By Abdul Malik Bangura
Sierra Leone delegation to the ECOWAS Parliament has in its country report to the regional parliament said more than four hundred former Liberian refugees remain without legal status in the country.
The country which delegation comprises of five (5) members who are: Hon. Chernor R. M. Bah (Leader), Hon. DrSidie M. Tunis (Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament), Hon. Ajibola Manley-Spain, Hon. Veronica K. Sesay and Hon. Shiaka Musa Samawas represented in the delivery of its country report by Hon. Shiaka Musa Sama.
The report presented to the ECOWAS Parliament captured several thematic areas of the country including the Political; Security; Human Rights; Economic and Social situations as well as Environment and Climate Change; Status of Ratification and Implementation of the Community Texts and Protocols; Status of Implementation of Community Programs and Projects; and the Performance on the Macroeconomic Convergence Criteria.
During the presentation of the report particularly on the Human Rights situation in Sierra Leone, Hon Sama said more than 400 former Liberian refugees remain without legal status in the country. “Their refugee status expired in 2017 when they became “residual caseloads” under UNHCR protection. They refused repatriation and integration and demanded resettlement in a third country. UNHCR denied their resettlement citing the former refugees’ contradictory statements. The group applied for local national identification documents but authorities are yet to act on the applications.”
Furthering on the Human Rights situation in Sierra Leone, the report captured that in March 2020, President Bio declared a 12-month State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Parliament approved the measure which granted the President broad powers to maintain peace and order including mandatory restrictions on movements. The State of Emergency declaration included restrictions on assembly as it banned meetings of more than 100 persons. In few cases, police used excessive force when dealing with demonstrators and used public order laws to deny requests for protests and demonstrations,” Hon Sama read verbatim from the Report.
To guarantee press freedom, the report also captured that the Government of Sierra Leone “worked with Parliament and other stakeholders to repeal the 55-year old seditious libel section of the Public Order Act, 1965 that criminalized free speech. This demonstrated the willingness of Government to promote the freedom of press in the country.”
The Human Right portion of the report also stressed on the moves made so far by government to curtail issues of rape and the addressing challenges of allowing pregnant girls attending school.
On the status of implementation of community texts, Hon Sama said Sierra Leone has ratified 42 ECOWAS protocols and conventions. To meet her obligations under the Community Levy Protocol, Sierra Leone, he said “has paid the sum of Le 14,903,320,000 for the year 2020 equivalent to US$ 1,500,000 and has arrears totaling Le 46,509,446,719.87.”