Category Archives: EXPLOITATION

Let’s Talk About Rape in Salone: It is the Big White Elephant in the Room We Must Attack NOW!

The rape of our girls is not an issue we should discuss with sugar-coated words or discuss in euphemism or measured words. Rape has put girls and women in  dire situations in Sierra Leone; this is a problem that requires our attention as a people, now.

The only time rape makes the news in Sierra Leone, is when the victim dies, as in the death of Hannah Bockarie in 2015 (May her soul rest in peace), who was gang-raped and killed on a beach in Freetown. Also, most recently, a five-year-old girl, who was raped and rendered permanently paralyzed, caught the attention of President Julius Maada Bio, who declared the State of Emergency, as a result.

Thank you to the president for showing that girls are worthy of our leaders’ time and attention, by acknowledging rape as a national crisis! However, the actions he has taken so far, which send a clear message of commitment to do something about the crisis, are just the beginning. We, as a people, must be equally committed to annihilating the beast that rape has become in Salone for so long. It is going to take a national conversation, concerted efforts and change in societal attitude regarding rape.

Social media responses to a recent revelation by a Sierra Leonean woman, Ms. Naasu Fofanah, that she was raped by a Reverend Mereweather Thompson, when she was only 15 years old, has not as much as raised an eyebrow in Salone or the diaspora. In this society, a woman accusing a man of rape is quickly dismissed and the woman gets disparaged for smearing his name. Let’s just say, even in today’s social media craze, such revelations never go viral, they are nipped in the bud among Sierra Leoneans.

One response to Ms. Fofanah’s letter, claims that “many people are asking…why is it only now that madam Fofanah is, making such allegations public?” And posting a response on his Facebook timeline, about the allegations against him, Rev. Thompson, asks many seemingly oblivious questions, one of them: “Would anyone who had been raped continue to keep in touch with the perpetrator?”

Surely, if “many people are asking” such questions, it is a clear indication that many Salone people are not in touch with the realities of prevalent rape in our nation, and not aware of its effects on victims. These lines of questioning are emblematic of the rape culture that has led to the perpetuation and tolerance of rampant rape of girls and women in our country.

To be clear, when we say a culture of rape, we mean that when a people in a society do not frown upon the sexualization of little girls, by giving them into early marriage and accepting adolescent pregnancies as a norm, that society has a culture of rape. This is what Sierra Leone has become.

People who ask such questions are ignorant of the harmful psychological effects of rape on victims, especially adolescent girls. It is a well documented world-wide knowledge (except in Sierra Leone) that rape victims suffer various emotional and mental harm, that may prevent them from reporting their victimization. Those who seek psychological help, may eventually process their ordeal and gain enough fortitude to open up about it, privately or publicly. Which is a major part of their total healing. But most victims, never report and they suffer a life time of consequences.

To be sure, Ms. Fofanah, has in the past identified herself as a rape survivor, which is the first step in a victim’s healing process. The only part that is new is revealing the name of her alleged rapist, which speaks more to the triumph of her healing process than anything else. Secondly, every Sierra Leonean knows that when a girl is raped, especially by a prominent or influential man, it is her word against his words. We all remember the university student who was allegedly raped by the deputy minister of education; he suffered no consequences and she suffered tremendous browbeating by the Sierra Leonean public, in addition to her physical and psychological ordeal.

The Salone public is merciless to rape victims, so it takes a strong woman, like Ms. Fofanah, to know all this about our society, and still be brave enough to open up and share her ordeal.

Regarding Rev. Thompson’s question, yes, rape victims have been known to keep in touch with their rapist, and some even fall in love with the perpetrator. Indeed, many in Sierra Leone have married their rapists, which is part of the reason for the prevalence of early marriages. The Reverend does not deny having sexual intercourse with the 15 year old Ms. Fofanah, but he denies raping her. Even if that 15 year old girl was madly in love and consented the charismatic Reverend’s touch, having sex with her was statutory rape, so if he does not deny having sex with her when she was 15, he and all the men in Salone who have cravings for juvenile girls (Juvies), must know that they are committing rape.

