As Despondency Sets

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MIGHTY FALL OF PAOPA GODS DAVID FRANCIS

David John Francis (born 5 October 1965) ] is a Sierra Leonean politician, academic and author. He is serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation after serving as Chief Minister of Sierra Leone since April 2018. A recent cabinet reshuffle saw him demoted to the ordinary ministerial position – Foreign Minister.

In retrospection to his former portfolio, he is the first person to hold the office of Chief Minister since it was abolished in 1978.

He was widely seen as the most highly influential government official in Sierra Leone, after the president and the vice president, which are positions exclusively established in the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone.

Francis studied at Fourah Bay CollegeRaoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and International Institute of Social Studies. From 1994 to 1998 he was a postdoctoral research associate at University of Southampton.

Prior to his current position in the government of Sierra Leone, he was a professor at the University of Bradford where he was the coordinator of the UNESCO Chair in African Peace and Conflict Studies.

His educational prowess commands him great reverence among officials of the new direction government including President Maada Bio whom he had supervised his Doctoral research thesis in Peace and Conflict at the Bradford university in England.

This was the time President Bio was the leader of the main opposition SLPP and was fiercely contesting for the hot seat at State house.

This means, Prof Francis is a coach and mentor to president Bio and both of them descended back home at the same period to launch a campaign bid that could eventually lead them to state house.

“When he come to my house in England in the morning hours for his research work he could only leave by 8:pm in the evening”. Professor Francis said of president Bio.

This is the type of relationship that could be best described as a school master- Pupil connection, where the learner receives knowledge from the intellect of his superior.

The bond existing between the two men was migrated into the governance sphere, prompting many political pundits and social commentators to ask who is supervising the other?

Three years in governance, rumours of a frosty relationship between the President and the Chief Minister were rife in political circles.

Professor David Francis might harbour indispensable tendencies regarding his invaluable role and dominant personality in the new direction government.

Speculations were swirling that he is eyeing the hottest sit as he has made utterances insinuating that the next president must come from the eastern district of Kenema, the home town of Professor David Francis.

By demoting the former chief minister to the less influential position of Foreign Minister is a way of pointing out to the Bradford professor that the one and only head of state in Sierra Leone is President Bio.

The cabinet reshuffle is a further lampoon to the academic personality of Professor David Francis, who is replaced by the less academically qualified person in Jacob Jusu Saffa.

The school master henceforth would be complying with orders and directives from Jacob Jusu Saffa as the new Chief Minister who is only a party loyalist and a strong ally of President Bio.

On the other hand, some political analyst have indicated a desire of president Bio to relocate him to the foreign Ministry as a way of show casing the professor to the international community as his possible successor.

Moreover, it could be argued that the Chief Minister position is not an exclusive reserve of one man, as Prof. Francis could serve in a more strategic capacity in the Foreign Ministry were he would propel Sierra Leone`s investment potential to the outside world.

Another line of thought posited is that, his experience as an academic who has an admirable affinity with global political leaders is the best to occupy the position of Foreign Minister.

An equivalent could be drawn in the opposition APC when former President Koroma relocated his hand-picked successor Samura Kamara from the position of Bank Governor to Foreign Minister during his last cabinet reshuffle in 2017. 

Another school of thought noted that the Chief Minister was abusing his power and office.

His axing by President Bio as suggested by some analysts is in connection with the revelations of the Africanist Press, were allegations of financial malfeasance and the violation of procurement regulations by the office of the Chief Minister were the major highlights of the revelations.

Whatever the reasons for the demotion of the former Chief Minister, as far as the governance architecture of the new direction government is concerned, the erudite Professor David Francis would be carrying directives and orders from a less academically prudent Jacob Jusu Saffa- the current Chief Minister. 

