Bio : off to Turkey & Vietnam

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His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has departed Sierra Leone has yesterday left for Antalya on the invitation of the President of Turkey, His Excellency Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to attend the Antalya Diplomacy Forum.

The Forum provides a platform to facilitate debate on global and regional issues, bringing together world leaders and non-state actors.

The Antalya Diplomacy Forum is slated for 11 – 13 March 2022.

From the Republic of Turkey, His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio will be proceeding to Vietnam on the invitation of the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, His Excellency Nguyen Xuan Phuc, for an official state visit.

The state visit is expected to focus on enhancing bilateral cooperation between Sierra Leone and Vietnam on Rice Production, Aquaculture, Small-scale Manufacturing, Tourism, Trade and Investment, Healthcare and Technology.

The President has been accompanied by the First Lady, Madam Fatima Bio. He is expected to return to Sierra Leone on 20th March 2022.

Lara Taylor: an embodiment of hope & an icon of emulation

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By: Minkailu Koroma Snr.

I have had the privilege and opportunity of growing up, living and interacting with strong women, women of substance and of noble characters (whose reputation is beyond reproach), women who can sacrifice everything for the well-being of their children, families and society; women whose uprightness is unquestionable. One such woman is my beautiful mother, a woman whom after the early death of her husband did sacrifice everything (including her career) and became a ‘petty trader,’ and a ‘subsistence farmer’ to raise her children, provides all their needs and sent them to the best of schools to get the best of education. Women like my late elder sister, who was an embodiment of hope and a replica of my mother. Women like my wife, my hardworking, humble and respectful wife, an exemplary character to our two precious daughters, Manira and Abibatu, the rock of our family. I salute you wifey!!

Meanwhile, today, I will be celebrating one of Sierra Leone’s finest career women, Lara Taylor Pearce a credible, trustworthy, intelligent, eloquent and forward looking woman; a woman whose love for country is unquestionable and whose level of patriotism is perhaps second to a few.

For the records, I have never met Lara in person on any platform whatsoever nor am I related to her in any shape or form; but, I have watched her from afar and for far too long for that matter, that I am now in a better position to assess her.

History holds that International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8 to recognize the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The event elaborates women’s achievements and raises awareness about women’s equality and lobbies for accelerated gender parity.

Observed for the first time in 1911, International Women’s Day aims to highlight and recognize the achievements of women in different spheres while also bringing to attention important issues including gender discrimination that exist even today.

However, one may be tempted to ask the questions that from 1911 to date what is there to write home about, regarding gender equity, parity and equality? What is there to write home about, regarding the protection and promotion of women and girls rights and their empowerment? The world has made several attempts but the successes are minimal; there is still too many work to be done to be able to live up to the expectations of women and girls the world over.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women is an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly. Described as an international bill of rights for women, it was instituted on 3 September 1981 and has been ratified by 189 states (including Sierra Leone). This is why in Sierra Leone for example, we have the Three Gender Laws: (1) The Domestic Violence Act; (2) The Devolution of Estates Act and 3) The Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act. Notwithstanding this seemingly progress, women and girls in Sierra Leone and elsewhere places are still confronted with far too many challenges, ranging from intimidation and discrimination. In Sierra Leone, the *Mayor of Freetown – Yvonne Aki Sawyer  and the substantive Auditor General – Lara Taylor Peace are two prominent women who are currently being intimidated, discriminated against and whose human rights are seriously being violated in an unprecedented scale.

As stated earlier, my celebrant for this year’s International Women’s Day is Lara Taylor Pearce. Lara is the current Auditor General of the Republic of Sierra Leone (though illegally suspended). She is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants of the UK, Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sierra Leone, and holds MBA in Leadership and Sustainability from the University of Cumbria (UK). Her career of over thirty years spans both the private and public sectors, where she has made impact in auditing and the Public Financial Management sector in Sierra Leone.

