February 26, 2018
154 members of various cliques in the Western Area Urban have vowed to eschew violence before, during and after the March 7 elections.
The commitment was made at a meeting with the Legal Aid Board at the Solidarity Hall of the Sierra Leone Labour Congress last Friday, February 23.
The meeting was part of a campaign geared towards ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections.
Bloodline of Smart Farm, Blue Flag of Mountain Cut, Gaza State of Hill Cut Road, Ex-combatants of Waterloo, Central Ross of King Jimmy, Street Key of Brookfield, Member of Blood (MOB) of Black Street of Brookfields, were among the clique groups in attendance.
Executive Director of Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles, said for a start, all clique groups should convene a meeting without any delay to transform into community based organisations.
“If the Revolutionary United Front (RUP) can transform into a political party – the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP) – you can do the same,” she said. “There is also the case of a clique group – Bloody Mary – which transformed into a community based organisation – Mission Mary.”
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles underscored the importance of cleanliness in a bid to change entrenched prejudices.
“The way you present yourself goes a long way in shaping public perceptions about you. If you are dirty, you are more likely to be arrested by the police in the scene of crime than someone who is neatly dressed and well shaved. Also, Mountain Cut is a target for police raids because it is believed cliques are active in that area,” she said.
She warned clique members against engaging in violent activities, stating that the Board lacks enough lawyers to provide legal assistance to everybody.
“With only 16 lawyers on the staff, it is practically impossible to guarantee legal assistance to those who engage in violence during this period. This is why we are having this meeting with you because we believe prevention is better than cure.” She said.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles assured gang members that the Board would help transform their lives into useful and productive citizens after the elections and that a paralegal would be assigned to each clique group to provide guidance and technical support as they embark on the transformation process.
“You do not have the connections and the contacts, we will provide both. You should not be afraid to start from scratch. Most people start with nothing. You should tell me the vocational training you want to go into, so we can link you with the relevant partner organisations,” she said.
Leaders of the various cliques welcomed the proposal from the Board and vowed to maintain peace and order across the city.
President of the Motor Drivers and General Workers Union, Alpha Bah, promised to provide training for those with the desire to take driving as a career and that upon completion they would be given jobs in one of the 38 lorry parks in the city.
President of National Union of Keke/Tricycle Riders, Kombor Samba- Kamara ,also promised to train those interested in going into Keke riding for a living.
He said they would provide jobs for those who wanted to become marshals for tricycles, and pleaded with the cliques to stop harassing his members.
Also, President of National Farmers Federation, Olu John, promised to offer jobs to those who intend to go into farming, thus reminding his audience that the federation had provided jobs to former beneficiaries of the Board in the past.