As Minister Swarray Extols CEO…

Orange Foundation-SL Commissions Pre-School in Pujehun

  

By Feima Sesay

As part of their Early Childhood Development Center School Project, which happens to fall  under the GSM Company’s Free Quality Education support to the Government’s Free Quality Education (FQE) Initiative, Orange Foundation Sierra Leone on Friday 4th June, 2021 commissioned a state-of-art Pre-School Center at Gombahun Town, Sowa Chiefdom within the Pujehun District, Southern Sierra Leone which marks the third commissioning of State of the ​Art Early Childhood Development Centers in Kambia, Moyamba and now Pujehun District constructed by the company.

In his welcome statement, the Paramount Chief of Sowa Chiefdom, Pujehun District, PC Lahai A.K Sowa II, commended Orange Foundation Sierra Leone for choosing his chiefdom to construct an Early Childhood Development Center, further assuring that they will not only take good care of it but will ensure that they also make good use of it.

He used the opportunity to commend President Bio for the implementation of the Free Quality Education which he said was a move in the right direction.

PC Lahai A.K Sowa stated that the facility will definitely benefit their children in their quest to acquire early childhood education in that part of the county.

In her statement, the Chief Executive Officer of Orange Sierra Leone, Aminata Kane, said that the way and manner in which residents warmly welcomed them to Sowa chiefdom was an indication of their sincere gratitude expressed to them as a company that cares about the people of this country.

She revealed that through the Orange Foundation they are committed to provide support that will improve the daily lives of the people of Sierra Leone and give the much needed support that will contribute to the betterment of the nation further adding that as a caring company, they always consult Government, stakeholders and the people to identify their needs and respond accordingly.

The Orange CEO stated that during their engagements, they realized that there is a need for the construction of an Early Development Center with the firm conviction that they will enable kids in Gombahun to have access to the same quality education children in big cities have access to.

She maintained that Orange Foundation has offered them a state of the art Early Development Center that will serve as a safe facility that will enable children of Gombahun Town and its environs to access free and quality education which she said will mark the third commissioning of the company’s school building Project which purely focuses on ensuring a better and promising future for children.

She encouraged residents of that great settlement to take advantage of the golden opportunity and enroll their children into the facility, especially the girl child assuring how it will avail them a better foundation, nurture them well for the Primary School stage and help to foster their educational pursuit in general. 

“To school kids who are the would-be beneficiaries, I will like to encourage you all to take advantage of this opportunity because it is only through education that you can become Ministers, Parliamentarians, doctors or even Chief Executive Officers,” she motivated them.

The Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman Swarray, expressed his warmest gratitude to Orange Foundation for the construction of the Pre-School at Gombahun Town, within the Pujehun District, which he described as very important towards the development of children in the country.

He added that with the construction of the Pre-School at Gombahun Town it will surely create positive impacts on the lives of children in that part of the country especially when the Free Quality Initiative is a priority in the New Direction Agenda underscoring how His Excellency, President Maada Bio, considers education as very important which is why he implemented the Free Quality Education.

Mohamed Rahman Swarray revealed that he is aware that Orange Foundation has constructed similar Early Childhood Centers in Kambia, Moyamba and now Pujehun District of which he said this move by the company is geared towards complementing President Bio’s Free Quality Initiative.

He admonished residents to take advantage of the facility, take responsibility it and also allow their children to attend it.

Director of Free Quality Education Initiative at the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary School, Amara Sowa, also showered praises on Orange Foundation for the commissioning of the third Early Childhood Development Centers in the country.

He outlined the Ministry’s support to the newly constructed pre-school of which he said the Ministry will provide Early Childhood Development (ECD) kits for the facility, a curriculum and text books, and training for the teachers.

Amara Sowa also encouraged residents to take ownership of the facility which he said will enhance their children to get early childhood education like any other children in the country. 

A resident of Gombahun Town, Sowa Chiefdom, who also happens to be a parent, Yusuf Kamara, expressed his heartfelt appreciation to Orange Foundation for the construction of the pre-school in their village, furthering that the facility will help their children to get early childhood education like other children in other part of the country.

