Archive for June, 2010
We Are Slaves’! …Sierra Leoneans In Iraq Cry
WRITTEN BY SAHR DIXON & FODAY FOFANA
SATURDAY, 12 JUNE 2010
Yandi Paul Turay, 41, a Sierra Leonean who was working with the company Serba International Security runs by British nationals, died on April 14, 2010 after a very short illness. Eventually, he was reported to have collapsed in the security tower where he was serving as a PKM Gunner. Reports say he died at the pains of his 11-hour daily duty, malaria and daily exposure to desert winds. According to a co-worker Ahmed Turay, an ex-military officer like the deceased, the corpse was transferred to another camp – Green Camp- from where his death was announced.
The corpse was flown to Freetown after pressure from co-workers; all ex-military officers from the Sierra Leone army. One Bockari who travelled with the corpse was coaxed into telling the company’s side of the story – the reason why a cousin of the deceased, Alhassan, refused to accompany the corpse.
Ahmed disclosed that he threatened to resign if he was not allowed to accompany the corpse as he supposes to be responsible for accompanying the sick and knows how he died.
“My argument was that the company was treating us as slaves, with very poor medical facilities which led to the death of our colleague. The site leader, Anthony Courtney, a US national requested my passport after which he booked my air ticket but refused to give me my certificate for the course I had attended in Sierra Leone and Iraq and, of course, for the money they owed me. I insisted that I will not travel without these two things,” Ahmed explained, adding that “John Stewart, the recruiting Manager, met us at the Baghdad Airport and demanded my letter of authorization which I produced and asked whether I had a copy of it, I told him I do not have a copy. He then tore the original into pieces and threatened to hand me as an illegal alien to the Iraqi police.”
“Unbeknown to me Stewart hadn’t paid for my luggage”, Ahmed said, “I boarded the flight and on arrival at Dubai I was asked to pay for my luggage. Not having a dime on me, I left my luggage behind with Kenya Airways with no right to claim”.
“On arrival, I went to the Labour Ministry. While the Deputy Minister, Moijueh Kaikai, appeared to defend our tormentors; the Minister, Minkailu Mansaray summoned the local company representative, Dave, immediately to find out what went wrong but till now my problems remained unsolved,” he told The Exclusive.
Capt. Rtd. Milton Sam Bangura who led the bulk of men (344) from Sierra Leone on December 22, 2009, spoke of his bad experience.
“We were subcontracted to Torres solutions Enterprise by SABRE. After 2 weeks crash military training I was appointed Training Manager for the company. I was deployed to the Tactical Operational Center as Communications Officer,” the Rtd. Capt. narrated, stressing that “before our arrival, myself and Abubakarr Baryoh were tied up and tortured by America security men who injected us with something and till date we are not our normal selves. Since we were forcefully flown to Sierra Leone without my monthly salary, we do not have insurance or benefits according to the contract,” he explained.
Sgt – Rtd. Mohamed Sesay told The Exclusive that they were not deported because they who arrived recently in Sierra Leone unanimously agreed to demand from the company medical facilities, insurance policies, good food, salary increase,” having promised us that after 3 months they would raise our salaries.”
“But after the 3 months the US Army, concerned that our monthly pay of $250 is so small we could be bought over by the enemy, piled pressure on the company to pay the agreed increase, but the latter refused without any explanation. Our Uganda brothers who are getting $1000 like the Napalese or Indians make mockery of us; asking whether our government does not know international labour law.”
This provoked a drop in morale among the men to the point that a revolt was feared, after which a disciplinary committee headed by Rtd. Sgt. Mohamed Sesay was set up.
“Between January and February, back home in Freetown, our families were chased out and humiliated at the banks, where most times our salaries are not transferred. In an investigation, we were told that our monies had been transferred to a company in Freetown. A delegation from the Ministry – Mohamed Mansaray, younger brother of the minister and Abdul Sesay (Pessima) came to Iraq and ordered us to change our accounts from Standard Chartered to the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank. But we refused, suspecting a fraud,” he explained.