So, Ms. Fofanah’s story is the story of the vast majority of rape victims in Sierra Leone, who are adolescent girls; they are frequently enticed and cajoled by trusted older men in their communities, and sometimes they are forcefully raped. They seldom tell anyone, and as a result, they go on living with tremendous psychological burdens.

Therefore, for the Reverend to ask such a question, is not only insensitive to the suffering of rape victims, but evidence of his male superiority attitude. In a severely patriarchal society like Sierra Leone, men who abuse women, do not see their wrong, they feel self-righteous and belittle complaints made against them.

In Salone, men who are sexual abusers, frequently use adolescent girls sexually in the same manner they use their toilets; they have no love or compassion toward the girls, they just use and discard them when they get horny, and then on to the next victim.

Based on what Ms. Fofanah says in her letter, the Reverend perpetrated both enticement and forceful rape. As a child of 15, she was vulnerable. He was and still is, after all, a “man of God” who all and sundry nearly worship; as Salone people evoke God frequently but worship political leaders and men of God.

And like all adolescent girls in Salone know, the 15-year-old Ms. Fofanah knew that no one, not even her mother, would believe her, had she named such a prominent, influential, “respected” man of the community. Moreover, her alleged rapist, being a married Christian man, who cannot marry two wives, would have denied the child, because his wife would have never allowed him to bring an outside child into their household; a child that would have been referred to as a “bastard.”

In Salone, a child that is referred to as a “bastard” is not a child born out of wedlock; but a child for whom a man is not identified as the man who impregnated the mother. That is why Sierra Leoneans consider “bastard,” one of the worst offensive insults in our society.

Adolescent girls whose babies are considered “bastards” are those who do not name their rapist or whose rapists deny impregnating them. Which leaves the child without an identifiable father, hence a “bastard.” The girls who are forced to marry their rapist or whose rapists admit impregnating them, save their babies from this stigma and potential maltreatment, as such children are often treated badly. But such marriages mostly take place in poor rural regions, where community leaders intervene and urge a rapist to “step up” and marry a girl he had defiled, if he is man enough to admit that he had intercourse with the girl child.

However, when a girl is raped and impregnated by an affluent, prominent or influential man, in the city, marrying her rapist is out of the question, which is a blessing in disguise. Such men would never admit to having sex with the girl; if the girl names him, the girl would be chastised by the public for “tainting the good name of a respected man in the community.” In very rare cases, when a prominent man admits to impregnating a girl, his wife would never accept such a baby and the girl becomes a single mother, vulnerable to other sexual predators who promise to help her support her child. A vicious cycle of exploitation and lifetime hardship ensues.

Even though the law says that a child under the age of 18 cannot consent to sexual intercourse, no one in Sierra Leone seems to realize that each girl who is given into early marriage, is essentially being handed over to a man to be raped repeatedly, subjecting her to a lifetime of physical and psychological health issues. When an unmarried girl under 18 ends up pregnant, there is usually no law enforcement intervention, and in the rare instances when a case is reported, the Sierra Leone police do not take rape cases seriously, as the society acts like it is not a crime.

Ms. Fofanah’s wise mother knew that childbirth in adolescence was not only hazardous to her 15-year-old daughter’s health and life but would also ruin her education and future prospect of self-sufficiency. Chances are had Ms. Fofanah kept the pregnancy, she would have been kicked out of school, as all pregnant girls get kicked out of school in Salone, especially in those days. This is how so many girls’ lives have been ruined.

This is the reality that Ms. Fofanah’s mother was facing so many years ago, when the 15-year-old was too afraid to name her rapist. Her mother did not want her daughter to end up with a stigmatized child, and she certainly did not want her daughter’s chances of getting an education ruined.

Today, Ms. Naasu Fofanah is a well-rounded, educated, eloquent, self-sufficient woman, who is a passionate advocate for girls and women. The Lioness that she is, she has roared her truth by writing that letter to her alleged rapist, which should signal to all Salone men and women that the repercussions of rape last a lifetime.

We must, therefore, start talking about rape in Sierra Leone, as one of the most pervasive problems affecting girls and keeping women behind, on so many levels in our society.

