Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Wetin mek we dea pay tax? Part 2


The National Dialogue Series continued on Thursday, 11th May 2017 with the topic: ‘Wetin mek we dea pay tax? (Why do we pay tax?)’ live on Africa Young Voices Television and simulcast on the Independent Radio Network across Sierra Leone. This is the fourth in the series and the second on the same topic.

The panelists were Mrs. Aminata Kelly-Lamin, Policy and Advocacy Adviser for Action Aid Sierra Leone and Alpha Tanu Jalloh, President of the Sierra Leone Importers and Exporters Association, while Development Communications consultant Batilloi Warritay moderated the programme.
Following are highlights of what the panelists said during the 1hr 30 minutes discussion programme:

Mrs Aminata Kelly-Lamin was asked about her views on tax avoidance and she explained that while it is legal as a result of agreements signed between two countries, tax avoidance is morally wrong. She went on:

“From a poverty stand-point Action Aid viewed it as morally wrong. We believe that if you come to our country to invest and found out that the system is not correct, you should be honest enough not to follow that system but to uphold international best practice or standards.

“Tax Avoidance refers to ways companies and multi-national businesses avoid paying their correct taxes in the various countries they are operating. Tax Avoidance is making Sierra Leone losing out on a lot of money which otherwise would go into providing social services for the general public, especially women and children.
“In 2016, Action Aid Sierra Leone released a multi-country report titled Mistreated Report, which looked at the issue of Tax Avoidance in various countries. The report found out that tax treaties or agreements between countries is one of the ways companies avoid paying correct taxes. Countries hosting big businesses or multi-national companies have a right to tax these companies, but some provisions in the tax treaties restrict the right of host countries from levying certain taxes. So a lot of countries, especially lower-level countries like Sierra Leone, are losing out on huge incomes that would have added to their domestic revenue generation. Bangladesh alone loses about US$85 million annually to tax avoidance.”
Mrs Kelly-Lamin said they (Action Aid) shared the report with the Government of Sierra Leone: the Office of the President, Office of the Vice President, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the National Revenue Authority (NRA), who are responsible for taxation in the country.
“We had hoped that they (Government) would see and understand the negative impact of some of these kinds of bi-lateral agreements, for example with the United Kingdom, on the country’s economy. We expected that there would be the political will to review these treaties.
“Actually, obligation to these tax treaties is voluntary; they are not absolutely binding. This means that our Government can come out of them as and when they feel it’s not favourable.
“The Office of the President requested the NRA to catalogue all treaties of such nature that were preventing Sierra Leone from generating much needed revenue from taxing multi-national companies but up till now no list has been made available.”
Mrs Kelly-Lamin also cited a Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD) study released in 2011, titled ‘Cost Benefit Analysis on Mining Companies’, which found out that certain mining companies including London Mining and African Minerals Ltd were avoiding payment of Corporate Tax.
“While this is also not against the law (because it is usually as a result of tax holiday arrangement between the Government and the companies), it is morally wrong on the part of the companies.
“This study looked at some of the areas that Government often overlooked when multi-national companies come in to invest to determine whether Sierra Leone would benefit or not. In addition, there were several other tax obligations these companies neglected because Government did not monitor their operations well.
In one instance, the study found out that on the date the agreements were signed the price of iron ore on the international market did not match with the price Sierra Leone agreed to sell. This meant that there was reduction in the royalties we were supposed to get as a country. The royalty is our country’s first entitlement for its mineral assets, and we lost on that.
