Sierra Leone Celebrates 51 Years of Independence

By Kwabena Opong

The City of Newark and its African Commission joined the Sierra Leonean community to host a flag-raising ceremony to commemorate the 51st anniversary of the independence of Sierra Leone from the United Kingdom. The event also celebrated the contributions of the Sierra Leonean community to Newark at a ceremony held in the Rotunda of the City Hall. This year’s anniversary coincided with Charles Taylor’s guilty verdict by the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Ambassador Leroy Kabu Kanu, Minister Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of the Sierra Leone to the United Nations in a short speech recalled the years of agony of civil war and then Charles Taylor’s attacks on his country. He said that things have started changing and the winds of democracy slowly blowing across the nation. Regarding the role of women in Sierra Leone, Ambassador Kanu stated that women have been integrated in the system. Women, according to the Ambassador, constitute 51 percent of the population and are therefore a political force to reckon with. “For the first time in the history of the country three or four women have been given ambassadorial positions,” he stated. The chief justice of Sierra Leone is a woman. Women hold positions in various fields of endeavor and the credit goes to President Ernest Koroma who identified the need to include women in governance.

Wife-beating has now been outlawed in a new legislation. “Now women can own property; it’s no longer through the husband. In the same way forced marriages have been seriously limited by new laws.”

There are also new laws against female circumcision. No woman would be forcibly circumcised without their concession and that they have to be 18 years and above to be circumcised.

Sierra Leone used to have the highest post-natal deaths but with the introduction of free health care for women, there has been considerable reduction in post-natal deaths. “Now child-birth is safe because the health care delivery system is improved and free,” he added. Health care delivery is accessible all over the country with doctors and nurses available.

In the political arena, women in all the various political parties have come together to form an organization called the All Political Parties Women’s Organization. The organization is to influence the men to make the right decisions. A bill has also been placed before parliament to enable women to hold at least 14 seats in parliament and also to hold four out of the 12 paramount chieftaincies in the country. Women have been allocated 30 percent of positions in government, law, civil service and every sphere of administration in Sierra Leone. As far as empowering women is concerned, Sierra Leone is making great strides, the Ambassador said.

The Ambassador remarked that much of the negative reports on Sierra Leone in the Western media only serve to malign a country that is gradually weaning itself from a long period of war and deprivation. “Things have changed in Sierra Leone,” he pointed out.

Reiterating his emphasis on women empowerment the Ambassador assured his countrymen that the country’s president has assured the nation that as long as he is in power women are going to be empowered.

The Ambassador expressed gratitude to the assembled guests and the Sierra Leonean community present at the flag-raising and urged them to help contribute to the development of Sierra Leone. “Sierra Leone cannot be developed by the government alone.”

Alhaji Fateen Ziyad, Newark’s Fire Chief, representing Mayor Cory Booker congratulated the people of Sierra Leone for their ability to emerge from war and making the best out of such a horrible situation. He said America in 1776 also had a civil war and had to struggle to emerge from the rancor that followed. He praised Sierra Leone for becoming a home to many black slaves who fought on the side of the British and fled to Canada. He believed it is remarkable that Sierra Leone having survived from a civil war and coming together to celebrate is no small achievement. He added that the history of the country should encourage the people of Sierra Leone to move ahead.

Other speakers included Madam Fofana, formerly a Newark resident and now a Liberian member of parliament.


Posted by on May 19 2012. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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