He also assured Orange Foundation and stakeholders that they will surely make good use of the facility as it is the first modern pre-school within Sowa Chiefdom, Pujehun District.

The event was climaxed by the official commissioning of the Early Childhood Center by the Minister of Information and Communication, Mohamed Rahman Swarray, Orange-Sierra Leone Aminata Kane Ndiaye followed by a tour of the facility.

31 Accused Face Trial, As…

Lunsar Murder Case Goes High Court

By Feima Sesay

After spending almost a year in remand at the crowded Pademba Road Correctional Center, 31 accused persons charged in connection with a murder incident at Lunsar were on Monday 7th June 2021 committed to the High Court for further trial by Magistrate Mark Ngegba presiding over the Pademba Road Magistrate’s Court No 2.

Representing the State was lawyer Yusif Isaac Sesay, while all accused persons were represented by lawyers.

State Prosecutor, Yusif Isaac Sesay brought ten witnesses to court, and they testified against the 31 accused persons who are mostly residents of Lunsar in the northern part of Sierra Leone.

 After their testimonies, lawyers representing the accused persons filed a no-case submission on behalf of their clients. Magistrate Mark Ngegba withdrew the file for ruling.

It was Monday 7th June 2021, and it was time for the Magistrate to deliver judgment on whether to uphold the no-case submission earlier presented by defense lawyers or not. The mood of the court, especially that of the accused and their relatives was somber.

In his judgment, Magistrate Mark Ngegba noted that the essence of a preliminary investigation or the standard of proof is for the Court to prove a prima facie case which he said the prosecution was able to establish.

He said based on the evidence adduced before the Court, he is convinced that all accused persons have a case to answer at the High Court.

However, Magistrate Ngegba discharged the 10th, 14th, 26th, 28th, and 31st accused persons of the murder charge, but not the count of conspiracy to murder and other charges.

He continued that most if not all the witnesses who testified against the accused persons established that the accused persons did enter into the premise of PC Bai Koblo Queen II and vandalized the premise, and made away with valuables and lit a fire in the PC’s garage.

Magistrate Ngegba indicated that the second prosecution witness, while testifying disclosed that he saw the accused persons killing the deceased, adding that the 3rd prosecution witness said he saw the deceased after he was killed. The 4th accused person also said he saw the 2nd accused with sticks. But Magistrate Ngegba noted that none of the witnesses mentioned the name of any of the accused persons hitting the deceased.

After the judgment was delivered, relatives as well as accused persons expressed themselves in tears while they were being handcuffed and were being escorted to the Pademba Road Correctional Center to await trial at the High Court.

The 31 accused persons were undergoing preliminary investigation and were arraigned before Magistrate Mark Ngegba at the Freetown Magistrate Court No. 1 at Pademba Road in Freetown.

Police alleged that the accused persons, between the 29th and 30th April 2021 vandalized the premise of Paramount Chief Bai Koblo Queen of Lunsar and destroyed property worth over Le 11 billion.

Police also alleged that the 31 accused persons maliciously murdered the nephew of Paramount Chief Bai Koblo Queen II.

They face fourteen counts charge of conspiracy to murder, murder contrary to law, malicious damage, larceny, throwing missiles, riotous conducts, and disorderly behavior, among other charges.

China’s Xinjiang Denounces so-called “Uygur Tribunal” as Trampling of Int’l law

 A spokesperson of northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Tuesday strongly condemned and rejected the so-called “Uygur tribunal” which attempts to hold a “hearing” on claims of “genocide” in the region.

Spokesperson Xu Guixiang said the “Uygur tribunal” has no legal basis or effect according to relevant international laws and criminal justice practices.

“Any so-called ‘verdict’ or ‘ruling’ of the ‘tribunal’ is nothing more than a piece of waste paper,” he said at a press conference held in Beijing.