Our Lady is the  former Chair of the Governing Board of the African Region of Supreme Audit Institutions – English Speaking (AFROSAI-E), Council member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sierra Leone, Board member of the Afro Barometer Board – a pan-African body responsible for providing data on citizens’ views on governance and other democratic measures within the African Region and a team member of the Chandler Session on Integrity and Corruption at the University of Oxford (School of Governance). Mrs. Taylor-Pearce’s transformational leadership style, high level of integrity and courage and passion for accountability in the use of public funds has raised the reputation of SAI Sierra Leone, both national and internationally.

Our very own Mrs. Taylor-Pearce is the holder of several national awards including, among others, the National Integrity Award, and recognition as a Grand Officer of the Order of the Rokel and one of the fifty most influential Women in Sierra Leone.

Unfortunately, it is this same woman that is currently being pursued and intimidated unjustifiably. In my view, those purging Lara are unpatriotic and unreasonable; Lara and many of her kinds must be celebrated and not pursued, promoted and not undermined, celebrated and intimidated.

Characters like her are few and aren’t easy to come by; she is a gem to our country, an asset that is internationally recognized and celebrated; I am and I supposed the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans are very proud of her. I doff my hat to you Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce, you are my 2022 International Women’s Day celebrant!!

Nonetheless, in celebrating International Women’s Day every year, we have had far too many themes ; for the purpose of this article, let me mention a few recent ones.

2017 – Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50 – 50 by 2030.

2018: Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives.

2019: Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovative for Change.

2020: I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights.

2021: Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow.

With all these themes, one may be also tempted to ask the questions have we ever met our overall objectives? What has changed? What are the successes? How have we confronted the challenges head-on? It is not just about coining beautiful themes every year but rather it is about doing all we can with the seriousness required to ensure that our objectives are met no matter the barriers.

Women and girls are our jewels and it is imperative on us to love them endlessly and protect them jealousy. It is my conviction that we have made very little gains in our quest to promoting and protecting wonen’s and girls rights. We have far too many women and girls that are craving for equity, equality and parity. This is very frustrating; as citizens of the world, we have more to do to overcome the façade in the campaign of promoting and protecting women and girls rights.

My heart goes to the women and girls of Ukraine, most are now refugees and some are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The war in Ukraine will have far reaching impacts on women and girls (they are the vulnerable class in any conflict); I don’t need to be told because I have had the misfortune of witnessing such in my country for a decade and the devastating consequences are still fresh in my memory. Women and girls will be subjected to all kinds of human rights violations (including using them as sex slaves and human shields). The world must do something to put a stop to this senseless war in Ukraine!!

I appreciate the bold step by Antonio Gutierrez, the UN Secretary-General calling for immediate ceasefire, de-escalation of tension and firm return to diplomacy and dialogue. The world must to something do end the Russia Ukraine  war because this, like any other war, puts women and girls at the increase of sexual and gender based violence. We have to accept the fact that conflict prevention and peace-building efforts is crucial to find lasting solutions. Preventing conflict is ten times cheaper than resolving conflict and building peace.

I wish to conclude that women and girls must be at the centre of our development agenda; we must guard, guide and protect them jealousy. We have to start making our themes for International Women’s Day Celebration a reality rather than a facade.

I bow in respect to the women and girls of the world and especially Mrs. Lara Taylor-Peace, Auditor General – Audit Service Sierra Leone

Orange SL Launches New App

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By Feima Sesay                          

Orange Mobile Company, the leading Telecommunications network in Sierra Leone, has on Thursday 10th March 2022 launched the “My Orange App” in order to make life easier for their customers.

The launching ceremony took place at their head quarter office Hill Station Freetown.   The “My Orange App” is a multipurpose application which will enable customers gain access to all Orange services.  The new App has given Orange another lead in the digital telecoms company in the country.

 In his presentation, the Orange SL staff Joseph Momoh explained the steps one can take to get the My Orange App.

