''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 9 No 5

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Thursday March 22, 2012 - UN Security Council meets on Sierra Leone - hears concern over ugly developments in Sierra Leone that could scupper the hopes of the UN, Sierra Leoneans and friends of Sierra Leone as an example of a success story of a country making a full and admirable recovery after years of a brutal and devastating war. Despite progress made in getting the country on her feet again - questions raised over the recent importation of millions of dollars worth of war weapons for the armed wing of the APC parading as a "police force", the OSD. Calls on the main opposition SLPP to rethink action over the boycott of Parliament and other crucial meetings. Shears-Moses report must be made public.Sierra Leone's Foreign Minister J B Dauda - failed to mention the weapons in his reportFormer UNIPSIL Head in Sierra Leone Michael von der Schulenburg

The United Nations Security Council meeting in a crucial session on Sierra Leone has heard the final report of Michael von der Schulenburg who, until he was forced out of the country by the Ernest Bai Koroma regime, was the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in the country and head of all UN operations in Sierra Leone. He praised and indeed paid tribute to the people of Sierra Leone for their many admirable qualities and "for their resilience and their extraordinary ability to forgive and reconcile. Today, victims and perpetrators live side by side in communities all over the country".

Settling on the challenges facing Sierra Leoneans as they get ready for the November 17 General Elections Mr Michael von der Schulenburg expressed grave concern over the importation of weapons worth millions of dollars to equip a section of the police, the OSD noting

"...reports that the Government has imported assault weapons worth millions of dollars in January of this year to equip a recently enlarged para-military wing of its police, the Operational Services Division (OSD), are of great concern. Sierra Leone is under no arms embargo. However, given Sierra Leone's progress in establishing peace and security throughout the country and its relatively low crime rate, it is not clear why the police would need such weapons – especially as this shipment, according to a leaked Bill of Lading, appears to include heavy machine guns and even grenade launchers. I would urge the Government to fully clarify these reports and, if true, explain the intended use of these weapons.

An enlarged, heavily-armed and allegedly also ethnically imbalanced OSD risks undermining the good work that has been done by the Sierra Leonean Police in creating a modern and operationally independent police force serving the people of Sierra Leone – a people-oriented police was one of the important pillars of the successful Security Sector Reforms after the civil war. Because of the country’s painful experience, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had suggested that Sierra Leone abandons all forms of para-military police force. Such lessons from the past should be taken seriously.

Smoke and mirrors Ernest Bai Koroma also came in for scathing comments/criticism on a number of issues relating to good governance, political tolerance, the rule of law and the need to make public the report of the Shears-Moses report into political violence. It was revealed that although the President had even made promises to the diplomatic corps in the country, he had still not kept such.

"The Shears-Moses report that had investigated the events that led to the most serious outbreak of political violence since the end of the civil war in March 2009 must be issued without any further delay. It is now two years since the report had been submitted to the President and despite repeated pledges to publish it - most recently in a meeting the President had with the entire diplomatic corps in October 2011 - this has not yet been done."

The newly-created and so-called independent Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, the new body that was meant to be a truly national broadcaster free from government control was the subject of more reminders of the Ernest Bai Koroma regime's penchant for grabbing and wanting everything to be either Ernest Koroma or APC coloured. Any other alternative is seen as unpalatable in a set-up still living in the excesses of one-party rule dubiously imposed on a cowered and intimidated public by Siaka Stevens.

"...unfortunately, the SLBC has not fulfilled expectations and bad management practices have begun to impact negatively on the quality and impartiality of its programmes. Recent personnel decisions further raise questions about its political neutrality so shortly before the elections. I hope that the Government will stick to its courageous decision and help bring about the necessary adjustments in the board and management of the SLBC that would make this a truly national and independent voice of Sierra Leone."

We raised concerns over the Act setting up the SLBC which gave the President the final say in the appointment of top members of that body's management and Board as well as drawing the attention of the United Nations to the advertisements for the posts of the Director-General as well as the Deputy Director-General. Both posts were filled by unqualified personnel with the Deputy being a retired School Inspector who has never done any bit of broadcasting, journalism or media related work. The SLBC "management" has sacked all the experienced broadcasters thought to be reading from other books other than the APC red book. They have been replaced by people, and many are not journalists/broadcasters, brought in by APC operatives and party members.

It is remarkable and quite worthy to note that the concerns raised at the United Nations Security Council comes a day before the anniversary of rebel incursion in 1991 when rebels of Foday Sankoh aided by elements from Liberia and Burkina Faso fired the first shots as they crossed from Liberia into Bomaru in eastern Sierra Leone on March 23.

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