From The Editor’s Desk

by Sierraeye

Hey readers,

It has been close to a year since the new administration of President Julius Maada Bio was elected into office. There were commitments to translate the campaign promises articulated in the New Direction Manifesto to concrete policy actions. In this edition, we examine the successes and challenges in a number of sectors.

We also discuss the progress, or lack of it in the decentralization process since the local councils were reintroduced some fifteen years ago. The whole concept of devolution was fairly new and hailed across the country. However, in the last couple of years many local council have a multitude of trials. An ostensible foot-dragging approach was adopted by most policy makers within a number of Ministries, Departments and Agencies which undermined the progress of decentralization.

In this edition, we also look at the Office of the Administrator and Registrar-General, which is charged with the responsibility of registering and administering businesses. is mandated to ensure an efficient and effective administration of and registration of entities such as business registration, land transactions, industrial property, marriages and administration of the estates of deceased persons as mandated by law. The creation of a one-stop-shop, bringing together the National Revenue Authority and Freetown City Council under one umbrella has been a major reform within the office that has contributed to the ease of doing business. We talk to the new Administrator and Registrar-General about the challenges she inherited and about the crucial role of women in leadership and in government.

Readers may recall the 1977 student uprising and how it changed student politics. In this edition, we take a look at student activism today and the violence associated with it.

In recent months, the justice sector has been under the spotlight, not always for the right reasons. In an exclusive in-depth one-on-one interview, Dr. Abdulai Osman Conteh, a jurist with decades of experience in both law and politics, provides an insight into how a number of issues including how we can guarantee the independence of the judiciary. He also offers his thoughts on the ongoing Commissions of Inquiry.

In the October-December 2018 edition, SierraEye covered the First Lady’s drive to raise awareness about child prostitution. As a sequel, we report on the recent declaration by the president of rape and sexual penetration of minors as a public emergency. His declaration of a mandatory life jail sentence for offenders without an amendment to the Sexual Offences Act has drawn concerns from some quarters, not least from the Bar Association.

Music is a major business across the world. Across the continent, this industry has evolved over time. We review the music of Sierra Leone and discuss the factors inhibiting the progress of the industry in the country  compared to other nations in the sub region.

As you go through the pages, you will realize we also focused on the revival of football.

We are hopeful, that you will be having a happy reading.

John Baimba Sesay


Dear Sir,

Drivers are stubborn

Government has over the years increased the price of fuel products especially petrol. Such increase most often sparks off tension leading to fistfights among passengers and commercial motor drivers. This year is no exception.


It will be recalled that in January this year, the government of President Julius Maada Bio reduced the pump price of petrol, kerosene and diesel and ordered petrol, for instance, to be reduced from Le8,000 per litre to Le 7,000; whilst kerosene and diesel dropped to Le7,500 respectively. Consequently, the government through the Ministry of Transport and Aviation announced the new transport fare from one destination to another especially in the city of Freetown. Interestingly, and sadly for passengers who ply the city, the commercial derivers, namely, poda poda, taxi drivers and kehkeh drivers have not bulged; some have even increased the fares instead of reducing them and nobody in authority has said a word about it.


Are we saying government is not aware of this seeming disregard on the part of the drivers? The motor driver’s union seems helpless or are they colluding with the drivers? The traders including business people, government workers and other ordinary Sierra Leoneans are getting impatient; if government cannot act on their behalf, they have the right to act for themselves. In view of the difficult economic situation, it’s time to tame the intransigent commercial drivers.  Government should be aware of this. The ordinary masses are suffering. And the drivers are compounding their problems further.

Abu Kargbo

Allan Town, Freetown


Dear Editor,

Civil society voice has disappeared from our democratic space

I am a devoted follower of the vibrant role civil society groups played in the country. They took government to task on issues of national concern. This was an encouraging development for a developing democracy like ours. I recall when then Vice President, Sam Sumana was sacked, civil society groups voiced their views on the issue. Overall, they were vivacious and I appreciated their role.


Sir, this has however changed. There has been a shift. In the last couple of months, most of them have gone dormant. I also realized that some of them have got political appointments. Take the issue of rape and sexual violence. It was a great move by the President to address the scourge. But his call for life imprisonment of offenders raised public concern, given the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act, 2012, which called for a maximum sentence of 15 years. Unfortunately, I have not heard much from those civil society groups that were very vocal.


I would appreciate to see a review or amendment to this law. That said, I think the executive should allow such a function to be performed by parliament than just changing the law by a presidential declaration. But right groups tend not to be watching or seeing.  This is not good for our democracy.


Memunatu Sheriff

Bo town


Dear Sir,

Unavailability of Electricity Supply at Devil Hole Community

On behalf of the residents of Devil Hole, a community situate in the Western Area Rural District, Freetown, I would like to bring to the notice or attention of the government and other key stakeholders, the unavailability of electricity supply in this part of the country. Grateful if you can cause the publication of this news in your newspaper for prompt action.

Sir/madam, you will agree with me that daily or uninterrupted electricity supply is crucial to the socio-economic and infrastructural development of any society. Thus, the desire or need for it should not be over-emphasized. And Devil Hole is one such community that currently lacks such supply from our national electricity supplying body- EDSA.

The people of Devil Hole community have been crying for too long for this facility. But it appears such a cry has not been heard by our respective governments. The size of the community has grown, and population continues to increase. Besides, there exist medical health centers, schools, and other social amenities that require constant electricity.

It is therefore the humble call of the residents of the Devil Hole community to the current government and other major stake-holders to intervene and make our dream of getting electricity come to fruition soon.

Mohamed Turay

Sematown, Devil Hoe


Dear Editor,

Football is back but I am apprehensive!

I have been a football loving fan that felt deprived by the seeming death of football for a long period. The FIFA ban on Sierra Leone has not been of any good to us. There were major issues that had to be resolved; above all what it needed then was the political will to have the game played and fans entertained.  I have misgivings on government’s decision to spend billions of Leones on clubs just as part of its commitment to bring football back,. We cannot be seen to be funding clubs that should be able to locally raise funds for their smooth operations.


That notwithstanding, it is also positive news, that the country is back on its toes, with the president giving his support to what I would call ‘the rebirth of football.’ Football is a tool that helps to bring people together. This is what I have witnessed since the return of the Premier League with thousands of compatriots thronging the National Stadium to support their teams. I am hopeful that the momentum that has been placed on the game is maintained, funding sustained, and we work towards resolving our differences with FIFA so that we begin to play international football once again.

Mustapha Kargbo



New Year, New Direction?

It has been a great start, a new year but with huge challenges. The year ushered in a new development roadmap for the country, the New Direction, the country’s new administration’s framework for socio-economic growth.  What has been done in their first ten months in office? In this edition, we take a look at the economy, education, agriculture, justice and sport sectors.


The economy:

Sierra Leone continues to make progress, but with a number of protracted challenges.  Since 2009, the country been making gradual shift in terms of funding her development, from overwhelmingly dependent on donors to more self-funding. There has been an increase in domestically-financed capital spending.


The key factors that have an adverse impact on the economy in recent years include the Ebola outbreak and the decline in prices of raw materials like iron ore which led to the closure of Shandong Iron and Steel Company.  The African Development Bank Group on Sierra Leone’s economic outlook notes that “the fiscal deficit continued to worsen to an estimated 7.7% of GDP in 2018 from 6.8% in 2017, due largely to a shortfall in revenue mobilization and overspending related to elections.”

In his 2018 budget speech in parliament, Jacob Jusu Saffa, Sierra Leone’s finance minister, said prospects for the economy were promising but there were a number of risks that could inhibit the achievement of the anticipated macroeconomic objectives.  According to the Minister, these risks include:

  • A continuous slump in the price of iron ore, our main export commodity, could delay the resumption of iron ore mining with negative implications for growth, revenue and foreign exchange earnings;
  • A further rise in the international prices of petroleum products and its implications for domestic inflation, given the full pass-through into domestic pump prices;
  • Delays in the disbursement of budget support and subsequent implications for financing priority programmes in the 2019 Budget


A major priority of fiscal policy for the coming years is to pursue fiscal consolidation, taking into account increased domestic revenue generation. The new year also saw the country’s revenue assessing and collection body, the National Revenue Authority, improve its revenue collection drive, due to what Minister Saffa called the “fiscal consolidation efforts pursued since April 2018.” However, revenue from taxation appears to have overtaken revenue from the mining sector. If this trend continues, it will pose a challenge to private sector growth and a challenge to investors.

The implementation of measures aimed at restoring fiscal discipline are most welcomed. The Single Treasury Account, the harmonization of the national wage and cutting down on tax waiver concessions are all positive and reassuring developments. These measures had been in existence before. If continued, sustained and consolidated, they could provide a strong basis for the growth of our economy.

Free, Quality Education:

In August 2018, the country launched the Free Quality Education scheme, as one of the government’s flagship programmes to be phased over a five-year period, with over 1.5 million children expected to benefit from it.


Speaking at the official launch, Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Alpha Timbo was optimistic, the initiative “will no doubt increase educational outcomes; and human resource capital will be strengthened to meet the growing social and technological revolution in a globalized world.” To signal its commitment, government increased budgetary allocation to the sector from 12 to 21 percent, with the finance ministry allocating over forty billion Leones as school fees to all government and government assisted schools.


Development partners like UK Aid, World Bank, Irish Aid, World Food Programme and UNICEF have been supportive, too.  Government is said to have received $17.4 Million from the Global Partnership for Education to implement a programme that will focus primarily on early childhood development, early learning assessment and systems strengthening.

However, the initiative faces a number of challenges. To ensure good output in the class would require a reduced pupil to teacher ratio. Most schools have over the estimated 50 pupils per class proposed. In addition, according to a parent Philip Thoronka, the problem with extra charges still exists. Teachers have also asked for better conditions of services, a crucial element to help motivate  them as they play their part in the delivery of free, quality education.

As expected, there was an overwhelming increase in the number of pupils that enrolled at the start of the academic year. This led to some schools not getting the books promised by government as part of the free package.  54 out of 90 containers of English and Mathematics books for Secondary Schools procured through UK Aid arrived in the country and are being distributed to all the districts since January 14th, 2019.

“Challenges are being faced in the distribution process because of poor terrain and bureaucracies with Town and City Councils in accessing funds for such distribution”, said Brima Turay, Deputy Director, School Broadcasting and Public Relations Officer, Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education.

Turay also disclosed that “Out of 2,205 requests for the replacement of teachers, 1402 have been processed and 1,304 have received pin codes” with finance ministry committing funds for the recruitment of 5,000 teachers this year.

Respect for the rule of law:

As provided in its 1991 constitution, Sierra Leone is a constitutional multiparty democracy. The judiciary is a vital organ in ensuring adherence to the rule of law and the protection of the fundamental rights of citizens.