The “Uygur tribunal,” set up by the U.S. and Western anti-China forces in collusion with the “World Uygur Congress” and other “East Turkistan” organizations, is a pseudo-court set up to attack and smear Xinjiang and interferes in China’s internal affairs, the spokesperson said.

Xu added that it is simply absurd to see an illegal tribunal holding a “hearing” on the lie of the century.

“This is a serious trampling of international law, a grave desecration of the real ‘genocide’ victims, and a serious provocation to the 25 million people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang,” he said.

SLAJ President Speaks on Successful AGM

 

 President of Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Ahmed Sahid Nasralla has spoken about the just-concluded AGM. He said among other things that he believes that “we have all returned to our various destinations after what we (the Executive) believe was a wonderful Golden Jubilee AGM in Bo City.”

He added “We would not have had a successful annual conference if we, the members, did not attend and effectively participate.

“For those of us who did not attend for one reasonable reason or the other, I hope you do attend next AGM.

“So on behalf of the National and Regional Executives, especially our host SLAJ South, let me express our affectionate appreciation to all of you for making this AGM a memorable one.

“Yet, as with all our AGMs, there were challenges here and there. We apologize for any discomfort or inconvenience experienced by any member.

“So as the Executive meet this week for a postmortem of the AGM, we want to solicit your honest feedback or views on the entire program- from the preparations to the travel to Bo city, the lodgings, the food & drinks service, the opening ceremony, the football match, the bonfire, the closed session, the dinner and the travel back to our various homes. Even the way we, the elective officials, responded to your queries and concerns before, during, and after the AGM.

“Your feedback and views will help us plan better for the next AGM which is an elective Congress in Makeni.

“May I also congratulate all those recognised during the dinner for their contribution to the development of our Association in the last 50 years.. For those who were not recognised, it doesn’t mean your support to SLAJ over the years is not worthy of recognition. Rather, one short night is not enough to award all of us, and so the Executive had to make a decision, considering a number of factors, including gender and regional balance. One day all of us who work sincerely and dedicatedly for SLAJ will be recognised. I hope this will inspire all of us to continue to work for SLAJ and contribute to its development.

“Finally, let me remind members that the 50th Anniversary celebration continues to December 31st 2021, and there are upcoming activities for which we will need the support and participation of all of us. We look forward to the Thanksgiving services, the golden jubilee media awards, the golden jubilee outing and many more.

“Again, Happy 50th Birthday to us and let the celebrations continue as one united, strong, and determined SLAJ.”

Ministry of Planning Engages MDAs, Partners on VNR Implemented SDGs

The Ministry of Planning and Economic Development (MOPED) has on the 7th June, 2021 presented its third Voluntary National Review (VNR) report on the SDGs implementation with Ministries Department and Agencies and partners highly evaluative, showcasing policy impact of strategic state initiatives undertaken in pursuit of Goals 4 and 16 at the Hill Valley Hotel, Freetown.

Dr. Shaka Bangura, Director of Planning, Policy and Research (MOPED) said country was last reviewed in 2019, after its first report in 2016. The 2019 report presented progress in advancing national institutional arrangement from the 2016 review to deliver the goals, while highlighting the extent it had gone in achieving domesticated SDG targets. The report focuses on impacts assessment (using rapid methods) on Free Quality Primary Education Initiatives (SDG4) and legal aid interventions for the less privileged and indigents and access in the rural areas (SDG16).

In his presentation, Dr Bangura noted, the report captured the country’s efforts to mainstream and address the Leaving No One Behind

(LNOB) principle, as well as the need to balance and integrate into national planning processes of the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental dimensions. The 2021 report continues to provide status update on these two important principles guiding the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

Sierra Leone has remained strategic in pursuing the SDGs, especially focusing on the  accelerator SDGs projected to the UN in 2019: SDG4 (inclusive education) and SDG16 (justice, peace and inclusive society). The two remain leading dimensions to the transformational agenda of the state. Education is at the heart of the Government’s Human Capital Development flagship programme aforementioned, flanked by healthcare and nutrition in the programme, noting further that the country’s Medium-Term National Development Plan (2019-2023) is titled “Education for Development.”