He added that in order to access the App, one should go to Google play store, look for your Orange App and then click or download the app and you will access the products. 

Morenikeh Taylor from the Marketing Department Orange SL, through her welcome address prior to the launch of the app, she mentioned that the  app is one of the first of its kind in Sierra Leone for the telecoms industry.

She added that the My Orange application is for Orange customers. “With a new interface, a new design, this version offers are at the best experience digitalization with Orange”, she noted.

Madam Taylor pointed that the App is the first step toward multiservice in order for customers to access their account. She therefore urges everyone to take advantage of the offer, adding that the My Orange App is just the beginning of their offers to customers.

Elizabeth Walker, another staff of Orange SL, said that Orange is geared towards digitalization and therefore said they are moving with that trend in order to ensure that customers get access to all of their services at one click.

She furthered that, they started the journey last year and had seen the logical completion with the first face for all their customers to get access to the My Orange App. She however disclosed that the main reason for the My Orange App is to improve on their customers’ service and customers’ experience as well as to enable everyone to enter into a smooth customer journey including access to all Orange services.

Felix Macauley from the marketing team in his statement also said the launch of the My Orange App is to break the digital divide in Sierra Leone. He noted that sometimes last year the My Orange money app was launched wherein customers were able to do their orange money transaction swiftly. “Today we are continuing in that same trend by bringing in my Orange App that will help customers have everything in a one stop shop, so we will continue with this trend to ensure that our customers are digitalize and will ensure that everything we do is to break the digital divide and make happy”. He said.

As he clocks seven (7) Months…

Prof. Baimba Showcases Critical Millstones at Njala

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Professor Andrew Augustine Baimba has recently showcased his major achievements at Njala University for the past seven (7) months in his capacity as Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal.

The accomplished Educationist and Administrator was addressing senators of the University Senate, the highest academic organ of the University at the Secretariat, Njala Campus where he noted that he had successfully achieved the three key points objectives for which the Government had sent him to Njala and this according to him included working towards a smooth transition between him and his predecessor-Professor Mallam, Superintending over a functional and management review of the University and overseeing the appointment of a substantive Vice-Chancellor and Principal.

He thanked the Deans of School and other academic staff for working towards producing results and reopening the University for the 2021/2022 Academic Year on record time.

Professor Baimba also highlighted efforts around trying to fix the water and electricity challenges and making students hostels conducive for living and used the opportunity to appeal to Government and private sector players to help his administration overcome the issues of sustainable energy across his campuses.

The Administration according to him spends a colossal two hundred million a month to generate water and electricity across its campuses and he is deeply worried that his administration has not been able to have a sustainable solution towards this end.

The Acting Vice-Chancellor also recounted efforts at changing the status of casual workers in the security sector, revamping the Public Relations Office which is producing a quarterly monthly Newsletter thereby creating visibility for university functions, formation of three Committees to resuscitate agricultural farming in the various sectors, and the beautification of the various campuses to name but a few.

Considerable resources have already been provided to support the work of these committees.

He praised the collective efforts of all sundry towards the attainment of these achievements and thanked the Government for giving him the opportunity to serve and for the support over the last seven months.

“I am always glad to serve Njala because it made me who I am today.’’ Professor Baimba noted.

Professor Andrew Augustine Baimba was appointed Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Njala University on the 1st July 2022 replacing Sierra Leone’s Statistician-General, Professor Osman Sankoh AKA Mallam O. who served for fourteen months (April 2020-July 2021).

The Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal is a seasoned Administrator and Academist and has served the University as Senior Lecturer, Head of Physics Department, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Bo and Njala Campuses, Chairman Policy and Curriculum Review Committees of the University.

His successes at Njala University are largely due to his experience and understanding of the institution and the huge respect he commands among a good number of members of staff most of whom now form the Senior Administrative and Academic cadres of the current administration.

