NCRA, APC draw daggers

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By Alpha Umaru Bah

Following the concerns raised by the main opposition party the All People’s Congress (APC),over the proposed confirmation of registrants’ personal details and the registration of the unregistered population by the authority mandated to develop and maintain a register on the population of  citizens and non citizens.

The NCRA has on March 2, 2020 called a press conference at the Ministry of Finance to brief key stakeholders on their position on the issue.

 A Statement from the NCRA says is ‘’ astounded at the outlandish accusation of the treason and alleged usurpation of functions and powers of the H.E. president Bio and the National Electoral Commission.’’

The statement continued that the proposed confirmation of the registrants personal details and the registrations exercise was accompanied by many meetings with relevant stakeholders which included the civil society organizations, the national Electoral Commission and all registered political parties including the APC through the political parties registration commission and were all observed and witness by our development partners and diplomatic missions with verified records.

The NCRA Director General , Mohamed Massaquoi explained that the APC was fully involved and represented at a very high level during the process and the confirmation of the registration by the National Civil Registration Authority.

H e  said It was revealed  during the press conference  tha the All Peoples Congress expressed concerns over the need to intensify public sensitization on the relevance of the exercise as it relates to democratic governance and to include  them the APC in the observation and monitoring process when it commence.

According the  Director General and NEC they are  within their   mandates according to the 1991 constitution, and the NCRA Act of 2016 gives it the authority to extract data from the Civil Register to develop and update its voters registered.

The statement further said that in a recent meeting organized by the National Electoral Commission on the review of the NEC strategic plan;  APC’s Richard Conteh, ‘’publicly endorsed the process of developing a credible civil register that he said was an international best practice that will save cost in the exercise .’’

 Mr. Masaquoi said  the NCRA  was  shocked that APC  was not only  raising accusations of ‘’usurpation and treason at the eleventh hour when they have been in the middle of all the planning and consultation of the confirmation and registration exercise.’’

Therefore, the     National Civil Registration Authority he added was  craving  the indulgence of the media to inform the general public that at no stage has the NCRA attempted to usurp the powers of NEC and that of the office of the president.

 “We highly respect the office of the president and the powers of NEC and all other stakeholders’ ‘he said.

He also stated that his office will continue to perform it mandate strictly according to the laws and noted  that the cost of the Civil Registration system is a cost saving venture that will save billions of Leones that can be used on other development projects.

Mr.  Massaquoi  revealed that the cost of the registration process was  going to cost the government of Sierra Leone about Le 44,000,000,000 which will reduce the cost of the registration of voters by more than one half.

According to him,  the NCRA  was  just collecting data and updating the information of voters, when it comes  to election  NEC, he intimated , will collect that data from the NCRA to complete the process of voting.

The director general said that the registration process will be digital and the date has been confirmed   for March 24th -25th 2020.

On the position of the National Civil Registration Authority, they fully acknowledge the concerns by the APC, and wishes to ‘’remind them of the Authority’s statutory mandate and to reiterate that it does not in any intend to neither renege on its duties nor usurp the Authority of the president and  NEC.’’

The NCRA, he assured, was determined to develop a credible and accurate database on the population of Sierra Leone with precision and not estimate.

A statement from  NEC  that the civil  registration will  provide the government of Sierra Leone  access to information on  areas of national development such as social security, health care, education and obtaining passport etc

SLRA  leads BADEA Delegation

A team of experts from the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA), headed by the Minister of Works and Public Assets, Peter Bayuku Konteh, has  led a delegation from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) on a field visit on the Bo-Mattru Road for preparation and appraisal.

The delegation from BADEA, which is set to provide the funds for the construction of the road, held town hall meetings in Tikonko, BumpeKpanda-Kemoh and Jong Chiefdoms in Southern Sierra Leone, on Wednesday, 26th February, 2020. 

SLRA’s Director General, Engineer Amara Kanneh, reechoed President Bio’s commitment that he made at the Cabinet Retreat earlier in 2020 to the people of Sierra Leone that this is a year of delivery.

He told the gathering at the various town hall meetings that people were impatient with what was happening with regards the road that was contracted before the 2018 elections.

“As we were approaching the 2018 elections, the previous government hurriedly awarded the contract to gain votes in this part of the country, without engaging the beneficiaries to take ownership of the exercise and to also provide security for the materials and other equipment meant to do the work. But when President Bio won the elections, they called him to commission some equipment, which were proposedly said to have been put in place to construct the road. Since then, the project, which was supposed to have been completed in December 2019, had been an embarrassment to President Bio,” he said.

He said taxes that are paid nationally are not always enough to do all the roads in the country but President Bio has sought out funds from development partners like BADEA to support his dream.

“I want to assure you that work has already begun on this road. This Bo-Mattru Road project would be divided into three segments and each segment would be given to a contractor so as to complete it in record time,” he told the gathering.

He said when such road project is going on, the contractors would consider building schools, health centres, as and when the need arises for some communities along the way.

He warned that those who would be compensated while the construction exercise is going on, should not construct houses or stalls and plant trees on the SLRA’s ‘right of way’, saying that if anyone construct houses, SLRA would demolish them. 

BADEA’s head of delegation, HanyKamaiFahmy, Senior Expert, Project Division in the Operation Department, said BADEA has come to make President Bio’s dream of having the Bo-Mattru road constructed, come true.

