Yankuba Kai Samba: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 July 2020:
Mob justice undermines the rule of law and makes the work of our police more difficult. Standing next to her husband – the president of Sierra Leone, Mrs Fatima Jabbie Bio two days ago, called on people to ‘strip naked and beat up men accused of raping their girls before the police gets involved’.
This is outrageous, irresponsible and frankly unacceptable. The inspector of police should have a word with Fatima Bio.
Mob rule is violence, and it is extra-judicial and has no regard for the functioning laws of the land.
Fatima Bio, being the ‘mother of Sierra Leone’, by virtue of her being the wife of the president, should be more responsible in her comments because her statements can influence the actions of communities in society. Innocent people can get killed based on her call to violent action.
I don’t think beating an accused person before he is charged to court should be part of our country’s civilisation and laws. The primacy of the rule of law is the rock of democracy and a stable society.
The presumption of innocence of an accused until proven guilty, in a court of law, is the fundamental pillar of the country’s legal and justice system.
The first lady should advise herself of this fundamental principle of law: that no man or woman should be subjected to violence and other degrading treatments, whilst he maintain his innocence, until he is charged with the offence and convicted in a competent court of law.
Rape is a heinous crime second only to state corruption in my opinion. There are thousands of people in Sierra Leone, who are dying of hunger and treatable diseases because of state corruption in a day than rape victims dying in five years.
So we need to contextualise the gravity of both these heinous crimes to guide the appropriate policies.
Tackling these two greatest menaces in Sierra Leone is not through the application of violence, but a critical examination of why Sierra Leone society has degenerated into a stage where there are no longer values placed upon, nor respect for the rule of law and its enforcement.
The solutions could be found in the following:
1) the right national leadership with the knowledge, experience and honesty to transform the socio-economic systems of the country.
2) rape and corruption should be made mandatory extra-curricular subjects taught in all level of our educational establishment from primary to university education.
3), all girls and boys should be told of their rights and boundaries vis a vis how to behave with each other . My discussion with lawyers in Kenema revealed the fact that most of the rape cases they dealt with in court were between boys and girls in schools.
4), Sierra Leone needs to define rape to take account of the complexities of the cultural, customary practices and beliefs that encourage and promote early marriage, sexual violence and abuse.
5) Government to criminalise the family mediation that is designed to stop a rape case brought to court, as this is obstruction of justice. This further encourages rape, since the perpetrator knows that he can get away with it, when the matter is settled out of court.
6) poverty, joblessness and lack of opportunities must command urgency in government’s annual budget, to spread wealth across the country. Anecdotal evidence suggests parents either give blind eye to or actively encouraged their teenage or underage girls into early marriage, or enter into sexual relationship with far older men for family financial support.
During my tour of the Nongowa villages during my chieftaincy campaign, some women proposed to me to take their virgin daughter as my wife. It’s not a joke. And I found it rather sad.
7) government to establish after school youth clubs and centres to engage young girls in developing their awareness and understanding of their rights to their bodies and gender, as well as personal responsibility.
8) government to allocate 25 percent of all the external budgetary support that it has received to strengthen the institutions and agencies, including the Family support unit of the police division to come up with programs that will not only stop rape against women, but to provide practical support for the victims. Therapy to relieve trauma, because rape is deeply traumatic, and provide safety through secured accommodations.
I believe these measures will help establish the contextual framework of policy initiatives and directives to give the public education needed, the practical support needed by rape victims and overall introduced greater awareness of violence and sexual violence against girls and women.
Violence against the accused and extra judicial action is totally unacceptable in modern society.