24 Children Arrested & Detained by Police

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Minister of Internal Affairs, David Maurice Panda-Noah has informed journalists that during the 10th August 2022 ‘terrorists’ violent demonstration which claimed the lives of innocent citizens including security personnel, 24 children between the ages of 12 to 17 were arrested and are now in police custody.

He added that the government through the Ministry of Social Welfare and Family Support Units (FSUs) of the Sierra Leone Police are exploring ways of identifying their parents or guardians.

He made this statement during a press conference held at the Sierra Leone Police Headquarters, George Street, Freetown noting that the objective of identifying their parents or guardians is to assure that their children are in the safe custody of the FSU of the Sierra Leone Police and working out modalities to reunite them with their parents. Furthermore, he stated that government acknowledges the fundamental rights of persons, more especially children.

He also gave full assurance that the children in police custody have their rights guaranteed, adding that such rights will continue to be observed while they are in the safe custody of the police.

Minister David Panda-Noah also informed the press that as a means of demonstrating commitment, his ministry has contacted the relevant line ministries and agencies that deal with children, to partner with the FSU so that the children in police custody would be adequately taken care of as prescribed by law and other conventions and protocols dealing with children.

Minister David Panda-Noah ended by assuring the parents and family members of the children in custody to not be afraid of identifying their children as their safety is guaranteed.

Director of Compliance from the Ministry of Social Welfare Ansu Konneh noted that his Ministry has taken full responsibility for the welfare of these children in custody and they are providing opportunities for Child serving Agencies to provide every support, including safe spaces for them while the reunification process continues. He confirmed that among the 24 children there are 6 girls and 18 boys. He also assured they will be treated with the utmost care, and every subsequent action will be in adherence to compliance which is embedded in the child rights Act. Among the stakeholders in the press briefing were the out-gone Deputy Inspector General of Police, who is currently Director of Police Affairs in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the newly appointed Inspector General of Police, and other senior hierarchy within the Sierra Leone Police.

As Election Results Announced in Kenya…

Ex-President Koroma Ends Successful Observer Mission

The head of the joint AU-COMESA Elections Observation Mission (HoM) to Kenya, former president Ernest Bai Bai Koroma, along with his assistant HoM, Madam Marie-Pierre Lyold, on Saturday held consultation with former Ethiopian President Mulato Teshome and delegation. Teshome is the head of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Observer Mission to Kenya.

Former president Koroma and Madam Lyold also held discussions with the delegation of the East African Community (EAC). The EAC is headed by Jakaya Kikwete, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania. 

The AU-COMESA mission heads further met with Mr David Mwaure Waihiga, leader of the AGONO political party, and a cross section of its executive as well as the heads of the coalitions of Kenya leading civil society organizations. They include Dr Sarah Bireete of the Center for Constitutional Governance (CCGEA), Anne W. Ireri of the Elections Observation Group (ELOG), and political analyst Professor Karuti Kanyinga. These consultations are part of the observers mandate to ensure that they grasp the dynamics around the electoral processes and possible grievances. This way, they would be in a good position to identify possible flash points and take actions that would support the overarching objective of free, peaceful and credible elections.

Generally, from the interactions so far, there is commitment by all stakeholders to a peaceful and credible electoral outcome.

According to Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), there is tremendous local and international goodwill for Kenya not to relapse into the electoral violence of 2017. The IEBC said a total of 18,000 observers, 1,000 of whom are internationals, will be observing the August 9 polls. Even more profound, a record number of ten former heads of states are in the country, heading various elections observer missions.

From the consultations, there is consensus that the IEBC has successfully completed the registration of 22 million voters, published the voter’s roll, subjected it to independent audit albeit through a court decision. Ballot papers have also been printed with satisfactory political party participation, and while non-sensitive materials were distributed on  August 1, sensitive materials are being distributed across the country.

Stakeholders also agree that there is a commendable level of inclusiveness and transparency in the electoral processes. On polling day, media and observers will  witness the final stages of sorting, counting, collation, certification, and party agents will be allowed to use their phones in polling centers to take images of certified results and transmit them to their parties.

