Sierra Leone President Expresses Outrage at Incidents of Rape and Sexual Penetration

President Dr Julius Maada Bio has used today’s press conference, also broadcast live, to express his outrage and total condemnation of the continued incidents of rape, sexual and gender-based violence in the West African nation.  

President Bio

“The depravity of sexual violence is obscene, criminal, and totally objectionable. As a Government, we stand with the survivors, victims, and their loved ones and my Government will vigorously prosecute cases and bring all perpetrators to justice,” he said.

He reiterated his government’s commitment to providing support for survivors, adding that he was joining the First Lady, Fatima Maada Bio, to urge every Sierra Leoneans to help raise awareness, increase their advocacy while standing up to rid the country of what referred to as a menace.

“My Government is committed to equal protection and justice, inclusive development, and equal access to opportunity for every Sierra Leonean, especially women who constitute 51% of our population,” he assured.

“What we should do is to prevent rape, especially of little kids who know nothing about what is being done to them. If you can have the same passion that I have for the children of this country, rape will be a thing of the past. That is the challenge I throw to every citizen in this country,” he said, while taking questions on the matter. 

Journalist and campaigner, Asmaa James, had raised the issue of recent incidents of sexual penetration involving minors

Journalist and campaigner, Asmaa James, had raised the issue of recent incidents of sexual penetration involving minors and made reference to earlier commitment by the President, who in February 2019 officially declared a National Emergency on Rape and Sexual Violence. She urged for more follow-up actions.

Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Manti Tarawalli, said the fight against sexual and gender based violence is a collective one, adding that the more campaigners, advocacy groups and civil society call for more actions from government, the more they would continue to do more and also emphasise on the need for parents to be more responsible for the security of their children.

“This is not just for government. It is for communities and also parents. Since the Sexual Offences Act a lot has happened. We have started the male engagement strategy which was launched by His Excellency. What that does is to use men and boys advocates to go into communities to educate men and boys that sexual and gender-based violence is not acceptable,” she said.

She concluded that the ministry had also started a 24-hour free 116 hotline to report rape, taking in excess of 300 calls a day, adding that they were opening one-stop centres in all referral hospitals to provide psychosocial support, help the Family Support Unit to provide crime reports, provide forensic medical examination and treatment and were introducing DNA testing.

Heed to public health warnings to stop COVID-19

By Alpha Bedoh Kamara

If all human efforts seem to fail in making this world a global village through internet technology, bringing nations together through sports, and strategizing together in building a united force to protect the rights of everyone, the COVID-19 pandemic should now be the reason why we must all embrace one another for the good of all, not against one another.

In just a few months since the first case was reported the virus is almost taking over the whole world and crippling economies. Unfortunately, nations are still at loss for words about what measures will exactly stop the spread of the disease as the onslaught continues with growing fatalities.

From one country to the other markets are closing, cities put on lockdown as efforts are being implemented by local and international public health experts to control and stop the pandemic. However, we should also be aware that the world is just recovering from the Ebola shock that killed thousands of people in West Africa. And before the Ebola disease, the world was faced with the Avian flu virus, among others, which also have the tendency to cause grave world crises.

But one thing that has stood out over the present health pandemic, as it was with other public health crises, is people’s concern for others and willingness to reach out to support and help those in need. Just recently, I was listening to a radio talk-show host when a caller called to commend teachers.

“I never realised how we take teachers’ role in society for granted until now that my children are home with us,” the caller said, unfortunately noting “We never appreciate the role teachers play in our lives”.

Like the caller, many of us now realise that the things we take for granted are the most important things for our social, health and economic wellbeing.  

COVID-19 has created a moment for reflection for most people to taking positive health decisions to protect themselves and others. It is only when people work together will there be a success at the end of the tunnel. One of the things we should be doing now to strengthen our love for one another is to listen to the authorities and heed to public health warnings by always washing our hands, staying home and keeping a safe distance.

If you love yourself, your family, your country, and you are a patriot – heed to your government’s public health warnings and do what is asked of you. This is a civic responsibility we should take ownership of and encourage others to follow for the safety of everyone.

I am sure you want your children to return back to school, you want to go out and have fun, visit the local zoo, or watch the latest movie with your friends; but cannot do that now for fear of the disease. That means you don’t need to be told to do the right thing because it is for you and your loved ones to heed to public health warnings so that the spread of the virus could be controlled and stop for all of us to again enjoy the things we take for granted in life. 

President Bio implores security agencies in Sierra Leone to collaborate for effective security services

President Julius Maada has met with Heads of the various security agencies in the country to encourage inter-agency collaboration in the provision of effective security services to the nation. 

