The 5050 Group Organization that stands for women has been missing in action for almost four years. Since the inception of the 5050 Group, the organization was known to be a vibrant pressure group in the country, holding government accountable whenever it comes to women issues.
Sierra Leone as a nation has got so many vibrant women groups, who, before this time, will speak and advocate for more women representation in governance. Another women’s group, whose silence has been noticed is the Women’s Elite Group. The Women’s Elite Group, just like the 5050 Group, is comprised of women in academia. Today, those women’s groups have all gone silent, while women folks are suffering in the hands of politicians and the police. During the era of former President Ernest Bai Koroma, the 5050 Group was a leading campaigner for the 30% quota, and their advocacy at the time gave rise for more women representation in governance. It will interest readers to know that the corporate and political bully women have faced in the four years of the Bio government cannot be compared to that of the ten years rule of the Ernest Bai Koroma Government. In all of these, we have not seen these women’s group standing tall in defence of their colleague women folks, who have been subjected to political intimidation, harassment, bully and incarceration. During the era of the Ernest Bai Koroma Presidency, the former deputy mayor at the Freetown City Council, Hannah Jaiah, suffered similar situation from her boss, Mayor Franklin Bode Gibson. According to a senior veteran journalist, Mohamed Kamara, who was former aide to Hannah Jaiah, he said the former Mayor, Franklin Bode Gibson, muzzled the former deputy mayor and deprived her from serving the municipality for which they were all voted for. Kamara added that the matter was reported to the then Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Madam Diana Konomani, who, to the detriment of the deputy mayor, said Madam Jaiah has no reason to complain and should be seen to be always humble to her boss, despite the humiliation she was faced with. Despite complaints made by the former deputy mayor, there was no position statement from women groups to denounce the political bully of the deputy mayor by her former boss. The famous case of Theresa Mboma during the era of President Ernest Bai Koroma is another scenario. Madam Mboma’s case, which was tied to incitement for a message she shared on whatsapp, was arrested and detained at the Criminal Investigation Department, and this became topical, to the extent that women groups and civil society organizations raised their voices and denounced the action of the Sierra Leone Police. In her case, women groups and civil society organizations demonstrated until she was released and the matter later died a natural death.
Apart from these two, I cannot remember of any case in which women in governance or top positions were forced to resign, as in the case of the Bio government.
In 2018, the first woman who suffered political bully is the Mayor of the Freetown Municipality. Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyer was insulted and assaulted by the deputy Minister of Local Government, Hon. Philip Tondoneh, on an issue of bypassing procedures in relation to cleaning exercise. Because of the stance and position established by the Mayor, she was perceived by the deputy minister as undermining the government. Next to Mayor Aki –Sawyer was the former Managing Director of First International Bank, Hadijatou Jalloh. Madam Jalloh’s case became a topic of public discussion when the owners of FIBank decided to sell part of their branches in three different countries, leaving the Sierra Leone branch out of the agreement. Madam Jalloh’s crime at the time was because she tried to protect the FIBank Sierra Leone, but the high political interference in the matter resulted in her predicament, as she was unlawfully arrested and detained at the Criminal Investigation Department. The case of Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden was another political bully and harassment . Dr Blyden’s crime at the time, according to the police, was for incitement, but the police could not provide any evidence to substantiate their claims, and besides, her human rights were violated, as she spent over three weeks in detention at the criminal investigation department. Just after Dr Blyden, came the issue of Dr. Femi Claudius-Cole, Diana Konomani, Late Zulianatu Cooper. These are women whose human rights have been violated, and yet the women’s organization never bothered to say a word in their defence. The forceful resignation and political intimidation and harassment of the former Auditor General, Lara Taylor Pearce, is also another.
Owing to the fact that the 5050 Group still remains silent, the latest has to do with detention of another female politician, who is the current Chairperson of the Tonkolili District Council, Madam Yabom Sesay. She was detained at the criminal investigation department for some days before her release. Do we as a nation want to wait until all the influential women are kicked out of governance before women’s groups like the 5050 will speak out?