Muctaru's Blog

I am Muctaru Wurie from Freetown, Sierra Leone. I blog on a variety of subject from my homeland and most of my post feature well researched stories I do.

Another Positive Image For Sierra Leone

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The first thing that came to my mind when I heard on BBC news that a Sierra Leonean cab driver in New York city found a bag containing $100,000 worth of jewellery, photographs and cash in the back seat of his taxi, tracked down the passenger who left it and gave it back, I said wow, for a long time I haven’t heard such a good news for my country in the western media. This appealing account of a modest immigrant’s frankness was aired and featured in many western news outlets. But in Sierra Leone, many are still unaware of the pride the 42 years Zubiru Jalloh has brought to his beloved homeland: to me he is something of a national hero, who has done his own path to portray the good image of Sierra Leone around the world.

Since he handed over the bag of valuables, Mr. Jalloh has been the centre of attention, from the news media onslaught to the phone calls from friends and family to his newfound fame among the community of cabdrivers, who constantly tease him that he was a fool to return the loot. According to US press reports, a couple who recognized him the day after the story broke gave him $20 for a $7 fare. A mechanic who repaired his taxi knocked $20 off his bill.

To many who visit our country, this will not be a surprise for them, but to millions out there who have never set foot here – this will go a long way to tell who the average Sierra Leonean is. To my surprise, the local Sierra Leonean media has largely missed this story. I think they should pick on this and use it to portray the truly kind and generally loving and candid spirit Sierra Leoneans have for strangers and foreigners. In a truly frank way, this is a story that will make you proud to be a Sierra Leonean. At a time the country is trying to rebrand and let people know that Sierra Leone is ready for business and tourism, I think the APC led government should pick on this as a marketing tool and celebrate this great and candid act.

Written by Muctaru Wurie

February 25, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Footballer Returns To His Community With Charity

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Rodney Strasser will attempt to take on a new challenge off the pitch in helping his countrymen

Rodney Strasser will attempt to take on a new challenge off the pitch in helping his countrymen

After only three years since he left his modest KroJimmy/Fourah Bay Community to play for Italian football giant, AC Milan and Sierra Leonean international Rodney Strasser is returning back to his community this December with a charity to help children and disadvantaged people in Sierra Leone.

Rodney Strasser revealed to me that his main aim will be to: “Support under-privileged Sierra Leoneans such as children, amputees and the handicapped through care and hope.”

To start this Rodney Strasser hopes to begin no further than his local KroJimmy/Fourah Bay community where he began his football career that has now taken him to the Rossoneri where he plays football and dines with world football stars like Rohnaldinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. “I will never forget where I come from, it was only about three years ago that I used to rub skin with these people now I feel a desire to help them and offer them something that can help improve their lives.”  The Sierra Leonean international hopes to kick off his charity at the Fourah Bay field, where he will have a charity match on Wednesday 22nd December.

The charity foundation that has been coined by the football star as Supporting Under-privileged through Care and Hope (SUCH) is set to be launched with a press conference in Freetown immediately when the Italian Serie A takes a Christmas break on the 19th December and Rodney revealed that he has a lot to donate and this is something he feels obliged to do. “It’s a responsibility and trust me I do not see this as a favour, but I view it as a moral responsibility to my countrymen.”

Born in Freetown, Strasser joined Milan from local club FC Kallon in 2007, and coming back to Freetown the player also hopes to pay respect to people who have contributed to his professional career like his dad and FC Kallon owner Mohamed Kallon.

During his time in the AC Milan youth system, he was a member of the under-20 side who triumphed in the Coppa Italia Primavera in 2010, 25 years after the team’s last success in the competition. He also made his debut for the AC Milan first team in a league game against Udinese on 21 December 2008, coming off the bench in the final minutes.

