A safe military is when it’s rape free… -CHRDI insists

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The Campaign for Human Rights and Development International CHRDI CEO Has said a safe Military is when it is free from rape and corruption.

The Criminal Justice System Must Support Victims of Sexual Violence In Accordance with National and International Obligations and Commitments

 Rape, also known as sexual assault, is a violent behaviour often used as a weapon of war. The majority of rape perpetrators are men, and the majority of their victims/survivors are women and girls. Rape, which is among the most common forms of violence against women, is a profound violation of a survivor’s physical, psychological and social integrity. In a few words, it can destroy a person for life.

   The gender-based inequalities in the Sierra Leonean society are highly evident in the many risks of gender-based violence that women and girls face. Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is rooted in unequal power relations that are further reinforced by social and gender norms that falsely normalize and justify VAWG, including rape. The continuing and perhaps rising number of incidents of rape against women and girls, point to the existence of social norms in our Sierra Leonean society that make it acceptable for men to feel entitled to women’s bodies without their consent. These violent gender-based abuses are taking place in Sierra Leone’s highly esteemed Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces(RSLAF).

 According to official documents consulted by CHRDI, between 2019 and 2020 there were at least 46 cases of sexual violence against women perpetrated by personnel of the Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Defence,  while older cases were still pending trial. Here are just a few examples:

–        4 alleged gang rapes

–        27 alleged sexual penetrations, including incest

–        2 alleged gang sexual penetrations

–        200 and more  domestic violence/assault cases

–        16 cases of carnal knowledge

His Excellency, Julius Maada Bio, President of Sierra Leone, declared rape and sexual violence a national emergency in February 2019, at the time when some of these cases of assault and rape were continuing to take place within the MoD. Official documents revealed horrifying details about alleged robbery, rapes, sexual penetrations, and murder cases in the RSLAF/MoD ranks.

The General Recommendation 19 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) establishes that gender-based violence, such as rape, is an extreme form of discrimination which ‘seriously inhibits women’s ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men’ (CEDAW 19, A/47/38). It also imposes an obligation to the states parties to take positive measures and develop strategies to eliminate all forms of violence against women.

It is CHRDI’s view that every survivor of sexual violence who reports the offence to the police should be seen as an intrinsically vulnerable witness for the purposes of accessing supports specific to their situation and their capacity. The investigators must also take the approach most favorable to the survivor, since such cases are extremely difficult to prove, particularly in a country like Sierra Leone which lacks sexual assault kits and forensics analysis laboratory.

We believe that with these disadvantages, the criminal justice system should take the approach most favorable to survivors, and government institutions, in particular, including MoD/RSLAF, must focus resources and efforts to prevent such cases from happening with continuing training, awareness, and by encouraging survivors to report these crimes, and ultimately holding perpetrators accountable to end impunity.

The culture of “don’t ask, don’t tell” with regards to sexual assault must end within the MoD/RSLAF and all government organizations, in line with President Bio’s direction for our country.

 One of the key challenges in the prevention and eradication of rape and sexual harassment is the issue of consent, and the current lack of understanding that only yes means yes when given from individuals over the age of 18, while any act of sexual contact with a child under the age of 18, regardless of consent, is a crime.

  Equally important is that, in the cases of women/men over the age of 18, the consent is given with free will, without being induced by fraud, coercion, violence or threat of violence, and in the person’s full capacity – which is not the case, for instance, when someone is drunk and incapacitated or lacks the ability to make a decision, such as in the cases of people with mental disabilities.

  It is disappointing to report that there were weaknesses in the system that frequently failed survivors of gender-based violence. In Sierra Leone, when a gender-based violence complaint is filed, the Police are required to open an investigation. However, in the MoD/RSLAF, many victims are reluctant to come forward because of pressure from society to accept domestic violence as the norm, financial dependence on the perpetrator, and lack of confidence in the criminal justice system.

Our confidential official sources revealed that, in some instances, senior military personnel and Police officers allegedly dismissed complaints of gender-based violence because they believed them to be family matters and not crimes.

