Showing posts from 2019

Award-winning cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason is on the 2020 New Year's Honors List

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, a young, gifted, and award-winning cellist, has been appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to music.

The New Year Honours list 2020 recognizes the outstanding achievements of people across the United Kingdom, a government statement said. 

"The List celebrates a range of extraordinary young people across the UK. MBEs are awarded to 25-year-old Yusuf Patel for his work in tackling extremism in London; 21-year-old award-winning cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason; and 27-year-old Mete Coban, the co-founder of My Life My Say, for his work transforming youth engagement in democracy."

The MBE is the third highest-ranking Order of the British Empire award, behind the Commander of the British Empire (CBE) which is first and then Officer of the British Empire (OBE).

According to a statement on the Kanneh-Mason website, Sheku called the award “amazing" and said he "was so lucky to have the dedicated support of parents" who g…

Christmas came early for Liberians in America

Christmas came early for Liberians in the United States. According to the Voice of America (VOA), President Donald Trump has signed the defense spending bill, which included terms that Liberians may apply for permanent residency, if they have maintained a continuous presence in the U.S. since Nov. 20, 2014.

Earlier this year, the U.S. President postponed a winding down of the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) protections for Liberians, pushing back the end date until March 2020. In that announcement, Trump cited the "unique" history of Liberia, a nation founded in 1847 by freed American slaves, the VOA said. An estimated 4,000 Liberians were covered by Temporary Protected Status or TPS in 2014.

U.S. senators Tina Smith of Minnesota and Jack Reed of Rhode Island are credited with pressing for the inclusion of the provision for Liberians in the $738 billion National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA.

The state of Minnesota reportedly has the largest population of Liberian im…

International Migrants Day | December 18

Over the past 12 months, 272 million people, representing 3.5% of the world's population, have been driven to seek a better future elsewhere. According to the UNESCO Director-General,  some are seeking new economic and employment opportunities, while others, such as refugees and asylum seekers, have been overwhelmed by their situation, and are fleeing war, persecution, hunger or disease. Click here to read the full message.

Sierra Leone among the Worst Countries for Women in West Africa

The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security released its second Global Women, Peace and Security Index at United Nations Headquarters this week. The 2019 list ranks 167 countries on their progress on equality, well being, and empowerment in homes, communities, and societies.

We looked specifically at how West African nations ranked by their overall index score. Below are the rankings with the best countries for inclusion, representation of government, employment,financial access, and education at the top. Countries lower down the list report higher levels of insecurity, intimate partner violence, and women experience more discrimination. Sierra Leone ranks among the worst countries for inclusion, justice, and security.

Only one West African country features in the top 100. More than ten places below South Africa (66) and Zimbabwe (74) comes in  Ghana (78), tied with Laos. Togo follows at (113), with Senegal (114) tied with Turkey; and then Benin (116).

Gabonis ranked at …

Sierra Leone ranks 3rd among countries with highest maternal deaths

The proportion of maternal deaths is decreasing, says a new report by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank, and the United Nations Population Division. But the lifetime risk of maternal mortality for a 15-year-old girl in Sierra Leone is 1 in 20. 

The West African nation is one of three countries estimated to have had an extremely high maternal mortality ratio in 2017 (defined as over 1000 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births), with the highest maternal mortality ratio being in South Sudan.

Sixteen other countries, all also in  Africa except for one, are estimated to have very high maternal mortality ratio in 2017, ranging between 500 and 999. 

The 10 countries with the highest maternal mortality ratios in order from highest to lowest are:

South Sudan
Sierra Leone
The Central African Republic

Nigeria and India had the highest numbers of maternal deaths, and accounted for approximately one third (35%) of all es…

Beautiful game marred by violence, Sports Writers Association of Sierra Leone issues statement

The Sports Writers Association of Sierra Leone issued a press statement late Sunday condemning the violent physical and hostile verbal assault suffered by two female reporters with the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). The statement says Frances Barnard and Esther Marie Samura "were beaten" by close protection guards of the president of Sierra Leone.