Written by Muctaru Wurie

December 8, 2010 at 1:14 am

Freetown Planning Dilemma

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A View of Freetown's skyline

View of Freetown's skyline from above the hills of Signal Hill

It is no secret that Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown is currently in a planning dilemma. From the upscale suburb Hill Stations to the far eastern sections of Lumpa in Waterloo, there is a massive rise in construction of houses and new communities are sprouting up everywhere. There is also an unprecedented expansion in areas that are reserved for future development by government and areas once deemed as very unsafe to live, just at the back of Bishops Court on the wharf adjacent to Queen Elizabeth II Quay, there is a whole new community just about few years old. The small portion of beach that existed before has been covered by new houses banked against the flowing tide from the ocean. The roads that lead to many of the houses there are as dangerous as the position of the community itself, narrow footpath and rickety foot bridges. The houses, most of which are built of dirt clay and zinc are so crammed against each other, that in an event of a fire accident in a, there is very little chance that any of the houses could be spared. It is interesting to note that this was an area once slated for an expansion plan of Freetown harbour. In Lumpa, Waterloo, there are over two hundred new houses being built and the majority of the houses are being built in a scattered manner. Despite the vastness of the new communities, there are very few roads and there are little signs of gutters and sewage system is almost non-existent. Some of the houses do not even have toilets or bath rooms. Travel further west and even the upscale suburb of IMATT or Regent, the home of the magnificent US Embassy; there are new communities sprouting up around the beautifully built houses in the area, and in the midst of beautiful residential quarters there is a big building material store in what is suppose to be a purely residential community. Almost everywhere in Freetown, there is a clear evidence that the city is not planned to modern standards says Joe Doherty, a Sierra Leonean scholar at the Department of Geography, University of St Andrews. “Go up to the peninsula area and take a look downtown, you will hardly spot road networks in all the communities, spontaneous expansions are the order of the day. Everyone go about putting structures virtually everywhere without proper coordination and planning with the authorities. Something is definitely wrong.” He says. In a scholarly article published in the UK, he argues that the perpetuation of housing problems in Freetown and the failure to implement housing policies cannot be attributed merely to bureaucratic inadequacies and resource limitations. “They can only be fully understood by reference to the way the main agents of housing provision, the private market and the state, operate in the specific social and economic conditions of underdeveloped capitalism.” In an exclusive interview with Sierra Eye, Minister of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, Dr Dennis Sandy acknowledged the huge planning problems faced by Freetown such as the rapid growth of structures and new communities everywhere. He expressed dismay about people blocking access roads in areas such as Waterloo and his main concern was people are consistently breaking and flouting building regulations and the Freetown Improvement Act. But he said that there are concrete plans by the incumbent government to change this scenario by expanding the current road networks and making the city a much better place to reside. Citing the current hill side road project in the eastern part of the city as one of the first move in that direction, he also revealed plans to expand other roads in the city such as Wilkinson Road to a four lane. “We are trying to see how best we can give a facelift to the city, and of course we are also trying to decongest Freetown and emphasising the planning aspect and the enforcement of the laws governing lands, housing and planning,” said Dr Sandy. The Minister angrily reacted to any thought that Freetown is becoming a slum, saying that view is a very insensitive one. “We are seriously working to improve the current state of the city despite moves to enforce the law in achieving this we expect people to heed the call of the president to accept altitudinal change and stop illegal act such as building structures in the SLRA right of way and the illegal occupation of government lands,” he concluded. However, further afield there are little signs of change as many developers struggle to put up variety of structures in the deforested areas of Juay, in the eastern part of the city. The houses most of which are not crammed together are being built in a scattered manner, and for Lamin Sesay who started building a one flat structure last year this is the dream of his life: “I have worked for over fifteen years now and now I am thankful to Allah for letting me achieve my dream of building a new house for my family. It’s really not easy for me, he said. Despite the virtual non-existence of basic infrastructures such as roads, electricity and water near his site; Lamin is visibly a happy man as he watched workers put his house together. When Sierra Eye put it to Lamin that he might not get the correct papers to build on that land or permission from the authorities to put up the type of structures he is putting up, Lamin reacted with utmost confidence showing series of papers which he claimed was given to him by survey and housing officials who parade through most of these communities. As Lamin tried to explain to us, some of these officials were approaching a nearby land where workers were unearthing the ground for a new foundation to be laid. Lamin pointed to us, these are the officials and they monitor all these new structures around here. We approached them and tried to talk to them but when they became aware that we were journalists, they backed off and quickly disappear from the area. They claimed they are not officially permitted to talk to the press and despite us trying to squeeze through a question why are they giving building permit