Among development partners, the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) continued to honour its traditional role of mobilizing UN Agencies to support the review process through the Resident Coordinators Office. As always, the UNDP and UNICEF were central in providing finance support, besides their technical input, while the UNFPA played a laudable role in this year’s process, technically and financially in positioning the population management related issues in the report.

In general, prioritizing both education (SDG4) and justice (SDG16) is central to pursuing other goals, such as ending poverty, zero hunger and inequality as well as healthcare and gender.

For instance, increasing access to justice as an entitlement and basic need is fundamental stemming rural multidimensional poverty, currently estimated for Sierra Leone at 86.3 percent, as well as income poverty at 73.9 percent; compared to 37.6 and 34.8 percent for urban areas respectively.

Reducing school fee burden and related expenses on poor households will release resources to increase their access to other basic needs, including healthcare services and investment in small businesses consistent with SDG8 decent work, and climate change.

Dr. Bangura said that, SDG 4, indicates rapid impact assessment of the Free Quality Education Programme for the welfare of school pupils, parents and educational outcome. Moreover, report revealed the set of results from rapid impact assessment of the Legal Aid Board interventions for the welfare of relevant beneficiaries of legal assistance provided by the board

That, the report indicates that the enrollment of pupils in the 83 schools interviewed prior to the introduction of the Free Quality Education Programme (FQEP) in 2017/18 was 11,743 males and 11,398 females, leaving a total of 23,141. Estimated pupils enrolled in the 2020/2021 after introduction of the programme was 13,555 males and 12, 498 females, leaving a total of 26,053. Average enrolment of pupils in a particular year during 2017/18-2020/21 was 11,294 males and 11,373 females, leaving a total of 22,667. Comparing the enrolment in 2017/18 of 11,743 and the average enrolment per year during the FQEP period 2017/18-2020/21 of 22,667 reveals a 93 percent increase. Comparing the two class limits (11,743 and 26,053 over 2017/18-2020/21) leaves an increase of 122 percent. This suggests the marked increase in enrolment over this period could be highly attributable to the FQEP, even if the natural growth of population is controlled for.

The third VNR also pointed numerous progresses made on SDG 16 on the Impact Assessment of Government Legal Aid Board Interventions 2015-2020, that a total of 413,169 people including foreign nationals have benefitted from legal aid interventions since the Legal Aid Board of Sierra Leone was established in May 2015: a total of 24,768 in 2015/16; 83,053 in 2017; 106,655 in 2018; 112,841 in 2019 and 85,852 in 2020. The Annual percentage increases in the number of beneficiaries in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 are 235 percent, 331 percent, 356 percent and 247 percent relative to 2015/16, respectively.

This indicates efforts undertaken by the Legal Aid Board to promote access to justice during 2015-2020. The focus of interventions has been on promoting access to justice for the underprivileged providing them with free legal representation, advice and related services across the board, including persons in pre-trial detention and prisons.

Sierra Leone remains steadfast in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs despite the extraordinary challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in the last nearly two years. The Government had implemented its new Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP, 2019-2023) for only eight months when this global pandemic hit, its unspeakable effects sparing no economy on earth.

The Government of Sierra Leone continues to follow a highly strategic approach to pursuing sustainable development, continually ensuring that it prioritised among priorities. And, the country has accordingly sustained its principal focus on the country’s accelerator SDGs projected to the United Nations in 2019: SDG4 (on inclusive education) and SDG16 (peace, justice and inclusive societies, emphasising building strong institutions). The two remain leading dimensions to the transformational agenda of the state, while the Ministry and partners continue to pay attention to the rest of the other goals-basic analysis suggests that SDGs 4 and 16 have greater effects on those other goals.

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