“BADEA is aware of the fact that without good roads, one would never have good conditions of living. Goods and services would be delivered on time when there are good roads. When this project starts, there would be additional connections and linkages to nearby villages,” he said.

Responding to people’s request of employing indigenes, he said BADEA has a procedure that whenever a contractor is constructing roads with BADEA’s funds, the locals must be employed.

Hon. Sama Sandy, representing Constituency 080 in Bo District, Southern Sierra Leone, said previously, the road condition was a challenge as it was very difficult to access Bo town, Sierra Leone’s second capital city.

“We are living in farming communities and access to the market remains a challenge for our farmers’ agricultural produce especially during the rains. But when this road is constructed, our challenges would be over,” he said.

He appealed to BADEA to have a monumental clock tower constructed, signifying the relationship between Sierra Leone and BADEA, saying that there is a pool of human resource in Tikonko chiefdom to be recruited when the work starts.

Sam Aruna, Director of Projects in the Ministry of Finance, said last year, a delegation, headed by the Minister of Finance Jacob JusuSaffa, went to Khartoum in Sudan to deliver President Bio’s message to the BADEA Director General on the need to provide funds for the construction of the Bo-Mattru Road.

“Two weeks ago, the Minister of Finance told me that a delegation from BADEA was going to come to do a preparation and appraisal field visit on the Bo-Mattru Road. Today, they have come. From the finance point of view, let me hasten to tell you that the amount of money to construct a one kilometer road is one million United States Dollars (US$1m) and this road is over 70 kilometers,” he told the gathering at the various town hall meetings, adding that BADEA has promised to provide the required funds.

He warned that when the work starts, he does not want to see inhabitants of the various beneficiary villages engage in fighting with contractors, stating that if there is any problem between the contractors and occupants of the beneficiary communities, they should report to SLRA for peaceful settlement.

“I am saying this because I have seen situations where inhabitants take up machetes to fight road contractors in the name of damaging their crops or encroaching on their lands,” he noted.

Minister of Works and Public Assets told the people that President Bio had sent him to bring a New Year gift for them, which was the BADEA delegation that would provide the funds for the construction of the Bo-Mattru Road.

“During the 2018 elections campaign, you told President Bio that you wanted him to support in the construction of the road with asphaltic concrete and he promised to do so. Let me tell you that he has delivered on his promise. He said I should let you know that BADEA has taken over the funding of the project so as to ensure that the construction is done within record time,” he told the people.

He said the Bo-Mattru Road connects to several communities and once it is completed, it would accelerate human capital development.

He promised that government would do everything to meet its own side of the bargain for this project.

“I want to use this opportunity to warn those who would want to steal the materials and other equipment that would be brought by the contractors to construct this road, to abstain. They should be the ones providing security for the materials and take ownership of the project. Anyone caught in such act, would face the law,” he stated.

He said the ‘New Direction’ government is very transparent and accountable, adding that it would never claim to have spent US$400m on a road that costs US$1m.

“Any road that we are constructing is of  quality. That makes us different from the previous government. The Bo-Mattru Road is expected to be completed by 2022,” he assured the people.

SLRA’s Board Chairman, Joseph S. Kelfala, said during the construction of the Bo-Mattru Road, roads leading to Tikonko, Serabu and Tihun towns, would also be constructed.

Chairman, Bonthe District Council, Moses Probyn said the construction of the Bo-Mattru Road was no longer an imagination but a reality.

He told a gathering at the council’s conference hall that the oversea travelling of President Bio has always been yielding fruits.

He said once the road is constructed, lot of goodies would reach Mattru and the beneficiary towns and villages.

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Driver Jailed For Assault

BY FEIMA SESAY

 A commercial driver of Jones street Mohamed Tabita Kamara  was on Monday 2nd March 2020 sentence to four(4) months Imprisonment for Assaulting a police officer whiles executing his lawful duties.

The convicted accused made his first appearance before magistrate Mark Ngegba of court No2 on three counts charges of Assault on police contrary to section 39 of the police Act No7 of 1964, Resisting police arrest and disorderly behavior contrary to section 12 of the public order Act No46 of 1965 as amended by section 15 of act No2 of 1975.

According to the particulars of offences, the police alleged that the convicted accused on Tuesday 18 February 2020, at Western police station Adelaide street in Freetown assaulted Police Constable No13359 Kargbo M.A, whiles he was on duty.. It further stated that the accused on the same date in Freetown Resisted police arrest.

Counts 3 further stated that, the accused on the same date and place did behaved in a disorderly manner.

The prosecutor sergeant 11406 Musu Kpulun told the court that, on the aforementioned date, whiles police constable 13359 Kargbo M.A was on duty at western police station, he was assaulted by the accused.

When the charges were read and explained to the accused, he pleaded guilty and added that his actions were not intentional and therefore requested the magistrate to temper justices with mercy as he is a first time offender

 He said the reason for his action was due to the manner the police placed the handcuffs on him. He had no legal representation in court.

Magistrate Ngegba having listened to the plea mitigation made by the accused sentenced him to 4 months imprisonment on all the count charges and that should run concurrently from the time the matter was charge to court.

In another development, the accused Mohamed Tabita Kamara was also arraigned on one count of Larceny contrary to section 2 of the larceny Act 1816.