In addition, a male sports journalist Alimamy Kamara was assaulted by the same bodyguards, who have been named as Sweet and Kposowa.

According to the Sports Writers Association of Sierra Leone, "this is the first time in the history of football in Sierra Leone to see security guards behave in such a violent and rude manner," the statement said.

The close protection officers are accused of barging into the commentary booth at the football stadium during Sunday's match between the national teams of Sierra Leone and neighboring Liberia.

"The commentary booth is exclusively for the media and this act w…

'Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might'

“He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”
― Saint Francis of Assisi

Time marches on. It doesn’t stop for you or me. I figure the way we try to hold back constant change is by marking the fruits of our labor.

My mother, Hannah Iyatunde Deen, seen left in both life stage photos,  will be buried Wednesday, September 4, under a kapok tree in a village cemetery. She was a hard-working 81-year-old woman.

During her lifetime, she served her family, communities, and the world, in any which way she could. In the beginning, she wanted to be a hospital social worker. A dream probably spurred on by the humanitarian crisis of the Second World War in colonial  Sierra Leone, and glass-eyed British missionaries at the Annie Walsh Memorial School of the 1950s. When my mother’s childhood dream job didn't work out, she got married and started a family.

For more than 40 year…

'Oh, the rain came down And the floods came up'

About a month ago, Freetown City Council's revenue team announced it was visiting properties in certain areas of the city to collect property rates. The team, made up of staff from the valuation, rates and finance departments, together with police and bailiffs, planned to visit the properties with a bank official to give residents the convenience of paying from the comfort of their homes and businesses.
"Freetonians, don’t forget to honor your financial responsibilities towards our city, as FCC cannot #Transform" the mayor urged.

'But then the rain came down. And the floods came up. The rain came down. And the floods came up. The rain came down. And the floods came up.'

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, mayor of Freetown, described Thursday, August 15, as "a somber day for us at Council,"  as many of our residents were affected by flooding and four people lost their lives, she wrote on Facebook. 

Earlier that day, the mayor had visited Wellington, one of the worst-hit a…

Religious Pilgrimages are not the priority for Sierra Leone. It's Man-Made Disasters

In the second flash flooding to swamp Freetown, less than two years after a mudslide killed hundreds in Sierra Leone's capital, at least five people are dead.

Torrential rain overwhelmed the city's drainage system, creating waterways that churned down streets, according to eyewitness reports posted in real-time on social media.

"Report disasters as a result of today’s downpour to the FCC’s Disaster Response Team," Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr urged on her official Facebook page at 8:24 a.m. on Friday, August 2. 
In stark contrast, authorities at State House made no reference to the disaster in its post on Saturday, August 3, only saying the president and vice president "bid farewell to about 900 Sierra Leoneans performing this year’s Islamic pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca, Saudi Arabia."

In 2015, floods killed 10 people and left thousands homeless. Two years later, flooding and mudslides in Freetown killed nearly 500 people, reported Clarence Roy-Macaulay for…

Rain, Rain, Won't Go Away in Freetown

It's heartbreaking to see the photos and raw videos again of rushing water flowing like rivers in Freetown’s city streets. I feel terrified just watching hillside streams, fed by the heavy August rain, roaring down--past sturdy brick walls and the thin, defenseless homes of the poor. 

If only ordinary people knew just how much power they have to rein in this annual flooding that has killed hundreds over the past 10 years.  The poor are the same ones who will most enjoy the benefits of environmental relief.  

Seems to me, the nation's politicians and the wealthy don't feel the effects as much their poorer neighbors, and they don't have the power to change much. If it rained more on Friday, August 2, 2019, than it did in the month of July in 2016, the rains aren’t going away. 

Food and Money in Sierra Leone

Three years ago, none other than The Lancet published a study listing Sierra Leone among the West African countries that enjoy healthier diets than their counterparts in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan or Canada.

The Lancet, which is among the world's best known general medical journals, surveyed dietary quality among men and women in 187 countries between1990 and 2010 and published their peer-reviewed results in March 2015.

