There is a common humanity binding all sierra Leoneans

Julius Maada Bio (Former Head of State – Sierra Leone)

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 June 2015Maada Bio speaking in London3

Last year – the news from home was bleak and it broke my heart daily. I doubt there is a person in this room who has not been touched by the tragedy of the Ebola virus.

For all the victims of Ebola, and all those who never got a chance to fulfill their potential in our beloved Sierra Leone, may you rest in Eternal Peace!

And now, whilst we are not entirely out of the woods, victory over this monstrous virus is nearly at hand. As the battle against the virus is being won, we must redirect our collective energy to the task of rebuilding and unifying the nation.

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Is Sierra Leone sleep walking into another round of Ebola epidemic?

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 June 2015

Ebola - Weep Not Mother

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa which has taken the life of over 11,000 people in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, may have significantly receded, especially with Liberia being declared Ebola free, but Sierra Leone and Guinea continue to record new cases of the deadly disease.

Given the insidious history of the virus and its cruel track record in terms of the rapidity with which it is transmitted and spread across geographical boundaries, there are fears complacency and lethargy are beginning to surface once again, in the fight to eradicate the disease in Sierra Leone and Guinea.

In just over a month, more than 60 new cases have been confirmed in the capital city Freetown and northern districts of Sierra Leone.

Whilst this rate of infection may be much smaller than the monthly average recorded throughout the second half of 2014, serious questions are being asked as to whether the authorities in Sierra Leone do have the leadership capability and commitment to bring the Ebola crisis to an end anytime soon.

But what is certain however is that, whilst the search for a cost effective cure and vaccine continues, the road to success is believed to be shrouded in secrecy and plagued by corruption.

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Victor Foh – first hundred days as Sierra Leone’s vice president

Baimba Sesay – Beijing China

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 June 2015

VICTOR FOH

After few days of anxiety and speculations, Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh (Photo), Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China was announced and sworn-in as the country’s new Vice President on 19th March 2015.

The jubilation that greeted the announcement was ecstatic, as if the public had had wind of the President’s “inner mind”.

Ambassador Foh was not among the many names that made the rounds in the media, the gossip columns and even on the “bush” radio.

As cleavages formed around one or the other names that had been brandished, the President made the  right choice: a neutral and non-ambitious, but a forthright Vice President would provide him with the greatest asset.

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Sierra Leone Bar Association rebukes Awareness Times Newspaper

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 June 2015

law courts building freetown

In response to what many in Sierra Leone regard as an unfair attack on the integrity of a senior Judge in Freetown by one of the country’s newspapers – Awareness Times, the Bar Association has strongly condemned what it calls a publication that ‘has the propensity to fuel public hatred and discontent and bring disrepute to the judiciary and the judge concerned’.

But the editor of the Awareness Times argues that its publication, which follows the court ruling by Justice Alan Halloway, ordering the country’s media watchdog – the IMC, to reduce the fine levied against the Independent Observer for breach of media standards, was in the public interest.

Awareness Times accuses the Judge of lacking in integrity and unfit to practice, citing a previous unsuccessful corruption indictment of Judge Halloway by the Anti-Corruption Commission.

But fact remains that, Judge Halloway was, and has never been convicted of any offence. This calls into question, the fierce attack being waged by Awareness Times against Justice Halloway.

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Can we all come with you to Germany for routine health checks, Mr President? – A rejoinder

Alan Luke

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 June 2015

President koroma in Brussels March 2015

This is a very interesting piece, and it highlights the fact that our leaders have no genuine commitment to our advancement and development as a nation. (Photo: Koroma arriving in Brussels in March 2015).

Koroma and his ruling elites travel overseas not just for their regular medical health checks and their shopping sprees. They do not trust the education systems in Sierra Leone, and so educate their children overseas.

But this is not new. I recall as a child listening to a cabinet minister being interviewed by Elizabeth Blunt on the BBC World Service in the 1980s. When asked why ministers were driving around in very expensive Mitsubishi Pajeros, which the public purse could not afford, the minister retorted that the roads were in a very bad condition.

It is not surprising that Koroma can tell journalists that he is travelling and has always travelled abroad for his health checks, and to make a point that he had missed his routine check in 2014, without being challenged about the men, women and children in Sierra Leone who cannot even afford basic medicines, while he can travel abroad to undergo a medical check.

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Can we all come with you to Germany for routine health checks, Mr President?

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 June 2015

president koroma off to washington - April 2015

 

Last week president Koroma of Sierra Leone reminded the world, of the lavish lifestyles lived by former and contemporary African corrupt dictators, such as the late president Mobutu of Zaire and several others, whose expensive habits included health tourism abroad.