In his speech at the state opening of parliament, President Bio, promised to lead by example by “refraining from acting unconstitutionally.”  An independent judiciary is crucial in a democracy or else, “the efforts of government, the protection of the citizens’ rights, economic development, societal peace and concord would all be in vain,” said Dr. Abdulai O. Conteh, a jurist of longstanding.


2019 didn’t start with much fanfare for the country which continues to witness long undue delays of cases in court, with remand prisoners spending a considerable time in prison awaiting trial, in some cases linger time than the sentence for the crime accused persons serving years on remand in much to the hindrance of their fundamental rights. The need for judicial reform is long overdue, though huge resources keep coming for such efforts particularly so from the British, who have contributed over £40 million towards reforming the justice sector.


The new dispensation promised working towards advancing the rule of law. The New Direction manifesto promised to “undertake an overhaul of the judiciary and the justice delivery system in the country with a view to restoring public confidence in its independence and impartiality and make justice accessible and available for all. The is a need to increase the number and quality of judges and magistrates.


There are challenges in ensuring an independent judiciary. In February, the president declared rape and sexual penetration a national emergency and called for life imprisonment of offenders without parliament amending the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Subsequently, the Honourable Chief Justice, through a memorandum, dated 7th February 2019, directed all judges to comply with the directive. The Sierra Leone Bar Association in a press release dated 16th February 2019, urged the Chief Justice to withdraw the said directive “and allow parliament to perform its function.”


Commissions of Inquiry (COI)

Our exclusive interview with Dr. Abdulai O. Conteh gives an explicit description of the COI, their history and effects on governance in the country. At the launch of the Commissions, the Honourable Attorney-General and Minister of Justice provided Government’s reaction to the hotly debated issue of the rules of procedure and evidence of the Commissions. The Bar Association issued a release criticizing her for commenting on a matter which was sub-judice.


The Bar Association believes that some sections in the instrument establishing the COI contravene section 150 of the 1991 constitution and had urged the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to ensure that the provisions of the constitution were fully complied with. The Attorney-General responded that the Commissions of Inquiry will and shall not wait for the Rules of Court Committee to make the rules  of procedure before commencing its sitting.

Agriculture sector

The economy depends largely on agriculture and mining, with the former providing employment for about 75 percent of the active labor force. If fully commercialized and privatized, the sector can be an ‘engine’ for socio-economic growth. Years back, the country prioritized the Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP) as a way of kick-starting the National Sustainable Agricultural Development Programme.


As President Bio said during his speech at the state opening of parliament, 2018, the overall goal of the current administration’s agricultural policy is “sustainable and diversified production of food on a scale enough to feed the growing population as well as providing gainful employment.” The immediate focus had been on:

  • attracting and increasing investment in agriculture,
  • sustainable investment in mechanized commercial agriculture and
  • increasing food crop production.

This would require political will. But a core challenge is the political promise by the president, that “effective 2019, investment in agriculture (including animal husbandry) will be a pre-condition for holding political office.”  The presidency and the agriculture line ministries were expected to work out “the details to implement and monitor this policy directive.”

Also, by 2010, budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector had been increased to 10%. Yet, the new administration is still “committed to increasing budgetary allocation to the sector by a minimum of 10 percent in the next 2 years.” Beyond the political commitment is the urgent and practical need to raise agricultural production and ensure that there is competitiveness in the sector given that this is one of several sectors that touch the lives of the common man.

Tourism, a Game Changer in the Economy

By Sayoh Kamara

Sierra Leone’s Tourism Industry appears to be on a new development trajectory under the Government of President Julius Maada Bio. It is considered as one of the drivers of change in the country’s emerging economy. This is enunciated in the Government’s party ‘New Direction’ Manifesto. This is against the backdrop of Sierra Leone’s high potentials in tourism development, with her pristine and high quality beaches stretching over 350km, hills which are composed of diverse flora and fauna and an impressive wildlife, a rich history as a haven for freed slaves, navigable rivers and waterways suitable for sea travel, a friendly people and a pleasant weather, etc.


The sector is faced with some challenges.  Most of these potentials remain insufficiently explored and untapped by both governments and the private sector. Essentially, Sierra Leone over the years has not taken advantage of the potential revenue source and could not compete for the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) forecasts which indicate that by 2030 international arrivals in Africa is expected to increase from 50 million to 134 million an increase from 5% to 7%.

A number of issues are said to be responsible for our less than impressive performance in the tourism industry. A number of issues have been identified as challenges to the development and growth of the sector, notable amongst which are the inadequate government investment in terms of budgetary allocations to the sector, inadequate foreign direct investment to the sector and weak policy and regulatory framework. Despite these and other challenges, Sierra Leone managed to record some positive strides in terms of arrival records and related revenue generation. In 2013, arrivals to Sierra Leone were 81,000 an increase from 32,000 in 2007, however tourist arrivals accounted for a mere 10% of this figure.

Tourism Minister Memunatu Pratt came into the Ministry with a wealth of knowledge as to how to approach the myriad challenges, stating in one of her maiden press statements, she has read, seen and explored touristic sites far away from home; and has come to realize the significance of tourism in a nation’s economy.

The Government has backed her vision with some resources.  In Chapter 46 of the 2018 Budget Speech, Government committed to encourage activities that will promote domestic tourism including popularizing local tourism and assured support through existing arrangements aimed at enhancing the creative industry, support to tourism product development, tourism infrastructure, and tourism marketing, with the hope that these will enhance the sector’s contribution to employment and wealth creation.

Government allocated Le 5.5 billion to Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs and Le 6.3 billion to the National Tourist Board, including Le 728 million for tourism marketing strategy and Le 2.0 billion from the domestic capital budget for the Lumley Beach Development Project and the Peninsular Beaches Development project. Government also allocated Le 2.1 billion to the Monument and Relics Commission from the recurrent budget and Le1.8 billion from the domestic capital budget. This is considered as “a quantum leap” in revenue allocation to a sector that is largely considered as critical to the rebranding of the country’s image and a steady earning source of foreign exchange.

To make a difference, the line ministry has kicked off an “Adopt-a-Booth” project that is encourages small-scale entrepreneurs at  Lumley Beach and other beaches along the coastline to adopt and develop entertainment booths. The project aims to provide business opportunities for small-scale investments as well as employment for middle-level trained Sierra Leonean youth.

Additionally, the sector needs to be moved from being an entertainment domain to a multi-faceted sector that is all encompassing.  For minister Pratt, “We need to make the world understand that Sierra Leone is moving on and that the eras of blood diamonds, Ebola and mudslide are behind us as a nation,”

These unfortunate catastrophes have only reinvigorated the government and people to make the country an ideal tourist destination. The Tourism Ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communications has set up a robust E-Tourism information system through the country’s existing telecommunications companies as a pathway to inform the world about Sierra Leone’s re-emergence as a suitable tourist destination. The information system will carry positive details about the country’s hotel facilities, touristic sites and entertainment.

Preserving the country’s environment and heritage sites are essential not only for the travel and tourism sector but also because it provides a sense of identity and continuity in a fast changing world for future generations. In preserving our heritage, we preserve our identity.

Uncontrolled and unconventional use of our environment poses potential threats to the country’s natural ecosystem. The environment has an intrinsic value as a touristic asset. With tourism as one of the cornerstones of the country’s economic diversification and the commitment shown by government through its increased budgetary allocation, Sierra Leone is on the right path for economic rebirth. An increase in number of tourist visiting the country may be  a double-edged sword in terms of its impact on the socio-economic development of the country. Despite this, the tourism sector stands as a potential socio-economic engine which if well supported, planned and coordinated can help ameliorate the economic outlook of the country.

Top of Form



Rape and sexual violence declared as national emergency


By Mary Foyah

Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio on Thursday 7th February 2019 declared rape and sexual violence in the country as a national emergency. He outlined an ambitious plans including free hospital care to rape victims, creating special police and court divisions devoted to sexual violence and a national phone hotline to address the problem. He declared that sexual penetration of minors was now punishable by life imprisonment.


The country continues to experience hundreds of cases of rape and sexual assaults against women, girls and babies with over 3000 reported cases of sexual and gender based violence so far this year. The victims so far includes a three-month-old. 70 percent of the survivors are under age 15. According to police statistics, in 2018, the country recorded more than 8,500 cases, almost doubling the figures recorded in 2017.


At the launch the President noted that of nearly 3,000 reported sexual assault cases, 602 of the survivors became pregnant; 7 of them contracted HIV/AIDS; 2,404 had sexually transmitted diseases (STDs); thousands more were scarred and traumatized by the ordeal. Only 39 of these 3,000 reported cases were successfully prosecuted whilst 2,961 of the survivors of sexual violence were denied justice.


In addition to the Family Support Unit, a new police division, dedicated to investigating sexual violence will be set up. A special magistrate court will be dedicated to try sexual violence cases. The pronouncement made by the President regarding a mandatory life sentence for persons convicted of sexual penetration of a minor contradicts the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 2012 which states a maximum sentence of fifteen years for persons convicted of the offence.


In December 2018, for instance, there was outrage over the sentencing of a 70-year-old rapist to two days in jail. Reports indicated that the judge, Justice John Bosco Allieu raised issues about the accused’s mental state even though no psychiatric evaluation had been done.


Prosecution is also vital. In 2018, Rainbow Centres saw 3,137 cases of sexual and physical assaults in its 5 Centres but only 1.2% of those cases were prosecuted, said Dr. Olabisi Claudius Cole, Board Chair at Rainbo Center, a body that has been providing free medical and psychosocial help to survivors of gender-based violence. The centres have supported more than 30,000 women and girls that have survived rape and other forms of gender-based violence.


The declaration came just months following the launch by the First Lady of the ‘Hands off our girls’ a flagship programme that seeks to protect girls and minors from early marriage and teenage pregnancy. The December 2018 event was to ensure a zero tolerance for all forms of violence that would endanger the lives of woman in society. First Ladies from five West African nations, namely Chad, Ghana, Gambia, Liberia and Niger, were in attendance at the launch of the initiative to curb sexual-related offenses.


Speaking at the event, the first lady, Mrs. Fatima Bio, remarked on  the effects of any form of violence against women, saying, ““Any man who rapes or places any form of violence against women and girls is not a real man and doesn’t fit in any decent society. Almost all girls who are raped are most likely to drop out of school. If the girl child is forced into early marriage, the bride price lasts only for two months. But if the girl child is cared for until she finishes her education, the benefit to the parents lasts forever,”


The launch of the event was however fraught with complaints of poor or no consultation by the Office of the First Lady with stakeholders who have been advocating about the issue for years. Agatha Ada Levi is Communications and Fundraising Officer at Rainbo Center, noted that the office of the First Lady did not hold  consultative meetings with them to discuss the nature and extent of the problems, a claim refuted by an aide at the Office of the First Lady.  