to people even when the structural arrangements looked so shabby and disorganised? There was no response from them. A house owner in the area who prefers to be anonymous told us that these officials are clearly not interested in anything apart from the money that they collect from builders. “They only come so that they can get money from us,” he said. However, he claimed that house owners are trying to ensure that there are spaces for roads so that they don’t end up having a crammed up community. Another planning dilemma in Freetown has been the absence of an efficient waste disposal system; most gutters across the city are blocked throughout the year and as a result of this most streets become over flooded during the rainy season. In the east of the city, it is far worse, some inhabitants throw their waste at night in street corners when the gutters are filled. Although, the Freetown City Council provides waste disposal trucks and carts, the city is just too vast and some communities are off limit making the task of waste management a serious problem. Areas that once catered for waste disposal now have houses or other structures standing on them, almost all the waste disposal sites in the city have vanished. Most observers have in the past warned about the imminent dangers and over-congesting and rapid rise of structures in dangerous communities in the city, Councilor Mr. Mohamed Kargbo in a drive to save lives and property the Freetown City Council has been issuing warning notices to the people living in various dangerous communities in the city to quit those areas but they are not getting any cooperation. Of late there have even been fatalities in these communities especially during the rainy season. Last rainy season a huge rock at the edge of a ravine at Culvert along Bai Bureh Road, a few yards from the Bumeh dumping site in the  East end of Freetown collapsed killing four people and injuring nine. Inhabitants within the vicinity said the incident occurred at around 1:00 am during the torrential rain when almost everybody within the neighbourhood was asleep. The huge stone with a mass of loose earth crashed down upon a structure positioned underneath it burying all the occupants. Neighbours and security personnel rushed to the scene in a desperate bid to rescue them but the mudslides, torrential rains and lack of proper rescue equipment made it very difficult. The Member of Parliament representing Constituency 102 Hon. Eustace King said the Freetown City Council had already issued warning notices to the inhabitants to quit the area but they did not heed the advice. He referred to the situation as pathetic and heart-breaking taking into cognizance the catastrophic dimension and further stated that he was again warning those dwelling in such a deadly spot to move forthwith as the area is a hazardous zone. Some of the inhabitants of these areas are pointing the fingers on government. At the back of Prince of Wales in the Kroo Bay slum, Morlai Turay living at No 2 May Street who happens to be one of the unfortunate slum dwellers said he is living there not by his choice. “I knew living here is risky and dangerous for me and my family, but I clearly don’t have another option.” Morlai whose house is banked on the sea and having a rock hanging just above the cliff behind said he chose to live there rather getting back to his village where his three children might have had little chance of gaining education. Morlai said it is not their fault, but that of the government who has failed over the years to provide low cost housing estate for poor people like them. “When was the last time the government embarked upon a programme to build low cost houses in the city? We are being forced to live in these places even though there are dangers to us and our children because our leaders have no strategy to develop the city,” said an angry Morlai. When a city is overcrowded and lack efficeient housing, even the dead feel the effect of the pressure, many of the cemeteries in Freetown have been encroached by dwellers. Houses are not only being built on burial grounds from the Circular Road to Kissy Road Cemetery, but overcrowding means a clear interaction between the dead and alive. During the day, it is not uncommon for group of people sitting on top of graves at Kissy Road Cemetery, traders and women selling foodstuff can be seen right in the Cemetery selling their food items and cookeries. At Race Course Cemetery it is almost the same situation but made far worse because of it nearness to the Bomeh waste disposal site. Nonetheless, there are huge new building structures at the back of the Cemetery. And most inhabitants use the Cemetery as their route. Whilst the Freetown City Council has succeeded in closing the gates at Kissy Road Cemetery at nights, they are struggling to do the same at Race Course. Isatu Kamara one of those living at edge of Race Course Cemetery said that since the war brought them to Freetown they have struggled to find a place to live in the city. “We know this place is not safe for us and healthy for us, but my brother where can we go?” She asked. Living between the dead and the massive pile garbage of Bomeh is a way of life for many here. The situation is made worse by the usual smoke from the burning of garbage which hangs up like cloud in the air. But many of the children in the fog of the smoke joyfully kicking socks ball in the area are clearly symbolising the acceptance spirit of staying put in the area, despite the hazards. The UN-HABITAT, a UN body seeking improvement for people faced with dangerous housing conditions has called for the improvement of slum and informal settlements in Freetown. In offering a solution for the rising problems, they called for the proper identification and mapping of all slum and informal settlements in Freetown, carrying out of an extensive review of the literature on the housing situation in Freetown, and also the analysis of the housing, environmental sanitation and socio-economic situation in a selected slum/informal settlement in Freetown. But for the moment, housing, waste management, traffic and planning difficulties mean that even if appropriate measures are taken it is going to take time for Freetown to have a normal face-lift.