Speaking to local media, without any compunction or sense of betrayal of the poor people of Sierra Leone, who have no other choice but to make do with the creaking health service in the country, Koroma said that he has always travelled abroad for his annual routine medical checkup.

He told Awareness Times: “For some two decades now since the time I was just a private business man, throughout my years as the Opposition Leader and now as President, every year I fly out of the country on a private basis to undertake extensive medical check-ups…I missed my 2014 annual medical check-up and 2015 itself is now halfway gone so I am heading out for a few days to do my annual extensive routine tests.”

Routine checks – all the way in Germany? What’s wrong with the handful of highly qualified private doctors in Sierra Leone? Are they not good enough for the president?

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Africa needs to reform its trade policies – if it is to boost industrialization

Franck Kuwonu

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 June 2015

Sanusi-Lamido

Sanusi Lamido (Photo), a former governor of the central bank of Nigeria, once railed against his country for spending “huge resources importing consumer goods from China that should be produced locally.”

Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and most populous country, is also the continent’s largest crude oil producer, but imports most of its refined oil.

Exporting raw commodities and then spending vast sums of money on manufactured imports is hardly unique to the Nigeria-China trade relationship. Most African countries are in similar situations with China, the European Union, the United States or other overseas trade partners.

Although China has set up mining operations across Africa and is heavily involved in building infrastructure, much of its activities on the continent involve imported equipment and labour and no skill transfers, Mr. Lamido observed.

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Ebola has seriously affected the development of teenage girls in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 June 2015

school children - Sierra Leone CAR

According to Sierra Leone News Agency, the director of the country’s reproductive and child health programme in the ministry of health and sanitation – Dr. Santigie Sesay, has confirmed the fears of most people.

Sesay said that the Ebola outbreak has had an adverse impact on the education of teenage girls, as a result of school closure and other factors.

Dr. Sesay was addressing a consultative meeting on the impact of Ebola on teenage girls. Participants included stakeholders drawn from education, social welfare, local government, UNFPA, teachers and pupils from pilot secondary schools.

The meeting was organized by the National Secretariat for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy in Sierra Leone.

Dr. Sesay also told delegates that the Ebola virus disease has had a negative impact on those accessing health facilities, because of fear, misconceptions and rumours.

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Ray of hope of Sierra Leone achieving Zero Ebola cases by mid-July

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 June 2015

kailahun ebola2 

This week saw the weekly confirmed Ebola cases reported in Sierra Leone reaching a two-month high of sixteen cases, up from only two a month ago – says the International Office for Migration (IOM) in Sierra Leone.

In a report published today, IOM says that each day, thousands of travellers cross the international border between Kambia in Sierra Leone and Forecariah in Guinea. This corridor between the capital cities of Freetown and Conakry remains a major hotspot area, despite significant humanitarian interventions, it warns.

IOM says that the new caseload has seen the president of Sierra Leone declare a 21-day surge, known as Operation Northern Push in Kambia and Port Loko, with a ‘strictly enforced’ 6am-6pm curfew and travel ban in place, in a concerted effort to get to zero new cases by early July.

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Can Africa fund its own growth?

Tonderayi Mukeredzi

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 June 2015

Ghana economy1Despite witnessing exceptional growth in development finance in recent years, Africa is still faced with the arduous task of mobilizing adequate resources to fund its growth and future transformation agenda.

Given the paucity of external development assistance, and low commodity prices for its goods and services, Africa has awakened to the fact that it must rely on its own financial resources for sustainable development.

One of the leading pan-African bodies, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), says infrastructure development in Africa has the potential to raise gross domestic product (GDP) by 2% and develop the backbone for rapid industrialization, which in turn could boost the capacity of the continent to generate more domestic resources.

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Ebola’s most affected countries lobby for funds for hospital infrastructure

Kingsley Ighobor

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 June 2015

ebola must go2

On 10 May 2015, a day after the World Health Organization declared Liberia Ebola-free, stern-faced health officials were holding marathon meetings in different rooms at the country’s health ministry. Their business-like mood contrasted with the celebratory atmosphere on the streets of the capital, Monrovia.

Newly appointed health minister, Bernice Dahn, Liberia’s former Chief Medical Officer, told Africa Renewal in an interview that Liberia’s healthcare system continued to face dangerous headwinds and her staff was frantically finalizing a blueprint to avert another catastrophe.

To address Liberia’s problematic healthcare system, Dr. Dahn had a long wish list of solutions. They included the building of new health facilities, enhancement of diagnostic services, an emergency preparedness and response structure, the hiring of qualified personnel to work in health facilities and a commitment of more money to the sector. “Our healthcare infrastructure was not built to respond to infectious diseases,” explained the minister.