Rainbo Center, she emphasized, has the expertise and the needed statistics and a partnership with the First Lady would be instrumental to the success of the ‘Hands off Our Girls’ campaign. Levi commended the ‘Hands off our Girls’ as a good initiative but proper coordination with the right partners could be of immense importance to its success. Since the campaign was launched, Rainbo Center has observed that there has been an increase in the number of sexual offence.


The regional economic body ECOWAS and the United Nations Funds for Population Activities are expected to be amongst the donors of the campaign.



Sierra Leone Participates In 2019 International Law Fellowship and Uganda Philip C Jessup Moot National Rounds Competition

On 15th and 16th February 2019, Fourah Bay College  participated in the 2019 Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court National Rounds competition held at the School of Law, Makerere University. The team’s participation in the National Rounds in Uganda was to help them prepare for the competition to be held from 31st of March to 6th April 2019.

The competition is a simulation of a fictional dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice, (ICJ) which is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations and settles legal disputes between member states and gives advisory opinions to authorized UN organs and specialized agencies. The questions before the Court this year principally concern State’s responsibility and the interrelated rules of attribution, rights of indigenous people, appropriation of traditional knowledge for commercial purposes, conservation and sustainable use of migratory species and the sharing of benefits derived thereof.

Each participating team for the national and international rounds comprises of four members – two members for the Applicant and two members for the Respondent. However, due to lack of enough funds, only two team members, Gbantudu Kutubu and Mohamed Muctarr Bah participated in the Uganda qualifying rounds. The other members of the team, Robert Paine, Fatmata Kamara and Menisa Sesay, could not attend.

The team from Sierra Leone was registered on the 8th November 2018 and joined over 700 Law Schools around the globe who annually participate in the competition. This is the first time that Sierra Leone will participate in the international rounds.

The team’s participation in Uganda was coordinated by Karina Krayem, Team Adviser. Reports indicate that the team performed very well in its competition against South Sudan and won the votes of all three judges.

Administered by the International Law Students Association (ILSA), it is also the world’s oldest international law competition. The competition, which has also been described as the world’s most prestigious moot court competition, provides law students with an opportunity to develop their skills in advocacy and research, prepares them for court-room proceedings and further enhances their skills as future legal practitioners.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the Jessup Competition boasts an established record of producing many of today’s leading lawyers in the field of international law.

On their return, the team expressed profound appreciation to institutions and individuals who provided them with funding and other support, including but not limited to lawyers Umaru Napoleon Koroma and Basita Michael and Walton Ekundayo Gilpin, Managing Director of Rokel Commercial Bank.

The team remained thankful to its sponsors for their invaluable support and for providing them with the opportunity to showcase their advocacy skills and compete at international levels. They looking forward to more financial assistance from law firms and lawyers interested in promoting legal education for their trip to Washington DC to participate in the international rounds.




Army to Enlist 300 Females 

By Ibrahim Alhassan Sesay

The Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) is undertaking what it refers to as “a special recruitment of women across the country” into the force, targeting a total of 300 females from across the country. Shortlisting has been done and what is now required is the medical screening and then those shortlisted will be drafted for training.

The Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces continues to get support and mentorship from the United Kingdom International Military Training Team (IMATT). Women are said to make up 3% of the of 8,500 strong force. The ‘first-ever-all-female recruitment’ was conduted in 1978/9 when 74 females were enlisted into the army – Initially 10 females were enlisted as cadets in 1978 and 64 enlisted as recruits in 1979. This initiative is being supported by the Government of Sierra Leone and the International Security and Advisory Team (ISAT).

Brigadier General Peter Lavahun, Assistant Chief of Defence Staff Personnel and Military Secretary and Head of the RSLAF National Recruitment Team, was quoted in a press statement by the RSLAF as saying that the special female recruitment drive was anticipated to increase the army’s profile in terms of gender mainstreaming.

Sierra Leone has been making great strides to resume Peace Support Operations. Currently, the UN policy on Peace Support Operations emphasizes 15% of female participation in every peace keeping force. Sierra Leone now seeks to meet the United Nations target by increasing the number of female personnel.

“We want to go into peacekeeping operations and one of the conditions we are to fulfill is getting female personnel. For every peacekeeping operation, the size of your battalion should include 15 percent of women”, said Captain Yayah Sidi Brima, Head of Media at the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, whilst talking on Armed Forces Day.


The RSLAF, he said, is taking a lead in empowering women as per the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Potential recruits for the special female recruitment were drawn from all the regions across the country. As part of the selection process, applicants were assessed in three areas, educational test, which entailed mathematics, English and general knowledge, physical and medical tests.


The country continues to highlight the relevant role women can play as peacekeepers. In 2013, the country deployed its first battalion to African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). By 2016, Lt. Col. Hoe Pratt was officer in charge of AMISOM Civilian Casualty Tracking Analysis and Response Cell (CCTARC). She was one of the first Sierra Leonean woman to serve in a peace enforcement mission.

During an engagement with students in Makeni on the special female recruitment drive on 10th January 2019, Second Lieutenant Patricia Koroma encouraged women to compete with their male counterparts in society. “We have been doing lot of work in the home but still our efforts are unrecognized in society. This time, we are ready to put on our boots because the time is changing now in the military.”


The Interview with Dr. Abdulai O. Conteh 


…Calls for the sanctity of the law to be preserved


For decades, Dr. Abdulai Osman Conteh, a globally respected Sierra Leonean jurist served his country in various capacities as well as countries in the Caribbean. In Sierra Leone, he was amongst others, Minister of Foreign Affairs (1977-1984), Minister of Finance (1984-1985) and from 1987-1991, as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. He served as Sierra Leone’s First Vice President under President Joseph Saidu Momoh’s one party era from 1987 to 1991. Between 1977 and 1992, he was a Member of Parliament from Kambia.


Outside his country of birth, the pursuit for justice, which motivated him to become a lawyer, saw Dr. Conteh serve Belize in the eastern coast of Central America from 2000, as Chief Justice. By 2008, he was appointed judge of the Court of Appeal of the Cayman Islands. Two years later, in 2010, he got appointed to the Court of Appeal of the Bahamas, where he was until November 2015.


Dr. Abdulai O. Conteh has since returned home and is again serving his country and humanity. However, this time, not as an active politician, not as a judge, but as a legal practitioner. Given his wealth of experience in politics and law, SierraEye recently interviewed him at his residence in Freetown. Here is the full interview:


You have been in the legal profession for decades both in and out of the country. What are your thoughts regarding the current state of the profession in Sierra Leone?


Well, I have only just returned. The profession had faced challenges even when I was here. I became Attorney-General and acted in that capacity for a little over four years. It had challenges and those challenges have multiplied instead of diminishing. People are prone to give the profession a bad rap. In some cases, we deserve it. You know the epitaph from the tombstone in the graveyard “here lies a lawyer, who lied for his profession and he lies here to lie no more.” That is said to be an epitaph from the gravestone of a lawyer. But lawyers as with Judges are the bulwark of the freedoms and rights of the citizens in a country.


Of course, it is a profession, like all professions. Practitioners hope to make money. But money should not be the be-all and end-all of it. It is the pursuit of justice. You stand fearlessly to protect the rights and interests of your clients regardless of the cost. But unfortunately here, I see new lawyers out of school, put their shingle up, they want to be millionaires overnight. It is unfortunate. In that process, the values and traditions of the profession become corroded. Never, ever forget that law is a practical profession whose objective is to secure justice for clients and make the society in which you live and practice a better place.


You were a lecturer at the law school when the first set of lawyers graduated. Have you noticed any significant changes in the quality of legal education since then?


Well, I started teaching law in 1974/5 when I just returned from the United Kingdom and I came back with the hope of fostering the endeavor to establish a local law school. The legal establishment then, including the judges, the practitioners, especially the old hands were not in favor of the effort for reason best known to themselves, perhaps for reasons of standard.  I remember the late C.O.E. Cole who was then Chief Justice. When I brushed the idea with him, he said “Send them to England.” I then said it would come a time when England would not be able to produce lawyers for overseas countries. I see the law school, and I saw it then, as the nursery from which our local practitioners could be produced. You fertilize that nursery, make sure you have the best of students and, hopefully, the best products come out of it.


I am no longer teaching at the law school. I taught at the first round, when we established the law school, I think in 1987/89. Then, I was substantively the Attorney-General and I volunteered my time and effort without any pay, to teach. I even taught on Saturdays when the law office was not opened. I used the conference room in the Attorney-General’s Office to take class.


I believe we had very good crop, as exemplified by their subsequent careers. People like Mr. Abdul Tejan-Cole, the former Chief Justice, Abdulai Charm, and later Sembu Forna. These were part of the first crop. They were good students and they had the background, they had the maturity and I was privileged to have played a role in making them to become lawyers. I haven’t interacted much with the later products of the law school, but you hear complains, perennial complains about standards, lack of ethics. I would blame the profession itself, especially the leaders of the profession. You set the tone. You lead by example. The practice of the law is overwhelming. It is not just getting your diploma, putting up your shingle and say you are a lawyer. No! The law, if I may use the aphorism, is a jealous mistress. It is all consuming, all demanding. You can’t practice law halftime.


What other advice will you give to young lawyers given what you have said?


You must devote your time and efforts to the practice of the law. Even now, as a retired judge, I still practice the law by learning. Read your law books, read your law reports, read the law texts, and then you imbibe the best traditions by seeing what your elders do. Maybe, forgive me for saying this, the young lawyers do not see good examples from the seniors at the Bar and they imbibe the bad practices, this is unfortunate. But the law is about tradition.


When we trained in England, we used to dine with our seniors at the Bar; judges, Queen’s Counsels and senior members and you exchange ideas. They tell you stories and that is how you learn. In your practice, you try to put into play those practices you’ve learnt. Here, much depends on the senior lawyers. They should set the pace. In our time, as a lawyer, your word is your bond. I tell junior lawyers that lawyers never use to shake hands, because the shaking of hands was a Roman tradition to make sure that your opponent does not have any dagger or weapon in his hand. So we bow to each other as a courtesy because I implicitly trust you. When you say you would do this, you do it as we agreed. But here people think they should be cutting corners. You are not being clever, you are clever by half. You are shortchanging not only your client, but the interest of justice itself. When you go to court, the judges should be able to rely on what you say as truthful. You don’t bring shenanigans. You don’t make a show. You don’t play up to the gallery. If the point is not on your side, be quick to admit it and move on.


Following your return home, do you still find time to practice the profession?


I am a member of the Bar. I have my practicing certificate. I never sat as a judge in Sierra Leone. When I was Attorney-General, my colleagues used to tease me when I take a position on a particular issue. I never considered joining the Bench for serious reasons. I had always loved the practice of the law. As God or fate would have it, I never sat as a judge here. I sat as a judge in three other jurisdictions. So, before I came, I took out my practicing certificates and I still do it and I enjoy the practice of the law; the many faceted aspects of practice. And I encourage young lawyers who are learning; a lawyer who doesn’t read is a sad lawyer. A judge, for that matter, who does not read, is a sad judge. Read the law reports, read the relevant texts, we are all learning. The practice of the law can be overwhelming, but you apply it diligently by reading.  For example, as practitioners, even if you don’t have a case, go to court and listen to the exchange between the Bench and counsel. It is all the process of learning. It is a practical profession.


