By Samuel Serry Jr.
The Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) has urged the Executive Management Board (EMB) of the Sierra Leone Police to present a detailed and practical budget for the Family Support Unit (FSU) at their budget hearing scheduled for October 7, 2019. CARL, with support from TROCAIRE, has worked with various stakeholders, including the Family Support Unit, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Social Welfare and Civil Society Organisations to draft a realistic budget for the Family Support Unit.
CARL and its partners strongly believe that ensuring accountability for sexual and gender-based crimes would require genuine investment in the FSU through increased funding, training and effective supervision. In particular, CARL has asked for the leadership of the Sierra Leone People’s Party and the Ministry of Finance’s Budget Directorate to separate the FSU budget from the general police budget to help ensure effective planning and civil society oversight of the activities of the unit.
“Our data shows that only a paltry amount of resources has been dedicated to the FSU over the last five years. Unless radical reforms were made both to the funding levels and funding mechanism of the FSU, the collective story of our women and girls who are always at risk of being assaulted won’t change. There is need for action that makes sense; one that responds to the emergency that we live in”, said Ibrahim Tommy, Executive Director, Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law.
Our position seeks to support the policy of the Government of Sierra Leone, and in particular, the President’s publicly stated commitment to address impunity for sexual and gender-based violence. Significant efforts are still required to bolster the fight against sexual and gender-based violence, but increasing and separating the budget of the FSU from the general police budget would have positive, far-reaching implications for the operational performance of the FSU.
Data collected by Rainbow Initiative for the first six months of this year shows that the number of sexual assault cases at this time of the year is significantly higher than what it was in 2018, suggesting that the FSU should have huge resources and financial independence to effectively deliver on its mandate.
“After years of neglect and under-funding, the leadership of the Sierra Leone Police has a brilliant opportunity to make a departure with the past by supporting genuine investment in the FSU, the unit mandated to investigate and assist with the prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes. I am quite hopeful that they will do the right thing”, said Isata Sowa, CARL’s Gender and Juvenile Justice Officer.
With less than a week to the Sierra Leone Police’s annual budget presentation at the national budget hearing session hosted by the Ministry of Finance, it is hoped that the leadership of the Police and Ministry of Finance will do the right thing by the people of Sierra Leone, namely, adopt a realistic and detailed FSU budget and separate it from the general police budget.