#LetsTalkAboutRapeSalone

See similar posts below on Mama Salone Blog:

University Student Allegedly Raped by Sierra Leone Deputy Minister of Education

THE REASONS VICTIMS DO NOT REPORT RAPES IN SALONE.

Juvie Offensive: Sexual Exploitation of Girls.

Would anyone who had been raped continue to keep in touch with the perpetrator?

Why is it only now that madam Fofanah is making such allegations public?

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Domestic Violence Poses Grave Dangers to Women in Sierra Leone

This gallery contains 8 photos.

One of the most common questions people ask of women who endure domestic violence, is “why do they stay with their abusive husbands or partners? Two recent cases in Sierra Leone provide answers to this question. One woman is dead … Continue reading

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SALONE ELECTIONS 2018:THE MAKING OF A DEMIGOD

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Regardless of who wins the March 27, 2018 presidential runoff in Sierra Leone (Salone), a demigod will be sworn in on inauguration day. After spending five weeks in Salone and observing activities at the height the 2018 election campaign season, … Continue reading

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WAKE UP SALONE YOUTH: YOU ARE BEING “KICKED NOT STUMBLED OVER” BY POLITICIANS

This gallery contains 7 photos.

General elections are slated to take place in Sierra Leone on March 7, 2018. The whole country is abuzz now with an onslaught of candidates crawling out of the woodwork. Several of the 2018 contenders are hoping to become standard-bearers … Continue reading

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Giant Diamond Found in Sierra Leone: Jubilation or Tribulation?

This gallery contains 2 photos.

The biggest news out of Sierra Leone for the past couple of days has been the discovery of a giant diamond, which the Sierra Leone State House describes as a  706 carat diamond. This precious stone was found by a … Continue reading

People of Kono District Must Unite to End Structural Injustice

The chronic polarization of Kono peoples must stop. While they are asleep by their focus on superficial divisions, the criminal political elite of Sierra Leone is robbing them blind of their land and their human and peoples’ rights.

When a leader wants absolute power but still needs the outside world and donors to see him as a “democratic” leader, he crafts laws that give legitimacy to his nefarious plans; in this way, outsiders can ignore what he does in the name of sovereignty. This is how the Mines & Minerals Act of 2009 came into being in Sierra Leone, at the behest of the current President Ernest Bai Koroma, the “Supreme Leader” with absolute power in “democratic” Republic of Sierra Leone.

This Act instituted a structure in which a place such as Kono District, which is the most diamondiferous district in Sierra Leone, belongs to the political elite and their network. A quick glance at the act tells you that in a place like Kono, the people have lost all rights to their land; the land and what it contains not only belong to the president and his cronies, they have absolute power over the people. This law has taken the people of Kono into a deep hole from which they must find a way to crawl out.

Mining-1

Mines and Minerals Act of 2009- Section 2 – Ownership of minerals

(1) All rights of ownership in and control of minerals in, under or upon any land in Sierra Leone and its continental shelf are invested in the Republic not withstanding any right of ownership or otherwise that any person may possess in and to the soil on, in or under which minerals are found or situated.

(2) The Minister shall ensure in the public interest that the mineral resources of Sierra Leone are investigated and exploited in the most efficient effective and timely manner.

We have all decried the constant police brutality against the people of Kono, especially the youth, whenever they try to protest the injustices they are facing. We have wondered about the arrogance and over-confidence of cabinet ministers who operate in Kono. These ministers are well known for threatening, intimidating and ordering police to arrest, imprison and even kill Kono people who raise their voices against the injustices they face. The absolute power and impunity of Kono ministers are based in the laws.

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Ancestral homes are bulldozed daily and people of Kono are relocated by foreign owned mining companies to shabby new locations far away from schools, markets and hospitals. Schools that have existed for decades are bulldozed and relocated to areas that are inaccessible to the children who attend them. The list goes on and chronically corrupt politicians, their network and local leaders continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the people’s lives and livelihood.

The daily or weekly kimberlite blasting by a powerful mining company, Koidu Holdings aka OCTEA, has been causing so much physical, psychological and emotional havoc on the people of Kono;  the tremor caused by the dynamite blasts leads to many miscarriages among pregnant women in the vicinity, it also leads to psychological trauma, especially for older survivors of the decade long war. But it is all legitimate because the Mines & Minerals Act of 2009 says it is,

Section 36: Compulsory acquisition of private land.