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“Yes – I am passionate about the Bondo Society” – says Dr. Sia Ahmadu

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 June 2015

Dr  Fuambai Sia Ahmadu  jpg2Dr. Fuambai Sia Ahmadu’s (Photo) article about so called FGM published here, was always going to be highly controversial and thought provoking.

But this is nothing new for Sierra Leone’s most formidable African women empowerment advocate and champion.

Almost single-handedly taking on the rich and powerful anti-African female circumcision movement, Dr. Sia Ahmadu is most certainly keeping alive the question as to whether the debate should be about regulation and raising of the age of consent, rather than an outright ban of a cultural practice which many women regard as their right and freedom to chose.

There are many deadly things that are killing thousands of people every year in Sierra Leone – including cigarettes, alcohol, drug abuse, poverty, corruption, and teenage pregnancy, which pro-female circumcision campaigners say should be prioritised.

Responding to critics of her scathing attack on what she sees as Western hypocrisy and neo-colonialism, Dr. Ahmadu says this: “In Sierra Leone, we will have this open debate on the international protocols that the GoSL has signed on to concerning the bodies of the vast majority of women in the country without their knowledge or participation in any of these formal and back door deliberations.”    Continue reading

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Is Bondo for white women now? Caitlyn Jenner’s “initiation” into western womanhood

Fuambai Sia Ahmadu, PhD (Editor in-Chief and Publisher – SiA Magazine)

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 June 2015

caitlyn jenner

A couple of weeks or so ago Reverend Kabs Kanu’s Cocorioko, published a cover picture of some random, recycled internet image of a presumably African woman – her arms flailing and she is screaming in either horrific pain or terror or both.  Her bottom half is cut off from sight, so we don’t know what is going on – is she giving birth?  No.

The sensational headlines invite the reader to conclude that she is a victim of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), allegedly the greatest crime against girls and women in Africa and beyond.

Whilst Cocorioko – a Sierra Leonean owned pro-government online newspaper, was busy publically and globally humiliating the vast majority of Sierra Leonean adult women as well as our mothers and grandmothers – through this demeaning representation of Bondo society, the American upscale women’s lifestyle magazine Vanity Fair, stole the show last week with a front cover outing of Caitlyn Jenner, the newly transformed white Bondo woman (Photo: Above).

So, what do I mean by this?  How can I equate Bruce Jenner’s turning into Caitlyn Jenner with Bondo or so called FGM in Sierra Leone?

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What African women want in 2015

Ecoma Alaga  and Ndidi Anyaegbunam

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 June 2015

Freetown market women protest - 3 Jan 2013 - politico

At this year’s annual summit of the African Union, attending leaders declared 2015 the Year of Women’s Empowerment, in acknowledgement of the increasing role women are playing in Africa’s development.

(Photo: Market women protesting in Freetown).

The declaration comes as the continent prepares to kick-start the implementation of its 50-year development plan that was launched in 2013.  Dubbed Agenda 2063, the plan is a pan-African vision that is expected to steer the continent towards “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”.

The declaration is also a display of AU’s renewed political commitment and support for the women’s empowerment and gender equality agenda.

Critics have welcomed the move, but note that Africa must go beyond talking and match its words with concrete action and allocate appropriate resources if there is going to be any meaningful change in the lives of African women and girls.

This will require a change from simply adopting policies, to fully enforcing existing pro-women policies and initiatives.

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Celebratory rise in African women’s political participation – women legislators inches upward

Kingsley Ighobor

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 June 2015

Banda-and-Johnson

A few weeks after she was sworn in as Malawi’s first female president, Joyce Banda (Photo: Left – with Sirleaf) travelled to Liberia in late April 2012 to meet President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has occupied Liberia’s highest office since January 2006.

Glowing in African attire, both leaders bantered like sisters during a press conference.

“This is our day, this is our year, this is our decade,” enthused Ms. Banda. “The two of us have great strength,” added Ms. Sirleaf. “Together, we can do more to empower women and to ensure that women’s role in society is enhanced.”

After the media event, Duncan Cassell, Liberia’s gender minister, said, “Now we have Joyce [Banda]. Ms. Sirleaf is not going to be lonely among men anymore.”

To be sure, before Ms. Banda became president, photos of African leaders at African Union summits, for example, depicted a group of men surrounding Ms. Sirleaf, who had been the only female president in Africa then.

Gender equality advocates had further reason to celebrate, when Catherine Samba-Panza was sworn in on 23 January 2014 as interim president of the Central African Republic (CAR), making her the fourth African female head of state.

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VP Foh asserts commitment to Sierra Leone women empowerment

John Baimba Sesay-Freetown

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 June 2015

women farmers - investing-african-agricultureSierra Leone’s Vice President, Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh on Friday, 12 June, said that the Government of President Ernest Bai Koroma  gives great  prominence to the issue of women empowerment and gender equality, as could be seen in Pillar 8 of the country’s development plan – the Agenda for Prosperity (AFP).