“Furthermore, although the Income Tax Act requires all big companies to pay a Corporate Tax of around 35 to 37% or so, the NMJD study found out that these mining companies re-negotiated, and London Mining for example was asking for as low as 6 percent.”
For his part, Alpha Tanu Jalloh said:
“Because Sierra Leone is a small and poor country, she gives in to most of such agreements just to encourage big businesses to invest in the country.
“In our regional set-up, the Mano River Union for example, we have a treaty that goods or products coming in from any of these countries should not pay any duty. So you find out that countries that are manufacturing countries stand to benefit more from such a treaty than our own country which is receiving the products.
“Some big companies enjoy tax holiday for a period of 4 to 5 years based on the volume of their investment. These tax breaks are normally direct taxes to the State for operating a business in the country, such as Corporate Tax.”
However, Mrs Kelly-Lamin noted:
“Sometimes some companies abuse this tax holiday privilege. When they come they get tax holiday for five years, and then another five years. By the time it’s 10 years they change their names and sign new agreements and enjoy the benefits all over again. The Government loses out and it’s us the people who bear the loss in the form of inadequate social services.
“Going forward, Government should enforce existing laws which are good, and review old treaties with countries like UK, Denmark and Italy as examples. It is possible that some of the provisions in these treaties still impact on our agreements with companies from these countries in recent times. The fact that Sierra Leone signed these treaties means that they supersede our domestic laws.
“I also suggest we introduce a progressive tax system, wherein the more income you get the more tax you pay.”
Alpha Tanu Jalloh suggested that the NRA should spread the tax net rather than concentrating more on imports.
“The transport sector for example; they just renew their licenses annually and that’s it. The transport sector should also report their income and pay taxes to Government. There are so many other areas. There are shops that are not registered, and there are small outlets that are doing bigger businesses than shops but they deliberately prefer to remain as such simply because they don’t want to pay tax. Charcoal sellers, wood sellers, they all make profits and therefore eligible to pay taxes.”
Meanwhile, Mrs Kelly-Lamin reasoned:
“The collection of taxes is one thing; the utilization of tax money is another.
“The State has to prove to the people that they are using the money for the benefit of the general public. The Auditor General’s report year in year out has proven that there are many holes in the system in terms of utilizing public monies. It shows that monies entrusted by the State to Ministries, Departments and Agencies to provide social services- schools, hospitals, roads, water, electricity- are not being used correctly.
On the question of newspaper allegation that the ‘NRA chopped tax monies’, Mrs Kelly-Lamin said: “I can only reference the recent Auditor General’s Report which claims that there are certain questions which the NRA failed to answer in relation to money given to them to manage their own affairs. Even the Okada riders have a right to ask Government how and on what tax monies are spent, because they pay Le5, 000 as tax to Council.
Asked about his comments on the new Finance Act by a listener, Alpha Tanue Jalloh said: “The whole process is shrouded in secrecy. From the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, it goes directly to Parliament. We believe there are finance experts who should have seen this bill and discuss it before it is sent to Parliament, but that is not the case and this is not the first time. Even with the 2016 Alcohol and Beverages bill; we didn’t know who put it together and how. It just appeared in Parliament. It’s full of unthinking figures which you can’t see in a similar bill in any part of the world.”
Links to Action Aid’s ‘Mistreated Report’:

