Sierra Leone: Blaming rape victims betrays women

By Alpha Bedoh Kamara

The public statement by Sierra Leone minister of Basic and Secondary Education, Alpha Timbo, that women sometimes are responsible when raped is a deliberate act by the minister to cast aspersion on women’s stories of rape in the country.

Timbo says some women are to blame

“Sometimes the women are to blame. They provoke the men to rape them,” Alpha Timbo said at a UNFPA event in Freetown.

Unfortunately, the statement by Timbo is being downplayed by some sectors in society as a mistake and something not to be taken seriously despite the the high rate of rape cases and sexual abuse in the country. In February this year President Julius Maada Bio declared rape and sexual violence a national emergency and called for an end to the culture of “indifference” and impunity surrounding it.

The president’s announcement follows a national outcry over the prevalence of sexual violence in the West African nation, where recorded cases of sexual and gender-based violence doubled last year, reaching 8,505 in a population of 7.8 million, according to police statistics.

Timbo’s statement does not only creates a sense of fear but also bringing to mind memories of sexual abuse perpetrated against women and girls during the 11 years of war in which rape was used as a weapon.

Must women and girls always be on their guard to fight off rapists or its the responsibility of the government to ensure the protection of every girl child and woman in the country? Sierra Leoneans want answers.

The widespread and systematic use of rape and other sexual violence during the ten-year civil war in Sierra Leone is documented in a new Human Rights Watch report released on January 16, 2003.

The 75-page report, Sierra Leone: Sexual Violence Widespread in War, states, “‘We’ll Kill You If You Cry:’ Sexual Violence in the Sierra Leone Conflict,” presents evidence of horrific abuses against women and girls in every region of the country by the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF), as well as other rebel, government and international peacekeeping forces.

“In this report, we have documented unimaginable atrocities against women in Sierra Leone,” said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division at Human Rights Watch. “The people responsible for these crimes must be held accountable.” Takirambudde also said the victims of sexual violence urgently need help to regain their health and reintegrate into their communities.

According to the AfricaRenewal, The Sierra Leone civil war was known internationally for its horrific atrocities — especially the widespread amputations of villagers’ limbs. But until recently, little attention was devoted to abuses directed specifically against women. “Violence against women was not just incidental to the conflict,” Ms. Nowrojee told Africa Renewal, “but was routinely used as a tool of war. Sexual violence was used in a widespread and systematic way as a weapon, and women were raped in extraordinarily brutal ways.”

The statement by the minister of education speaks volume about the level of acceptance in government circles the suffering and abuse women are going through in the country. Sexual abuse and violations are committed with impunity and victims left to leak their wounds and suffering in silence, with tears and shame their only solace.

Unfortunately for women in the country the Government of Sierra Leone is yet to make a statement regarding the minister’s senseless pronouncement and we are still unable to understand why the statement was made in the first place, only if one may assume, is the minister emboldening perpetrators of sexual crimes in the country?

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.

President Julius Maada Bio Commissions Construction of Hospital at Masongbo Village, Launches Free Ambulance Service in Bombali District

President Julius Maada Bio on Friday commissioned the start of construction work on a mini-modern hospital at Masongbo village in the MakariGbanti Chiefdom, near Makeni, and also launched the free ambulance service forBombali District, northern Sierra Leone.

People in the township  welcoming President Bio

Work commences on 30 November this year and after completion in August 2019, the centre will have an operating theatre, X-Ray unit, drug store, public health officers’ unit and a staff quarter.

The President said he was delighted to mark the start of the construction work because a proper healthcare service was the basis for human capital development, adding that without quality healthcare it would be difficult to sustain development. He disclosed that after its completion some four miles away from Makeni, the new health facility located in a strategic township surrounded by many villages, would provide better facilities than it previously had done.

“This project will help to provide better healthcare service for our people in this part of the country and will ease the burden on the health facilities in the district headquarter town of Makeni. We are trying to prevent our citizens from diseases and where we cannot we want to provide the facilities for a quick response,” he said. 

President Bio also said the free ambulance service was part of his determination to end the unnecessary death rate across the country, saying the service would be available throughout the day and would be able to collect sick people throughout the district within a short period of time to save lives. He called on citizens to monitor the ambulances and ensure that they were used for the intended purposes.

Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr Anthony Sandi, said the new facility was a continuation of President Bio’s agenda for inclusive development. He noted that contrary to lies from critics, the Bio-led government would continue to evenly distribute resources and development projects throughout the country.