Taken together, the consumption of sugary drinks, saturated fats, sodium, and processed meats in industrially advanced countries can't match the goodness of healthy foods eaten in Sierra Leone, such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fish, as well as foods containing fiber and omega-3s.

Hearts are bleeding now it has been confirmed that Sierra Leoneans not only eat healthily but also cook some of the best Jollof. No news there, either. Sierra Leone shut down the West Africa Jollof debate more than three years ago according to Sw…

Ponder My Thoughts with Andrew Keili | The Judiciary: "As It Was In The Beginning"

'Election petition verdict: 'The law is an ass,'I wrote an article in this column in 2013 with this title, in response to the verdict on the now famous Ansu Lansana case. I took this as a personal issue. I know the characters involved, I have seen what that decision has wrought and have experienced what happens to a constituency and the democratic process when some distant party subverts the will of the people without consulting them. I am certain therefore I can be excused for verging on the ad hominem as it is only by doing so that the effect can be made vivid to the reader.

I am a relation of all the major parties involved at the local level in constituency 5 in the Kailahun District. The SLPP candidate, Ansu Lansana, and the petitioner Sam May Macarthy are cousins with whom I am intimately acquainted. The lucky APC candidate, Regina Songa Marrah, who was foisted on our constituency is also a close relative. The constituents were stunned, and up to this day could not u…

Christian Lawyers issue Statement on Rising Attacks Against Women in Sierra Leone

Christian Lawyers Centre (known as Legal Link) is perturbed by the volume of verbal attacks on Basita Michaels Esq, the President of the Sierra Leone Bar Association, for simply expressing her candid opinion on how sustainable peace and national cohesion can be achieved during the Bintumani III Conference.
As an organisation that defends the rights of Human Rights Defenders in Sierra Leone, we take the greatest exception to this unsavoury behaviour in a democratic society.

We have taken pains to listen to and critically analyse the statement of Basita Michaels at the Peace and National Cohesion Conference ( Bintumani III) for which she is being vilified.

It is our candid opinion that her statements were not only factually correct but were also said in good faith and at the right platform whose primary objective was to seek for solutions that will foster lasting peace and social cohesion in the state.

As a matter of fact, the ECOWAS Representative and the Representatives from Kenya and…

It's Africa Day 2019 | Give Her a Break

Almost six months after Sierra Leone’s first lady launched  “Hands Off Our Girls“ (a spin-off campaign from the Bring Back Our Girls movement), Fatima Bio has taken some flak. 

Fatima (seen standing with former first lady Sia Koroma in an undated photo) hasn't been out of the news since she led a controversial event on April 27, 2019, in a noticeably empty stadium in the capital, Freetown.

A few days later she shared her thoughts on WhatsApp, hoping to silence the critics with revelations about rival factions at State House and Presidential aides who are living the life of Royalty, while poor Sierra Leoneans eke out an existence on $1.20 a day.  

When that social media PR  didn't do the trick, Fatima put out a video to hex her husband's enemies, real or imagined. Needless to say, all bets were off!

Now, every other day there are videos from local comedians, which in all honesty send up some of the first lady's worst pronouncements in the most hilarious way. There are also…

Ponder My Thoughts with Andrew Keili

Andrew Kelli's syndicated column, "Ponder My Thoughts" returns with the challenge of Sierra Leonean cohesion, the capacity of Sierra Leonean society, and conflict management.

Our leaders were divided on the eve of independence in 1961. Since then, every change in government has been accompanied by accusations by the new government that it inherited a broken country and economy.

President Kabbah accused the NPRC of emptying the country’s coffers. President Koroma levied the same accusation against President Kabbah’s government. Enter President Bio-ditto.