The stigma around sexual violence was also cited as a contributing factor to underreporting.

According to the CEDAW Convention, it is internationally recognized that violence on the grounds of gender is a form of discrimination. Sierra Leone is a signatory to the CEDAW Convention but the alleged disregard and perceived unwillingness to fight gender based sex abuse in government institutions like the MoD may be seen as defaulting on its obligations.

CHRDI is therefore making a public request to the United Nations to refer SIERRA LEONE to its obligations under international law with regard to gender-specific violence against women and girls.

 CHRDI believes that domestic violence and violence against women and girls are barriers to full gender equality, and by extension, they are barriers to the social and economic development of a society.

The not-so-distant history of rape being used as a weapon of war, especially by military personnel, we fear that ignoring cases of sex-based violence within the

MoD risks the acceptance of the idea that the behavior is acceptable.

As a United Nations Social Economic   Council Accredited Organization, CHRDI urgently amplifies the call for women’s justice: the military and security forces must hold to account all perpetrators among their ranks for their alleged brutality and impunity, which is fueling the historical violation of women’s rights.

Orange SL Welcomes Afcon Winner From Cameroon

By Feima Sesay

Orange SL, being the leading Telecommunications network in the country, has on Tuesday January 25 welcome four of their subscribers that won all expensive  trip by the company  to watch the Leone Stars match in Cameroon as well as  presented Fifity Million Leones (Le50,000,000.00) to a 16-year-old pupil as one of the winners of AFCON 2021 Na wi de play promotion.

Hannah Finda Tengbeh is a 16-years  pupil of the  St. Joseph Convent Secondary School, who emerged as one of the winners of the Orange Telecommunications promotion cash prizes.

She expressed appreciation and gratitude to the company for the money and said she was grateful.  Felix Macauley, a staff of Orange SL, in his opening statement said they were happy to receive their winners after such expensive trip for them to go watch Leone Stars match and it indeed turned out to be a reality. He added that the reason behind the campaign was that the company thought it fit for the past Twenty-Five Sierra Leone (Leone Stars) was going to participate in the Africa Cup of Nations. He described it as an opportunity for them as leading Telecommunications network in the country to go and witness the match that Leone Stars are playing for the first time in Twenty-Five years. He said that was why they launched a campaign called ‘’Na wi dea play’’ which revolves to ‘’na wi dae win”.  ‘’Because  we wanted to demonstrate diversity, we had customers that won cash price and catered for those that were unable to travel to watch the  matches live across the country,’’ he further stated.

Speaking at the event at their IMATT Head Office in Freetown,  Product Communications Manager at Orange, Martha Sumaila, said she was the  only orange staff that accompanied the winners to Cameroon.

She stated that the rumour making the rounds that the company only sent its workers instead of the customers was totally untrue.

She said, as a matter of fact, the winners had a VIP treatment in Cameroon and they were also given the opportunity to meet with the Leone Stars Coach as well as other members of the team.

She said they even had the opportunity to meet with the Director General of Orange Telecom based in Cameroon and had a lunch with them.

Also speaking, one of the fully paid up AFCON trip winners, Lawyer Adewale Showers, said his wife was the actual winner of the trip but he went in place of his wife.

He said he was grateful to Orange SL for giving him such an opportunity to watch Leone Stars matches live in Cameroon.

He indeed confirmed that they were indeed given VIP treatment in Cameroon furthering that the trip was fully paid for by Orange SL.

Ibrahim P. Kamara, who was also a proud winner, expressed his profound appreciation to the company for giving him the opportunity to travel out of the country in a bid to watch Leone Stars team play live in Cameroon, noting that he had good time and that he also made some friends in Cameroon.

Chernor Ibrahim Bah another winner from Makeni, also thanked Orange for the opportunity, noting that Orange has helped change his life. Amara Rogers, who was another winner that works for the Koidu Limited,  also profusely thanked Orange SL for the  opportunity accorded to him. He further noted that it was his company that won but he was selected by the company to represent them in Cameroon.