Director of Primary Health at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr Alie Wurie, said when completed the health facility at Masongbo would serve as a model for upgrading community healthcare centres across the country. He disclosed that the site would be handed over to the contractors on the 30 November and work is expected to be completed by August 2019.

The project is part of a US$ 5.7 million loan from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) for the construction of eight peripheral healthcare centres across the country.

President Julius Maada Bio Visits European Parliament as Guest of the UK Member of the Parliament

President Julius Maada Bio Monday paid a visit to the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, as a guest of the United Kingdom Member of European Parliament, (MEP), Steven Marcus Woolfe.

According to the envoy, he had hosted President Bio to a dinner at the European Parliament in recognition of his vibrant leadership and an excellent start in moving Sierra Leone to the right direction.

The UK Member of European Parliament also praised the new President, who assumed office in April this year, for his wonderful stewardship and vision in the last six months. He paid tributes to the efforts of uniting Sierra Leone, efficiently managing the economy, showing leadership in the fight against corruption and investing in human capital development through the free quality education programme.

President Bio thanked Mr Woolfe, his colleagues and staff of the European Parliament for the reception and reiterated his commitment to restoring the international reputation of the small West Africa nation. He assured that his determination to fight corruption, effectively manage the economy and invest in human capital development would serve the best interest of ordinary Sierra Leoneans.

President Bio also expressed his commitment to strengthening the relationship between Sierra Leone and the European Parliament.

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Sierra Leone president attends United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Sierra Leone president Julius Maada Bio departed Sierra Leone on Sunday, 23rd September, 2018 for the United States of America to attend the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Annan6This is his maiden attendance at the United Nations General Assembly since his election as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. During the General Debate, President Bio is expected to deliver a very powerful statement highlighting his key commitments and priorities of his new Government.

As the Coordinator of the African Union Committee of Ten Heads of State and Government on the reform of the United Nations Security Council, President Bio is also expected to tell the General Assembly during his statement: “Unless we are able to contend with the reform of the Security Council, the most critical question of the day, our organisation will still be locked into promoting undemocratic and discriminatory principles.”

During the 73rd Session of United Nations General Assembly, President Bio is also expected to attend series of events on the margins and to honour an invitation from Bill Gates to serve as a special guest and speaker at the second annual Goalkeepers event; the first and inaugural event of the Goalkeepers event last year invited President Barack Obama as special guest and speaker. On the margins, President Bio is also expected to attend a high level event organised by the George Soros Open Society Foundations.

Whilst in the United States of America, President Bio will also address Sierra Leoneans in a Town Hall Meeting as part of his commitment to open government and public accountability. “During the elections campaign President Bio promised that if he is elected as President he would visit United States of America. Again, he promised the people and he has delivered on that promise. On the world’s stage, this visit will also showcase President Bio as one of the young, progressive and vibrant emerging leaders in Africa,” says Yusuf Keketoma Sandi, Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman.

Sierra Leone: Government ministers address the press on outcomes of China-Africa Summit

Ministers who returned with His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio from the combined trips of a state visit and the Forum for Africa-China Cooperation Summit (FOCAC) in Beijing have addressed the press on sector specific interests.


Present at the conference hall of the Ministry of Information and Communications at Youyi Building in Freetown were the Finance Minister, Jacob Jusu Saffa, Development and Economic Planning Minister, Nabeela Tunis, Agriculture Minister, Joseph Ndanema, Information and Communications Minister, Mohamed Rhaman Swaray, Trade Minister, Peter Bayuku Conteh, and Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman, Yusuf Keketoma Sandi.

Mr Saffa, who stayed in China, after the team returned, to complete a series of meetings, said there was need to firm up talks and get commitment around priority projects, debt negotiations and cancellation and to build investor confidence. He said because the New Direction government wanted to engage the Chinese on a win-win partnership on the Lungi Bridge project and others, they thought they must have their own independent data which they were now working on to help them negotiate from a position of strength.

“The Chinese government is giving us RMB 250 million, approximately US$ 40m, as budgetary support. This, in addition to our debt being cancelled, will help our current effort of economic expansion, exchange rate stabilisation and will boost the country as an emerging market,” he said, and assured journalists that they were confident in the content of their negotiations with the Chinese so far.

He said with the Chinese they hoped to access private capital that would not put contingent liability on the government, in the sense that the interest rate would be within reach in the form of concessional loans and which could be paid over a long term period, adding that that arrangement was compatible with Sierra Leone People’s Party government’s strategy.