A 2013 report by BAN and partners NACE, Christian Aid, IBIS and Tax Justice Network Africa titled ‘Losing Out’ revealed that Sierra Leone was losing US$ 224 million annually to tax avoidance by just four mining companies operating in the country.
Did you know?
Land Owners Tax requires tenants to pay 10% tax to the Government from their rents. This tax targets the tenants directly and not the landlords.
About the National Dialogue Series:
The National Dialogue Series is a joint initiative of The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) and the Independent Radio Network (IRN). The main objective of the programme is to develop a healthy culture of national discourse on key development and political issues and to shift the focus from individuals and personalities as the country prepares for national elections.

It is becoming evidently clear that as Sierra Leone approaches the 2018 Elections, there is a compelling need to enhance the capacity of citizens in their civic responsibilities and also help to increase the level of awareness and understanding of major issues among members of the public.

The National Dialogue Series come to you in the form of a 1hr 30 minutes live TV and Radio simulcast bi-weekly programme across the IRN network, TV and social media nationwide. 

The next topic is ‘We don ready for the 2018 elections? (‘Are we ready for the 2018 elections?’) on Thursday, 25th May, 2017.

Ahmed Sahid Nasralla
National Secretary General
Sierra Leone Association of Journalists

Wednesday, 5 April 2017


In line with the strategic policy objectives of Pillar- one of the Agenda for Prosperity, which focuses on sustainable ecotourism development in the tourism industry, Island Aid Sierra Leone and Planning Green Futures Charitable Trust, UK with support from Baobab Trust, UK decided to embark on Island ecotourism development project on Tasso Island, which in the long run would be extended to the other islands (Bonthe, Tiwai, Turtle, Plantain and the Ramsar Sites), as islands being the drivers for sustainable tourism development.

To actualize such a novel initiative, and with the support from Baobab Trust UK, an ecotourism camp that accommodates over twenty guests per night, was built on Tasso Island, under the Tasso Ecotourism Project, which official opening held on Friday 24th March 2017. The occasion attracted representatives from International partners, United Kingdom, International and local NGOs, like the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Wetland International, Sierra Leone Conservation Society; MDAs, National Protected Area Authority, Monument and Relics Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, National Tourist Board, Air Travel agencies, Travel Sierra Leone, Radisson Blu Travel, Island Community stakeholders, Cultural and traditional heads, Tasso Island Community Trust, Island Aid and representatives from the sister islands along the Ramsar sites of the Sierra Leone River Estuary. The event was climaxed by Sierra Leonean and British cultural performances that gave the unique richness of island cultural diversity.

This project is however a community-based eco-tourism development on Tasso Island, in the Sierra Leone River Estuary. It is supported by an international charitable organisation, the Baobab Trust, UK, working in partnership with Island Aid Sierra Leone. 

The concept, project design and management leadership is provided by Planning Green Futures International (UK) which has a local office in Freetown (PGF-SL Ltd) established in 2012.  This company prepared the Government’s new Eco-Tourism Policy (currently being promoted by the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs); and Tasso Island is the first area to benefit directly from the policy. And it is therefore expected that the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural with other line MDAs will support this project to positively impact the lives of the Island communities on Tasso Island and the sister islands along the Ramsar sites; and also provide peculiar healthy environment and hospitality for both national and international visiting tourists.
The occasion was fully attended by people in the Tasso Island community and Sister islands along the Rokel and Bankasoka rivers who saw the project as a relief of their economic and social burden, being abandoned and deprived locations of the basic social amenities even thought with the rich biodiversity potentials in the islands that can transform their lives livelihood.

The ceremony was chaired by Mr. Harry Mustapha, Island development consultant who has varied experience in community development and project design. He gave an overview of the event and talked on Island resilience as a drive for sustainable ecotourism development; he also re-echoed that for the project to succeed, every effort must be made by the Tasso Island community, international developments agencies and government through its line MDAs to support the programme, which objective was development oriented against the ills of economic disillusionment and island myth.

Mr. Dura Koroma, Executive Director, Island Sierra Leone and Board Director, Tasso Ecotourism project, in line with Mr. Mustapha's view,  also gave a cursory remark on the policy objective of the project, which he said came about as a result of clarion call by the president, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, to promote tourism development in the country; and that Tasso ecotourism Project (TEP) could be seen as a demonstration case for Pillars one of the agenda for prosperity, which he said escalated the initiative of sustainable tourism development; and islands being key support drivers to actualize such an objective.

To register their support for the project, representatives from the line MDAs, Viz, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Ms Isatu Rogers made her contributions on effective island fisheries management that could promote ecotourism development, which seen as community based; Mr. Smith, EPA also talked on environmental health and biodiversity protection, which he said would provide a safe haven for touristic attraction and ecotourism development;this was also reiterated by Dr. Sheku Kamara, Sierra Leone Conservation Society who was accompanied by Mr. Andy from the Royal Society for the Protection of the Birds (RSPB). He made reference to his organization’s strategic policy objectives on environmental management, conservation of nature and preservation of life, which have hugely created proactive and innovative solutions to wetland conservation, which task he said could not be done in isolation but by collective responsibility and total commitment to create a healthy environment, as safe haven to attract ecotourism development in the islands. He however assured Island Aid, Baobab Trust and the Tasso island community of his support in enhancing the intended goals and vision of the project. 