Let us talk about the Bench. You served as Chief Justice of Belize for over 10 years. You also were Justice of the Court of Appeal of the Cayman Islands and retired in Bahamas as Justice of the Court of Appeal. How would you compare the state of the justice systems in those countries to ours in Sierra Leone?


Well, in those jurisdictions I practiced or sat as a judge on the Bench, they were fortunate, and I think they still do. They had an outside Bench to review judgments. If there are mistakes, as there would be as we are all humans, they correct them. They go to the Privy Council. In the case of Belize, they now go to the Caribbean Court of Justice like we had it in the sub region in West Africa. We had the West African Court of Appeal. Judges from Nigeria, Ghana and The Gambia, sat in Sierra Leone to review the judgment of our superior courts of judicature. That would help the quality of judgments and the judges would be aware that there is another Bench that would review their judgment and they will be careful.


What I find most disheartening here is the length of time it takes to take out a Writ, to have the case heard and to have the judgment produced. It is becoming more and more inordinately long. This is a disservice to the justice system. You don’t have that in the jurisdictions I was privileged to sit as a Judge. They have new rules of civil procedures which help to expedite the filing, hearing and determination of civil lawsuit. But here we have, I think, the 2007 rule which is an amalgam, brought in from some other place. If you have new civil procedure rules, made and intended for judges, made by the judges for themselves, it would help the justice system. It would help the ordinary litigants who can intelligently file the form itself. We don’t call them plaintiffs anymore, we call them claimants.


Take for instance, the popular aspect of that system is Judicial Review; from when you take out your claim to have reviewed judicially, an action by government or a public agency, within sixty days, that case must be heard. But I hear of cases here going onto two years. Believe me, it is a disgrace, it is a disservice, it is uncalled for.  There is something fundamentally wrong with the system. What it is, I cannot place my finger on it. I’ve just come. But I am disturbed to hear reports that cases have been heard but have not been determined, cases are in the pipeline, but they’ve not concluded, with frequent adjournments.


I adopted a system in Belize as Chief Justice; you pay or proceed when the matter comes up. If you don’t proceed, you pay, and the judges awarded wasted cost against the lawyers. That will make them come to court prepared to argue the case.  But this inordinate delay and of course, the aphorism, ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ is so true. This was what plagued the English legal system.  Charles Dickens wrote about it in a famous case ‘Jarndyce and Jarndyce’. It took generations for that case to be resolved. The solicitor in the case sent his children and grandchildren to law school, trained them from the proceeds of his clients in the case. Then it is reported that when his grandson told him “Granpa I’ve settled that case”, he said “my God,


It is a disgrace. Who pays the poor litigant, the poor client who has come to the lawyer to expert judgment? And judges, unfortunately, I hear, indulge in that practice. Believe me I shiver when I think about it. I started my court in Belize at 9 o’clock given the tropical condition. They used to sit at 10. There was some resistance. Between 9 am and 5 pm, what have you done for the day? And when you finish the case, you should give judgment. Any judgment that is delayed for more than 18 months, in my view, is denial of justice and there is superior judgment from the Privy Council to support that.


Our judges ought to be encouraged. I fully understand there are challenges they face; maybe equipment, maybe staff, materials. But the government should ensure that part and parcel of the independence of the judiciary is to provide them with the equipment they need. It is not just to provide them with vehicles or offices but materials and competent staff to help them. I would like and look forward to see the day when we would have proper court recording in Sierra Leone, either audio recording or competent stenographer. That is the system you have in most Caribbean countries now. They either tape you or they have competent stenographers who, at the end of the day, if you pay a fee, they give you a copy of the transcript. But here, you see judges sit and handwrite laboriously. These are the ways we can strengthen the justice system.


What other suggestions would you make on reforming the justice sector?


An important reform is proper court recording for both criminal and civil systems, and to reform laws governing procedures both criminal and civil. I am appalled when I look at our High Court rules. They invite time wasting. We should adopt new civil procedure rules. Our criminal justice system should now operate on new criminal procedure code; from arraignment to trial, should all be laid out transparently and then the process follows. But sometimes to adjourn criminal cases, either because the lawyer comes unprepared or asks for adjournment, I won’t allow that. In criminal cases you proceed day in, day out. I understand people languish on remand. It is all a denial of their fundamental rights. If you do not try them, please grant them bail on reasonable term. Bail is a right, it is not a privilege. A man is presumed innocent until he is convicted or found guilty. But when you send people on remand to languish there, you find, in most cases, they would have served more time than when they would have been convicted.


What about refresher trainings for judges and magistrates?


I entirely agree. I still say and I mean it seriously, I am still learning. I need training too. There is Judicial Training Institute in most of the Caribbean countries in which I have experience and in England for which I trained, they have the Judicial Study Board. Every judge appointed has to undergo a session of training on how to manage your court, how to write judgment, how you handle proceedings and how they come to the Bench with that confidence. And then as continuing judges, you go for refresher courses. There is the Commonwealth Judges and Magistrates Association. They have institutes and I am aware of the one in Toronto in Canada. I don’t know if we benefit from it here. I went to sessions there and I sent judges from Belize to go there.


Let us talk politics, which you joined in 1977 and even rose to the position of first Vice President. Based on your political experience, what lessons are there today, for young, upcoming politicians?


Politicians should be honest with themselves; don’t make promises you know very well you cannot fulfill. Don’t play up to the gallery. Politicians, like lawyers, have a bad rap, unfortunately, often, which is not deserved. Politicians are meant to advocate and pursue the interest of their constituents. It is not about making wealth or grandstand and make fame. It is to advocate issues that are close to your heart and make representation fearlessly. Now, we have a multiparty system. They should vigorously stand in parliament and represent their constituents’ interest. They are the people’s representatives in parliament. Stand up if needs be, even to the executive. The executive has its own preoccupation to succeed as a government. As politicians in parliament, you are meant to provide the checks and balances and the safety valves of society. You articulate issues for which you have all the privileges regarding the affairs of a member of parliament. You speak fearlessly and speak up to power. Defend the people’s right.


With this background, what would you say, regarding the country’s current political situation?


As you know we have a multiparty system and the majority party in parliament, unfortunately, for one reason or the other, does not occupy the speakership. Sierra Leone may be the only country in the Commonwealth that has the majority party not controlling the speakership. The nearest I can think of is the United States of America. They have a Republican president in the person of president Trump. They have the leader of the House of Representative in the person of Nancy Pelosi who is a Democrat.  That is all part of the checks and balances. But for us in Sierra Leone, we are peculiar. How that came about, I don’t know. But I think it is a matter of regret that it was allowed to happen.


Parliament is not to frustrate or hogtie the government but to check it so as to ensure, that it brings legislation that is in the rest of the country; not just to have it one way.  If there is a particular ministry or a particular public official that does not behave, you bring him to parliament. There are various committees in parliament. They should be the checks, the safety valves and they scrutinize legislations proposed by government.


I am yet to hear, in this country, in all my 15 years in parliament, a private member, bringing a bill that is given the First Reading, Second Reading and Third Reading and enacted into law. Parliament is the law-making machinery. Take for instance the current arrangement in parliament. Has the opposition, which has the majority, brought a bill to parliament? Do they think of bringing bill to parliament? They have the numbers. With persuasion, with force of reasoning, they can compel or convince even the government side or the other parties to join them in support. This is what they should be spending time on; use your numbers constructively to have legislation on our statue books that are in the interest of the country. Parliament is not just talking shop. You debate serious issues. It is the third arm of government. You have the executive, headed by the president, the legislature and then the judiciary. Unfortunately here, so much focus is on the executive.


I am grateful to fate; I have served in all the branches in government; from the legislature, to the executive, to the judiciary. There should be a fine balance between them. It is when they are in sync that the public interest is best protected. One is not superior to the other, they are all co-equal. The judiciary is not a rival to the executive or the legislature. It is there to review if there is a challenge to an act pass by parliament. I don’t know if you have that here but that is their role.


When they swear the oath of office, ‘to do justice to all manner of persons without fear or favor’, that oath still rings in my ear today, even off the Bench. Even as a practicing lawyer now, it still rings in my ear. You have nothing to fear as a judge. Your position is entrenched; nobody can remove you without due process by going to parliament for a cause determined by an independent tribunal. You can’t even debate the conduct of judges in parliament.  This is all to ensure we have an independent judiciary. It is part of our common law. Without an independent judiciary, the efforts of government, the protection of the citizens’ rights, economic development, societal peace and concord would all be in vain.


Dr. Conteh, are you still active in politics?


Well, man is a political animal. If you divorce yourself from politics, you might as well be dead. I am interested in politics. I am interested in what goes on and what happens in my society. I may not be actively in it now, but I am interested in politics to make sure the players come up to standard.


Let us look at the ongoing Commissions of Inquiry, topical as they appear at present. You have had your share of experience with past Commissions of Inquiry. One therefore wonders, if you are a fan of the current ones and do they have a useful role, especially so with the existence of an Anti-Corruption Commission?


Often times in our political experience in this country, Commissions of Inquiry have been a product of military governments. From 1967 when Juxon Smith was head of the National Reformation Council, they had various commissions. In 1992 when the military junta of the NPRC appointed various Commissions of Inquiry, I myself, was subject of Commission of Inquiry, although I was out of the country.


Commissions of Inquiry in a properly functioning system are an aberration. They are provided for, both in the statue law in chapter 54 of our laws, Commissions of Inquiry Act and in the constitution itself, section149, chapter 9 of our constitution. But they are for exceptional purposes. When there is a matter of public interest, for example, the mudslide that happened, a Commission of Inquiry could have been objectively appointed to investigate why it was landslide, what caused the mudslide? Was its deforestation due to human activity? They investigate and make recommendations based on their findings. But to bring Commissions of Inquiry to inquire into past government is a political weapon. This is my candid view. I would have left it to the law court. If you think the former president, his ministers, vice president have committed offences, charge them criminally and civilly. We have in our books in this country, which I don’t hear talk about, the offences of Misfeasance in Public Office and the Civil Wrong Of Misfeasance in Public Office. I tried cases in Belize where these were advanced not on a Commission of Inquiry. They were charged to the court, they gathered the evidence; the DPP looked at it and brought a case, misfeasance of public office. It is a criminal case that went right up to the Caribbean Court of Justice, the ultimate court then for Belize.


Commissions of Inquiry are short term and immediate and they are a product of the system. I believe in the sanctity of the law. That may be my shortcoming. Don’t tinker with the law, use it for the purpose it is intended. Commissions of Inquiry both in our statue book, chapter 54 and the constitutional commissions of inquiry are meant to address matters of moments of public interest.