“You don’t want to go for a loan with over 25 per cent interest rate and that you pay over a five year period, or a loan that creates problems for you. China is a very good source for private capital. It has worked for countries like South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania that have developed massive projects ranging from US$1 billion to US$3 billion and up to US$5 billion in Ethiopia and other places,” he said, adding that the government was working on plausible projects that would attract huge grants and concessional loans from the US$60 billion the Chinese government had put aside for Africa.

The minister of agriculture said they explored opportunities around seed production and investment in rice cultivation and irrigation technology to improve on farming outputs and achieve the ultimate goal of adding value to raw materials. He said when they visited the China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Centre in the Hunan Province, they were addressed by scientists and had discussions on the possibility of knowledge transfer.

“Apart from that, the Chinese Government have agreed to provide 50 scholarships annually to the government for Sierra Leoneans to specialise in different disciplines. Also, they have agreed to help us with 6,100 metric tonnes (about 122,000 bags) of rice,” Mr Ndanema disclosed.

While the trade minister talked on his engagement with potential investors, the minister of development, Mrs Tunis, reiterated the fact that inasmuch as the FOCAC meetings were really important and had been fruitful, she reminded the media that the country had a foreign policy of non-alignment.

“The media should focus on and ask questions around real issues when they meet government ministers from very important trips like these, otherwise we will lose the real essence of such engagements,” she said.

Minster of Communications, Mr Swaray, said he was happy to report his quick achievements in starting the negotiations and signing the memorandum of understanding with StarTimes, a Chinese multinational media company with strong presence in Africa, to bolster the country’s digital migration process and transform the public broadcaster, SLBC, which is still analogue based and operated.

He also disclosed that he had discussions on the possibility of an e-government with Huawei Technologies, a Chinese multinational networking, telecommunications equipment, and services company and the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world.

Sierra Leone: President Bio Engages PowerChina on the Construction of Lungi Bridge

President of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio has engaged the PowerChina International Group Ltd. for construction of the Lungi Bridge, which will link Freetown and Lungi.

China Lungi Bridge.jpeg

President Bio discussing the project with Mr. Song Dongsheng

The prospect for construction of a bridge linking the capital city and Lungi has always seemed farfetched, but the president’s meeting with PowerChina International Group Ltd. has rekindled hope that the dream is becoming a reality.

Travelling in and out of the country via Lungi is a challenge for visitors from abroad who have to use a ferry, a boat, or helicopter to crossover to the city. The experience is even worse for residents doing business along that route as well as children attending schools in the city.

“The President, who had always kept the massive project very close to his heart, could not hide that sentiment weeks ago when a foreign delegation paid him a courtesy call at State House and he told them that he was actively looking for reputable companies to engage on the construction of a bridge linking the port city of Freetown on the Atlantic Ocean to the north-western airport town of Lungi,” said Tanu Jalloh, communications manager, State House Media & Communications Unit.

Jalloh said during the elections as then Presidential Candidate, His Excellency President Bio was fondly remembered as the candidate who repeatedly stated that he would be a President who would ‘underpromise’ and ‘overdeliver’ rather than a President who ‘overpromised’ and ‘underdelivered’.

Explaining the importance of the proposed Lungi Bridge, President Bio said that the bridge would open Sierra Leone for business and attract more investors and tourists.


Travelling in and out of the country via Lungi is a challenge for travellers

He also said that Freetown was too congested and that construction of the bridge would not only reduce congestion, but would also promote economic development. He encouraged PowerChina International to consider the construction of the Lungi Bridge as a very important project that would bring huge relief to many Sierra Leoneans and make the country an enviable tourist destination.

President of PowerChina International Group Ltd, Mr. Song Dongsheng, praised President Bio for his great leadership and passion for attracting investors to Sierra Leone. He said that PowerChina International was very interested in constructing the Lungi Bridge.

Mr. Song also said that the construction of the Lungi Bridge would be an honour for the company and delighted that President Bio was very determined to construct the bridge.

One major challenge for the construction of the Lungi Bridge is the financing aspect but Mr. Song assured President Bio that financing would be through off-balance sheet.

Also in attendance at the meeting was the Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, who was very pleased with the proposed financing of the construction of the Lungi Bridge, saying that off-balance sheet is the most internationally acceptable mode of financing as that would not incur any debt to the Government.

Updating the President on the proposed project as the focal person, the Chief Minister, Professor David J. Francis, said that while the proposed construction of the facility was the key priority, yet the whole package of the project would include the expansion of the airport and creating an economic free zone.

The Chief Minister said constructing a bridge would mean increased traffic for flights and passengers which was why an expansion of the airport must go with the construction of the bridge.