He elaborated on wildlife and biodiversityprotection, which can ensure a resilient island and healthy environment for tourist attractions; he also emphasized on the need for community participation with genuine commitment for the project to be a success. Other speakers included representatives from Monument and Relics Commission, Visit Sierra Leone, Radisson Blu, Environmental protection Agency (EPA) and island community representatives from Tasso Island Community Trust, Kakim Island, Pepel Island;and Community Women Coalition on Island development and friends of Island.
Key community stakeholders, Mr. Alhaji M S Kargbo and Mohamed Margai informed the Tasso Island community that the ecotourism project in the island was an opportunity they should consider as their baby that needed domestic and development orientations;and lay the foundation for its sustainability as a going concern, which benefit could also be enjoyed even by posterity.

Also a key community women’s activist, Mamusu Kabia, re-echoed the role of women in promoting island ecotourism development, especially in the areas of culture, weaving, arts and craft and micro farming, which could provide a market outlet to supply food items,local wooden carvings and others to the project.Also, Madam Fatmata J.S from Pepel admonished the islanders that this project came to stay and to transform the lives of the islanders in not only Tasso island but also the other sister islands; and that from every indication, Baobab Trust, UK intended to expand its development portfolios to other areas like Tiwai and Bonthe islands.

The occasion was both a launch and celebration, climaxed by cultural and traditional performances; children sports meet, boat race between the UK oarsmen and the islanders. The events really gave a unique picture of cultural mix (British and Sierra Leone islanders) and social jamboree of varied events that insatiably enticed the guests. It was a smash and blast; an enticing event, which social nectar provided an unlimited receptive hospitality.
The launch really promoted the Pillar one objective of the agenda for prosperity, especially in the area of Island ecotourism development, which was seen to create a systematic progressive growth impact in the tourism industry and the economy as a whole, which will also have a related impact of the growth rate of the economy and gross domestic product.

It is therefore expected that the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs and other related line MDAs that promote sustainable tourism development, environmental health and biodiversity protection will support the project; that even the travel agencies and hotel managements also have to embrace this initiative for mutual benefit that can strengthen guarantee the sustainable futurity of the tourism industry,to positively impact on the economy.

The Tasso Community Stakeholders, with specific reference to the Chiefs, Pa Alimamy Kanu and Pa Komrabai Turay, Oku Town, Tasso Island, who expressed a surge of appreciation for the pioneering effort of Island Aid, to have the project implemented on Tasso Island; and also for the proactive intervention of Planning Green Futures with support from Baobab Trust, UK to launch the project, which affirmed their commitment to transform the social and economic priorities of the island, in the areas of ecotourism development, community infrastructure development, social and economic needs gap intervention and others.

Mr. Peter Nelson, Chairman Baobab Trust, UK and Managing Director, Planning Green Futures Charitable Trust, UK, who designed and developed this project with support from Island Aid Sierra Leone, re-affirmed his commitment on same, island ecotourism development and environmental health, which Tasso Island happened to be the first beneficiary; and that with the potential economic viability expected in the implementation of the project, the Tasso island community would benefit immensely.He however noted that Tasso Island is a unique environment that is strategically located, at close proximity to Bunce Island; and with historic value and importance as far back as the colonial day of the slave trade, used to be a transit depot for slaves ready to be conveyed to Europe, America and Caribbean but however neglected and deprived of the basic social facilities; and this project would at least address the island’s social and economic problems with collaborative partnership and genuine commitment of purpose to create a change. He also noted that the ecotourism project was just the beginning of his organisation’s and international partners’ development Agenda for the island; other focus areas on intervention included Mango factory, Rain water harvest and infrastructure development. 

He reminiscenced the islanders and other key stakeholders about the long delay in the manifestation of their dreams, which have now come to pass, which an opportunity could cushion their economic and social burden, as the project had provided employment opportunities for the youths; and the income earned could ameliorate the social and economic lives and also other people within the island. He also said that the eco-camp could provide accommodation for up to 30 resident visitors, set in forest above a sand beach on the southern shore of the Island; and that Day visitors from Freetown would be able to enjoy its facilities and a 60 seat restaurant, which would offer local cuisine and seafood prepared to international standards by specially trained staff from the island.  He also mentioned that the camp would rely on solar power, rainwater harvesting and compost toilets in order to minimize all environmental impacts and that Visitors would be transported to the camp in a purpose-built 30 seater sea-going canoe, the “GLADI-GLADI” named to celebrate the Country’s recovery from Ebola, to commemorate those who gave their lives and to mark a new beginning for the Island, which is part of the City of Freetown and one of its most neglected and impoverished quarters.