In the high court : Samura Kamara vs ACC

  ACC’s Objection Squashed

Defence Lawyer for Saidu Nallo (1st accused),  Pa Momoh Fofanah continues with his cross-examination of Principal  Witness 1 (PW1), Joseph Bockarie Noah in the ongoing matter between Samura Kamara and five others versus the State, on alleged misappropriation of funds meant for the reconstruction of the Sierra Leone Chancery Building in New York. 

The Defense Lawyer tendered five correspondences forwarded by the ACC from various parties on the contract for the reconstruction of the Sierra Leone Chancery Building. Three of the letters, signed by the President of Fair Field Construction Associates,  Jules S Davies summarizes all payments received by the contractor from the Government of Sierra Leone in respect of the Construction of the Chancery Building. The fourth letter, dated 30th July 2019 and signed by Engineer Paul S Bockarie on the subject of “Site Monitoring of additional work had “unambiguously” approved two additional floors for the building. Additionally, the fifth letter dated 1st August 2019 from the Director-General of Foreign Affairs also conveyed approval for the additional two floors.

Apparently and in lieu of the startling evidence present in all five correspondences, Pa Momoh Fofanah submitted that the court should admit in evidence, the letters  on the grounds that:

They are materially germaine to the case;

The documents show that contrary to allegations of misappropriation, the said funds had been received by the contractor;

That the documents are also quite significant to prosecution as they make it easier to pinpoint their case and areas they should be looking at instead of going on a “wild geese chase.”

Lawyer Pa Momoh Fofanah cited several provisions in the British Common Law using the principles of “relevancy and admissibility” which draw strength from Section 190 of the 1965 Criminal Procedure Act.

The ACC prosecutor, Calvin Matebo objected to the defence’s submission plea on procedural grounds. Matebo argued that the said documents have the potential to hinder or interfere with their case. He however failed to convince the court with any legal arguments rather than what the defence referred to as “untenable conjectures with no sound legal reasoning.”

Justice Fisher therefore overruled Matebo’s objection on the grounds that the documents in question, which had originated from the First Accused and which have been used in the investigation must equally serve as evidence in the matter.

It is now clear that the said documents would serve as an addendum to the many evidences already in court.

The case has been adjourned to Friday March 11 2022 for further cross-examination

Global Challenges To Be Addressed Through Global Cooperation”

-President Xi Jinping 

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President Xi Jinping had a virtual summit with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Beijing.

President Xi pointed out that the combined impact of major global changes and the pandemic, both unseen in a century, has brought multiple global challenges that need to be addressed through global cooperation. China and the EU share much common understanding on promoting peace, seeking development and advancing cooperation. We need to shoulder our responsibility to bring more stability and certainty to a turbulent and fluid world. It is important for the two sides to enhance dialogue, stay committed to cooperation, and promote steady and sustained progress of China-EU relations. China’s development will create broader space for China-EU cooperation. The two sides must, under the principle of mutual benefit, further deepen green and digital partnerships as well as practical cooperation in various fields. The two sides need to uphold multilateralism and advance major global agenda.

President Macron and Chancellor Scholz congratulated China on its successful hosting of the Beijing Olympic Winter Games. The world faces many challenges, they said, and each country acting on its own will only make things worse. The European side values the important and positive role of China in global affairs, and is willing to engage in close cooperation with China to jointly tackle climate change, public health and other major global challenges. The European side is ready to work with China for a successful China-EU Summit, and to move forward France-China, Germany-China and EU-China relations.

The leaders exchanged views on the key issue of the current situation in Ukraine.

President Macron and Chancellor Scholz shared their assessment and positions on the current situation in Ukraine.

They stated that Europe is facing the worst crisis since World War II. France and Germany support reaching a settlement through negotiation and giving peace a chance. The two leaders thanked China for its initiative on the humanitarian situation and said the two countries are ready to strengthen communication and coordination with China to promote talks for peace, and prevent further escalation of the situation that may worsen the humanitarian crisis.