Certainly, we all inveigh against public corruption. It is the bane of our development. It is a cancer in our society. We have laws. If they properly are applied and implemented, that would be a check. If there is defalcation by a public officer, charge him to court. We have, additionally, the ACC and it was amended to give it an independent prosecutorial power, subject to review by the court. But to have an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the conduct of president, vice president and ministers of the past administration, I speak candidly and honestly in the interest of the law, use the law, and don’t use a special mechanism. You may face challenges in the process.


In essence, you aren’t a fan of Commissions of Inquiry?


I have never been a fan of Commission of Inquiry having myself being a victim of it.  We, in fact, in reviewing the constitution in 1991, ensured that there is put in the constitution, that any adverse finding by a Commission of Inquiry may be appealed to the Court of Appeal. It never was there before 1991. We put it in the constitution to ensure that the rule of law will prevail.


In the NPRC, they made findings and the NPRC issued a whitepaper condemning people, confiscating property, fining people, and the Commissioners themselves never made those findings. The NPRC sat in its own cloistered enclave, motivated by other considerations and I understand, made those recommendations that found their way in the government whitepaper. It is unjust. So we made sure that subsequently, all commissions of inquiry that result in adverse findings, the people affected have a right to go to court and challenge.


Without prejudice to the current Supreme Court case filed by the Sierra Leone Bar Association regarding the current Commissions of Inquiry, who determines practices and procedures of Commissions of Inquiry?


Well, the current Commissions of Inquiry are not made under chapter 54.  They are made especially on the face of the constitutional instrument issued by the president and affirmed by parliament, pursuant to section 147 of the constitution. Section 147 says, Commissions of Inquiry can be appointed. Sections 148,149 and 150 say the rules of court committee shall make rules for the practice and procedure of all Commissions of Inquiry. As I speak to you, I am not aware of any rules having been made. I would not comment further on that because the matter is now sub-judice. But it grieves me when I listened to the honorable learned Attorney-General at the launch of the Commissions of Inquiry, submitting to an audience, comprising both His Excellency the President and the Hon. Chief Justice, the case for government, that there are rules. I am yet to be educated or to be informed, where those rules are, where I can find them. And lamentably, I heard the learned Chief Justice himself. I am a candid man, I speak my mind. When I heard him, I shivered. It is like he was delivering judgment on a case that is sub-judice. I didn’t know what to say. It beggared belief.


Will that not undermine the independence and credibility of the Commissions?


Yes and the rule of law, if I may add. You don’t prejudge issues especially when they are current and pending. You wait until you have heard arguments on both sides, and you have deliberated if you have to, before you pronounce. But to speak a priori of the Bench on issues that are currently pending in court, we have a long way to go. I say this in the interest of justice; tomorrow none of us would be there but let the system be objective.  I beg of the bench and of the Commission, be open minded until they have heard all the evidence.


On constitutional reforms, you played an active role as Attorney-General then, in drafting the 1991 constitution. You even set up the Peter Tucker Commission that reviewed the 1978 constitution leading up to a new constitution in 1991. With the passage of time, are there provisions in that Constitution that you will like to see amended?


The 1991 constitution is the supreme law. But like all human products, it will, with the passage of time and the benefit of experience, stand in need of reform. The 1991 constitution is no exception.  But overall, I think it is a good instrument that we can work with, given goodwill to operate it by parliament, by the executive and to be interpreted, enforced and applied objectively by the judiciary. Much depends on the judiciary. They are the guidance and protectors of the constitution. It is the constitution that gives them their independence.


This brings us to the Supreme Court decision regarding the sacking of Sam Sumana in 2015 as vice president? Was that ruling in conformity with our laws?


My thoughts are plain.  The action was outside the constitution. The president has no power like the vice president, to sack each other. The only way you can be removed from office as president is by a process of impeachment and so too the vice president. They went to the Supreme Court, regrettably, the Supreme Court gave a verdict that is lamentable, to say the least. And they invented a creature, supreme executive power, which we never had in the constitution; it is nowhere to be found.


All the constitution says, supreme executive power is vested in the president and it does not include usurpation of the power of parliament. They misinterpreted it, with the greatest respect to all five of them. Supreme executive power, if by their interpretation is correct, it would include the power of the president to call the Chief Justice and sack him or any judge for that matter. Is that correct? No! There are limitations. Every power granted under the constitution has its limit.


The constitution only declares that the supreme executive powers are vested in the president. Its contents are undefined, but they most certainly do not include a power that is vested in parliament to impeach the vice president or the president himself.


 And what if that ambiguity of not defining the content of supreme executive power was something that created a floodgate for misinterpretation?


It doesn’t need to; you know executive has to do with administration and this doesn’t include sacking a sitting judge. That is a matter for the judiciary and parliament. With the greatest respect, the president does not appoint judges. People are afraid to say this, but the president nominates, and parliament approves the nomination and then a particular individual is appointed a judge. This is how the system is meant to work. It is, in the gift of the president; he nominates but he doesn’t appoint you.  It is not just by nominating that you become a judge; you have to be approved by parliament.


Uganda has a specialized constitutional court, so as South Africa. Should the Supreme Court continue to be the Constitutional court or should Sierra Leone think of following the Ugandan model?  


When the Supreme Court sits to consider a matter of constitutional import, it thereby constitutes a constitutional court. We don’t need to create a separate court with all the paraphernalia of a separate registry, administrative staff, etc. In the UK, they don’t have any separate court. In some European countries like France, they have a constitutional court but they have a different tradition.  We have the common law tradition like Nigeria and Ghana.


 On your legacy, what would you like to be remembered for?


As a Sierra Leonean who in his time tried to do his best. I may not have been successful. I may have made mistakes certainly and for those mistakes, I would like history to forgive me. They are mistakes not deliberately intended. I tried to serve when I had the opportunity. Even on my return, I now endeavor to serve in the justice sector. I wanted to help teach in the law school but because of certain physical constraints I’ve asked to be stood out for the moment. I would like to be remembered as an ordinary Sierra Leonean who had the opportunity to serve in various public offices and hopefully tried to do his best even in the face of challenges.


Any plans on writing a book in the form of a memoir?


I would recommend the essays on the constitution which most people are aware of but they don’t read. I hope with time and my physical conditions permitting, to put some of my reflections and experiences in my public and private life hopefully in writing as a memoir.

Dr. Abdulai O. Conteh, it has been a pleasure, talking to you.


Thank you very much indeed, Mr. Sesay.



Towards An Uninterrupted Flow Of Electricity, How Prepared Are We?   

By Ibrahim Alhassan Sesay

Freetown, with a population of about 802,639 was once pigeon-holed as the world’s darkest city. Today this is no longer the case given the priority that the former administration gave to the sector.

Poor electricity supply was impending socio-economic growth.


But how prepared are we for the pending dry seasons?

During previous dry seasons there has been problems with regular and continuous supply of electricity in the city. This is primarily because of the heavy reliance on the hydroelectricity power from the Bumbuna dam, which depends on rainfall. Bumbuna has the potential to provide up to 50 megawatts. However, during the dry seasons, it gets as low as 8 megawatts. Freetown alone needs up to 60 to 70 megawatts. Complimenting thermal engines at Blackhall Road and Kingtom are dependent on fuel supply. Faulty machines and the unavailability of adequate resource often results in the failure to provide adequate energy supply.

President Julius Maada Bio has expressed his desire to increase  access of electricity in Freetown and to other part of the country. In his first hundred days, he has strengthened the agreements made by the previous administration to continue the distribution of uninterrupted electricity across the city. This he believes is central to the success of his New Direction’s National Development Plan.

One agreement renegotiated and renewed is the one with Karadeniz Powership DoĞan Bey (Karpowership) had been signed by the previous government and ratified by parliament. “This ship can produce up to 100 megawatt electricity, but because of the network challenges, in the transmission and distribution between Kingtom and the East, it is not fully possible to utilize the full potential of the ship” says Alhaji Kanja Sesay, Minister of Energy, during a talk with this writer. Even if the 60 or 70 megawatts needed for the Western Area is taken from the ship, the weak network from Kingtom to the East prevents it from adequately supplying the power, according to Minister Sesay.

To ensure the level of power supply does not fall this dry season, government is said to have gone through the same source and negotiated for a second ship, expected to be in the country and “dedicated solely to the east, the accessories and cables to connect the second ship already here”, disclosed the Minister.  This will provide uninterrupted power supply in the eastern part of the capital and supply the industries located in that part of town.

The current tariff with Karpowership is 16.4 cent but this will be negotiated downward. The tariff for the second ship will be 15.4 cent. The 1 cent drop in the cost of the second ship will give Government a savings of US$ 9 million per year, with a total of 18 million dollars over the period of two years, according to the  energy minister.

The lack of electricity affected every household not just in Freetown, but across the country. But with the advent to the powership over a year ago, private houses, offices, businesses including small kiosks, bars and restaurants now have relatively good and regular electricity supply. Mrs. Hawanatu Tiffa, a nurse at the Princess Christianity Maternity Hospital (PCMH) believes that “The work of health centers across the country has improved because of the availability of electricity in hospital wards, this ensures that medical machines can be used and administrative tasks can be easily performed.”

The re-negotiation of the Karpowership agreement, the implementation of good governance structures and tariff methodology, the expansion of customer base from 170,000 to 185,000, the management of Bankasoka mini hydropower in Port Loko and training of engineers (EGTC) and the umbrella national energy program of the Ministry to provide universal, affordable and sustainable electricity to the people are all geared towards meeting the energy needs of the country.

There is still a need for a robust reform of the energy sector. We should work towards the restoration of electricity in the district capital towns and invest in low cost mini grid systems like solar and hydro across the country.




It’s Exploitation When You Sell Feminism and Practice Its Reverse.


Christina Boufarah

It’s 1951. You’re walking down the street when you see an ad for Van Heusen men’s shirts. “Show her it’s a man’s world,” it says. It’s 1953. You spot an ad for ketchup bottles. “You mean a woman can open it?” it reads. It’s 1964. There’s an ad for slacks on the sidewalk. “It’s nice to have a girl around the house” it states, emblazoned with the image of a woman’s head under a man’s foot.


It’s 1974. Weyenberg Shoes has just released their newest campaign. A woman lies next to a men’s shoe, the words “Keep her where she belongs” printed at the top.


It’s 2016. Always has just put out an ad, #LIKE A GIRL emblazoned on seemingly every one of their products. What happened? When did women cease to be the punch line of dehumanizing ads, and instead become the target audience of campaigns inciting their empowerment? When did powerful slogans and strong femininity become commonplace in advertising? Or rather, when did feminism become profitable?


Feminism is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” Cambridge Dictionary describes it as “the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way”, whilst Webster defines it as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” In the corporate world, it’s a selling point.