As the head ofthe EAC, former President Kikwete noted, it is refreshing that the judiciary is held in high esteem for its independence and fairness and as of this moment, disagreements have been channeled to and arbitrated by the courts. And that despite the intense and highly spirited campaigns, so far, there is general calm and quiet.

However, few challenges have been identified in the designated position of party agents at polling centers. Some stakeholders are concerned that, according to the IEBC layout, the distance between the party agents and the voting booths could cause suspicions and complaints of impropriety on the basis that the agents could not necessarily vouch for what would be transpiring around the distant voting booth.

There is also growing concern that the sheer numbers of polling centers could pose considerable constraints to IEBC’s capacity to transmit the final certified results within the expected timeframe. It is a throwback from 2017 that delays in announcing, especially the winner of the presidential election, could result in suspicion of wrongdoing and that if not well- managed could result in violence. This is particularly true if the commendable practice of resolving disagreements in court shifts to the use of the streets as the theater for the expression of dissatisfaction.

The AU and the regional trading block, COMESA, believe that in handling such complexities, everyone is important. In a tweet this afternoon former President Koroma said: “We believe that every political actor is important, including the ‘minor’ parties. We are, therefore, pleased that Mr David M. Waihiga, leader of the AGONDO party, and delegation could find time to share with us  their views and concerns. I urge for continued dialogue, peaceful resolution of disagreements.”  

Former President Koroma also tweeted about his meeting with leaders of Kenya’s CSO coalitions – ELGIA, and ELOG, along with Professor Karuti. He said the civil society actors shared with their Mission rich insights on the entire electoral processes and that he was impressed with the scope of their involvement, depth of their analysis and determination to ensure an electoral outcome that represents the will of the people. 

In view of this, and as polling day draws nearer, the Joint AU- COMESA mission will continue such exchanges with local authorities and international observer missions in order to keep taps on developments on the ground to avoid any surprises.

“I’ve had consultations with the HoMs of IGAD and EAC elections observer delegations respectively. As Kenya gets closer to its 9 August polls, we will remain engaged in support of peaceful, free and credible elections,” the AU-COMESA HoM assured and urged all players to sustain such positivism.

PAN-SL CONDEMNS VIOLENCE & BRUTAL EXECUTIONS OF POLICE

The Patriotic Advocacy Network, Sierra Leone (PAN) in a press release has vehemently condemns the brutal killings of security personnel and protesters during the tempestuous demonstrations in major parts of the country on Wednesday, 10th August, 2022.

The press release amongst other things state:

“With great dismay, we also condemn all acts of violence that transpired before, during and after the said demonstrations which include: the sending of inciting audios on social media, using of invectives and words of incitement on public places, firing of tear gas and live bullets, pelting of stones, burning of police stations, burning of tires in the streets, looting of properties and destruction of places and properties.

“Fellow compatriots, let us be reminded that our country had once tasted the bitterness of war and we are still romancing with its predicaments. As a nation, it is clear that violence leads to perpetual pain, suffering and above all, does trek a nation from progress. Therefore, violence in all forms and shape is unwelcomed, unaccepted and unreasonable. Violence has no room in our society and violence is not the answer.

“In respect of our ground norm law, PAN wants to remind the government and people of this nation that we all have our moral obligations and patriotic responsibilities to upkeep sanity, peace, serenity and development of this country. Thus, section 13 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone positioned our duties as citizens of this great nation. Section 13 (b) states:

“Every citizen shall cultivate a sense of nationalism and patriotism so that loyalty to the State shall override sectional, ethnic tribal or other loyalties”

“Let us be reminded that our country is modelled on the principles of FREEDOM, JUSTICE AND DEMOCRACY by virtue of section 5 (1) of Act No. 6 of 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone. Section 5 (2) of the Constitution recognizes the fact that power belongs in the hands of the people from whom government through the constitution derives its powers, authorities, and legitimacy. And Chapter 4 of the constitution is modelled on the representation of the people. Thus, the legitimacy of a government is rooted in the democratic processes of the state and the processes have to be sustained through periodic elections for which all sierra Leoneans that have reached the legal age of maturity shall have the sole rights to exercise their franchise. It is against this backdrop that, we implore all and sundry to respect and abide the laws of the land and respect the democratic ideals of this nation, more so when the elections are knocking on our doors.

