Also on the table is the rivalry between the Sierra Leone Traders Union South and the Petty Traders Union Bo which is threatening to undermine the peace following confrontations between the two. The Sierra Leone Traders Union South is also unhappy with the decision of the Sierra Leone Labor Congress to recognize and grant union status to the Petty Traders Union Bo.
The situation is compounded by allegations of political interference by the All People’s Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP)and the attack on the offices of the Traders Union South and the beating of two of its members by alleged political agents. Also, the Paramount Chief of Bo Kakua Chief, Prince Lappia Boima is accused of being sympathetic to the Petty Traders Union.
The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles set the tone for the meeting by underlining the need for the two Unions to recognize each other, work together and promote the welfare of traders in the city.
Also, she stressed the need for Bo City Council to have a healthy relationship with the two Unions because it is crucial to peace among the traders and by extension the township of Bo. She called on the Bo City Council to avoid over-taxing the traders which she noted is partly responsible for the tension between the traders and the City Council. ‘Taxes of whatever nature should have a human face,’ she stressed.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said she and her team from Freetown has decided to complement ongoing efforts at resolving the disputes by stakeholders in Bo because the traders are the largest clientele of the Board closely followed by the drivers and motorcycle (Okada) riders.
She noted that leaving the matter to degenerate has implications for the Board because those who end up in the police or courts would need legal assistance from the Board. ‘We want to reduce the numbers in the Correctional Centers around the country,’ she said. ‘This will add to our clients and we are stretched to the limit at the moment,’ she said.
The Chair for the ceremony who doubles as Senior District Officer, Prince Soriba said efforts are ongoing by the District and Provincial Security Committees to resolve the matter between Bo City Council and the Unions.
The Minister of State South, Muctarr Conteh spoke of the efforts he has lent to resolving the dispute between the two Unions and the City Council. He said he had advised the Council against levying dues on items rather than tables and stalls.
The Deputy Mayor of the Bo City Council, Wurie Jalloh assured that the Council will accept the report of the investigative committee put together by the District Security Committee (DISEC) on the matter between the Unions and the Council.
The Paramount Chief of Kakua Chiefdom, Prince Lappia Boima said when the dispute between the two Unions was brought to his attention he called on the police and the City Council to canvass their opinion on the actions being taken to resolve the matter. He noted that he had told the City Council that it is bound to treat the two Unions equally and fairly since they are both registered with the Council.
The Regional Commander for the Sierra Leone Police in the South, AIG Mustapha Kamara underlined the need for respect for diversity. He encouraged the Unions to accommodate each other and see themselves as equals. He said disrespect for rights brings about suspicion and conflicts. He urged the traders to take advantage of this opportunity that is being accorded them.
The Regional Coordinator for Office of National Security (ONS), Mohamed Bangura blamed the dispute between the two Unions on politicians. He condemned the attack on the offices of the Traders Union and the beating of persons. He stressed that those who fall foul of the law will face the full force of the law.
The Chair for Civil Society, Jeremy Ben Simbo accused the stakeholders of playing double standards and blamed them for the problems plaguing the Unions. He warned the traders against running after politicians stressing that they end up being used. He called on those responsible for the beatings at the offices of the Traders Union to come forward and apologize.
The stakeholders agreed to stand by the report compiled by the committee set up by the District Security Committee to look into the matter. The stakeholders called on the Bo City Council to be even handed and non-political in its dealings with the two Unions.
Also, all parties should cooperate with the police in the going investigations into the attack on the offices of the Traders Union and the beating of Ms. Esther Kpendema and Obai Kamara.
Prior to the meeting with the stakeholders, the Executive Director and Team visited Ms. Esther Kpendema at her residence to sympathize with her on her beating by alleged political opponents. Ms. Carlton-Hanciles condemned her beating noting that there is no justification for such an act. She stressed people of different tribe, religion and political affiliation are living peace that Bo cannot be an exception.
The Executive Director was accompanied bythe consultant to the Board Lawyer Francis Gabbidon, National Outreach Officer Ibrahim Kamara, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Sallu Jusu and Accountant Moinina Kopoi.