By Mustapha Dumbuya
Two officials of the Sierra Leone Immigrations Department, Abubakarr Sesay and Michael Momoh Bassie are currently in police custody for aiding and abetting the escape of Bamiba Moiforay ( LAC) a sierra Leonean herbalist. The herbalist was found guilty of murdering Henry Sydney David Buckle otherwise called DJ CLEF and was sentenced to life imprisonment by Justice Alusine Sesay.
After only serving 6 years imprisonment he was released on the 1st of January 2022 on a prerogative of mercy clemency that was endorsed by president Bio. Due to the public outcry generated by his release the presidential pardon that led to his release was revoked by Julius Maada Bio.
Following the revocation of his presidential clemency, LAC has been a fugitive ever since.
It was alleged that the above mentioned immigration officials played a crucial role in assisting LAC to escape from the shores of Sierra Leone by way of furnishing him with a passport.
According to Detective Superintendent of Police, Mr. Francis Lebbie, the operations officer at the Criminal Investigation Department he said that the two (2) arrested suspects were suspected to have prepared a fake passport for LAC which virtually aided his travelling out of the country.
It’s a shame that the committee charged to present names of inmates to be pardoned by the President deceived him.
The President doesn’t have to go through all the names individually given to him as to why they should be pardoned.
It’s therefore the mandate of the committee to vet all names and present a credible list to the President that is absolutely free of public outcry as in the case of Baimba Moiforay (LAC)
Additional $50m for Education from World Bank- why and how?
By Dr. David Moinina Sengeh
Firstly, congratulations to President Bio. I mean, his vision for transforming Sierra Leone is simple: accessible and quality education. When he said that in 2018, the opposition and some donors in Sierra Leone asked how would he fund it and why?
His answer then? Government will and indeed Government did. We expanded our budget to 22% providing teaching and learning materials, buses, school feeding etc to our children nationwide. Once donors started seeing the impact, they also joined on.
Today, in addition to the GoSL budget, we have the largest Multi-Donor Trust Fund committed to education between the World Bank, EU, Irish Aid, FCDO etc. That Project is about $76M.
Then in September, President Bio left NYC after UNGA and went to DC to meet World Bank, GPE and USAID among others. Opposition people said oh President loves to travel and have meetings. But he didn’t listen and continued to work from morning to night for Sierra Leone.
The consequences of those few days of meetings have led to amazing projects for our country. Let me speak for the education sector.
Today, the World Bank Vice President announced an additional $50M grant to support Education as a direct response to President Bio’s request to President Malpasse in DC.
– Today, Sierra Leone is eligible for $40M through GPE for which work has already begun. This was something President discussed closely in DC.
– Today, we are having further conversations with USAID and other US outfits to strengthen their presence and impact in SL. I mean SL just presented to the US House of Representatives on Public Education.
For me as a Minister, I am only implementing President Bio’s vision. I have said this in many circles- the passion of our President for Children and for Education is unparalleled. It is such joy to continue traveling, engaging globally and locally, and driving impact in education.
One thing is clear for me: with SLPP in power, we will transform Sierra Leone within our generation. No two stories about it. We can point to stories here and there on work to be done, but with everything happening in the world, we are more than determined to code the DNA of our national development.
I also used today’s events to launch the national distribution of teaching and learning materials with my colleagues Minister of Higher and Technical Education and the Minister of Western Region. Millions of teaching and learning materials will reach our schools and the homes of our citizens.
With the additional $50m, we will ensure more schools are built, more children fed, more learning materials provided and more.
This is why we say: #PaopaSaloneMusBetteh
Ps- if President travels and brings back $50M for Education, a commitment of 8 bridges for agriculture, a nearly approved $50M for Digitization etc, hmm, leh e fly or leh e nor fly?
VP JULDEH JALLOH SPEAKS ON JUSTICE AND LEGAL ISSUES
Addressing the 2021 Annual Conference of the Sierra Leone Bar Association in Bo city, on the theme; ‘The legal profession and the restoration of hope’ Vice President Dr Juldeh Jalloh underscored the concordance of the conference’s theme to popular expectations to consolidate our nascent democracy and to strengthen the rule of law as solid foundations to sustainable development.
The VP shared his perspectives on how the legal profession is vital to building a democratic state capable of delivering development to its people, building on the dissertations of previous speakers, including the Chief Justice.
VP Julden Jalloh stated that if there is any institution that is vital in the efforts to restore hope, consolidate and strengthen the rule of law and democracy, the legal profession is a strategic partner, if not the most important.
“Engaging in legal and constitutional reforms, consolidating democracy and the rule of law and delivering development to our people is a continuous effort,” he said. “We have the responsibility to our people to sustain their hope to build a stable, democratic polity and I see the legal profession as a strategic partner, if not one of the most important vehicle to drive that hope.”
Before descending the dais, VP left an ultimate question to the conference: how do we situate the legal profession in explaining the democratic state rebuilding in Sierra Leone, and specifically, the role of the legal profession in the collapse and attempted reconstruction of the Sierra Leone state over the years – and not only the reconstruction of a problematic democratic state and society in Sierra Leone but sub-Saharan Africa so that they are better able to bring development to their people.
CHRDI condemns the arrest of opposition politicians
The Campaign for Human Rights International (CHRDI) which is one of the most reputable champions of human rights in Sierra Leone has added its voice on the recent arrest of Sidi Yahya Tunis, the publicity secretary of the APC party by the Sierra Leone police.