According to the indictment, the police alleged that, the accused on Sunday 16 February 2020 at Jones Street in Freetown stole one Trek Bicycle valued  Le15 Million property of Abu Bakarr Bangura.

The accused pleaded guilty when charge was read and explained to him.

Inspector A.T Bangura requested a subpoena to be served on the exhibit and requested the clerk to come with the said Trek Bicycle to court so that it could be handed over to the complainant since the accused pleaded guilty.

Magistrate Ngegba granted his application and adjourned the matter to 9 March 2020 for ruling and for the exhibit clerk to come with the exhibit to court.

TWO FOR HIGH COURT TRIAL

BY FEIMA SESAY

Tamba Thomas and Komba Emmanuel Ngevao who were before magistrate Ngegba on two counts of conspiracy and larceny have been sent to high court for further trial.

The accused during the preliminary investigations were arraigned on two count charges of conspiracy to commit a crime contrary to law and larceny contrary to the laws of Sierra Leone.

  Police alleged that, the accused Tamba Thomas and Komba Emmanuel Ngevao on Tuesday 7 January 2020, at Akon Peninsular Road Juba Freetown conspired together and with other persons  unknown to commit a felony to wit larceny.

Count two further stated that the accused on the same date and place did stole Le11 million and other assorted items all to the total valued of Le26,718,000 property of Blackie Turay Katter.

The prosecutor Sergeant 1098 Newstead H. called four prosecution witnesses in the matter and closes the case for the prosecution.

Magistrate Ngegba asked the accused if they wish to say anything in respect of the Allegation or call witnesses at the high court, both responded in the negative as they had no legal representation during the proceedings.

The magistrate in his committal ruling said the prosecution has adduced sufficient evidence against the accused persons to warrant their committal to the high court and therefore commit them for further trial.

Bail was however granted to the accused persons in the sum of 50 million and two sureties each and that the sureties must have been in regular employment for the past 5 years and they should be above the age of 40 years.

He said their bail must be approved by the Deputy Acting Registrar. They have been in prison since 31 January 2020 when the matter was brought to court and thereafter made 6 subsequent appearances.

Brewery Opens Health Center     

By Mohamed Jalloh

In less than one month, the Sierra Leone Brewery Limited (SLBL) has again opened another new Health Center, this time for the Wellington community as part of the fulfillment of its Cooperate Social Responsibility (CSR) in its area of operations.

In his keynote address on behalf of the Minister of health the District Medical Officer (DMO) Dr OSao Kamara lauded the efforts of the nurses and the community health Officers (CHO) as he noted that the building would be of no value without the services of the nurses.

Dr Kamara Said people in wellington have been suffering to access the Rokupa and Connaught hospitals which would now come to past as a brand new facility is now on their doorsteps.

He revealed that plans are under way to open a delivery theater that would invariably decongest the Rokupa and Connaught hospitals as according to him minor operations would be safely done in the facility.

The DMO used the occasion to raise awareness of the Corona Virus and asked the people to heighten their vigilance because the disease he added has hit Nigeria, which is part of the West Africa sub region.

He praised SLBL for prioritizing the health sector as their health funded projects are visible everywhere and urged other companies in the private sector to follow the footsteps of SLBL.

Albert Collier the head of Cooperate relations at the company said supporting health and sanitation is their priority that has prompted the construction of brand new hospital for the Wellington people.

He said that they are doing business in the community by making profit from the products brought by the people, adding  that as a result it is incumbent on the company to give back to the community.

Mr Collier noted that the project was well managed as he personally monitored it to ensure accountability by requesting for every invoice and receipt of the building materials.

He said over the years SLBL has made tremendous support to the health sector, particularly focusing on   providing equipment that would aid in quality reproductive health delivery.

The Cooperate relations manager earnestly called on the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to furnish the hospital with all the necessary equipments and instruments that would keep the facility running on a 24-hour basis. the    The Deputy Major of Freetown Osman Koroma said the population growth in Wellington  warranted  the urgent need for the construction of a hospital.

Mr Koroma stated that the community should be appreciative of the company because the initial aim was rehabilitation, which later changed to a brand new construction.

He intimated that SLBL is replicating the construction of a similar facility in his ward at Calaba Town, which is nearing completion.

The Deputy Major said he would deliver the message to her lordship the Major that the health facility funded by SLBL is finally open for the utilization of the community.   

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Discuss With President Bio    

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The First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia, Ivica Dačić, has met His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio at State House to discuss ways of strengthening bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

Presenting her counterpart, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Nabeela Tunis, said that the Serbian envoy was in the country as part of their commitment to deepen bilateral cooperation with Sierra Leone and to strengthen ties and consultations between the two ministries on a wide range of issues.

In his statement, the Serbian minister said that it was a great pleasure to be in Sierra Leone, noting that the two countries had had longstanding bilateral ties dating back to 1961. He said that his visit to the country was part of their desire to form strategic and friendly relations and to also look at possible areas of mutual interest between the two countries.

While responding, President Bio welcomed Mr Dačić and team, adding that his presence in the country was a manifestation of their interest in the small West-African state. He also used the opportunity to commend the Serbian government for their support to the country during the Ebola outbreak and for offering scholarship opportunities to Sierra Leonean students.

