By Elkas Sannoh – 20 August 2019
Chairperson of Sierra Leone’s Human Rights Commission (SLHRC), Madam Patricia Naasu Ndanema, has commended the Ministry of Youth Affairs and the United Nations New York delegation on their joint assessment mission about young people in conflict with the law. She was speaking in her office on Tower Hill in Freetown after receiving the delegation.
The team comprised the Head of Planning and Operations based in Mali – Obianuju Nwobi; Simonetta Rossi -Peace and Development Advisor, Elkass Sannoh-Director of Communications and Millicent Kargbo-Communications Officer from the Ministry of Youth Affairs.
Explaining the Commission’s mandate, Madam Ndanema said the Commission was established by an Act of Parliament in 2004 to promote and protect human rights issues in the country, adding that to reinforce their work they recently visited seven Correctional Centers to assess the status of inmates.
She said during their tour, they were able to facilitate the release of one of the longest serving inmates who had served for twelve years without any trial.
She recommended that education should be a priority for all Sierra Leoneans, stressing further that, lack of education has lured a lot of young people into anti-social behaviour. She observed that the law is also posing a huge challenge. She therefore recommended drastic reforms of our laws whilst citing the recent detention of twenty two pupils in Kenema for loitering. She said those pupils who were detained were preparing for their West Africa Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE).
One of the Commissioners, Lawyer Victor Lansana, admitted that the laws are unorthodox which is why there is always need to reform those laws to match up with contemporary issues. He said one of the missing links is innovation as well as capacity building to be able to meaningfully reintegrate those inmates into society.
“If I am to recommend, I urge that we revive civic education to preach nationalism and highlight the responsibilities of every citizen,” said Commissioner Lansana. He said there is need to overhaul the educational system in the country “if we are to succeed in reviving our civic education.”
Elkass Sannoh, Director of Communications pointed out that years of neglect, abuse and insensitivity to the needs of young people in the past have pushed young people to the brink and put them at risk with little or no real opportunities left for them to explore.
Sannoh said the public is conniving with some inmates to sell illegal products that are inimical to state security and the well-being of the inmates.
In her statement, Simonetta Rossi, said the key objective of the joint assessment will be to develop a broadly-shared understanding in line with the patterns of recruitment and mobilization of young people into cliques and gangs in rural and urban areas. She stated that they intend to identify some elements that could contribute to empower youth at risk to become a productive force at the community level in order to facilitate the long-term development goal of the country.
Asking the Commission’s role in building a resilient community, Head of Planning and Operations- Obianuju Nwobi; said the local stakeholders and government institutions should play a leading role in transforming the youths to deviate them from violence of all forms. She said young people are key in all developments undertaken by the government.
National Youth Commission Communications Officer, Millicent Kargbo, disclosed that the Ministry of Youth Affairs is currently reviewing the National Youth Policy to be able to address contemporary youth problems. She described the review as timely.