Advertising is the active promotion of a brand, product, or service, with the intention of (often financial) gain. In recent years, feminism and advertising have become increasingly intertwined in a combination known as “femvertising”. Femvertising seemingly promotes feminism in ads to attract women and increase sales. It’s the “girl power” motto on your pink razor packaging. It’s Gal Gadot, Revlon’s new “feminist” brand ambassador, promoting their celebration and recognition of the “feminine power that’s driving essential cultural conversations” (Krause). That’s to say, it’s everywhere; femvertising has manifested itself in such a variety of ways and in such a multitude of products some might say it is indicative of a social and cultural shift so momentous that it has managed to carve out a place for itself in store shelves, billboards, and boxes.


But this begs the question that the inner skeptic can’t help but ask; is femvertising really the advertising world’s love letter to women, or is it their exploitation of feminism? Exploitation, in its most naive definition, is the utilization of and gain from a resource (be it a person, situation, movement, group, etc…) often at its expense. At first glance, regardless of the impetus behind these marketing decisions, the messages in them are usually true to feminisms core. And how could the same company paying it lip service simultaneously exploit it? It’s simple; it ceases to be feminist when the same companies applying the movement to their ads fail to practice it themselves. It becomes exploitation when corporations utilize feminism for their gain while hindering it. It’s exploitation when you market the efforts of billions of woman, only to counter them yourself.


It’s exploitation when you sell feminism and practice its reverse.


Your Body Wash Changed Advertising

In 2004, Dove released the “Real Beauty” campaign (Katie Martell, Boston Content). It went viral​. As its traction grew, so did the praise surrounding it. Doves sales after their “feminist” ad skyrocketed, going from $2.5 billion to $4 billion in the decade after launching the campaign (Katie ​Martell, Boston Content) ​. But was Dove promoting feminism, or just making use of and benefiting from it? It soon became apparent it was the latter. Unilever, Dove’s parent company, confirmed this when they put out ads for Axe, another company they owned. The ads routinely portrayed woman in a disempowering light.


Often objectifying and sexualizing the women in them, they not only contradicted the other ads Unilever were using to sell Dove products, but further disempowered woman. According to Jean Kilbourne, author of “Killing Us Softly: the Dangerous Way Ads Represent Women”, these images have the potential to do serious harm. She highlights this in her Ted Talk of the same name, where she states, “Girls exposed to sexual advertisements at a young age are more prone to eating disorders, depression, and low self-esteem.” (Kilbourne). Fostering these debilitating ideals in young girls by sending these messages are entirely opposed to feminism, and when the same company furthering this is selling you “feminist” body wash, it calls into question not just the authenticity behind it, but the motives.


However, though Unilever might have pioneered the exploitative nature of femvertising, they certainly didn’t monopolize it. Ads benefitting from feminism exist in abundance, the guiltiest perpetrator being major Western corporations. Take Audi. In February of 2017, Audi released a commercial for the Super bowl with a fairly feminist message behind it; a girl driving an Audi in a car race, as her father looks on, wondering aloud if she’ll be paid differently because of her gender. It ended with a message on Audi’s commitment to creating a more equal environment. But how does that add up with Audi’s practices? As of the ad’s release, its executive team was entirely male (Tolentino). Its fourteen person executive American team had only two women (Rath). Masking its sexist practices with an “empowering” ad, Audi blatantly used feminism as a means to boost sales, while they hindered it behind closed doors. KPMG, a Big Four auditing company, released an ad titled “Glass Ceilings”. The short commercial promoted their involvement and sponsorships in golf, and “commitment to the next generation of women leaders” (Martell, Boston Content). This stands in stark contrast to the $400 million dollar, 1,112 person class action lawsuits they are currently embroiled in, alleging a pattern of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, assault, penalized maternity leave, denied promotions of women, and in extreme cases, disregarded formal complaints of rape within the company (Cohn). These actions alone are sexist; these actions in conjunction with using feminism to boost sales are, again, exploitive, as they use it for financial gain at the movement’s expense.


Other paradigms of this exploitation exist everywhere; it’s Proctor and Gambles musical ad on equal pay when their executive team is 75% male (Martell, Chief Marketer). It’s the State Street Global Advisors “Fearless Girl” campaign that masked a $5 million dollar lawsuit for the alleged underpaying of female executives (Chicago Tribune). As Maria L. Carreon, author of the City University of New York paper, “By Beauty Damned: Millennial Feminism and the Exploitation of Women’s Empowerment in Pop Culture and Corporate Advertising”, states “Simply using the image of a particular demographic and imposing a company logo onto that image does not empower that demographic, particularly if the entity using the image does nothing substantive for that targeted group in a political and economic sense. That is, by definition, exploitation.” (Carreon).


Who Fed this Beast?

Today’s globalized, technologically advanced world has ensured consumers ability to feed or weed out products, corporations, and practices against their morals. Twitterverse, hashtags, blogs, and other outlets used to get word out about companies actions that don’t sit well with consumers have paved the way for a market that moves quick and is often unforgiving in the face of contradicting morals. The increasingly popular “capitalism with consciousness” mantra has cemented itself as a permanent factor in the decision making process of many with the purchasing power to further or hinder a brand. So why does the exploitation marketers call femvertising keep on happening? Why haven’t women themselves boycotted brands pretending to uphold their rights, while they themselves hinder it? The answer is simple and recurrent among the exploited; misinformation. Consumers don’t see the sexist practices behind the “Fearless Girl” statue. They don’t see Unilever’s objectifying Axe ads in their Dove body wash that tells them all women are beautiful. They see a company supporting the ideals they believe in. Women make 85% of household buying decisions (Luscombe), a fact not lost on corporations. Companies made the shift to femvertising since Dove proved feminism could be profitable in 2004, putting out commercials portraying women in a way the average one would respond positively to. Such tactics have proven themselves to be lucrative; 52% of women have purchased a product because they liked the way women were depicted in it (SheKnows Media), and 43% of them said supporting that brand made them feel good (SheKnows Media). In not knowing the practices they are supporting by buying products they believe to be in line with feminism, women inadvertently fuel the companies acting as exploiters, and, by extension, the exploitation.


However, it is important to recognize the efforts being made in advertising to stop this exploitation. Take, for example, Katie Martell of Boston Content (a community group for those in the advertising industry), who has given talks and published work about the misuse of feminism in advertising. She works with companies to ensure their campaigns stay true to its core, and has created a “litmus test” to ensure ads promote rather than exploit. Carrie Ingoglia, the Executive Creative Director for the Additive Agency (a “purpose-driven brand consultancy that partners with organizations to transform causes, conversations and communities for good” (Aarons-Mele), is outspoken and uncompromising in her inclusion of genuine feminism in campaigns she helps create (Aarons-Mele).


The Larger Truth behind Your Body Wash

Throughout the time since the birth of advertising, companies have aligned themselves with the feelings of the masses in an effort to use ideals to sell products. Perhaps corporations never set out to exploit feminism, perhaps it was just one in a string of social “movements” companies innocently thought consumers would appreciate them recognizing. But is the purposeful use of a movement that encompasses centuries of the tireless fight for inclusion, equality, and freedom as a convenient selling point ever truly innocent? Is it not the reduction of feminism to an afterthought, a use-when-lucrative, abandon-when-not advertising trend? The fact remains that brands have seen endless financial gain from it, doing it damage in the process by cheapening it and working against it themselves. To exploit feminism is to move beyond exploiting a movement. It is to actively exploit the female fight for justice. It’s easy to be a surface level feminist; it’s easy to manipulate your customers and exploit them in the process, and it’s even easier to forget that at the root of every advertisement is a desire to sell.


But in this new age of “capitalism with consciousness”, it is also much easier to challenge brands to uphold the values they market their products with. The responsibility falls on customers to recognize that a feminist ad does not equate to a feminist company, and to insist on more just practices when it doesn’t. As customers, as proponents, as feminists, the responsibility lies on its upholders to defend it from exploitation. After all, women are in a place to do so now that they weren’t fifty years ago. To quote the infamous Virginia Slims campaign, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”




Aarons-Mele, Morra. “Politics, Fake Feminism And Advertising.” Forbes, Forbes Media LLC., 21 Feb. 2017,

Carreon, Maria L., “By Beauty Damned: Millennial Feminism and the Exploitation of Women’s Empowerment in


Pop Culture and Corporate Advertising” (2017). CUNY Academic Works.​ 

https://acade mic works.


Cohn, Michael. “Gender Discrimination Lawsuit against KPMG Alleges Sexual Harassment and Assault.” Accounting Today,Source Media, 27 Nov. 2018, www.accountin Lt.


“Firm Behind Fearless Girl Statue To Pay $5 Million Settlement for Underpaying Female

Execs.” NY Daily News – We Are Currently Unavailable in Your Region,Chicago




Kilbourne, Jil. YouTube,YouTube, 8 May 2014,



Krause, Rachel, and Cat Quinn. “Wonder Woman Has A New Job – & It Couldn’t Be MorePerfect.” Refinery29,Refinery29, 9 Jan. 2018, n-us/2018/01/ 8 74 12/al-gadot-red-lipstick-feminist-revlon.


Luscombe, Belinda. “Woman Power: The Rise of the Sheconomy.” Time,Time Inc., 22 Nov.2010,,9171,20309

Martell, Katie. “Femvertising – The Illusion of Progress in Marketing Women.” RSS,Boston




Martell, Katie. “The New Rules of Using Feminism in Marketing.” Chief Marketer, 8 Jan. 2019,


Rath, Julien. “Audi Is under a Heap of Criticism for Its Gender Pay Equality Super Bowl Ad.”

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SheKnows Media.“Femvertising: A New Kind of Relationship Between Influencers and Brands.” Penske Media Organization, Apr. 2015.


Tolentino, Jia. “How ‘Empowerment’ Became Something for Women to Buy.” The New York Times,The New York


Times Company, 12 Apr. 2016, owerment-became- something-for-women -to-buy.html.




Feature article:

Adequately Fund Office of Administrator and Registrar-General for Effective Service Delivery

Women make up at least 51 percent of Sierra Leone’s population. Successive governments have regularly stressed the importance of promoting gender equality and empowering women as key to development. Empowering women involves a crosscutting approach. Women should have the power to move from the margin of society especially in the political space to the centre stage.

The 1995 Beijing Declaration of the Fourth World Conference on Women puts greater emphasis on women empowerment and their participation in all spheres of society. It states that “Women’s empowerment and their full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society, including participation in the decision-making process and access to power are fundamental for the achievement of equality, development and peace.”

Sierra Leone continues to make slow but steady progress in including women in strategic roles in decision-making in the governance processes.

In July 2018, President Julius Maada Bio appointed Ms. Saptieu Elizabeth Saccoh as Administrator and Registrar-General in the Office of Administrator and Registrar-General (OARG), an institution she served for six years, as Assistant Registrar in the Legal department.

The OARG was created by a statutory instrument under the State’s General Registry Act as amended. It works towards an “effective administration of and registration of entities like business registration, land transaction, industrial property, marriages and administration of the estates of deceased persons”, having the Trade Marks and Patent Office, dealing with registration of intellectual property with the exception of copy right, amongst others.