The president said one of the main challenges the country’s security sector had faced was the lack of proper coordination among the different security agencies, noting that if they were to provide effective services there should be a synergy among them.

He however commended the various forces for their patriotic services to the nation, adding that despite the difficult nature of their jobs, they had always stood the test of time, even continued to do so with the meagre salaries they get.

“As a Government we appreciate what you do, every day, to ensure that there is peace and stability in our country. By taking up the uniforms, it means you have a difficult choice to serve this country. So, we are grateful for that.

“Most of the times we have had problems with the lack of synergy between and among the various forces, which is not helpful for the country. We know that quiet conflicts are bound to happen but we must see the need to work together for a common goal. No one can do it alone. So, we need collective efforts,” he urged.

He emphasised that he was satisfied with the progress made so far in the eight months of the new government, especially in rebranding the image of the nation on the international scene. He said before now people had negative perceptions about the country, but expressed hope that that was fast changing because of the kind of leadership he was providing.

“I have promised and will continue to provide the quality leadership we need to move this nation forward. The perception out there is beginning to change. When they talk about serious nations now, we are being mentioned as one of them, which is a very good start that we all can collectively build on.

“As the Leader, I want to inspire you all to make your own contributions in making our country great again. Today is for you and I want to say thanks to you all for your service to our nation,” he assured and thanked the First Lady for making the evenning event a success.

Sierra Leone: President Bio Conducts Inspection Tour of Former Special Court Building

President Julius Maada Bio has conducted an inspection tour of the former Special Court Building in Freetown where he was received by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Madam Priscillia Schwartz.

Special Court1.jpeg

President Bio (Center) inspecting facilities at the former Special Court for Sierra Leone 

While welcoming the President, Madam Schwartz said the building was constructed by the United Nations and other International Partners during President Dr Ahmad Tejan Kabbah’s led Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) Government. She noted that the facility, which brought perpetrators of the civil war to book, was built to bring lasting peace to Sierra Leone as it is with the present government’s plans to bring corruption to an end in the country.

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice also disclosed that the once illustrious ground court room with fine trimming and splendour that helped to win justice for the people of Sierra Leone had suffered yet the worst assault by the previous All People’s Congress regime, adding that building suffered from mismanagement, neglect, vandalism, decay and corruption as was with most of the country’s institutions and the economy under the previous regime.

“The proud halls of justice which once attracted huge numbers of tourists and the finest legal minds from all over the world now represent decay. The detention facility was handed to the government of Sierra Leone in early 2010 and the rest of the premises including the courthouse and all its facilities were handed over to the APC government in superb working conditions in December 2013. Then in superb working conditions, the court had computers, streamers, chairs and all modern facilities of international standard before it was handed over,” she recalled.

On the present condition of the court, the Attorney General added: “Sadly sir, you again inherit today a dilapidated courthouse. It is a hurt and stain on our country’s pride. This casts a dark mark on the previous regime for its disregard not only for the justice institutions but also for the rule of law. As you tour the courthouse and the other facilities, I pray that your leadership will take another bold step to set your divine seal afforded you by God Almighty on our justice institutions which lie in decay all around the country, including our overcrowded prisons”.

“Our administration has inherited the burden yet again to heal the wound on the arm of our justice system and institutions and to alleviate the profound distrust of the public in them. The weight rests on your shoulder and all of us to show our people and the international community who poured monies into the building that justice is indeed a precious gem in Sierra Leone’s Coat of Arms by resurrecting this holed ground yet again,” the justice minister added.

She also noted that while adhering to the call by the public for the commencement of the Commissions of Inquiry, she was saddened that the said inquiry might not take place at the building, as was first anticipated, due to the high cost of refurbishment estimated to run into billions of Leones.

“Your Excellency, the poor state of the building has caused some delay in the commencement of the commission as we seek alternate facilities that will meet the financial cost, security and other logistics needed to get it running. Once the logistical details have been finalised, hopefully very soon, we will commence the Commissions of Inquiry,” she ended.

Sierra Leone: Northerners fleeing political violence in Kono

By John Koroma

Victims of political violence during a stop in Masingbi

As President Julius Maada Bio initiated a cross-party committee to address political violence in the country, scores of nothern tribes including Temne, Limba, Loko and Yalunka, are allegedly driven by threats of violence in Kono.

This follows the re-run presidential elections in which majority of people from these groups voted for the defeated North-Western based APC political party.

Yesterday scores of northerners left Kono for their homelands and made a stop gap at Masingbi, a northern town bordering Kono in the east.

The victims lamented threats, discrimination and many forms of inhuman treatment by the perpetrators.

The situaton remains tense as there is no way yet the government has taken active measures to solve the country’s political crisis that has resulted to spate of violence against political opponents.