They were finally paid and their services terminated after the protest latter. “The SABRE International Ltd, the British Country Director met us and said they can’t honour our request because Sierra Leone government receives $1000 per guard… But government is not listening to us but rather tarnishing our image and character,” Mohamed Sesay (M.T.L) pointed out.
Salone To Tackle Child Labour
WRITTEN BY AYODELE DEEN-COLE
SATURDAY, 12 JUNE 2010
Over 215 millions children are currently engaged in child labour globally. This is seven thousand less than the last statistics in 2004. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) reports, 115 millions of these children are working under hazardous conditions. This new report points a downward trend in the number of engaged children which show the positive work done towards ending this dreadful activities.
On June 18th 2010 the Sierra Leone government in collaboration with ILO will join their counterparts globally to commemorate this year’s World Day Against Child Labour. The theme of this year commemoration is “go for the goal… end child labour”.
At a press briefing held at Ministry of Information and Communication, past Tuesday, the Project Coordinator of Tackling Child Labour through Education (TACKLE) Mrs. Sia Lakuja-Williams stated that child labour was a very serious abuse currently affecting the development of children in Sierra Leone. This, she said, is because Sierra Leone has not yet ratified the ILO conventions 182 and 138 which deal with child labour issues.
Child labour, she went on, refers to work that is an acceptable for children either because the child is too young or that the work affects him or her from attending school.
“This issue has a very negative impact on the economic, social and political development of Sierra Leone because it allows children to suffer under worst conditions, prostitution, gang robbery and other crimes in society,” she said. According to the Minister of Employment, Labour and Social Security, Hon. Minkailu Mansaray, poverty has been identified as one of the root causes of child labour. Also, some traditional concepts have also been identified as a problem leading to child labour. Minister Minkailu Mansaray further explained about some of the challenges faced in eliminating this abuse from our society. He cited the non ratification of ILO convention 182 and 138 by parliament which he said would facilitate the compliance of our national laws. According to him, there is also not enough sensitization and advocacy for this issue. The major challenge though, according to Mrs. Sia L Williams is the lack of statistical data in Sierra Leone to know how many children are engaged in these activities.
“Some children are bread winners of their homes,” states Mr. L.E Johnson Executive Secretary of the Sierra Leone Employers Federation.
To find a way out of this problem, government in collaboration with Statistics Sierra Leone is currently trying to undertake a statistical survey in Sierra Leone. The Ministry of Education Youth and Sports is also trying to minimize this ugly situation among children.
After the ratification process, Mrs. Sia Williams disclosed that a national action plan to tackle child labour and other strategies will be put in place.
3,000 Iraq Youths to Demo Against Ex-Soliders
Author: Richard B Bockarie – SEM
Sierra Express has reliably learnt that over 3,000 youths lined up for jobs in Iraq through contracts from Sabre International have vowed to get back at ex-military men whose contracts they say have been terminated in Iraq for reasons of misbehavior and insubordination they displayed whilst they served as security guards in various American installations in Iraq; and have thus been deported.
Abu Koroma; one of the potential Iraq-Sabre employees and youth leader told Sierra Express Media that “the 86 Sierra Leoneans who served in Iraq and had their contracts terminated are now over every available media telling tales of their failures, which we as civilian, police and security recruits see as outright sabotage and we intend to put and end to their errant ranting against recruits the programme that has come to rescue us from the perennial job drought facing us in the country”.
Many of the recruits this press talked to said they are going to ensure that the failed ex-soldiers do not come anywhere near the recruitment grounds at New England; asking them to live in the misery of their misadventure and not influence the chances of genuine undertakers of the Iraq jobs provided by Sabre international.
Ministry officials have confirmed that some of the workers were accused of theft and mounted protest demanding salary increase” was never part of the contract signed in Freetown long before their departure to Iraq six months ago.