“As an institution representing the interest of the masses, we cannot evade the fact that the cost of living in the country is appalling, prices of goods and commodities are on sky rocketing, huge unemployment of young people and continuous suffering of the masses. Thus, during these trying times, we have realized that there is a hug communication gab, misinformation and miscommunication mainly between the government and the people; there is also disrespect  and disregard of public outcries; this to a very large extent, have fuelled the anger of most unsuspected youths who are very much disgruntled and now seek remedy to other sources.

“Therefore, we want to use this opportunity to call on the President of The Republic of Sierra Leone, H.E Julius Maada Bio to call off his trip, return home and quickly address the nation. In his address, we implore him to frankly talk on the issues at hand, communicate with the masses on possible solutions, and displayed the utmost sense of leadership and humility to the people of this nation. Mr President, we also implore you to declare a day of mourning for all the souls lost during the crisis.

“As our motto says, TOGETHER WE CAN ACHIEVE, FIDELITY TO ALL, We are calling on all politicians, political parties, political groups and political leaders including religious groups, mosques, churches, youth organizations and community based organizations to join hands with the government to preach peace and campaign for a peaceful nation, peaceful coexistence

“To the strong youth of this country, we are the greatest treasures of this nation, so let no one confuse us to perpetuate any forms of violence. Our role to nation growth is unparalleled and our services to this nation are unmatched. Within our hands lie the peace, growth and development that we all so much desire. We have the manpower and will to make and unmake this country. We are the leaders of this great nation. Be reminded that during the demonstration, the politicians’ sons and daughters were not part of us; most of them are in overseas, acquiring education. Let us wake up, wise up and denounce all forms of violence. PAN as a youth-led institution is calling on all youth to embrace patriotism and denounce all forms of violence.

“Our institution commends the swift intervention of the MAC-P in calming down the ugly situation. We therefore, implore them to respect the fundamental human rights of each and every citizen and act within the ambit of the law.

“In conclusion, PAN, hitherto, as body that prides itself to instill the spirit of patriotism in the minds of Sierra Leoneans, shall embark on a massive online peace and patriotism sensitization. We therefore call on you to join us in this drive. Thus, the sensitization shall kick start on the 12th August, 2022 marking the International Youth Day.

“Finally, on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone, we send our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families; we pray that their souls rest in perfect peace.”

Education Minister Speaks on Secondary School Admissions

By Dr. Moinina David Sengeh

When we published the National Primary School Examination earlier this month, there was lots of confusion about the scores. A major reason behind that was people were worried their kids won’t get into their schools of choice. Will Annie Walsh take candidates who score below 300? They wondered.

My team at MBSSE has continued engaging schools, families and children telling them about how placements are done. Things are automated and digitized at MBSSE these days. It is determined by how many kids sat for a school, how many passed and how many available places there are. We published a list of oversubscribed schools- that is, schools for which many more kids passed than places are available. If you chose an oversubscribed school as anything but your first choice, you won’t get an admission there even if you scored the highest mark. It’s just simple- it’s about justice.

This week and next, over 100,000 children are interviewing to enter junior secondary school after passing their national primary school exam. Thanks to tech and transparency, everyone knows the school at which they can be interviewed. Simple text “Placement” to 468. Things are much quieter this year than previous years. There’s little chaos.

If you are thinking about bribing a school authority only for you to come and shout at my staff that schools are taking money for admission, think about it again. If your child sat for another school as first choice but now wants to go to an oversubscribed school, think about it before you blast the entire system. If your child is being placed in a school that is where he or she should go based on our automated tool, think about it again and explore what your role is in your child’s life.

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