Highlighting the direction of the project by various speakers and the possible short and long term interventions by both Island Aid and Planning Green Futures with support from Baobab Trust, the occasion was officially opened by Mr. Umaru Woody, Project and Development Officer, National Trust Board followed by the typical traditional dedication done by the Tasso Island Chiefs, Pa Alimamy Kanu, Pa Komrabai and Ya Posseh Kamara.

Mr. Umaru Woody lauded the effort of Planning Green Trust and Island Aid Sierra Leone for the progressive pace in their development strives, which he said seemed very spectacular, regarding the emerging and inherent challenges; and also noted that his organisation, the statutory body promoting and marketing the tourism industry would support the project with the necessary technical and professional needs. 

Mr. Peter Nelson, in response to the various speakers, re-affirmed the project’s commitment and effective/standard service delivery facilities to be provided to guests/tourist; and that they would have regular trips or excursion or expedition to Bunce Island and Pulunmant on Tasso, where the ancestors of perhaps as many as 15% of today’s Americans were incarcerated in British forts during the slave trade; other exciting opportunities would be cultural exchanges, canoe rides through mangrove forest, walking tours, travel to Gola Forest, Turtle and Sherbro Islands, the Loma Mountain and other attractions around the country.

In registering the commitment of the Freetown City Council and the Central Government, the Councillor Constituency 97, Ward 348, Mr. Abu Bakarr Kamara reiterated with great emphasis on the priorities of the government on tourism development as pillar one of the agenda for prosperity, especially on Tasso Island, which he said was a virgin area to tap the richness of nature that could accelerate the growth machinery of the economy; that would provide alternative domestic income to cushion major capital outlays undertaken by the council or the government as the case may. 

He also pointed out that the location of the project was not outside his administrative purview as a councillor, and that what he had seen would be conveyed to the authorities for necessary supportive interventions that would sustain the project; and that the absence of the other key government officials was not deliberate; it was as a result of the fact that the date of the occasion coincided with that of the National Youth Conference on Port Loko, which attracted national attention within the political circle.

Mr. Abu Bakarr Kamara also admonished the islanders with specific reference to the key community stakeholders whose decision and actions,he said determined their social and economic prosperity, and which must be taken with genuine commitment and patriotic interest. He emphatically reiterated that the project would hugely benefit the Tasso island community, which needed to be given the required support; and that with maximum level of sincerity, commitment and dedication, it would attract other development corridors, to address other key needs like Youth and Empowerment Skills Training, Agricultural development, improved fishing activities  and Island Cooperative Societies. 

Mr. Harry Mustapha, commended Mr. Peter Nelson and Island Aid Sierra Leone for this novel initiative of island ecotourism development, will create in social and economic lives in the island. He noted that the chalets that shall accommodate guests/tourists have standard facilities, hygienically suitable with receptive hospitality; and the restaurants would provide visitors with varied delicious African and continental dishes.

The Project Manager, Ms Patience Davies who has varied experience in hotel and restaurant management vowed to provide guests and visiting tourist with splendid hospitality, viz, accommodation and daily meal and refreshment.

In making a closing remark, Mr. Peter Nelson assured the Tasso Community that the project would be implemented in line with the proviso of the terms and conditions of the agreement/Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which would be respected to the fullest. This was followed by cultural performance, musical concert and celebrations that showed a sign of appreciation. Notwithstanding the inherent challenges, the occasion was however a success, as the intended purpose was achieved; and the Chief, Pa Komrabai Turay called on the government through the line MDAs to support the Island’s development agenda.

Dura Koroma
Executive Director
Island Aid Sierra Leone

Mabela Community Needs Urgent Help




In Mabela, East of Freetown, close to 100 houses have been burnt caused by fire accident. The incident has also left many people dead and other wounded with property worth millions destroyed.

