civilians and the military becoming severely strained.

Lack of civil control

A bigger problem is the weak civil control over the Nigerian military. This has led to a lack of accountability and compliance with rules of engagement.

Nigerian law subordinates the military to civil control and parliamentary oversight. Ideally, this should ensure that the military acts within its mission and mandate. But, the problem lies with implementation. The culture of civilian supremacy over the military is not as yet well institutionalised.

The result is that citizens counteract abuse by the military in various ways. One way is to simply comply with the demands and orders of the soldiers, even when they are illegitimate. Another entails non-violent resistance or non-compliance. For example, it’s common for civilians to refuse to cooperate and share information with the military.

A third way is to collaborate with compromised soldiers. The fourth is to use various forms of violent resistance. This involves people either aligning with armed groups, or forming their own. This proliferation of armed groups worsens insecurity.

My study also showed a sharp difference of opinions between people of different religions. Christians contended that the military was biased in favour of Muslims. For their part, Muslims didn’t share this view.

What needs to happen

The use of the military is not an effective intervention against internal armed conflict. This is especially so in states with weak institutional control over the military as is the case in Nigeria.

The more recent setting up of a peace building agency is a more plausible alternative towards bringing the violent conflict to an end through effective mediation and peace education. The use of the military needs to be reconsidered and the peace building agency should focus on reuniting people and bridging the gap between the reactive security measures with proactive conflict prevention strategies. This is the only way in which trust and relative peace can be restored in this once peaceful Nigerian state.

Credit: The Conversation

Government Withdraws State Security Attached to former President Ernest Bai Koroma

The Office of Former President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, made a public statement on Saturday that all state security attached to the former president have been withdrawn.

Former President Ernest Bai Koroma

The action raised public concerns and the former president is reported to have objected to the abrupt changes owing to the fact he was neither notified nor consulted prior to the changes.

According to the Special assistant to Former President Koroma, Sheriff Mahmud Ismail, the decision was made after a follow up meeting on Saturday afternoon 11th May, 2019, between the former President and the Brigade Commander North – Brigadier David Alpha – and the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) North – AIG Ambrose Michael Suvula.

“Both the Brigade Commander and the AIG informed the former President that while the state would not impose on him any security personnel that he did not approve of, their instructions were to withdraw the security detail currently attached to him contrary to Part III – Miscellaneous Retiring Benefits (13 -22) of The Pensions and Retiring Benefits of Presidents and Vice – Presidents Act No 2 of 1986”.

An official Memo was issued on Thursday, 9th May, 2019, by the Sierra Leone Police directing the withdrawal of the police security personnel attached to the former President as well as the deployment of a set of new personnel.

The Office of Former President said the former president had no prior information about the changes and only happened to know through social media.