It is revealed that the Sierra Leonean ex-soldiers who were first choice the recruitment programme demanded about 300% increase in salary; an action that has been branded as willful ploy to selfish have their way at the expense of other potential employees here in Sierra Leone. Of the over 300 recruits that made it to Iraq six months ago, only 86 were returned home, all of whom happen to be ex-soldiers akin to rebellion” a recruit observed.
Freetown City Council Making Mockery of the Plight of Children
By Festus Lahai
The Freetown City Council (FCC) has started an operation to chase the children off the streets of Freetown. All children below the ages of 15, who roam about the city with no serious reason are being intercepted by metropolitan officers and whisked to the FCC headquarters for questioning. As commendable as it may seem, there are a series of questions needing answers and clarification, with regards the actual intention of the FCC in the matter under review.
It is no secret that the streets of Freetown and other parts of the country are overcrowded with children below the age of ‘consent’. It is also true that these under aged children engage themselves in all sorts of immoral activities, ranging from petty thievery to prostitution. Some of them spend considerable amounts of time in the streets, whilst others actually spend their whole lives in the streets – eat, drink and sleep on the streets. Others help their parents with the ugly trade of begging for their daily survival.
Sadly, some parents sit at home and wait for their children to come home and feed the entire family. How and where they get the money is none of their concern; what is important to such parents is that the family is sustained. While the children are blaming their parents for being on the streets, the parents also have their own sets of reasons such as poverty. Some parents send their children to the streets because they cannot afford to take care of the family not to talk of paying school fees for these children. Whilst some parents prepare all sorts of wares for the children to sell at a time when their mates are in the classrooms, others are actually encouraging their children to go fend for themselves. That is the sad reality in present day Sierra Leone.
In the midst of this, there are a number of street children who actually abandon their homes for the streets, either because of the impoverished state of their family or simply because they want to live without any adult supervision. Some street children come from well-to-do families but prefer living on the streets either because of peer pressure, drug addiction or simply juvenile delinquency. Kids also leave their homes because of the habit of parents. Other children in the streets alleged that they abandoned their homes because they were unable to cope with the sights of their poor parents who cannot afford sending them to school.
If one decides to take a walk along the major streets of Freetown, he/she will be gripped with the shock and disbelief at the sight of little children sleeping at the doorsteps of shops and market stalls. Others are spotted at notorious prostitution and criminal areas. It is hard to comprehend why children as small as below the ages of 15 are engaged in prostitution – exchanging their bodies for monies. The result of all these activities that children engage in is disastrous and deadly.
Having no one to supervise their movements, children have become major victims of all sorts of diseases, ranging from typhoid to HIV/AIDS. There is absolutely no doubt that kids engage in prostitution, sleep in the open of doorsteps, eat and drink contaminated food and water, and are prone to several deadly diseases. Some receive the beatings of their lives whenever they run out of luck and are caught in vices, including pick pocketing, stealing of mobile phones and shoplifting.
With all of these realities, the news of ridding the streets of homeless kids by the FCC is welcome news by several citizens. But the numerous flaws in the said operation cannot be overemphasized. The intention of the FCC might be good, but the method being used has minimal impact on the menace the city council is purportedly fighting. Taking a critical look at the operation, it is more of a fund raiser for the FCC, rather than addressing the plights of the children.
How can the FCC arrest street children, request for their parents to make an appearance, only to charge them some amount of money for the release of these children? Yes, the FCC is arresting children below the ages of 15 only to release them to their parents, after the parents would have paid a fine of at least Le. 100,000. Is that the way to addressing the menace of street children? The answer is a big NO. The reality is that the FCC is only making a mockery of the plights of children. The council is using this very serious problem to raise more funds for itself. What a shame?
A good number of the citizenry are demanding a clear explanation from the FCC as to where the fines collected from these parents are going. Let the FCC make clear their intention on this issue and put better modalities in place to address the concerns of children.