Many women and children lie homeless, starving and exhausted. Their families look on as government and aid workers begin a move that can save their situation.

Right now, more than 1, 000 children are suffering from shelter in the crowd infested slums and many others are facing accommodation problems having to host the victims in their houses.

STOP IT-Sierra Leone’s Executive Director John Koroma visited the area and observed that there is a challenging humanitarian crisis situation there and calls for immediate intervention. “It is devastating, only government and aid agencies can help” he said of the crisis.

Please help STOP IT-Sierra Leone and other dedicated humanitarian aid workers fight against the clock to save as many children from homelessness at Mabela.

The fire disaster has not only hit Mabela, but a spike in food prices has also brought thousands of poor displaced and homeless families to starving.

To help the families of the victims, we are preparing to scale up an emergency response in Mabela. With your help, we can be able to provide emergency nutrition for children, health supplies etc.

Please make a donation of blankets, food, medical supplies, or accommodation to support the victims of Mabela to STOP IT-Sierra Leone. The thousands of women and children whose lives are being affected at Mabela are depending on all of us.

To donate, please call: +232-76-482792 / +232-88-431848

Thank you for helping us to save lives.


Friday, 31 March 2017

Sierra Leone Scores Low in 2016 Human Development Index

Development for everyone requires the inclusion of everyone-Global Human Development Report 2016

                               Press Release 

Freetown March 30, 2017Steady progress in human development cannot be achieved if half of the world’s population is bypassed, says the 2016 Global Human Development Report (GHDR). The Report was jointly launched by the Development Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, and the UNDP Resident Representative, on March 30, in Freetown.  

The Report, titled Human Development for Everyone,which was joint launched globally by the UNDP Administrator and the Prime Minister of Sweden in Stockholm on Tuesday of last week shows the unparalleled human development progress over the past 25 years, but says millions have not benefited from the gains. The report explores who has been left behind, why they have been left out and the urgent steps to bring these groups on board.

The Report, which focuses broadly on the richness of human lives rather than narrowly on the strength of economies, highlights the imbalances across countries: socio-economic, ethnic and racial groups; urban and rural areas; and women and men. The Report stresses that millions of people are unable to reach their full potential in life because they suffer deprivations in multiple dimensions of human development.According to the Report, Sierra Leone’s ranking in Human Development Index, which measures progress in long and healthy life, knowledge and decent standard of living, declined from 176 in 2014 to 179 out of the 188 countries and territories in 2015.

Development Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, John Sumailah,said Sierra Leone’s decline in Human Development Index was greatly influenced by the EVD outbreak and the fall in the international price of iron ore. He stressed the Government’s commitment in addressing the recommendations raised in the report to ensure human development reaches every Sierra Leonean.

The UNDP Resident Representative, Sunil Saigal, said the 2016 Human Development Report follows the first year of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the theme of this year’s report was drawn from and built on the SDGs.

The Human Development Report argues that to ensure human development for everyone, merely mapping of the nature and locations of deprivations is inadequate. Deeper analysis is required, including core human development aspects, such as human rights and human security, voice and participation, collective capabilities and interdependency of choices.

The UNDP Economic Advisor, Moses Sichei, while summarizing the findings of the Report, stressed that despite the country’s declined in HDI, live expectancy at birth improved from 50.9 years in 2014 to 51.3 years in 2015. Expected years of schooling and mean year of schooling stuck at 9.5 and 3.3, respectively over the same period. However, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Growth slowed from 4.6 percent in 2014 to negative 21,1 percent in 2015 implying a corresponding decline of the Gross National income per capita from US $ 1,960 to US $ 1,529 over the same period.

Vice Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone, Professor Ekundayo Thompson, said that action towards achieving a human development for all should be accelerated across all sectors particularly on improving the education indicator.

“The latest global Human Development Report is a deafening alarm bell that as a country we need to revisit the education system and make a bold decision to improve on the level of its quality,” said Professor Thompson.

Sierra Leone’s gender inequality remains very high.The female HDI value for Sierra Leone is 0.392 in contrast with 0.451 for males, resulting in a GDI value of 0.871 which is one of the lowest in the world.

