The Liberian and Sierra Leonean chapters of the Network of Peace and Security Women in ECOWAS countries (NOPSWECO) alarm over growing insecurity and threat to peace in the two countries.
In a statement released in Monrovia, NOPSWECO said the unfortunate situation unfolding in Sierra Leone since 8th August 2022 that climaxed with a protest on the 10th of August, resulted in loss of lives and destruction of private and public properties.
NOPSWECO comprised of the Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH) Paramount Young Women Initiative, Community Healthcare Initiative, Kids Educational Engagement Project (KEEP), Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia and Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL), respectively.
The women extend deepest sympathies to families and friends of civilians and security personnel who lost their lives or sustained serious bodily and mental injuries in Sierra Leone.
” We are completely shocked and saddened by the August 10th protest that swept part of the capital, Freetown and subsequently in Makeni, Lungi and Kamakwe respectively, and condemn in the strongest terms the use of force which resulted in the death of some citizens” they added.
They also note that the rise of various militant groups in Liberia and lack of response to curtail this problem is certainly alarming, adding that names such as CDC Blue Army, Yekeh Kolubah’s Defense Oppositions Defense Force, and the CDC/ COP have come to the fore through the following incidents.
The women recall that on July 26, 2022, Student Walter Sisulu and others were brutalized on live camera while protesting in front of live camera, and even though the incident was being broadcasted in real time, the police stated that no one had filed any complaint and then requested the public to provide information even though those who committed the act identities were not concealed.
They continue that up to date, the Ministry of Justice has provided no update on the status of the case, while on August 5, 2022, a member of a women’s organization was reportedly assaulted by Yekeh Kolubah Opposition Defense Force.
“On August 11, 2022, the Liberia National Bar Association reported that unknown persons acting under the authority of the “country devil” forcibly seized Magistrate Capehart assigned at the Magisterial Court in Salala.”
NOPSWECO observes that to further compound the situation, another person claiming to be Zoe also had locked up the City Solicitor and threatened to harm other judicial staff.
“We take note of the heightened economic crisis and the number of unemployed and at-risk youth in both countries which are red flags and an early warning sign”, the release adds.
According to the women, both Sierra Leone and Liberia are post- conflict countries which will have elections next year.
They pointed out that in Liberia, there is general distrust of the police since in most cases the police are nearby when these incidents take place.
“It is a known fact that women and children are the most vulnerable during crisis; therefore, the protection and safety of women and children under any given circumstances must be guarantee by all parties involved in the violence” they cited.
They call on all stakeholders to remain calm in light of the looming Presidential elections next year.
Meanwhile, the women recommend that all parties in Sierra Leone should return to status quo ante in light of the prevailing situation and take advantage of the law in resolving issues of national concern.
They call for monitoring of all violent against citizens especially, VAWG taking place within the context of the temporary unrest and urge the media and the general public to remain peaceful and send out messages of peace and refrain from posting inciteful comments on social media that could inflame the current tense situation.
The women want the Government of Sierra Leone to set up an independent body involving women and members of the civil society to speedily investigate the factors that triggered the violence.
They emphasize that the government should engage unemployed youth innovatively and set up programs to keep them busy or invest in rehabilitation programs.
“For Liberia, the government [should] ensure that all factions/militant groups are neutralized, and action is taken against independent police members who are present but take no action when violence occurs.”
They also want government to work with the Armed Forces of Liberia to become a force for good and update the public on cases of interest and ensure that members of the traditional society who violate rules of the Republic are held accountable for their actions.
They say government should find innovative ways to engage young persons and all must be involved in teaching them nonviolent ways of expressing themselves.
“We remain ready to participate and aid in the facilitation of any negotiation for peace in order to return Sierra Leone to calm.