He said that his government had placed focus on Human Capital Development, which included education, health and food security as a foundation for sustainable development. He said that Sierra Leone was a perfect destination for business and that they were looking at fostering a stronger relationship.

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Street Trading of Foreign Currency Banned

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S/Leone Sits on the UN Statistical Commission

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Sierra Leone is attending the 51st Session the United Nations Statistical Commission holding in New York from 3rd to 6th March 2020. Sierra Leone which is sitting on the prestigious UN Statistical Commission for the  first time ever is represented by its Statistician General,Prof Osman Sankoh(Mallam O), and Director Of The National Statistical System, Francis Tommy.

The 51st session of the UN Statistical Commission  will discuss among many others, reports by the Inter-Agency Expert Group on SDG indicators(IAEG-SDG),the High Level Group for Partnership, Coordination  and Capacity Building for Statistics for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as a report of the Friends of the Chair group on the future of Economic Statistics, and a report by the Bureau on a more coordinated and coherent  structure and functions of groups operating under the auspices of the Statistical  Commission.

As in past years, a special seminar was organized on the 28th February which provided an opportunity to showcase innovative approaches related to household surveys that are adopted and experimented by National Statistical Offices, International Organizations and the Research Community in order to match the data challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs). On Monday 2nd March 2020,a high level forum focusing on the concept of data stewardship and the changing role of National Statistical Offices and Chief Statisticians was also organized and in both of these sessions, Stats SL was proficiently represented and made meaningful contributions.

 “We are happy with the strides we have taken to revive and turn Stats SL into one of the beacons of Central Statistics Offices in Africa”, Statistician General, Professor Osman Sankoh mused. “ We know that we still have some way to go but we are happy as a leadership with the tremendous efforts we have made in converting the institution into a dependable one that will be enviable for producing credible data and we are here to showcase Sierra Leone and its statistical competencies to the whole World*” he concluded

Sierra Leone’s tenure, its first on the UN Statistical system, will run for 3 years(2020-2023) and is only one of 8 African countries globally sitting on the commission. Sierra Leone’s sitting on the commission will open unexplored doors for the use Official Statistics not only in  Sierra Leone but in the entire African continent. It is also hoped that this tenure will position Stats SL into a winner Central Statistical Office that will be first-rate in the collection, processing, analysis and dissemination of accurate, clear, relevant, timely and high quality statistical information on social, health, demographic, economic and financial  activities to serve the needs of users  whilst also guiding government and the general public to make informed decisions

14 months Baby Recovers from Cyanotic Congenital Heart Complications

A 14 months old baby Mary Ruth Koroma was suffering from cyanotic congenital heart complications has been discharged from Max Super Specialist Hospital after successful surgeries.

She was having echocardiography: revealed size perimembranous Ventricular Septal Defect and small size patent ductus arterioles which have been corrected through surgery.

Additionally, she is suffering from acute malnutrition and is being placed on a dietary plan now as she gets discharged so that she will recover and regain her weight.

We remain thankful to the Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and all other state institutions that made it happened.

We will continue saving the lives of children one at a time.

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 CAN Plans Peaceful Demo

See press release below

NOTICE OF PROCESSION

In respect of the afore-mentioned subject, I write to notify you of our peaceful procession scheduled for 5 March 2020 from Hill Station right through King Harman Road to Savage Street and the Cotton Tree in Freetown.

Pursuant to section 17(1) of the 1965 Public Order Act, it is imperative on us to write your good offices for notification and the assurance of our security in conducting such exercise.

The said peaceful procession is to call the attention of authorities and awaken the consciences of public officials over the denial of the right to quality education of over one thousand (1000 +) young Sierra Leonean students on government scholarship studying at the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.

These young students have missed six months of their academic calendar and it clearly appears that all steps to engage the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education have proven futile.

The Citizens Advocacy Network was approached by the affected students and frantic moves made to appeal with the authorities involved in both written and one-on-one dialogue were monumentally ineffective. A letter from our Network as a responsible civil society organisation to the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education to call for amicable resolution of the issue was treated with disdain. We are cautious of the recommendations captured by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report and want to raise a constructive voice against breeding disgruntled youths and violating their right to education with a harsh breath of inconceivable indifference. They are equally wards of tax payers and tax payers themselves and it is no sin to develop their competencies or skills for national development. 

In this regard, we notify you of a peaceful procession over this gross indifference displayed and to send a message to the powers that be and the international community of such human rights violation.

Our democracy fences our right to expression and procession. We believe it is the duty of your good offices to protect our right in the democratic space.

We thank you in anticipation of your favourable response.

Yours faithfully,

Thomas Moore Conteh

Executive Director

Citizens Advocacy Network

Cc:

Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps

The Speaker, Sierra Leone House of Parliament

The Chief Justice, Judiciary of Sierra Leone

The Minister, Ministry of Tertiary and Higher Education

The Secretary to President, Republic of Sierra Leone

The Ombudsman, Republic of Sierra Leone

The National Security Coordinator, Office of National Security

All Civil Society Organisation Leaders

The Chair, Human Rights Commission

The Executive Director, Legal Aid Board

The Minister of Youth Affairs

The Chair, Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone

The Chair, National Commission for Democracy

The President, Sierra Leone Association of Journalists

The President, Sierra Leone Bar Association

All Political Parties

Media Houses

The General Public

Cries Over Minining  in Kono

By: Anthony Vandy

According to residents in Kono District, in the eastern part of Sierra Leone, access to clean drinking water is a very big problem – in part, due to the active mining activities in the district.

