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Civil Society Activists Talk Tough

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Civil Society Activists Talk Tough

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“We also unequivocally condemn the recent attacks and intimidation on civil society leaders, including the Executive Director of Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) – Madam Marcella Samba-Sesay, who has publicly expressed critical views on the current governance challenges.

“We view such attacks as completely unwarranted and a veiled threat to silencing critical civic voices on national issues, thereby reducing the scope for genuine political participation and advocacy in Sierra Leone.

“We therefore urge the government to take immediate steps to ensure that the right to defend human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected, protected and fulfilled.

“We are also concerned about the growing intolerance of dissenting civil society activist (s) and how the “Us vs Them” dichotomy has manifested itself in various forms across the nation – from censorship fiats to acts of outright physical intimidation and emotional blackmail.

“The escalating attacks on civil society activist (s) and whistle-blower (s) have taken a toll not just on individuals but also on social justice activist (s) and human rights defenders, and in circumstances in which the agents of such acts of violence are often alleged to be state actors or their accomplices.

 “We are therefore reminding the government of its primary responsibility not to acquiesce to such acts but to adopt such measures necessary to ensure that the rights and freedoms are guaranteed at all times.

“Civil society has long played a crucial role in peace building and national cohesion in Sierra Leone, providing life-saving assistance and upholding human rights for all. As the space to work freely and without fear shrinks, there is a need to reflect on this troubling situation.

“Whilst we condemn the brazen attack on critical civic voices, we affirm our support for the proposed National Peace and Cohesion Conference – dubbed Bintumani 3, in reference to and continuation with Bintumani 1&2 conferences that were hitherto led by civil society groups ahead of the 1996 democratic multi-party elections.

“Considering the sacrifices made by many Sierra Leoneans and our international partners to promote peace and strengthen democratic governance, it is imperative for us to consider the multiple factors that have created conditions that make it dangerous to do a job that is critical in a democracy.

“There is an urgent need to call out the forces responsible for building up the prevailing tense political atmosphere.

“As civil society leaders, we have no doubt that the proposed  National Peace and Cohesion conference  is important and timely, but we are equally  convinced  that we will lose  the essence of  the proposed  conference and ultimately  unable to achieve the intended objective if not organized by independent and sincere  actors and in good faith.

“It is in this light that we strongly recommend that the Bintumani 3 be led by independent moral guarantors of the Lomé Peace agreement with the active participation of all political parties, national and religious leaders.”

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