HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF SIERRA LEONE
PRESS RELEASE NO. 21
RESTORING WOMENíS DIGNITY: PRESIDENT ERNEST BAI KOROMAíS APOLOGY TO SIERRA LEONEAN WOMEN IMPLEMENTS TRC RECOMMENDATION
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone commends H. E.Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, for implementing yet another Imperative Recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) by his public apology to women.
The recommendation at paragraph 317 of page 167 of Vol 2 of the TRC Report 2004, requires that Ďthe President as ďthe Father of the NationĒ and as ĎHead of Stateí, should Ďacknowledge the harm suffered by women and girls during the conflict in Sierra Leone and offer an unequivocal apology to them on behalf of the government and preceding governments in Sierra Leoneí.
The long awaited public apology, to women, made by President Koroma, on Saturday 27th March 2010 was received with great emotion by the large crowd of women who had gathered in Moyamba, Southern Province from all across the country, for the annual celebration of International Womenís Day.
The President, in his statement recalled the many indignities suffered by the Sierra Leonean Women- unlawful killing, rape, amputation and loss of family and property- noting that the country had failed its women folk especially by not protecting them during the eleven year civil war. The President asserted that until the nation apologises for these wrongs Ďwe will not be able to move forwardí.¬†
The President apologised in his capacity as ĎHead of Stateí for violations against women, as ĎCommander-In-Chiefí of the Armed Forces for all the wrongs done to women by the Army and other warring factions, and lastly as ĎFountain of Honour and Justiceí for the injustices suffered by women.¬†¬†
President Koroma gave the women assurances of non repetition of the harms inflicted and of State protection. He further called on his male compatriots Ė as men, husbands and brothers - to provide security for women at all times.¬† He restated his Governmentís commitment to implementing the Gender legislation to the letter and also committed to ensuring the 30% quota for women in decision making positions, another imperative TRC recommendation. HRCSL
Commissioner Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff accepted the apology on behalf of the women.
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, which has relentlessly advocated for this Presidential apology, welcomes this bold and courageous move by Dr Koroma and calls on the women to respond positively to the Presidentís call for Sierra Leonean women to work together with government to turn a new page so women can take their rightful place alongside with men to implement the terms of the Moyamba Declaration 2010, HRCSL renews its call for speedy and comprehensive¬† implementation of all outstanding TRC recommendations.
Dated 29th March 2010
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone is an independent national human rights institution established by the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Act No. 9 of 2004 with the mandate to protect and promote human rights
Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, 38 Wellington Street- Freetown, 69 Blama Road ĖKenema, 1 Old Railway Line Ė Bo¬† &¬† 30A Wallace Johnson Street Ė Makeni¬†
STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY DR ERNEST BAI KOROMA
ON INTERNATIONAL WOMENíS DAY CELEBRATIONS ON 27 MARCH 2010
The International Womenís Day is a day for reflecting on the challenges faced by women, and for celebrating the achievements of our mothers, our partners, our sisters, our daughters and our female compatriots. More importantly, this is a day for rededicating ourselves to the truth that a nation can only transform itself when it also lives up to the aspirations of women. From Madam Yoko to Nancy Steele and the current Chief Justice, the women of this country have aspired to equal rights, justice, education, health, food security and an opportunity to thrive as business women, farmers, politicians, and lawyers.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, the history of our country is replete with great examples of our collective efforts to fulfil the aspirations of women. From the founding of the Annie Walsh to the enthronement of Madam Yoko; from the election of the first female Mayor of a city in Africa in the 1930s to the appointment of the first female Chief Justice in the current administration, our country has asserted its better aspirations.
However, we have also as nation fallen short of our obligations to women. For decades women have had to battle it out with the constraints of culture to get justice and education; for decades women have been denied access to their just inheritance; and for a whole decade during the war we fell short in our obligation to adequately protect women from the brutalities of armed conflict. We will never as a nation move forward if we do not apologize to the women of this country for letting them down during the war; we will never as nation know better days if we do not ask for the forgiveness of our mothers, sisters, partners, and female compatriots for what we let them go through during the war. It is almost a decade now since the war ended, but we must apologise for the wrongs of the war.¬† As Head of State I apologise for the wrongs wrought on women, as Commander-in-Chief I ask for forgiveness for the armed forces, as Fountain of Honour and Justice I pledge this countryís commitment to honour, protect, defend and defend the rights and aspirations of the women of this country. As a Sierra Leonean man, I urge all men of this nation to stand by women to defeat these long-standing injustices suffered by more than half our population.
My government is committed to removing these injustices. Our User Free Healthcare Program that will be inaugurated in April 2010 is motivated by our desire to reverse the dismal maternal mortality figures; our education policies are premised on our commitment to give equal educational opportunities to boys and girls; we will adhere to womenís demands for a 30% quota in Parliament and other significant areas of governace; our judiciary is today headed by women and it is our belief that this singular fact will make the interpretation and implementation of justice reflective of the deep commitment of women to justice, equal rights and equal opportunities.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, we owe it to our country to make right the wrongs we have committed against women; we owe it to our humanity to ensure justice for the widow, education for the girl-child, and joy to the common woman everywhere in this country. There is no way we could bring glory to this nation without women. Ensuring the rights of women is one of the greatest ways of being patriotic.
God Bless Sierra Leone.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.