Sia Kaimachanda lives and mines in Small Safadu Village, in Kono the  people residing  in the village are  mining diamond and gold which is destroying water streams in the community.

“Mining according to Sia is seriously affecting the streams that helped sustain and provide water for  people in different communities,” she explains.

Noah Konday a community leader in Kono District’s Wordu Sandor Village. In his own opinion mining activities in nearby communities have affected his village, as  their water streams are no longer clean, the mud and debris from the mining activities he added flows into the streams.

 Sometimes, he revealed dangerous chemicals are used in the small-scale mining processes, which could enter into the main water supplySystem

“Borehole water facility is not much in my village,” he explained “as water streams have been our main and traditional source of fetching water. however, our streams are no longer clean. It is very difficult for people in my village and nearby villages to access clean and safe drinking water because of artisanal [small-scale] mining activities.”

He went further to says  that water and airborne diseases are prevalent in their community, because they don’t have access to clean water – whether pipe-borne or from their traditional streams, and they are not  equipped to properly purify the water they fetch from bore holes. He also said it is very expensive for them as villagers to purchase sachet water.

Similarly, residents living in Tombodu, Peyima, Small Safadu, Ngaya, Sukudu and Maima villages in the District  claimed that they are unable to access clean drinking water, as a result of the artisanal and larger-scale mining activities taking place in their areas.

Peter Sahr Gbami is the head teacher of  the Koryadu Village Community Primary School, currently having 135 pupils.

 According to the head teacher, the school does not have pure drinking water because of artisanal mining activities  taking place around their streams.

“The school going pupils he said walk three miles  from the school to fetch drinking water during and after school,” Gbami explains.

“such he  added  affects their schooling greatly. But very hopeful that, by the time they move to their  new school building, the water challenges for his pupils will be a thing of the past.”

In the entire district, the Sierra Leone Water Company (SALWACO) is only working on installing pipe-borne water service in Koidu City, leaving out the rest of the district.

According to promises made by the now-ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party, in its 2018 ‘New Direction’ campaign manifesto, a comprehensive water and sanitation strategic plan will be reviewed and developed to guide investment and increase public sector investment from 3% to 10%

. This is aimed at not only providing pipe-borne water for people in urban communities, but also protecting streams in rural communities.

Aiah Moiba Missa is the councilor for Constituency 30 Ward 99, in Kono District. According to him, while the number of large-scale mining operations in the district is increasing, most people in the district are still focusing mainly on artisanal mining – which he says causes a “curse of mud” that is taking over the streams where people used to fetch  clean drinking wate

He went further to add that miners in their district most times banked or even diverterted the streams, which people in the villages and nearby townships depended on for clean drinking water that ends up contaminated  not even fit for laundry.

John Momoh works with the Network Movement for Justice and Development, a civil society organization campaign, aimed at supporting safe communities in mining areas.

  • He says that while it is the fault of the artisanal and large-scale mining activities in Kono that have contaminated most of the water streams in the district, it is now up to Government to ensure that this type of contamination be stopped in future.

“Government must enact and enforce laws against companies and individuals whose mining activities are contaminating and destroying water streams,” Momoh urges.

James Tamba Kamara is the public relations officer for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He agrees that the contamination of water streams by artisanal and large-scale mining is widespread, and that his institution is now trying to take action against that.

“Currently, we are working with the National Mineral Agency (NMA),” he said, “to develop regulations on artisanal mining and large-scale mining activities which are the main curse of contaminating water streams. We want to ensure we minimize it, so that people can be able to fetch clean water from their streams.”

The SLPP ‘New Direction’ manifesto also states that the government will review and develop new mining agreements that will ensure the protection of environment, benefit the people of the country, and ensure lesser damages.

Foday Rado Yoke  the Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources says  he is also aware of the damages caused by artisanal and large-scale mining activities in mining communities, and has taken note of how they have been contaminating stream water in communities in Kono District.

“In the new regulations according to his administration  working on will include charges for companies and certain fees for damages, which either they themselves the companies will pay, or government [will] pay with the monies charged for places destroyed by these companies.”

The minister also states that the government wants to ensure that mining companies, as well as individual artisanal miners, take responsibility for the damages they cause, during and after mining, and for the cost of the damages not to be more than what they are paying for tax and license during operations.

Advocates highlight needs for   disabilities

By: Anthony Vandy

Across Sierra Leone, persons with disabilities can be found begging on the street, sleeping on the street, and even being abandoned by their own relatives. While a number of efforts have been made by governments in recent years to support and improve access to services for such individuals, advocates says  much more still needs to be done in the area of supporting persons living with disabilities. 

Salieu Turay is the current head master for the Milton Margay School for the Blind, at Wilkinson Road in Freetown.

 He says that the reason the school was established is explained through its motto: “WE CANNOT SEE BUT WE WILL CONQUER”. The school was established in 1956 by the government of Sierra Leone, to teacher and train blind pupils. This school started with three pupils: Miss Emma Parker, Mr. Fredrick Kamara, and the late Mr. Moses Conteh.