Written by Muctaru Wurie

October 31, 2010 at 11:53 am

We are much better than you think Mninawa Ntloko

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One of the most sickening aspects of journalism is when you see people that you expect much from misusing and degrading the profession. As a sports editor of your average South African newspaper, you expect that person to at least be a professional journalist that carefully observes and do cautious investigation before running to very degrading and flawed conclusion about a whole nation. Mninawa Ntloko is the sport editor for South African BusinessDay newspaper; he was among the Bafana delegation that came to Sierra Leone for last week AFCON. He spent about 36 hours in my country (most of which was spent at night) and yet still he has a whole bunch of conclusions and false perceptions. I don’t want to give credence to one of the most reckless piece of journalistic work I have ever seen so I won’t dilate on most of the bogus claims Mninawa made about my country.

For those of you who might like to look at his piece, here is a brief preview and the link;

Excerpts; {A short drive from Lungi International Airport — if you want to call it that — took us to the banks of the big Sierra Leone river at about 3am. We transferred to a waiting ferry and this thing then negotiated the dark waters in a journey that lasted more than 45 minutes. Another rickety bus picked us up on the other side and took us to Hotel Bintumani, which is situated at the peak of the hills around a suburb — again, if you call it that — called Aberdeen. The receptionist at Hotel Bintumani — which is run by the Chinese — claimed that this was the best and the largest luxury accommodation in Freetown and we were privileged to be guests in the establishment. The shocking condition of the sheets in my room told a very different story and it is anyone’s guess if the linen has been changed recently. Don’t even get me started about the condition of the towels! My word! We only managed to absorb the full horror of our surroundings when the sun came up, and I have got to say the effects of the decade-long civil conflict has ravaged Sierra Leone. Abundant poverty is everywhere and it’s no wonder that most women have no choice but to become prostitutes. Their currency — the Leone — is not worth the paper it’s printed on and our hosts from the Sierra Leone Football Association had to empty the contents of a big bag just to pay for our meals at a local restaurant. The hotel staff spent nearly 30 minutes counting stacks and stacks of money while we looked on in amazement. The Bafana players kept to their rooms and made the best of the situation. We got our first glimpse of the Brookfields National Stadium on Saturday afternoon and it is small wonder that football governing body Fifa has banned the place a few times in the past. Grazing fields in Tsomo Mission are opulent in comparison to the cabbage patch that greeted us.} (http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=123618).