The Problem of Youth Unemployment In Sierra Leone
Author: Adeyemi Paul – SEM
The state of youth unemployment in Sierra Leone is a growing concern. The youth unemployment level in the country is amongst the highest in the West African sub-region, standing at 45.8% of the total unemployment figure in 2008 (Ministry of Labour, 2008). This high unemployment figure on youth unemployment reveals only part of the challenge as youth in the sub-region face, high rates of inactivity, underemployment and poor working conditions with long working hours and low pay and the vast many left to roam without any possibility to land a secured job.
The root of the problem is set in numerous factors, including skills mismatch, a growing supply of labour unmet by collective demand, political instability and difficult economic environments. In light of this, the link between development and security is propelling a range of stakeholders to consider youth employment key to stability and long term and sustained economic development. Some of these conclusions have been drawn from lessons learnt the many impacts of problems of youth unemployment, especially that of youths in the country.
As a result, youth unemployment in Sierra Leone has been recognized as a potential trigger for social instability; the prolonged state of underdevelopment and economic stagnation. As has been indicated by the Truth and Reconciliation Report that came after the war, the problem of youth unemployment has been blamed as one leading factor in the prolongation of the ten year brutal war, a conflict that left the country in virtual disarray and gross underdevelopment.
Even though the country boasts of having a very youthful demography with 45% of its entire population been youths and 65% of the total youth population within the employment age; the problem of access to secure jobs continues to be problematic and as such is reflective on the socio-economic and security factors in the country. In addition, the problem of economic global melt-down and its attendant impacts on the country’s economy and labour market which has succeeded to worsen the situation in the country that has for over one decade now been labeled by the United Nation Development Index as one of the world’s poorest countries.
Beyond economic costs, high rates of youth unemployment and underemployment have social ramifications. Some youth with few job prospects and little hope of future advancement may see little alternative to criminal activities or joining armed conflicts as was evident in the early 90s when the country saw mass recruitment of unemployed youths into various fighting factions that were engaged in the rebel conflict. “Unemployed and underemployed [youth] are more exposed to conflicts and illegal activities—many of them fall prey to armed and rebel groups.
Youth unemployment in Sierra Leone exists in twofold, there are those known to have employable skills and those who virtually have very little or no skills; with the latter in the majority owing to the high rate of illiteracy and trades knowledge acquisition in the country.
Again, whilst the problem of youth unemployment could be blamed on the government’s inability to provide the requisite environment for the employment of its youths, it happens to be that most youths in the country also do not possess the necessary skills to be gainfully employed, skills that could help them be innovative and enterprising.
Youth unemployment is a neglected factor in the country’s growth and national development. As such, the problem of youth unemployment has and still continues to have gross negative impact on the economy, social coexistence and security of the country.
Continued neglect of this problem will keep on impacting negatively on the already poor economic state of the country, resulting in threats to our security, and apparently disturb the social co-existence of the people of the country.
The fact is that unemployed and underemployed youth making up the vast many of the population of the country; whilst having immensurable toll on the economic and growth implications, it at the same time expose them to conflicts and makes them susceptible to illegal activities.
The World Bank’s Youth and Unemployment in Africa: The Potential, The Problem, The Promise report, released in December 2008, investigates the nature of Africa’s youth demographics and recommends policies to give its youth access to stable employment. It argues that creating viable jobs for young people is a re-condition for Africa’s poverty eradication, sustainable development, and peace; and in countries emerging from conflict, access to employment for youth is integral to peace-building processes.
These findings fit very well into the present youth employment situation in the country as recent developments with between youths wanting to take jobs in the Ministry’s overseas employment programme; recruiting them to serve in Iraq spells out the volatile situation of the Sierra Leonean youth in terms of employment and job security.
Establishing the Problem of Youth Unemployment in Sierra as one needing urgent redress “For 30 years, 48 percent of the country’s population has been within the age of 12 and 38. So, a constantly rising number entering the labor force ages is one of Africa’s biggest challenges.” The combination of population growth associated with high fertility rates and the slow pace of job creation in the country presents untold challenges to its youth. Despite the fact that the war has ended about 8 years ago, there has not been a sufficient increase in stable employment opportunities for young people and as such continues to pose similar threat to state security, economic growth and development and a cohesive society.