Many public institutions in Sierra Leone are faced with a myriad of problems. The OARG is no exception. The new Administrator and Registrar-General came to office with impressive zeal to perform and ensure result, but at the same time facing mammoth challenges. These include:

  1. Inadequate manpower to ensure effective service delivery. Where there is the manpower, they lack experienced.
  2. Lack of funding; funds allocated to the office by government by way of budgetary allocation by the Ministry of Finance are minimal.
  • Poor working environment.
  1. Lack of office equipment like photocopy machines, printers, computers, etc.
  2. Very centralized. Decentralization has not been done effectively as there are offices in the provinces but not enough funds to run them.

Budgetary allocation by the Ministry of Finance is crucial to the smooth operations of Ministries, Departments and Agencies. The OARG has engaged the Finance Ministry for an upward review of its budgetary allocation.

The success of the office hinges on the support and collaboration it gets from other offices, like National Revenue Authority (NRA) and the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Environment. Conveyance won’t be signed, for instance, if there are no returns from the Lands ministry. The National Revenue Authority, another revenue generating body like the OARG, has a close link with the OARG but there has been some misunderstanding between the two. OARG has no always been able to reconcile figures it generates yearly as revenue for government. In 2011, the office claimed to have generated over Le7 billion for NRA.

Revenues collected goes directly to the Non-Tax Revenue Department of the NRA. Reconciling figures is a cumbersome process as the institution she inherited, Ms. Saccoh said, “had no proper mechanism to track the revenue we collected.”  Before now, there were queries from Audit asking for updates on the amount they generated. It was challenging to respond to this request without reconciling with the NRA. In a bid to address this challenge, the office has printed payment slips and distributed them to all the seven sections under its purview.

Despite the challenges, there are a number of encouraging developments. The country has largely reduced the steps for starting a business, with a business registration now being done within hours, thanks to the One Stop Shop provided by the OARG, NRA and the Freetown City Council. This is said to have helped in improving the country’s ‘ease of doing business’ ranking. The Investment Climate Facility (ICF) and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID)  have been supportive to the operations of the Office of Administrator and Registrar-General. There was a grant to OARG by ICF, under an OARG Modernization Project, one that was also partly funded by Government. A major component of the modernization project was the automation of all records. This is yet to happen.

An automated OARG will result in efficiency and improved service delivery.  It will also help secure and preserve documents. “I am also working on reposition our staff. Some had retired and were still working; others had projects that had ended and were still working. Those who had retired were let go, same as those whose projects had ended. I have also been working on staff rotation. We cannot have people in the same office for years. Some people have monopolized everything and I have stopped that”, said Saccoh.

Adequate funds need to be provided to the OARG if they are to continue the reform trajectory. They need qualified manpower. It must properly decentralize its office out of Freetown as Freetown is not Sierra Leone. Government, despite its commitment to other development projects should provide the office with the required platform to perform effectively. Development partners could be encouraged to assist with especially funding and trainings. Above all, the OARG should also step up its revenue generating drives, a commitment made by the new head at the helm of its affairs.

Over a Decade, decentralization Still Fraught with Challenges


Decentralization is defined as the process of political devolution, fiscal and decision-making from central government to local level. With the enactment of a Local Government Act in 2004, Sierra Leone laid the foundation for a move towards a decentralized system of governance. The Act provides for the devolution of functions, powers and services to local councils, all in an effort to ensure an inclusive and participatory approach to governance, an important process in the democratic development of the country.


The re-establishment of the local councils was to foster proper service delivery at the local government level. The Councils mobilized human and material resources necessary for the overall development and welfare of the people and also promote and support productive activity and social development.  Since 2004, successive governments have been unable to achieve full devolution. This requires greater political will and above all, financial resources.


Fiscal decentralization implies the transfer of responsibility for revenue and expenditures from central to local government. A greater percentage of the nation’s budget should go to the councils. The country cannot achieve that targets it has set for food security if it only gives 19-22% of the entire Gross Domestic Product to the 22 local councils. The political will is being demonstrated at the high level in ensuring MDAs devolve the required functions to councils. Inter-ministerial meetings have been held and discussions are ongoing to see what could be done. All this is encouraging development. But there is now the need to go beyond political meetings and making commitments.


Since the decentralization process was rolled out over a decade ago, much could not be pointed at, as achievements by the councils. Councils are trying to perform but the Local Government Act has not been fully complied with. This is particularly so when it comes to devolution of functions from MDAs to councils.


Councils are mandated by the Act to collect revenues. According to section 45(1) of the Act, local councils are to be financed “from their own revenue collections, from central government grants for devolved functions and from transfers for services delegated from Government Ministries.” Central government’s quarterly allocations to councils rarely arrive on time. When they do, they are not enough for their operations.


Revenues in the form of tax payment are paltry; not only is there poor culture of tax payment, councils also lack the required personnel to embark on effective revenue generating and collection measures. Failure to fully comply with the devolution process hinders the process of participatory approach to governance at the local level. “We have the denial syndrome”, says head of Decentralization Secretariat, Alex Bonapha. There are people at the central level who think that just withdrawing power from them to the periphery is a difficult thing to do.”


Also, there is now a new paradigm shift. When functions were created for devolution, they were statutorily mandated by an instrument. But some of these functions were fused together and now there is a whole new model. For instance, there was a Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport; then it changed to Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. Now, you have two ministries of education which were mentioned in the statutory instrument for devolution. These are also seen as core troubles to the devolution process, added to the seeming lack of will on the part of MDAs to devolve some functions.


Procurement of drugs happens to be one of the functions to be devolved. But Bonapha says that much as it is an international and very complex issue, there should be a general hub at the line ministry, which should be doing the bulk of the procurement, “housed at the central medical store from where councils can procure.”


After a decade since its enactment, the Act needs to be reviewed. The new policy should be devised that we inform the amendment of the Act. As it is now, the lowest level in the local council administration is the Ward Committees. Beneath that, you cannot monitor certain deliveries. In any new or amended law, there is therefore a need to capture the Village Development Committees and the Chiefdom Development Committees.


The welfare of elected council officials should also be looked at, if they are to be effective. Ward Committees are vital components in the decentralization process. However, their outputs have not been encouraging. The councils need resources. MDAs must devolve and central government must go beyond the political rhetoric and put into practice its commitment to fostering the decentralization process.




Student Politics: A Breeding Ground for Politicians and For Violence

By Sayoh Kamara

A pivotal stage in the involvement of students in the politics of Sierra Leone could be traced back to 1977 when students of Fourah Bay College (FBC) and secondary schools in Freetwon staged the ‘ No College, No School’ demonstration. The demonstration which shoke the pillars of power was staged as a result of poor governance, government corruption, a declining economy and poor student welfare. The uprising was led by student activists including Hindolo Trye, then the President of the Student Union, Pious Foray and a host of others was violently suppressed by the Siaka Stevens government. Most of the key student leaders were arrested and locked up and subsequently fled the country in the aftermath. Some of those students subsequently ended up in Muammar Gaddaffi’s Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to study the Libyan leader’s political philosophy set out in his Green Book. The outbreak of the country’s civil war in the 1990s has been linked to the popular discontent that continued following the 1977 uprising.


In the aftermath of the 1977 demonstration, various camps were set up at Fourah Bay College and they became a breeding ground for future political leaders. Various political camps were set up after the Gardeners Club was banned. The current divide of Blacks and Whites have since spread to other colleges, tertiary institutions and even senior secondary schools. This phenomenon has now almost become a cult. Today, it is rare for a student to emerge as a leader if he/she does not belong to one of these camps. Most of today’s politicians had their teeth cut in politics in their respective colleges and camps and these alliances and allegiances continue to impact mainstream national politics. Names abound of such students turned politicians who have had their political trainings in colleges, especially Fourah Bay College. A substantial number of those who became Student Union Presidents at Fourah Bay College later became full-time politicians and their successes are an inducement for the students of today.

Following the 1977 students uprising, student politics took a different dimension. From been a platform for breeding, bold, vocal and radical student leaders that can use voice and radical ideas to agitate for their needs and wants, the rivalry and power struggle in which students were ultimately engulfed have always resulted in violence and the actions of the students especially at Fourah Bay College have always had concomitant repercussions on down-town Freetown, the country’s capital. At some point of the country’s transition from one party rule to military rule and now multi-party democracy, students were in the vanguard of these transitions and because they have pricelessly carved a position for themselves in that sphere, they now became centre of interests by the very politicians groomed by the college’s student body politic. Invariably, these very politicians from the black and white camps have also spread themselves between the two main political parties, the All People’s Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).

When students have concerns relating to their welfare and or learning conditions, they do not limit their options to negotiations. They usually threaten some form of agitation  especially in cases where the student executive body is supportive of the party in opposition. To try to prevent this, the government of the day may surreptitiously use the college administration to either thwart the student elections or hand pick the executives that best suits their interest. That is more the reason why student union elections have become more contentious and acrimonious between students and by extension political parties. As a consequence, there is a no love lost between students and the college administrations and by extension the government of the day. The authorities, be it the college administration and existing governments are yet to find a way prevent national politics from having a negative impact on student politics.

This is unlikely to change in the near future as former student leaders have been appointed to various positions in government. This indirect influence on student politics would have to be logically looked at in the face of the fact that students as citizens must also have a space in the decision-making sphere at the national level. As a matter of fact, student politics should and must be limited within the confines of college campuses with clear cut mandates pinned on seeking the welfare of students. But college administrators should also be seen to be apolitical in their approach to student governance, regardless of which government appoints them to administer the colleges.

Indeed, colleges should train future leaders but should not do so with preconceived notions as to which political party the students must belong. Like the sex for grade scandal that at one point, engulfed the country’s colleges, the issue of party colour used by some lecturers against hardworking students should be investigated and nipped in the board. These in my view, will go a long way in sanitizing student politics in the country’s colleges and other centres of higher learning.

Student politics in Sierra Leone is a mixed blessing.


Sierra Leone Music: fine arts, poor artists

By Ibrahim Sorious Samura

Music is a major business across the world. Apart from fame, the art has attracted huge investment and endorsement, turning musicians into millionaires and billionaires. African music has also made it big. It has reached the world’s ear. As the 21st Century offers unlimited sophisticated platforms for the development and growth of music through the use of technology and digitalization, how far has Sierra Leone benefited from these opportunities? Our budding music is faced with innumerable challenges.


African Music has evolved over the years. There are several music genres identical to certain countries, regions and cultures.  These music genres help build the identity or origin of the music. The rhythm, lyrics, sound and sometimes the accent or language are all unique features that help in the classification or origin of the music.

The music industries in many African countries have evolved over time. African music is as diverse as the topography of the land itself and comprises of literally thousands of different styles of music. African music has had a significant impact on modern music. However, the need for commercial success is beginning to have a negative impact on it.