What I will rather like to say is that Mninawa reminds me of what happened before the start of the worldcup in South Africa, there was so much bad press about South Africa in the western media that many people outside Africa thought that the worldcup wasn’t going to take place here. Such was the bad press that Jerome Valcke, Fifa secretary general railed against what he termed the “really bad and sad” reporting in Europe, and in particular Germany and England, which, he said, was skewing perceptions of South Africa and harming ticket sales then. The unique thing was that we Africans outside South Africa took this as a direct attack on us, we rallied and hope for the best outcome, even though most of us could not afford ticket to the worldcup, we supported South Africa as if it was our darling Leone Stars. During the worldcup vuvuzela littered Freetown and the noises it produced was a constant reminder here that Africa was having a unique event in which we affectionately feel a part of despite being far away from the venues. It is sad when you read Mninawa’s article to see how he degraded our country and our women especially, among other demeaning and outrageous accusations he referred to Sierra Leone as a place were “most women have no choice but to become prostitutes”. He basically turned a sport report into a very nasty attack on our country and more so most of the claims he made are incorrect. There is no doubt that Sierra Leone is still recovering after a devastating war, but to portray this kind of exaggerated and negative impression is too bad for the country, I really see some ignorance in the article because like someone mentioned Bintumani is not the best hotel in Sierra Leone, if they choose Bintumani, then it’s their fault because they had an advanced team here three weeks before their arrival. And like Mninawa himself mentioned in all that poverty and depravity, the SLFA managed to pay for their meals and instead of graceful gratitude, he sees it fit to heap criticism on the value of our currency. To add insults to injury, as if Freetown was a quarantined enclave he asserted “The journey itself was preceded by a pill-popping exercise that team doctor Ephraim Nematswerani insisted was absolutely necessary to counter the myriad diseases that we were expected to encounter in Freetown.” Yet still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia warns Americans travelling to South Africa of the high level of risk for vaccine-preventable diseases like measles/mumps/rubella, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid and Rabies if they are interacting with open communities. There is a red alert for HIV/AIDS and many other diseases too in South Africa – I did all this research not to embarrass the decent and hardworking people of South Africa but to expose the unnecessary attack by Mninawa on my country. Tony Blair, David Beckham, Angelina Jolie, Madeleine Albright, Akon, Ryan Giggs et al have all come here after the war and interacted with open societies but they have not left with a scourge or disease. South Africa has the highest number of HIV/AIDS infected people in the world, the 2007 UNAIDS report estimated that 5,700,000 South Africans had HIV/AIDS, or just under 12% of South Africa’s population of 48 million, prostitution is rife and generally the cause of the huge spread of this pandemic and yet still this journalist ignores that and branded my country’s mostly hardworking career women as relying on prostitution. Most of the critical western visitors that have visited Sierra Leone have in no doubt cited the presence of poverty here (which is rife in South Africa also) but at the same time they have spoken about our unique hospitality, beautiful beaches and fine tropical foods. But for this sports editor called Mninawa, all those are non-existent and instead it is appalling fabrications and hyperbole and our money which is valuable than some of South Africa’s neighbours which captivated his attention most. Some of his other cheap lies included his false claim that the new Sierra Leone Manchester City Fan Club bus that picked them up from the ferry was rickety and shaking apart as they move. For those of you who know that bus, could you believe that? Another is his assertions that travelling to Sierra Leone was so gruelling that it was better they didn’t come with a commercial flight which would have lasted 36 hours, surely everyone who plies that route knows normal flight with stopovers only takes you about 12 hours from Johannesburg to Freetown. The people of South Africa surely needs a more better and professional reporter to give them the true picture of their beloved Bafana Bafana’s exploits in the continent not this Mninawa Ntloko.

Written by Muctaru Wurie

October 18, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Leone Stars Show Progress As Bafana Fight For Draw

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Siphiwe Tshabalala challenge with Sierra Leone captain Obreh in midfield

Siphiwe Tshabalala tussles with Sierra Leone captain Obreh in midfield

Bafana Bafana held on this time round in Freetown and valiantly defended to get a well deserved draw at the National Stadium in Freetown. The home side knew they needed a win and with striker Kei Kamara and defender Ibrahim Marcel Koroma been the two changes that faced Egypt in Cairo. Leone Stars of Sierra Leone knew they needed to up their performance in the absent of the two Stars. The match which started in a heated Freetown was witnessed by a capacity full crowd cheering Sierra Leone and the presence of Vuvuzelas in the crowd at one point seems to bemuse the South Africans.

The much heralded and planned pot-cover versus Vuvuzela by Sierra Leonean fans never materialised as the Sierra Leone FA made it clear to Sierra Leonean supporters that they will not allow pot cover inside the National Stadium grounds. Leone stars were the more enterprising of the two teams and if it wasn’t for the animated and in-form South African Goalie, Itumeleng Khune the score line would have been 3 or 4 nil for the home side. The draw put South Africa are at the top of Group G with four points after today’s 0-0 draw against Sierra Leone in Freetown as Niger shocked group favourites Egypt 1-0 in Niamey. South Africa coach, Pitso Mosimane was visibly worried as his Bafana Bafana side defended deeply against a seemingly goal-desperate Sierra Leone. Itumeleng Khune was definitely the man of the match as he made strings of wonderful saves, Sierra Leonean stiker – Mohamed Pobosky Bangura was a constant threat as the home side threatened to take a lead that never came. The South Africans were very cautious and kept on wasting time as Sierra Leone pushed forward. As Mohamed Pobosky Bangura was left stranding for support upfront some Sierra Leonean supporters were asking for Mohamed Kallon saying his support would have been vital for the stiker. The largely popular Siphiwe Tshabalala known and cheered on by many Sierra Leoneans was very quiet in the match and was replaced but the pressure continued for Bafana and they held on to a draw that leaves them in the driving seat for this group G. Star Man of the Match – South Africa No 16, Itumeleng Khune