The arrest was precipitated by an interview he gave over 98.1(radio democracy) where it was alleged that the statements made during the radio conversation was deemed as incendiary against the ruling SLPP government.
CHRDI has joined a plethora of rights and advocate groups to condemn the arrest which it described as a form of intimidation and harassment on opposition members who dare to legitimately criticise the government on governance issues and the economic management of the state.
Even though the acting APC spokesman has been released on a Le 200,000,000 bail, CHRDI`s penchant for human rights advocacy served as a compulsion for it to add its credible voice on the arrest of Sidi yahya Tunis by the police.
Below is the press statement issued by CHRDI for media consumption and public edification.
Earlier this week, the Sierra Leone Police “invited for questioning” Mr Sidie Yahya Tunis, APC’s acting publicity secretary and deputy spokesman, after an interview which he granted to Radio Democracy 98.1 “Good Morning Sierra Leone” program on February 7, 2022.
The SLP deemed his statements on the radio program tantamount to “incitement”.
Mr Tunis was charged and released on Le 200 million bail and asked to report again to the CID on Monday, 14th February 2022.
Recently this is the second prominent opposition party leader that have been detained and questioned because of statements made on Radio Democracy.
As we approach the 2023 national elections, CHRDI notices with concern that the number of arrests of prominent opposition members, including prominent women, is on the rise. Here are just a few examples of these arrests:
1. In December 2021, Sierra Leone Police arrested the Leader of the Unity Party, Femi Claudius-Cole and about 20 other women who went to the CID to peacefully protest the arrest of another prominent female opposition leader, Diana Finda Konomanyi.
2. Also in December 2021, the Sierra Leone Police arrested female opposition leader, Diana Finda Konomanyi, who was questioned in connection with a video she posted on social media asking her constituents to refuse participation in the mid-term census.
3. On December 7, 2021, the Chairman of the opposition National Grand Coalition party, Dr Dennis Bright, was also invited by the Sierra Leone Police to be questioned in connection with his interview on Radio Democracy about the government’s mid-term population census. Dr Bright was released after the questioning.
4. On May 1st 2020, Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, a senior female politician to the main opposition APC party was arrested, and on May 22nd authorities charged Blyden with sedition, defamation, and “perversion of justice” over her social media posts.
She was discharged after the repeal of Part V of the Public Order Act of 1965.
CHRDI has observed with grave concern an increase in the arrest and prosecution of other citizens who speak up against the government or criticize the government and the leaders at State House.
CHRDI is deeply concerned about this pattern of arrests of opposition leaders in Sierra Leone, as well as arrests of civilian people who criticize the government.
These arrests have a chilling effect on the people of Sierra Leone regarding their space to assemble freely and to freedom of expression. This pattern represents a blatant attempt to intimidate politicians and political activists and to silence the regular people who wish to express disapproval to the way the government of the day carries out its duties, promises and obligations.
At the same time, CHRDI acknowledges that freedom of speech comes with responsibilities as well, and as we approach the 2023 elections, we urge ALL political leaders and activists to criticize based on facts, evidence, and data and to remember that an irresponsible speech may have far reaching effects.
We urge all political party members/supporters to respect the laws of the land, and refrain from making irresponsible statements.
At the same time, the leadership of the Sierra Leone Police must train their staff to understand that criticizing the government does not constitute “incitement” and the fundamental role of the Police is to protect the people.
The main role of the Sierra Leone Police according to THE POLICE ACT 1964, ACT NO 7 OF 1964 Sec 4 states that; ‘ the general duties of the Police Force, which include detection of crime, apprehension of offenders, preservation of law and order, protection of property and enforcement of all laws and regulations’ for which the Police Force is charged, and not to assure the people of insecurity
Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – ICCPR which Sierra Leone also ratified, states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
Without freedom of expression and information, political parties’ right to association and their right to take part in public affairs amount to little or nothing. It is freedom of expression that ensures the right of political parties and their members to present their political views, values, and to take part in the political debate, etc.
The ICCPR states that:
1.Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2.Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3.The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others.
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.
The Government of Sierra Leone is obliged to ensure these rights. The African Court on Human and People’s Rights also states that:
1. States shall review all criminal restrictions on content to ensure that they serve a legitimate interest in a democratic society.
2. Freedom of expression should not be restricted on public order or national security grounds unless there is a real risk of harm to a legitimate interest and there is a close causal link between the risk of harm and the expression.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights mandates that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.
The Sierra Leone Government is obligated under these international laws and conventions to:
1) Respect the freedom of expression of all political parties, their members, and activists
2) To take positive actions to prevent non-state actors from interfering with the exercise of freedom of expression by political parties and their members, and to put in place positive measures to ensure that its own actions contribute to the free flow of information and ideas in society, e.g. through a legal framework to provide for access to information held by public bodies.
CHRDI has noted President Bio’s public statements of his country’s respect for human rights, including freedom of speech. We urge the actions of the Sierra Leone Police not to be in contradiction with President Bio’s national and international statements, and engagements which he made for the protection of the fundamental right to freedom of speech.
Note: Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) is a Rights based social-policy advocacy Organisation. We Draw attention to the responsibility of duty-bearers to uphold human rights, and seek to support rights-holders to claim their rights. CHRDI is in Special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and accredited to many UN Agencies.
©Human Rights and policy Brief (10-02-2022)