(1) The Minister may, by order published in the Gazette, compulsorily acquire private land or rights over or under private land for use by the holder of a large- scale mining licence.

As a result, the people of Kono are internally displaced and are facing serious oppressive treatment by the police and the government officials they take orders from. Protecting the source of their diamond wealth has led the politicians and their vulture western investment partner companies to commit serious abuse of human rights in Kono District, yet, these atrocities may seem legally justified based on the mining laws.koidu-holdings-company-2

In one rare video report of atrocities in Kono, (which may well be a government commissioned propaganda report), a government minister is asked to explain the situation regarding the recent Congo Bridge destruction and mishandling of the youth and other citizens who tried to protest in Koidu City. Part of the minister’s explanation is that the bulldozing, digging, dredging, etc., were being done to “remove unsuitable materials…to protect the people and their interests.” It is very obvious from his responses that the overconfident minister is fully aware of the injustice of this mining activity, which is leading to the loss of a vital bridge and the lives and livelihood of the people. The Mining Act of 2009 provides legitimacy for this minister to claim that he has commissioned a mining company to “remove unsuitable material…,” a language borrowed from the law,  which gives him the power to order the wrath of police brutality on the people, which in the last incident, resulted in serious injuries and at least one fatality that we know of in Koidu City.

Diamonds have been mined in Kono District for over 80 years; but the previous regime of the late President Tejan Kabba and the current regime of President Ernest Bai Koroma are probably the worst in history for Kono and its people. Things are only going to get better for Kono District and its people when,

  • the people use their collective political powers to demand changes in the structure that the current regime has put in place in the guise of a mining law.
  • Kono people unite in holding their legislators accountable for partaking in the drafting and passing of such laws.
  • People of Kono realize that politicians are false prophets, their promises are fake and only meant to deceive them into giving them the very powers they end up using against them.
  • the people of Kono use their voting power to push for changes in the laws that have built the structure in which they have lost their birth rights to their land.

The people of Kono must unite and find legitimate means of using their collective voices to uplift themselves out of this hole dug by crafty laws drafted by crafty politicians.

References
Watch a video showing a light sample of OCTEA Dynamite Blasting in Kono

Mines & Minerals Act, 2009

A Call for Kono People to Instrospect & Unite

 

 

A CALL ON SIERRA LEONE MINISTER: EDUCATE OUR GIRLS AND PROSECUTE THEIR RAPERS

OPEN LETTER

 

Dr. Minkailu Bah, Minister
Ministry of Education, Science and Technology
New England Freetown

Sierra Leone, West Africa

 

Dear Honorable Minister Bah:

With all due respect Sir, your April 2015 education policy, which excludes pregnant girls from continuing their education is like putting plaster on a jigger toe. Your policy puts the blame of girls’ pregnancy solely on the girls and shields the men who impregnate them.

But we all know that the root cause of teenage pregnancy in Sierra Leone is the appetite of older men for young girls. So by punishing only the girls, you are leaving the jigger in our national toe. Your policy is a first aid band-aid covering a jigger, which needs to be removed.

Many of the worldwide reactions decry your policy, pointing to its  adverse effects on girls’ education and the further depletion of women’s socioeconomic status in Sierra Leone. As women who grew up in Sierra Leone, we have always known that pregnancy ended a girl’s schooling in our country, due to stigma and shaming of the girl. No pregnant girl wants to sit beside her peers with her projected stomach. We have always hoped for a solution.

We are surprised that a government that is legally and morally obligated to protect their rights as children, has formally implemented a policy that further erodes girls’ basic and human rights, which are protected by national and international laws.

We posit here that pregnant adolescent girls, in majority of the cases in Sierra Leone, are victims of rape, in violation of the laws of Sierra Leone. A policy that makes them the only “culprits,” while shielding the adult men who impregnate them, will not only fail, it will make girls even more vulnerable.

OLDER men WHO IMPREGNATE GIRLS must be prosecuted as a fundamental remedY FOR a national crisis.

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