From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Foreign Office Spokesman’s Action Discredits Koroma’s Apology
Mar 31, 2010, 14:14

When women are free to develop their talents and contribute fully to their societies, everyone benefits. When women are free to earn a living and start small businesses, they become drivers of economic growth.
-Hilary Rodham Clinton (U.S. Secretary of State)

When the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone on Monday called on the Women of Sierra Leone to put aside any issues they might have with the manner in which Ernest Bai Koroma led Government of Sierra Leone has been treating women, it elicited mixed reactions from the Editorial Team of this newspaper.

We did not think Ernest Koroma’s apology was genuine as it made no mention of the recent horrendous mal-treatment of women in Sierra Leone that occurred at the SLPP Party Headquarters on 16th March 2009. Even the impugned Bankole Thompson Rape Commission Report could not hide the fact that defenceless Sierra Leonean female victims were "each subjected to physical mistreatment amounting to outrages upon their personal dignity or other inhumane conduct in violation of their human rights protection" by President Koroma’s bodyguards and others. SLPP Women were violated for no other reason than them exercising their constitutional right to belong to the opposition SLPP.

This is the scene where President Koroma Apologised in Moyamba last weekend with Leatherboot standing right behind him in suit and dark glasses

How and why the President in his Public Apology, that was rendered with his bodyguard Mr. Leatherboot standing right next to him in Moyamba, overlooked this grave injustice that was committed against innocent Sierra Leone Women by his own Personal Bodyguards and known APC operatives is what beat our imagination at the Awareness Times.

However, we took the appeal by the Human Rights Commission in very good faith especially as our respected sisters Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff and Jamestina King are esteemed members of that body but we were cautiously optimistic.

Indeed, events happening barely 48 hours after the apology was uttered on Saturday March 27th 2010 by President Koroma have proved our cautious optimism to be in place. Koroma Government’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman has exposed just how insincere this Government is towards allowing women to exercise their full potentials in whatever sphere they might find themselves. For this Government, launching of sexual innuendoes at Leading Sierra Leonean Women is an acceptable tool to subjugate women out of public life.

For Ernest Koroma’s Government functionaries, Sexually explicit Name-calling is acceptable as a tool for hounding Sierra Leonean women out of public life back into the background. Ernest Koroma’s regime has a clear History of this and it appears the recent Apology will not stem this unsavoury tactic of Ernest Koroma’s regime.

This is why in reaction to the fact that the Foreign Minister Zainab Bangura was being investigated by this newspaper for improperly employing functionaries of her Ministry in abuse of her office contrary to Section 42(1) of the Anti Corruption Act of 2008, here is what the Ernest Koroma Government’s Foreign Office Spokesman had published about Dr. Sylvia Blyden, the country’s only female newspaper Publisher for daring to investigate the Government’s Foreign Ministry:

"Sylvia Blyden should clarify allegations that include [her] hiring of hitmen with news that her ex, Liberian Immigration Boss who dumped her on allegations of cheating with the latter’s biological brother..."

The above malicious allegation is a total figment of the imagination of the Government’s Foreign Office Spokesman but it is a deliberate move clearly designed to intimidate the female newspaper Publisher from exposing the malpractices at the Foreign Ministry. If the Publisher of this newspaper was a man, Ernest Koroma’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman would not have brought sexual innuendoes into the issue! He is using sexually based insults as a tool!

It is well known that one of the primary reasons why women steer clear of taking visible positions in a society is out of fear that they would be publicly maligned with sexual innuendoes. However, as recently stated by America’s female Foreign Minister Hilary Clinton, when women are free to explore their potentials to the same extent as men, their societies progress. Thus, no serious Head of State will encourage within his regime, a Foreign Office Spokesman who uses sexual innuendoes to try to intimidate women from pursuing their duties in the public eye. Making despicable sexual innuendoes against the country’s only female newspaper operator just within 48 hours after Koroma apologised to the Women of Sierra Leone, has simply caricatured the apology as nothing but a self-mockery by President Koroma’s regime.

The gentlemen journalists at Awareness Times are certainly not amused with the President’s Foreign Office Spokesman! We need a society free of sexual innuendoes against leading Sierra Leonean women. Or do we have to suffer the likes of the Koroma’s Government’s Foreign Office Spokesman in silence?

Sierra Leone women deserve better than this Mr. President! Abdulai Bayraytay has no business representing your Government as Foreign Ministry Spokesman. He is a reprehensible disgrace! His tactics are a discredit to your apology. But who knows? They might just enjoy your blessings? Time will tell.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.