Written by Muctaru Wurie

October 10, 2010 at 8:33 pm

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TRAINING ON CHILD RIGHTS, ETHICAL ISSUES ON GENDER DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE AGAINST ADOLESECENT GIRLS

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Part I

Rape Still A Threat To Sierra Leone’s Female Population

Almost a decade after the devastating civil war in Sierra Leone, the issue of rape which was so prevalent during the war is still haunting the country. It has simply not gone away and women and girls are still prone to dangers of rape in post war Sierra Leone. The conclusion of the conflict in January 2002 did not spell an end to this crime, however. In fact, some allege that rapes are becoming more frequent in the country today.

What is Rape

According to the criminal law definition, rape is an assault by a person involving sexual intercourse with another person without that person’s consent. Outside of law, the term is often used interchangeably with sexual assault a closely related (but in most jurisdictions technically distinct) form of assault typically including rape and other forms of non-consensual sexual activity.

History of anguish in Sierra Leone

An Amnesty International, 29 June 2000 Report on Sierra Leone says abduction, rape and sexual slavery of girls and women were among the most abhorrent and distressing features of the nine-year internal armed conflict in Sierra Leone. The report also blames rape and other forms of sexual violence committed by government officials or by armed opposition groups are acts of torture. Sadly, the report stated that almost all the thousands of girls and women who were abducted by rebel forces had been raped and forced into sexual slavery and some of them are still living not only with that nightmare but with children borne out of their devastating experience in the hands of rebels and other armed factions.

Rape statistics

According to RAINN Centre, an anti-sexual assault body based in Washington, around the world at least 1 in 3 women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Most often the abuser is a member of her own family. It’s also said in its 2009 Report that 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police worldwide. According to Human Right Watch in 2009, 84% of rape victims in the world reported the use of physical force.

Reality of Rape in Sierra Leone

“Rape has steadily been on the increase since the end of the civil war, with our centre servicing hundreds of cases in the provinces as well as the western area,” says Amie Tejan-Jalloh, programme officer for the Sierra Leone Rainbow Centre, an organization that provides help and treatment for rape victims. This organisation, which operates in the capital, Freetown, and in eastern Sierra Leone, has been assisting victims of sexual assault for the past eight years. It provides them with medical treatment and counselling, as well as free legal assistance in the event that the victim or their family chooses to take the case to court.

Rape shock and effect

“It is disheartening,” Tejan-Jalloh adds. “We recently serviced 198 victims in Kenema district in the east and in Freetown. Our youngest client is three-and-a-half-months old,” said a seemingly sad Tejan-Jalloh.

The rainbow centre says that victims of rape can be severely traumatized by the assault and may have difficulty functioning as well as they had been used to prior to the assault, with disruption of concentration, sleeping patterns and eating habits, for example. They may feel jumpy or be on edge. After being raped, it is common for the victim to experience acute stress disorder, including symptoms similar to those of posttraumatic stress disorder, such as intense, sometimes unpredictable, emotions, and they may find it hard to deal with their memories of the event. In the months immediately following the assault, these problems may be severe and very upsetting and may prevent the victim from revealing their ordeal to friends or family, or seeking police or medical assistance. Additional symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder include depersonalization or dissociation (feeling numb and detached, like being in a daze or a dream, or feeling that the world is strange and unreal).

Unity for a nationwide approach

The Rainbow Centre has joined forces with FSUs and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs and other human rights organisations to help women affected by rape and other forms of violence. To date, it has trained hundreds of school guidance counsellors in Sierra Leone. The centre has, in addition, provided clinical training for officials of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.