Multi-dimensional poverty which measures multiple deprivations in a household in education, health and living standards,that goes beyond the monetary aspects of people’s lives, shows that 77.5 percent of Sierra Leonean are multi-dimensionally poor.

The launch was witnessed by representatives of government ministries, departments and agencies, ambassadors, high commissioners, parliamentarians, development partners, policy-makers, gender activists, academicians, media, civil society and officials of the United Nations. 

For more information, please contact:
UNDP Communications Unit. Email: communication.sl@undp.org. Follow us on Twitter @UNDPSierraLeone and Facebook on UNDP Sierra Leone, or log on to www.sl.undp.org .

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UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in more than 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations.

LAB trains 44 Tribal Heads as Paralegals

The Sierra Leone Legal Aid Board has trained forty-four members of the Western Area Council of Tribal Heads, their deputies, Section Chiefs and Barray Clerks as Paralegals. The training took place at the Sierra Leone Labour Congress Hall last Thursday, 23 March 2017. 

The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles said the training is the first in a series to be organized by the Board in the coming months. She acknowledged the pivotal role of Tribal Heads in promoting access to justice because they dispense justice in an affordable and speedy manner.

She said the Tribal Heads are being trained as Paralegals to empower their mediation skills. Also, it will enable them to work with the police and the courts to assist their tribe’s men and women in accessing the formal justice system and do referrals for matters which fall outside their remit.

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said the training is part of efforts by the Legal Aid Board to recognize their status in the justice delivery system. ‘We want to lobby government to have Local Courts in Freetown but first have to train you as Paralegals to build your capacity to dispense justice to address issues people, especially lawyers, have against you.’ She said. ‘This will address complaints you have against lawyers relating to undermining your authority.’

She encouraged the Tribal Heads to hold community level meetings to preserve some of the good tradition, one of which relate to the upbringing of children which was seen as a community affair. She noted that youths make up more than eighty percent of the prison population and that such meetings could go a long way to reverse this trend.

Papers were presented by staff of the Board on the work of the Paralegals in the areas of mediation, provision of legal assistance to members of the community accessing the formal and informal justice system, organizing legal education through community outreach and monitoring human rights issues in the community.

Contributions were made by the various tribes represented at the meeting. This includes the Susu, Yalunka, Temne, Loko, Mende, Mandingo, Bagga, Limba, Kono, Koranko and Bassa.

A Chief of the Temne community, Ya Alimamy Manso Karama noted that the training has helped them know the difference between matters they can handle and those to refer to the police.

The Kono Tribal Headman, Chief S.O. Gbekie stressed that the training has helped address issues of extortion in the courts run by members of the Council. The Public Relations Officer for the Council of Tribal Heads, Alhaji Kandeh F.M. Kamara said there is a clear line of authority between the Tribal Heads and the sub-chiefs stressing that there is no conflict between the two.

Dr. Sarian Kamara appointed chairperson of AU Committee

In conformity with the AU Consultative Act for composition of the Specialized Technical Committee (STC) and following due consultative amongst member states, the Bureau of the STC on Health, Population and Drug Control also appointed Vice Chairpersons for Cameroon-Central Africa, Mauritania - North Africa, Kenya - East Africa whilst Dr. Sarian Kamara was appointed Chairperson representing Sierra Leone for the West Africa region.

“Youth, Health and Development: Overcoming the challenge towards Harnessing the Demographic Dividend” was the theme slated for the meeting.
The Specialized Technical Committee (STC) on Health, Population and Drug Control is one of fourteen Specialized Technical Committee, defined as an organ of the African Union in accordance with Article 5 (1) (g) of the AU Consultative Act. The STC on Health, Population and Drug Control meets once every two years

The rationale is based on Health, Population and Nutrition and on the Health and Socio-economic consequences of illicit drugs on youth.
The rationale is looking at the Africa ‘we want’ as an Africa which is prosperous based on inclusive growth and sustainable development, on Africa whose development is people driven, and reliant on the potential offered by its people especially its women and Children. An Africa where there is a high standard of living and quality of life and well-being for all of its citizens, who are healthy and well nourished. The importance of ensuring good health is key to reducing youth vulnerability and to maximize capital investment.