There are a few African musicians who have acquired a great deal of wealth. They have become so popular, that you practically have to put down a ton of cash to invite them to grace your occasion. Internationally, they are fast becoming sought after names in the music and entertainment industry, eventually making the continent proud. The trend has not been the same in Sierra Leone. At present, Sierra Leone does not its own unique blend of music. G

Gone are the days of Ebenezer Calendar’s maringa music, S. E. Rogie’s palm wine music and Docta Oloh’s gumbay and milo music. What we refer to as the contemporary Sierra Leone music is a hybrid of several tunes. Most of today’s stars focus on afro pop music which was started by Sierra Leonean lawyer and musician, Geraldo Pino, who famously influenced the music of Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

When the Jimmy B and King Fisher came in the 1990s, they introduced a mixture of African rap music, pop and afro RnB. Nobody ventured in developing the milo jazz music which was late Docta Oloh and others had pioneered. It died a natural death.

For a brief while, the late Ahmed Janka Nabay popularized bubu music. Then, the likes of Pupa Bajah and the Dry Eye Crew entered the scene around 2003 with a distinct music blend of hip hop, funk, dancehall and reggae.[ They are part of a growing international hip hop movement. Sierra Leone music reigned in those days. There were very few foreign songs that dominated the Sierra Leone music scene. But we failed to develop and maintain the momentum.

When hip hop and RnB started gaining popularity in Sierra Leone through the effort of artists like Kao Denero, K Man and others, we started trolling the old sound, referring to it as ‘Gbaingbainskay.’ Some of these artists traveled to Europe and America and settled there. The new artist couldn’t build on the sound they met and it faded out. During that period, the Nigerians and Ghanaians were understudying us. They successfully re-tuned their old fashioned afro-beat and merged it with ours. What we have now is a hybrid of RnB, hip hop, ragga, pop, dancehall and more.

Now, Sierra Leone music cannot compete with other West African music. Foreign sounds have totally dominated the Sierra Leone music industry. They are more appealing to music lovers than what our artists do. This has been a major challenge the industry is facing and thus has resulted in the decline of our music. The Nigerian and Ghanaian artists are the most sought after in Africa, with the South Africans and Tanzanians popping up. Locally and internationally, Sierra Leonean artists struggle to break through and get big projects. It’s difficult to get a hit song from a Sierra Leonean artist as compared to the past.

Digitalization has also contributed to the proliferation of music. With the advent of computer, anyone can sit in a corner and produce music. Poor sounds are being released every day. Though digitalization helps in producing young talents, the quality of production has however not been maintained as in other African countries.

Another reason our artists are not yielding anymore is the lack of modern business mentality. Before the digital era, musicians were  making huge sales. The analog system created little or no room for piracy. The Cassette Sellers Association (CSA) had a great deal with the artists but failed to move into digital market when other countries did so. Now that cassettes are no longer available, and the use of CDs is fast becoming obsolete, our artists are making little from records sales.

For instance, when the Nigerians realized that the world has moved from analog to digital, they immediately created online or digital marketing platforms for their music. They built huge social media channels, selling their music on iTunes and other digital markets. They are also earning money from their YouTube channels and other social media platforms. These they achieve with the help of bloggers, who on a daily basis feature them in their stories and increase their popularity on social media. Top Nigerian artists now have tens of millions of followings on social media platforms and have successfully increased their value and influence internationally.

In Sierra Leone, artists have not yet realized the importance of digital market and growth of social media platforms. Hence, they now have limited source of earning. To date, the major revenue source is to sell gigs, which has proved unsuccessful. Many Sierra Leoneans are weary of attending shows, especially when their songs are not popular anymore. In recent years, we have witnessed many empty shows.

One key area Sierra Leonean artists have not yet benefited from is endorsement. This remains a major source of earning for many African musicians.  This has to do with structures they have in place for that. There are also favorable policies and atmosphere that support this growth. In Sierra Leone, companies are merely giving our stars pittance in the name of sponsorships. .

Poor quality production and packaging has greatly affected the growth of our artists. Paying topnotch music producers is a challenge, same as for producing quality videos. No one will take you seriously when you fail to produce quality.  And this is where foreign music has thrived over the locals. Politics is a key player in the decline of our music. Musicians continue to meddle in politics in recent times. Most artists have subjected themselves to dictates the activities of political parties and politicians. This may have accounted for the prevailing divisions in the music industry. The fans are now promoting and following artists based on their political alignments. This is not helping a relatively small market like ours.



Housemates Salone TV Reality Show 2019, a paradigm shift in entertainment  


By Christian Sesay

Entertainment bridges cultural gaps and ethnic prejudices. Its taste often differs from society to society. Nigeria, for instance, gives a better example of a country where entertainment has played a crucially valuable role in a multi-cultural society. Sierra Leone also stands out as a nation that needs entertainment to heal wounds and mend fences given her history of conflict.


The country’s entertainment industry today has a broader spectrum than a few years back. It continues to witness a steady growth, though with space for further improvement. This growth has created more opportunities for young people.


There is a realistic paradigm shift in the industry, with reality television shows now the new trend. The most recent of these was the ‘Big Sister Salone’, organized by one of Sierra Leone’s famous model, musician and entrepreneur, Zainab Sheriff aka de Mamie Na Powa. That event garnered momentum, given that it was something new in our entertainment industry.


The recent arrival of the Housemate Salone TV Reality show in the entertainment industry is a replica of the recently concluded ‘Big Sister Salone’ event. The Housemates Salone show aims at positively exposing the country’s untapped talents as well as promoting emerging talents. It was launched by the Africa Young Voices (AYV) Media Empire, in collaboration with Africell Mobile Network as the latest social entertainment project. Its primary focus Show is to enhance Youth Empowerment as well as provide a platform for young people to showcase their talents naturally.


Speaking to SierraEye, Muctarr Tejan Cole, also known as TJ Cole, a Judge and member of the organizing committee said the concept was borne out of the growing urge of fans after the Big Sister Salone show, yearning for more exciting reality show in the country.  The show comes with its positive sides, too and above all, unique difference. He thinks its emergence will also further bring opportunities to the country as well as serve as a breeding platform for entertainers wanting to unleash their talents on the international stage.


TJ Cole disclosed, the eventual winner will be taking home Le 100,000,000, which is about US$11,000. Organizing such a show is very daunting and hugely challenging. The African Young Voices (AYV) and Africell, Cole stated, are the prime sponsors of the event, with over US$70,000 budgeted for the entire event.


The success of the show rests on the support of its fans and general public. Public acceptance is the driving force to the sustainability and success of an event. The organizers now have the responsibility to do everything they could, to give the public what they deserve. This eventually will foster public confidence and trust. The final housemates who were fortunate to be in the house were drawn from every social discipline. They are now being monitored with an overriding theme. Eventually, at the end of the day, success of the show will be counted on the impact it would have created on housemates. The nation is now braced for another exciting show that would last for 8 weeks.


Premier league returns amidst FIFA ban

By Christian Sesay

Football is a passion, a discipline that brings people together. Like partisan politics, it is popular in Sierra Leone. Notwithstanding the fanfare that often comes with foreign football, the game in Sierra Leone has not got the attention it deserves. And the reasons for this poor state of affairs in football are many, not least, politics, structural set up, accountability and a lot more. The game is still  popular across the country as it used to be played from schools to the communities and district level. The civil war and Ebola put a temporary halt to the development of the game. The suspension of school football has also had an adverse impact on the game’s progress.


Until recently, Sierra Leone enjoyed the full support of FIFA with millions of dollars poured into the development. For four years, the Sierra Leone Premier League, the highest league in the country was in slumber with many failed attempts to resurrect it.

Due to what FIFA described as political interference in the game, a bad was place on Sierra Leone’s participation in international competitions. With the suspension of the country and the absence of any competitive league the game was in decline.

The restart of football in the New Year was great news. Prior to ascending the presidency, Julius Maada Bio had committed to give the kiss of life back to the game. The President fulfilled his  pledge to support the revival of football, government announced a Le 3.5 billion support to the premier league. Though seen by many as drop in the ocean, it came as great relief and helped kicked start the national league.

Alimu Bah, ex-general secretary of the Sierra Leone Football Association, saw the support for the Premier League as  “unprecedented”. It “has never happened and it is welcoming.” Good decision, huge funds from central government! But beyond this is an irony; some of these clubs have the capacity to raise more than what was given them from the Le 3.5billion as government support.  The appointment of a Premier League Board gave some respite to football loving fans, with Barrister Emmanuel Saffa-Abdulai serving as the Board Chair. He has been in football for the better part of his life, having great passion for the game. After series of consultations with football stakeholders and other spade work done, the league has finally started.


Notwithstanding the fanfare the premier league has attracted, the game of football is still plagued with daunting challenges.  In an interview with SierraEye, Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai Esq. said FIFA and the Sierra Leone government will sort themselves out. “The FIFA ban can continue and the government will handle it.  They are talking.” As Premier League Chairman, he said, he would want the ban to be lifted “but that is not my preoccupation. What I want to see is to ensure the football is played.” For years, he said, Ghana had to pull out of international football because of a stalemate with FIFA. They went home, organized their domestic league, had strong players and when they came back, they qualified for both World Cup and African Nation’s Cup. “This could be blessing in disguise for all of us”, Saffa Abdulai said.

Alimu Bah shared the same view, saying, the FIFA ban has nothing to do with the on-going league since “you cannot wait for FIFA to lift the ban before you start playing the beautiful game. Let the Premier League play and let the government look at the second, third divisions and district leagues.”


Sierra Leoneans have shown tremendous support for the domestic league. For Saffa Abdulai, the benefit of the Premier League is enormous. “It helps with national cohesion. Everybody is today talking about football. The game does not count one’s political background. In a much polarized country, we already have people coming together. The games are also now helping with job creation. Now the players wake up in the morning, go to the pitch and get trained…”


There is also the rippling effect. The first division league is expected to commence soon. This is the same with the second division with 24 clubs. What this means is the numbers would multiply in terms of job creation for players.

Thirteen clubs are presently battling for one trophy. The heat is on and the battle line drawn, all for some good reasons.  Household names like East End Lions (The Killers), Port Authority (Water Front Boys) and Blackpool (Tiss Tass Boys) are all in contention.  As the game is being played, there are other vital issues to be looked into. One key issue is that of accountability. The current board has initiated an open forum by way of engaging the media thereby enabling them ask questions and get first-hand information on the running of the league. Teams have also been urged to sign professional contracts with their players for they (players) must be paid and get their livelihood from the game.

Football has always been messy. The core problems include match fixing and faulty governance in the beautiful game. Political interference is another. The need to give attention to other sporting disciplines is also vital. Government, through the sport ministry should speedily look at the legal framework: the Sport Authority Act and National Sport Policy. This could be of strategic importance. Once they are rolled out, other disciplines could be taken care of.


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