Gov’t assures Chozen General of data protection law


November 22, 2021

By Hassan Gbassay Koroma 

Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Solomon Jamiru, has stated that data protection and cyber security were at the heart of public policy.

“I am pleased ladies and gentlemen, to inform you that following cabinet approval for the drafting and enacting of a data protection law, the ministry is currently working with the National Civil Registration Commission (NaCRA), to have extensive consultation of validation of the draft. The legislation will bear the relevant hallmarks of a personal data protection instrument and quite aligned our civil liberties. It will ensure lawful, fair and transparent processing of our data, accuracy of data and collection of data for clearly defined and legitimate purposes,” he said. 

He was last Thursday speaking at the Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel in Freetown during a Town Hall meeting on data privacy and protection, organized by Chozen Generation Sierra Leone. 

He reiterated that data protection and cybersecurity are at the heart of public policy and it would be extremely important to try to manage them from top down.

He said like many other countries in Africa, Sierra Leone’s interest in increase digital governance was triggered by the 2014 Malabo Convention on Cybersecurity and personal data protection, which called for a homogeneous data protection framework for African.

He said a lot was evolving in the communication space in Sierra Leone and that as a ministry they appreciate the courtesy accorded to learn from government’s  perspective to the discuss.

He said the address will speak to the high impact policy intervention which the ministry, its development partners and civil society organizations continue to midwife.

He said government was not only committed to digital transformation and getting the society opened and connected, but equally interested in digital regulatory frameworks that are reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.

He said the right to free speech gained it first constitutional recognition in Sierra Leone exactly 79 years after the United States of America’s Supreme Court started giving it some attention, and in 1919 the U.S Supreme Court  declared that the US Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.

He said contingent on Section 25 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991, which guarantees protection of freedom of expression of the press, President Julius Maada Bio met with SLAJ executive in May 2018 and reiterated his manifesto promise to decriminalize part five of the Public Order Act of 1965.

He said on October 28, 2020 the president assented to the amended  1965 Public Order Act which marked the complete removal of the 55 years old law.

He said government is equally committed to their interaction of the cyberspace and the protection of personal data right, because the world has come a long way in the evolution of privacy right. 

Solomon Jamiru said Sierra Leone witnessed how African countries including Kenya, Nigeria, Togo and Uganda adopted data protection policies in 2019, followed my Rwanda and Egypt in 2020.

He said South Africa also enacted the protection of personal rights act in 2020.

Contributing to the panel discussion, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Datawise Sierra Leone, Professor Umaru Bah, said cybersecurity law is very important especially for the 4th industrial generation, where everything is been

Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden said to have cybercrime law is important and that there have been many cyber-attacks on government agencies in Sierra Leone. 

She said having a data protection regulatory body or commission is a very good idea, but could also be a financial burden on the government and addition of many of the commissions already in existence. 

Thomas Moore-Conteh, Executive Director for Citizens Advocate Network, said  the just enacted cyber security law a plus to government, but that it difficult to establish whether it will address the  issues surrounding cyber security crimes.