Tougher approach

Addressing the TRAINING ON CHILD RIGHTS AND ISSUES ON GENDER DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE AGAINST ADOLESECENT GIRLS in Makeni, Ibrahim Kamara, Regional Desk Officer, Gender and Children’s Affairs from the Ministry of Welfare said the social welfare ministry is also lobbying for tougher laws as far as children are concerned. He said its child welfare department is currently working with the Law Reform Commission on ways of strengthening legislation concerning children’s rights so they can prevent rape and sexual abuse that is currently ongoing with impunity across most part of the country.

Hope for speedy justice

On his part, Sierra Leone’s former chief justice, Abdulai Timbo, has called for more consistent sentences to be handed down to those found guilty of rape. In addition, he has highlighted the need to expedite rape trails. Recently, the United Nations Development Programme in Sierra Leone agreed to provide funding for 13 extra magistrates as well as transportation in an effort to have alleged rapists tried more quickly.

Written by Muctaru Wurie

October 1, 2010 at 10:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Despite The ‘Poverty’, My Sierra Leone Is Still Generous

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For those of you who do not know much about my small beloved country, we are officially known as the Republic of Sierra Leone, located in West Africa. Bordered by Guinea to the north and east, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and southwest. We have an estimated population of 6.5 million and we are according to the UNDP annual Human Development Index ( http://hdrstats.undp.org/en/countries/country_fact_sheets/cty_fs_SLE.html ) one of the poorest countries in the world. Truth is there is scarcity of material wealth here, but this country has never been short of basic human wealth. We have never been struck with drought; you can cultivate crops anywhere in Sierra Leone. We have abundance in marine resources, our mineral resources I need not mention because they have already made headlines several times in the international press. But above all else, the most important wealth my country has is it friendly and generous people who are always willing to help even if it cost them their last savings or food. Which they will most times give away even without thinking whether they will be able to have another in the next hour.

For a long time now visitors that have been coming to Sierra Leone from afar had been consistently saying how generous we are as a people; I remembered sometime ago a French researcher, Natacha Lemasle once told me on a visit to Sierra Leone about her admiration of people here to give out and help even though they have little or nothing at times.

Not even the decade long brutal civil war could take away that long held tradition from my country which like the United States was a melting pot for people from different nationalities. Now that long held belief is now official, according to a new ranking from Gallup’s World Giving Index; http://www.cafonline.org/pdf/0882A_WorldGivingReport_Interactive_070910.pdf

The index is based on surveys and other research on 153 different countries, which together constitute about 95 percent of the world’s population. The survey asks in part about charitable behaviours, including donations, volunteering habits and taking time to help strangers.

Based on this index, Sierra Leone is on top on the African continent and worldwide we are ranked eleven. Interesting, how comes a country termed by economists as one of the poorest of the poor come out so generous? The answer is; Gallup’s analysis of the data found that giving money is more strongly correlated with happiness than with a nation’s gross domestic product or opulence.

It is easy to see the reasons for this here in Sierra Leone, the country still has a largely extended family system in which in most cases a single person (bread bearer) takes pride in providing for many family members who are either unemployed or unable to provide for themselves. The country have a very large unemployment rate but yet still many people still manage to eke a living from others who are sometimes not even family members. They can be neighbours, friends and members of the same tribal or religious creed. This is not all, the most inspiring characteristics of Sierra Leoneans is that they just cannot stand by and see a stranger strand – whether that guest needs direction to find a location or protection, Sierra Leoneans are more willing to help. More so, a thirsty stranger can be willingly offered cold water here and an hungry one might be offered the last meal in the house even if that means the children going hungry. It is a distinguishing attribute that is conspicuous in the majority of Sierra Leoneans, Muslims or Christians, Mendes or Temnes.

The top 20 most generous are:

1. Australia

1. New Zealand

3. Ireland

3. Canada

5. Switzerland

5. United States

7. Netherlands

8. Britain

8. Sri Lanka

10 Austria

11. Lao People’s Democratic Republic

11. Sierra Leone

13. Malta

14. Iceland

14. Turkmenistan

16. Guyana

16. Qatar

18. Hong Kong

19. Germany

20. Denmark

Written by Muctaru Wurie

September 14, 2010 at 10:01 pm