He spoke in Makeni, whilst deputizing President Koroma, during the official launch of the Women Empowered for Leadership and Development (WELD) Project at the Wusum Hotel.

According to Vice President Foh, the government had invested considerable expertise, efforts and resources into the Agenda for Prosperity, and considerable gains, he said, were made in the country, prior to the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease.

Despite the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in the country, Vice President Foh said, that the government is committed to meeting the development goals outlined in the AFP, especially in creating an admirable Sierra Leone. “It has not impeded our resolve to move forward and take the country to another level”, he assured.

Speaking about the WELD Project, Ambassador Foh said that the overall project goal is to increase women’s social, economic and political participation in the governance realm and  “support women’s leadership development by building the capacity of local councils and sub-national entities to plan, manage and deliver appropriate gender sensitive programmes and policies for effective service delivery”.

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Sierra Leone parliamentary report into missing Ebola funds is a whitewash

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 June 2015

Missing Ebola fundsThe long awaited parliamentary report into the missing $14 million Ebola funds, that was last Thursday presented to parliament by committee chairman Chernor Bah, is nothing but a whitewash and a travesty of justice.

The publication of this report follows the strong criticisms and misgivings raised by the Sierra Leone Telegraph, regarding the controversial decision of parliament, which prevented the police, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the judiciary, from carrying out the investigations and prosecuting those charged with criminality.

This politically motivated action by a parliament dominated by ruling party members, is not only regarded as contemptuous of the people’s liberty, but undermines the independence of the criminal justice system and the credibility of the ACC.

Above all, there are fears such precedence will also undermine efforts to rid the country of the culture of corruption that sadly defines its international image, and is responsible for the sickening levels of poverty it suffers, as well as decades of under-development.

Government ministers and parliament have no business interfering in the due process of law, when citizens are being held accountable for their actions by the Anti-Corruption Commission.

This government has proven that it is no different from the Kabbah government it criticised endlessly, for political interference in the work of the ACC.

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A new horizon beckons for Dr. Yumkella as countdown begins

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 June 2015

kandeh yumkella and koroma4In less than ten weeks, Kandeh Yumkella (Photo) will be leaving the United Nations to return to his native Sierra Leone, to help the country in its post-Ebola recovery.

This is certainly going to be a national challenge for which, president Koroma will be requiring all hands on deck to succeed – no matter the political complexion.

Already, the farewell parade began at the prestigious United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), during the 2nd Annual Sustainable Energy for All Forum, bringing to a close an illustrious career on the global stage that spanned almost two decades.

The annual forum which was launched by Yumkella last year, convened in New York from May 18-21, with over 2500 registered participants – including heads of UN agencies, over 100 government ministers, CEOs, and other high-level dignitaries.

Among the many highlights were the Nigerian Billionaire Tony Elumelu, John Podesta (chair of the Obama transition team and now chair of the 2016 Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign), and the pop icon Akon, among others.

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Court orders Sierra Leone media watchdog to reduce fine against newspaper

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 June 2015

Newspaper seller in Freetown

After last week’s massive fines levied against several local newspapers in Sierra Leone for violation of the country’s media laws, a High Court appeal by lawyers representing a local newspaper – the Independent Observer, ruled last Friday, 5th June, that whilst the decision by the Independent Media Commission (IMC) against the paper was in order, the imposed fine was excessive, disproportionate and must be reviewed.

This Court judgement delivered by Justice Allan Halloway, will be regarded by legal observers as a landmark decision, in a country where far too often the judiciary is seen as an adjunct of the political class and government officials.

Hence last Friday’s court ruling against the IMC, will go a long way towards confidence building between the judiciary and the country’s media.

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United States continues to oppose third term presidency in Africa

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 June 2015

president koroma and obama

After months of violence and growing political and social instability in Burundi, caused by the decision of the president to seek a third term re-election into office, which has seen the death of over one hundred civilians and the assassination of an opposition leader, there is still no sight of an end to the deadly impasse. (Photo: Wise words from Obama to Koroma of Sierra Leone). 

In far away West Africa, alarm bells continue to be sounded as cronies of president Koroma of Sierra Leone, discuss plans for a national referendum on the issue of whether Koroma should be granted a third term in office.

Koroma himself is beginning to lose the appetite for a fight that may ensue, should he decide to tamper with the country’s constitution in order to facilitate a third term ambition.

In Burundi, president Nkurunziza is digging his heels ever more deeply into the heart of the country’s national peace accord – the Arusha Agreement, risking another bloody civil war.

But president Obama is insisting that there is no place in democracy for the violation of national constitutions in Africa by despotic leaders.

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