A combination of low mortality and fertility is a critical element for harnessing the demographic dividend, whilst child mortality rates in Africa have declined, fertility rates have remained high, with a continental average of 4.7 (World Population Prospects 2015 Revision). In some Africa countries, the fertility rate stands as high as 7.6. These phenomena give rise to high youth dependency rates and manifest themselves in many other challenges as there are limited resources to adequately invest in the development of each individual.
On the Health and Socio-economic consequences of illicit drugs on youth as alluded to earlier, a major objective of AU Agenda 2063 is to unleash the full potential of African Youth and women to boost socio-economic development. It is estimated that 68 of Africa’s Population is under age 30. That Youth can be critical agents for positive socio-economic change if appropriate investments are made and their rights to education, employment are made and their rights realized, in order to unleash their power to innovate and become productive citizens. Alternatively youth could turn into an army of employed youth which may increase social risks and tension. These and many more are within the rationale of the meeting.

Other highlights include presentations and discussions on Health Population and Drugs control, Briefing on opportunities and challenges on Human Resources for health, the milestones towards the setting up of the African Medicines Agency (AMA), sustainable school feeding and nutrition initiative implications for harnessing Africa’s Demographic dividend recommended that the maternal, newborn and Child Health Task Force prepare a Biennial Maternal, Newborn, and child health status Report up to 2030 in order to ensure political support. The Committee further decided  that the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Task Force ensures that Adolescent health is given more prominence in subsequent Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health status Reports.

The Experts meeting considered the 2017 Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health 2017 Report and observed the need for the Commission to enrich the Report by including the AU Commission’s ability to mobilize political support and leadership to end preventable maternal, child and newborn deaths through the AU campaign frame work to ending child marriage as good practice, highlighting the issues of conflicts and health emergencies such as Ebola,Zika and its negative impacts on maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health on the continent. Other recommendation was on Good governance and conflict prevention to mitigate the negative impact of conflict on maternal, Newborn, Child health and Adolescent health on the continent

The meeting was attended by delegates from the AU Member States: Algeria, Angola, Congo, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Eriteria, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, South Africa, The Sudan, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the United Republic of Guinea.

LAB secures release of 2 school kids

The Legal Aid Board has secured the discharge of two school pupils in less than twenty-four hours. One of the school kids standing trial for robbery with violence was discharge on Thursday, 30 March 2017. He was arrested in Waterloo in March. He claimed to have spent seven days at the Waterloo Police Station before the matter was charged to court. 

He made his first appearance at the Waterloo Magistrate court on 14 March 2017. He was denied bail and the matter was remitted to Juvenile Court No. 8 in Freetown where he was represented by the Board’s Juvenile Lawyer, Joel Deen-Tarwally.

On March 28, Lawyer Deen-Tarawally made an application for discharge on the grounds that the boy is below fourteen years and therefore cannot be held criminally responsible for his actions. The application was denied. At the same time, the Magistrate ordered an age assessment. Bail application was also granted.

The age assessment result presented in court on March 30 revealed that the boy is between the age of 12 and 13. Lawyer Deen-Tarawally therefore applied for discharge of the boy pursuant to Section 70 of the Child Rights Act 2007. The application was granted by Magistrate Otto During.   

The boy is a primary school pupil from Lungi. He was tracked at the Dems Juvenile Home in Kingtom during routine monitoring by Joseph Turay, a Social Worker with Defence for Children International. Joseph was able to trace the boy’s family in Lungi. He also approached the Legal Aid Board for legal assistance.

The Board also secured the discharge of a child from Tombo who was charged with sexual penetration. The child spent nine days in the adult cell at the Tombo Police Station before the matter was charged on the 23 February 2017. He spent over two months on remand and made four appearances in Court No. 8 before he was discharged for want of prosecution on March 29. He was also represented by Lawyer Deen-Tarawally.

During pre-discharge brief, the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles encouraged the children to waste no time in returning school when they reunite with their families. ‘Education should be your number one priority as a child,’ she said. She called on relevant agencies to play their part in rehabilitating the children.