Salieu Turay says the school has contributed greatly to the educational sector also bringing life and hopes to the blind pupils in the country as a whole,

 Offering solutions to solve various challenges and problems faced by the pupils. currently, the school caters for primary level students and also provides some assistance to those in secondary school – in the form of specialized school and learning materials, designed for the visually impaired

. The Milton Margai School for the Blind also operates a boarding home for visually impaired pupils, to ensure they can stay near campus and that they are well taken care of.

According to the New Direction Manifesto, released by the Sierra Leone People’s Party in 2018, the now president’s party made mention of things they will do to help protect persons living with disabilities when they assumed power.

In the section of the manifesto titled, ‘Protecting Persons Living with Disability and our Aged’, it is stated that: “The most disadvantaged group in Sierra Leone is the physically challenged.  About 1.1% of the population is physically challenged or lives with disability. This includes mainly the blind, deaf, polio persons and amputees.”

“The major challenges the physically challenged persons face,” continues the Manifesto, “include limited access to food, shelter, clothing, jobs, education and health care. They also face the problem of negative public attitude towards them in many instances.”

According to the head teacher for the blind school, Salieu Turay, many physically challenged people in Sierra Leone find their living through begging on the streets. They are also marginalized in public life. 

Under the previous APC-led government,  Parliament enacted a Disability Bill, aimed at increasing services and accessibility for persons with disability. However, according to the New Direction Manifesto, there is still a long way to go before all the provisions of the Act can be implemented. Therefore, as part of the manifesto, the SLPP promised to: review and implement policies and laws relating to disability; offer free education for the physically challenged at all levels (pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary level); provide free health care for the physically challenged; increase access of persons living with disability to public housing; provide welfare assistance to persons living with disability; and provide livelihood support to persons living with disability.

According to Salieu Turay, most of these benefits  are yet to been seen.

For the school’s own part, Turay says that education for blind and visually impaired students has been provided for pupils free of cost, since its doors opened in 1956 – but he adds that providing for the blind and visually impaired pupils is very difficult, and very costly.

“Currently, there are 88 pupils staying in the school’s boarding home, and they eat three times a day,” Turay says – meals which are provided by the school’s own administration. Other serious challenges he says the school and pupils face include access to appropriate learning equipment, generator and fuel for the lighting system, school bus, medical supplies, and furniture for the accommodation. All these items, Turay says, are needed to help foster and ensure continuity and proper administration for school-going pupils.

“Learning equipment used by the visually impaired pupils such as braille, recorder, stylus, and frames,” he explains, “are very, very difficult to get and very much expensive here for purchase.” He, however, added that the government has been supporting the school over the years, but also called on other non-governmental organizations to help provide them with additional materials, including texts in braille for the different subjects.

Mrs. Kamara Cole is the head teacher for the National School for the Deaf, also located on Wilkinson Road in Freetown. According to her, this institute was established shortly after the blind school, in 1963 – specifically for pupils who are “hearing impaired”, often referred to as being “deaf” and/or “dumb”.  The schools, she says, started with six pupils, and was located at what is now the Regent Road Baptist School. Today, the school has about 95 special needs pupils, and is supported by the government.  Still, Mrs. Cole says the institution is faced with a lot of challenges, and more funding is needed to ensure quality educational materials – such as dictionaries and text books – are available for teaching different subjects in sign language.

Additionally, she says, the school could greatly benefit from improved facilities, including additional seating for students, and a boarding home for pupils who live far away (which is not currently available).

“We also need to increase our number of trained and qualified teachers in the school,” she explains, adding that currently, many of their teachers are just volunteers, with little to no formal training in teaching sign language.

“The government has been doing a lot of great things for us,” she says, “but still there needs to be more help for supporting teachers to make the future brighter for these kids, to ensure they have a conducive atmosphere for learning, and help them to be better leaders in society, [thereby] reducing the burden on the government.

James George is a civil society advocate and activist, working with the local organization, “Empowerment for Disability and Social Integration,” which aids people living with disabilities, and focuses on issues affecting the disabled. This organization’s five key areas include: health, education, employment, livelihood, and transportation for those living with disabilities. According to George, part five of the Disability Act specifically looks at education.

“Disability Act Part five (5) section 41 talks about free education at tertiary level for disabled people,” he explains. “The National Commission for Disability Issues has been doing very well [for improving services for disabled people], but more needs to be done to ensure they enforce the tertiary aspect of that particular Disability Act.”

He said with the new government, a lot of structures have been put in place,   ensure greater access to education for persons living with disabilities, but there are  number of areas  still to  be prioritized, including the equipping of health facilities to offer free, specialized care for disabled people, and ensuring employment and livelihood opportunities for persons with disabilities. For now, he says, even when disabled individuals are educated and qualified for various positions in society, they continue to face difficulties with employers – including government – actually offering them positions.

Transportation, he adds, is another huge challenge faced by persons living with disabilities – especially those using wheelchairs or crutches, who often find it very difficult to get vehicles for moving around.

“A lot of laws to support persons living with disabilities are in the act,” he explains, “and also in the manifesto of the New Direction government, but it has still not been fully implemented yet.”

Adama Sesay is the mother of a visually impaired child, whom she says was not born blind, but became blind at the age of about five years. She explains that, in addition to the daily challenges her child faces, she is also concerned about the reaction he receives from the public.