New price list for newspapers’ advertisement

 By Mustapha Dumbuya

Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) and Guild of Editors (GOE) have, in a reformation meeting at the CCSL Hall, agreed to increase the cost for advertisement in newspapers as a result of the escalating prices of newspaper printing materials.

Donald Theo-Harding, the Chairman of Guild of Editors, said that the increase of newspapers printing materials over the years as well as other challenges faced by proprietors or managing editors have given cause for the urgent need to review the price of advertisement on Newspapers.

He continued that because of such, the Guild will be looking forward to ways they can work together with investors in order to bring in printing materials which they will sell on cost recovery basis.

Ahmed Sahid Nasrallah, the President of Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), said that it was good that SLAJ and the Guild have met to review their management structure as well as their governance systems.

He continued that the meeting also created an opportunity to chart the way forward as to how to control the Newspapers printing cost that has widely increased over the past years.

The president said he has been calling on NASSIT to closely work with SLAJ on how they can help to import newspapers printing materials which they will buy at a cheaper rate.

The president said after a unanimous agreement with SLAJ and Editors the advert prices should be increased and that it would be communicated to all by press release that all newspapers will publish to the public.

In a unanimous agreement by SLAJ and the Guild of Editors agreed on new advert prices that will take effect on March this year of our lord.

Full page black and white will be increased from Eight Hundred Thousand Leones (Le800, 000) to One Million Leones (Le1,000,000). Also, half page black and white from Six Hundred Thousand Leones (Le600,000) to Eight Hundred Thousand Leones (Le800,000). Again, Quarter page from Five Hundred Thousand Leones (Le500,000) to Seven Hundred Thousand Leones (Le700,000) and Centerspread from One Million Six Hundred Thousand Leones (Le1,600,000) to Two Million Leones (Le2,000,000) all for black and white. He said.

RCBank & IPAM Conclude First Ever Seminar on Financial Inclusion and Digitalization

The Rokel Commercial Bank and the Faculty of Accounting and Finance at IPAM have concluded a one day Seminar on Financial Inclusion and Digitalization in Freetown.

The Seminar, which attracted over Five Hundred participants from the private and public sectors was the first-ever to be held in Sierra Leone and the first of such collaboration between a financial and an academic institution.

Academic and professional experts in the country’s financial industry discussed and provided insights on how the financial sector can leverage on major emerging trends like digitalization, financial Inclusion, financial literacy and financial intermediation (channelling funds between lenders and borrowers). The sessions were so interactive that participants were able to digest various concepts that allowed them to appreciate the seminar.

A general consensus among the notable speakers at the event was that the financial sector in Sierra Leone should ensure that financial products and services are accessible and adorable to all individuals and businesses regardless of their personal net worth or company size and that the barriers that exclude people from participating in the financial sector must be removed. The Bank Governor, Professor Kelfala Kallon was more succinct when he maintained….”the  deposit rates paid on savings must be high enough to convince net savers to make their funds available to the financial system. Additionally, bank charges or access to consumer savings should be minimized so as to increase the net returns on savings and thereby intensify households to use the financial system for savings. On the demand side of that market, financial institutions must also ensure that the Mammy Fatus of this world find it beneficial to borrow from the financial sector…… investment demand is inversely related to the lending rate…this the higher the lending the rate, the lower the demand for funds for investment….”

Proff Kallon commended RCBank for organizing the Seminar and emphasized on the timeliness of a such a seminar.

RCBank Managing Director, Walton Ekundayoh Gilpin made a brilliant illustration of how Financial Inclusion is better enhanced through innovation. Gilpin explained how mobile cash transferystems like the Rokel Bank E-kopor has made life easy for customers and non-customers alike.

The Seminar was climaxed by the twin launch of an Executive Masters Program in Banking and Finance by IPAM and the third edition of the Rokel Herald Magazine. The Seminar was moderated by the Dean of Faculty of Accounting and Finance, Dr Ezekiel Duramani Lakoh.

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