Accusations apart, what has become apparent over the past 11 years has been the division of the country along party lines and the government sharing the spoils to party supporters in a country where parties are roughly aligned along regional and tribal lines. The winning party would kick most heads of institutions out and in some cases, clear out whole institutions of senior staff and install their own supporters. The res…

Confused about the sign on your property in Sierra Leone? Here’s what you need to know

Excerpt from social media commentary by Chukwuemeka Taylor: 
Dr. Sandy can lawfully through the office of the Director of Surveys and Lands put signs or notices on any land he considers to be unoccupied land. This notice is simply an expression of the Government's intention to repossess land deemed "unoccupied ".

The Minister’s mistake is in the "mongrel wording" of the notices on signs he erects all over the place. The wording on such signs departs from the statutory prescription provided in the Unoccupied Lands Act and the State Lands Act.

There is no statutory authority for the notice to read " repossessed by the State ".

The notice being erected on private lands by Dr. Sandy is my opinion, mischievous and is calculated to mislead. Dr. Sandy Ph.D. ought to know that repossession of any land cannot be fulfilled without an Order of the Court.

It surprises me that the Learned Attorney General & Minister of Justice has not made her knowledge of the corr…

How ECOWAS ranked in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index

Thanks to a change of government, The Gambia achieved one of the biggest rises in the World Press Freedom Index in 2018. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF),  which has published the  Index since 2002, the level of press freedom in the smallest country in West Africa has significantly improved, up 30 to 92nd. The RSF is the largest non-governmental organization (NGO) specializing in the defense of media freedom around the world. Here's how member countries in the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) ranked out of 180 countries in 2019.

Ghana 27 Burkina Faso  36 Senegal 49 Niger 66 Cote D'Ivoire 71 Togo 76 Sierra Leone 86 Guinea Bissau 89 Gambia 92  (***Up 30 at 92nd) Liberia 93 Benin 96 Ghana  Guinea 107 Mali 112 Gabon 115 Nigeria 120 Morocco/Western Sahara 135
Source: World Press Freedom Index 2019

Sierra Leoneans concerned about empty seats in the national stadium on Independence Day

Sierra Leone marks its 58th Independence Anniversary today. The national day celebrated on April 27 commemorates the restoration of  Sierra Leone's sovereignty in 1961 from the Britsh empire. Unfortunately, empty seats photographed on Saturday, April 27 at the national stadium in the capital city of Freetown has raised eyebrows. The stadium has a 36,000 capacity and pulls large crowds during football games.

Nonstop sand mining is destroying Freetown’s eco-tourism

It's not the first time photos have circulated on social media of what has been described as '24-hour, seven-days-a-week operations to carry hundreds of tonnes of sand from Freetown's beaches and sell it to builders as construction material.'

The Earth Day 2019 photos from intrepid Sierra Leonean photojournalist Issam capture how free-for-all sand mining is destroying Freetown’s eco-tourism opportunities.

For years, local and international reports have shown round-the-clock sand-mining on beaches within a few miles of Sierra Leone’s capital is having a devastating effect on the coastline, and destroying property.

Without permits, hundreds of trucks attack the beaches on a daily basis, hiring local boys as daily laborers to destroy their own communities.

Reports say that not much is being done to control the increasing demand for sand to make concrete blocks.

Lara Taylor-Pearce: An Independent Auditor

Lara Taylor-Pearce, Sierra Leone's auditor general, was on Radio Democracy 98.1 FM this week to dispute the missing $1 Billion said to have been stolen under the Ernest Bai Koroma administration. The fantastic amount quoted by Finance Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa and Financial Secretary Sahr Jusu was announced to create a false impression, one newspaper said.

Almost two weeks ago, Bloomberg's Silas Gbandia reported finance minister J.J.Saffa said on Star Television that  Sierra Leone Public Finance Audit Shows $1 Billion Missing. According to Gbandia, Saffa pledged that the government will recover the funds by June, without specifying how it plans to do so.

The report also said that President Julius Maada Bio commissioned the audit into public spending from 2015 to 2018 after his election last year. Sierra Leone's economy measured $3.7 billion in 2017.

Numerous news outlets including Sierra Express Media and Cocorioko have reported on the radio interview given by Sierra Leon…