“I call on the entire public,” she says, “to help assist disabled people on the street and not to laugh at them because of their disabilities. These kids have great potential in them and it is not their making that they are disabled.” She also said it is possible for anybody to become disabled at any point in time, so improving the experiences of persons living with disabilities in Sierra Leone should be a priority for everyone.

Diaspora Focus Magazine Launched

BY Mustapha Dumbuya

The Diaspora Focus magazine a book that focus and captures all different both government and private institutions on their official performances and the theme for this years’ is Education for development.

Dr.Emmanuel Stafford, the Chief Executive Officer of Diasporas focus said the magazine was founded about 9 years ago adding that the initiative was brought together with different Africa students in the United Kingdom where he later served as president of the Africa students in the UK.

He also said after he finally did the formal registration of the magazine one of their first programme was chaired by the current first lady of the Republic of sierra Leone her Excellency madam Fatima jabbie Bio and that implies that they focuses on more people that are more productive in different areas of development.

CEO, intimated that edition they hosted in Sierra Leone was on the 7 December 2019 at the Golden Tulip Hotel Aberdeen where 8 Countries applied and only four was shortlisted for the West Africa Development Award which should be hosted in SierraLeone.

“We have been working tremendously to see that all of our awardees emerge    as winners and they are not chosen by any affiliation but base on their academic performance and excellences that shows how professional we are.” He said.

He encouraged people to continue to work hard in all works of life both in the UK and Sierra Leone adding that with the theme for this year’s clearly shows that they are warmly welcome to work with the new direction government as education is one of their priorities in the manifesto.

Solomon J Jamiru, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Internal Cooperation said as a government they were very happy with the initiative  that shows that we have great people that gives their best for the development of Sierra Leone and be hound.

He mentioned that this has signaled in all government, private sector and Diasporas base in the UK to always work hard in developing our country or be hound and in return with reward from Diaspora focus.

He encourages all Ministries Department and Agencies the private sectors to always strive and put Sierra Leone first as a priority in any development.

He said the next 16th Edition, which should be held in Sierra Leone, would capture all and all areas of development in different sectors.

Hon. Emmanuel Saidu Conteh of Constituency 129 an  awardee as Member of Parliament of the Year 2019 said he was  grateful for  receiving the Award as MP of the year and that is not a surprise because he is always working with his people to delivered his obligations he owes them.

He also said this initiative had opened competition amongst people in their different works of life to do more performance as he did in fostering development in our nation.

The Honorable said he was not short listed amongst the 132 MPs base on sentiment but he was shortlisted base on his achievements and academic performance work he rendered to his people.

He calls on all MPs to always put their communities as priorities.

PUBLIC NOTICE

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SLAJ Pres. Meets Chinese Envoy

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has expressed solidarity with the People’s Republic of China as the Asian giant battles to overcome the strange Corona Virus Disease.

During a courtesy call on the Chinese Ambassador in Sierra Leone, Ambassador Hu Zhanjiang, on Wednesday, 26th February, 2020, the President of SLAJ, Ahmed SahidNasralla, on behalf of its national membership and affiliate bodies, sympathized with the Chinese government for the human and economic loss caused by the disease and assured the Ambassador of the media’s support in ensuring the right and objective information is put out there on China’s efforts in curtailing the outbreak.

“On behalf of our entire membership and affiliate bodies, let me express our solidarity with the Government and People of China during this difficult period. As a country we have been in a similar challenging situation with the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and 2015, so we know what it means,” said Nasralla.

He added: “China was among the first nations to come to our aid, and because of your intervention we now have the P3 laboratory, which has made Sierra Leone one of six countries in Africa to be able to test for the Corona Virus. So we equally stand with you during your own period of challenge.”

Nasralla encouraged Ambassador Hu to consider doing a public lecture at the SLAJ Secretariat to explain to journalists and interested members of the public on how China is dealing with the disease and share experiences.

In the area of collaboration, Nasralla acknowledged the support of the Chinese government to the Sierra Leone media in general through trainings, scholarships, seminars and short visits to China. However, he appealed to the Ambassador for such opportunities to be channeled through SLAJ to ensure the actual journalists benefit.

“When you go through SLAJ, or assign a special quota for SLAJ, the right people benefit and they come back to impact the country’s media positively,” said Nasralla, making reference to journalist Matthew Kanu, who benefitted from a single Masters scholarship from the Chinese Embassy to SLAJ, and who came back after graduating and is now head of the Mass Communication Department at the University of Makeni (UNIMAK) in the North of Sierra Leone.

“So we look forward to a much closer relationship and cooperation with the Embassy in this regard,” Nasralla appealed.

Furthermore, the SLAJ President informed Ambassador Hu that the Association is in the process of acquiring land and is looking forward to any assistance from the Embassy in its effort to construct a Secretariat.

In his response, Ambassador Hu congratulated the SLAJ President on his election and acknowledged the role of the Association as a parent body of the media in providing leadership, and the important role the media is playing in nation building.

He noted that China and Sierra Leone have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship since 1971 and that they will never forget the role played by Sierra Leone in ensuring China secure a permanent seat at the United Nations.

“China sees Sierra Leone as a reliable friend just as how your President, H.E. Julius Maada Bio, describes China as a reliable friend,” said Ambassador Hu.

He assured that the Embassy will strengthen its relationship with SLAJ and media friends but at the same time urged the Association’s leadership to ensure its membership while discharging their duties, do so with professionalism, particularly in reporting critical issues.

