Rights Groups call on Gov’t to protect civic space

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July 20, 2018

 By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

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Charles Lahai, PAACET Africa Regional Director

Two rights groups have in a joint press release called on the government of Sierra Leone to protect civic space by promoting, protecting and upholding fundamental human rights for peace and national cohesion.

Peace Africa Alliance Consulting, Education & Training Centre (PAACET) and Society for Learning and Yearning for Equal Opportunities (SLYEO) stated in the release issued yesterday that they were perturbed by recent events that might have the tendency to undermine the country’s peace and democratic development.

Reading the press release, Charles Lahai, PAACET Africa Regional Director, said that human rights and peace are the bedrock of national development, thus calling on the government and other responsible institutions and the general public to work together to ensure peace, unity and national cohesion are fostered.

“The constitution of Sierra Leone provides that except with one’s own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association,” the right groups said in a statement, thus condemning the action of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) to arrest Edmond Joe Abu on 17th July, 2018, for leading a peaceful demonstration” against hike in fuel prices.

According to the right groups, civil society actors are the mouthpiece of the voiceless, adding that they also strongly hold the belief that they must show high level of professionalism in their engagement on issues of national concern.

“We further believe that dialogue between and among parties in situations of this nature must take precedence in order to avoid unnecessary distractions. We call on government to institute appropriate mechanisms to check the excesses of the SLP and ensure that citizen’s rights and freedoms are respected.”

They added that the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual in the constitution should be paramount.

The right groups also frowned at the attack on the Mayor of the Freetown City Council, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr.

 “We consider the attack on the Mayor of Freetown on the 24th May and the 17th June, 2018 respectively as a gross violation of her fundamental human rights, freedom and protection. This could be subjected to varied interpretations including political intolerance, covert thug operation bent on intimidating and undermining the relevance of the office of the City Mayor.”

The groups condemned the act and called on government to speedily conduct an investigation into the matter.

They also noted that there was threat to positive investment climate in the country, adding that they have been following with keen interest the level of criminality surrounding the investment climate.

The groups, however, encouraged government to expedite the process of establishing a Commission for Peace and National Cohesion in order to forestall and address the increasing incidences of threats to peace.

PAACET is an international peace and human rights organisation committed to building peace, using ethically sound traditional conflict transformation techniques applied to training and research methodologies to solve human rights, post conflict and structural violence.