From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
In Sierra Leone, SDI Boss Uncomfortable with Political Gimmicks
By Aruna Turay
May 14, 2010, 17:02

The Executive Director of Society for Democratic Initiative (SDI), Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai has decried government policy for all NGOs to compulsorily register with the Sierra Leone Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (SLANGO) and the Ministry of Finance, Development and Economic Planning as a prerequisite to benefiting from recognition status and privileges for all NGOs operating in the country. This was disclosed in a press release issued on Thursday 13th May 2010 by the SDI.

According to the release, the concern came as a result of attempts by politicians to intimidate and muzzle the National Electoral Watch (NEW), a vibrant organization that has been monitoring elections and their ramifications in the country, in the ongoing criminal defamation court action instituted against the organization by Honorable Ibrahim Bundu representing Constituency 52 in the Port Loko District.

The release states that it is but sad to note that government has embarked on implementing the contentious NGO policy, a policy that denies NGOs that are not part of SLANGO any legal recognition and privileges. The release states that this bottle neck in the operation of NGOs robbed ‘Timap for Justice’ of their right to register some motor bikes with the Sierra Leone Roads Authority on a requirement of registration with SLANGO and the Ministry of Finance, Development and Economic Planning.

The release therefore urges politicians to hands-off the operations of Civil Society Organizations as this occurrence stifles the fundamental principles of democracy and good governance.

The release states that NEW, while commenting on the local chieftaincy election that took place between November and December 2009 condemned certain overt political interferences which resulted to an indefinite suspension of about 11 chiefdoms out of 40 chiefdoms nationwide in the exercise. The release further states that NEW further condemned the tensions, undue harassment and suspicions created in several chiefdoms due to inconsistencies over declaration processes and the complete lack of knowledge about the 2009 Chieftaincy Act, compounded by inadequate security resulting to violence in both the southeast and northern parts of the country. The release added that NEW’s observation was only a legitimate political process in the country in which a strong coalition of civil society organizations can comment on.

SDI therefore believes as the release puts it, that "public serving institutions like NEW should be provided with the legal as well as political environment to strive for what they are doing in public interest." The release further condemns the criminal defamation law as undesired piece of legislation in a democratic country. ‘Sierra Leone should follow democratic dictates and expunged the criminal and seditious libel laws from the law books of the country,’ the release states. Government’s implementation of the contentious NGO policy which dictates that all NGOs must be part of SLANGO is tantamount to stifling NGOs’ activities. The release referenced the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights as stipulated in Article 10 and Article 26 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone which states that ‘No one should be forced to join any association’.

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