President Xi stressed that the current situation in Ukraine is worrisome, and the Chinese side is deeply grieved by the outbreak of war again on the European continent. China maintains that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected, the purposes and principles of the UN Charter must be fully observed, the legitimate security concerns of all countries must be taken seriously, and all efforts that are conducive to the peaceful settlement of the crisis must be supported. The pressing task at the moment is to prevent the tense situation from escalating or even running out of control. China commends the mediation efforts by France and Germany on Ukraine. China will stay in communication and coordination with France, Germany and the EU and, in light of the needs of the parties involved, work actively together with the international community.

President Xi emphasized that we need to jointly support the peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, and encourage the two sides to keep the momentum of negotiations, overcome difficulties, keep the talks going and bring about peaceful outcomes. We need to call for maximum restraint to prevent a massive humanitarian crisis. China has proposed a six-point initiative on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, and stands ready to provide Ukraine with further humanitarian aid supplies. We need to work together to reduce the negative impact of the crisis. Relevant sanctions will affect global finance, energy, transportation and stability of supply chains, and dampen the global economy that is already ravaged by the pandemic. And this is in the interest of no one. We need to actively advocate a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. China supports France and Germany in promoting a balanced, effective and sustainable European security framework for the interests and lasting security of Europe, and by upholding its strategic autonomy. China will be pleased to see equal-footed dialogue among the EU, Russia, the United States and NATO.

The leaders also exchanged views on the Iranian nuclear issue.

Ding Xuexiang, Yang Jiechi, Wang Yi and He Lifeng were present at the meeting.

ACC trains monitors

By Aruna Lahai

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), through the Project Coordination Unit of the Commission, has organized a three-day training of community monitors on the roles and responsibilities of the ACC in the Social Safety Net (SSN) beneficiary targeting and enrollment exercise.

The training was hosted in Makeni for participants from the Western Area, North-West and North-East regions; and in Bo for participants from the Southern and Eastern regions, of Sierra Leone.

The training ran from 2nd to 4th March 2022.

From the two training locations, 235 community monitors participated in the training, which focused on defining the role of the Commission, especially the community monitors, in the SSN Project implementation. It further discussed the strategy the ACC team could employ in order to strengthen the overarching monitoring role in the implementation of the SSN Project with the ultimate goal of ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in the SSN project delivery.

The Coordinator for the ACC Project Coordination Unit in his address to the participants emphasized on the importance of community monitors in helping the ACC carry out the monitoring role and in getting project feedbacks from communities and beneficiaries.

Patrick Sundufu Morovia advised participants to give their full time to the exercise since they will be required to take a test at the end of the training. As volunteers working for the ACC, the Project Coordinator went on, community monitors will be considered as public officers in accordance with the Anti-Corruption Act 2008, as amended in 2019. Based on this, every community monitor will be required to sign a code of conduct guiding the SSN Project implementation, he said.

The Deputy Commissioner of the ACC, Augustine Foday Ngobie, made a tour of the two training venues in Makeni and Bo where he acknowledged the good work of the community monitors, adding that the successes gained so far by the ACC in carrying out the monitoring role in the SSN Project is as a result of their combined efforts. He encouraged the community monitors to keep doing the good work which is highly recognized by the ACC top Management.

At the end of the training, the participants took a test which will serve as a benchmark for the selection of 221 best performing community monitors to work with the ACC Project Coordination Unit in the forthcoming targeting and enrolment of 35,000 SSN beneficiaries across the 16 districts.

The National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) and the other project partners (ACC and Statistics Sierra Leone) will design a work plan for the targeting and enrollment of 35,000 beneficiaries followed by the payment of cash to the enrolled beneficiaries.

The SSN Project, commonly called the “Ep Fet Po Project”, was launched in 2014 to establish core social protection systems and progressively expanded the coverage of cash transfers to extremely poor households in Sierra Leone.

It is financed by the Government of Sierra Leone with support from the World Bank and UNICEF.

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