He welcomed the proposal for a public lecture and said he’s looking forward to it at the appropriate time.

On the issue of scholarships and trainings, Ambassador Hu said their policy calls for direct dealing with the Government of Sierra Leone, but assured SLAJ they will consider allocating one or two opportunities to the Association whenever they are available.

Regarding the appeal for support towards the construction of a Secretariat for SLAJ, he said their policy also do not allow them to provide such support to organisations. However, he said such request could be considered if it is channelled through the Government of Sierra Leone and the government makes it a priority.

Meanwhile, Amb Hu assured that Sierra Leonean students and other nationals living in China are well taken care of during this crisis and that they are making success in the fight against the Corona virus and they are doing everything possible to ensure it does not become a pandemic.

He presented SLAJ with a projector, air condition, printer and a digital camera as gifts from the Embassy to support the running of the Association’s secretariat.

 NGOs Sign Service Level Agreement

The Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr. Francis Kai-Kai has said the government of President Julius Maada Bio is focused on making sure this year of delivery becomes the most important thing in Sierra Leone’s development and that NGOs are considered critical actors in the actualization of the President’s Agenda.

He made this statement, as twenty-eight (28) more NGOs signed the Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the Ministry of Social Welfare. Already, two batches of NGOs serving in the Health and Education sectors have signed the SLA.

Dr. Kai-Kai opened his remarks with acknowledgement of the contributions of NGOs to Sierra Leone’s development prior to, during and even after the civil war. He noted that the government strongly relies on NGOs in taking development to the last mile within the country. He said the government was committed to leaving no one behind, as demanded by the MTNDP (2019-2023) and the Sustainable Development Goals (2030).

Dr. Kai-Kai noted the importance of monitoring and evaluation processes in the implementation of development projects; emphasizing the need for NGOs to effectively collaborate with Local Councils, especially in the area of reporting their activities to the Councils. He said the Ministry was at an advanced stage in establishing District Coordination Committees (DCC) to address development issues in the districts.

In her statement, the Minister of Social Welfare, BainduDassama, noted the significance of the signing, in the road to deliver effective social services to the people of Sierra Leone. She said the NGOs should continue working with community stakeholders in the formulation and implementation of programs, which would ensure ownership and sustainability.

Minister Dassama encouraged the NGOs to always provide line Ministries with feedback on challenges encountered during the implementation of projects. She also urged the NGOs to deliver on their projects.

Chad McCordic, Program Director, Community Led Development Program, delivering the vote of thanks on behalf of NGOs said they would be fully committed to the President’s agenda of delivering urgent results in 2020, working in key areas of the development sectors.

Other dignitaries in attendance included: The Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, The National NGO Coordinator, Eric Mansallay, The Compliance and Partnership Coordinator, AnsumanaKonneh among others. Among those that signed include: Defence for Children Sierra Leone, TROCAIRE, Save the Children, Talking Drum Studio, One Village Partners, Home Leone.

Education, Foundation for Development

-Deputy Youth Minister

The Deputy Minister of Youth Affairs has organized a workshop that brought community stakeholders, School pupils, Politicians, Schoolteachers and religious scholars together to discuss the right of the child in achieving quality education.

Speaking at the Redemption Junior School, the Deputy Minister of Youth Affairs, Hon. Lusine Kallon said he was honoured with great pleasure to talk on a topic that President Julius Maada Bio strongly believes can unlock poverty and close the door on underdevelopment.

According to him, President Bio believes education is the foundation for the development of Sierra Leone, stressing that President Bio also believes education is the catalyst for converting information into knowledge.

He asserted that education makes us capable of interpreting things correctly and applying the information in real-life scenarios.

He opined that education is a journey from darkness to the light of once life.

He averred that education is not just limited to paper qualifications but skills development, innovation and technological advancement. He went on to say that, education goes with hard work that  is why today the world is fatly moving with the digital age.

“You will agree with me that under the past regime and some developing countries around the globe, education still remains expensive and privilege,” he said, noting further that “when we got the mandate of our people to govern them we said no, education shouldn’t be a privilege for those who can afford it.”

The inspiring Deputy Youth Minister emphasized that, “Children and young people under the leadership of HE Julius Maada Bio are today benefiting from the Free Quality Education in Sierra Leone because to us, education is not a privilege but a fundamental human right.”

He reminded his audience that he was standing before them because he got the opportunity to be educated.

He recounted that if my parents were standing here to give testimony they will tell you that it was very difficult to raise money for us.

“I went to school through difficult moments because it was not all rosy. Sometimes to even get delicious three meals per day and pay fees were difficult to come by.”

He used the occasion to encourage parents and guardians to please value this opportunity and make sure they monitor their children to go to school and study hard at home.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Bilkissu Foundation, Miss. BilkissuJalloh, stated that she is from a humble beginning but that didn’t stop her from focusing on her education. She also added that her dream of ensuring children have access to education was never aborted.

The CEO of Bilkissu  Foundation reiterated that her organization is a charitable organisation that is working tirelessly to provide learning materials and make education accessible for all.

Speaking on the theme, “the right of the Child towards education,” Hon. Samba Turay of Constituency 73, also encouraged his people to make proper use of such opportunity. He commended the effort of the Foundation for providing mentorship.

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