CHRDI Reacts as Sierra Leone Army Denies Allegations of Corruption, Sexual Harassment And Human Rights Violations
CHRDI welcomes the immediate response from RSLAF/MOD to the press release issued on January 5th January 2022, “CHRDI Condemns Corruption, Sexual Harassment and Rights Violations in the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF)”.
This according to CHRDI demonstrates that the organization is willing to engage in a transparent dialogue about issues reported within their institution.
However, CHRDI stated that it had hoped that the serious issues raised in their press release would have received more attention than just a mere dismissal.
After all, CHRDI stated that if there are no cases of sexual harassment within RSLAF, why is the institution continuing to receiving money to address a non-existent problem? CHRDI noted that acknowledging that there is a problem is the first step toward fixing it, and it appears RSLAF leadership is in denial.
CHRDI explained that they disagree with RSLAF’s way of responding to the issues raised by CHRDI, in large part dismissing our legitimate call for accountability.
The MoD/RSLAF press conference, according to CHRDI, failed to provide accountability on funds, resources, and measures/actions the institution is taking to address issues of sex based harassment to the media and the general public.
Perhaps MoD/RSLAF, as stated by CHRDI, didn’t want to comment on the $290,000 USD due to concerns not to prejudice the matter under ACC investigation; But they have not commented on the fact that RSLAF nominated 4 senior staff members from both MoD/ RSLAF to have direct access to the funds, which admittedly are still under ACC investigation.
“It is deeply concerning that RSLAF stated that there are no such cases of sexual harassment within RSLAF”, CHRDI added.
CHRDI furthered that perhaps again there are no such cases “to their knowledge” because there are no proper complaints mechanism established within the RSLAF for GBV cases, sexual penetration, or domestic violence, and when complaints reach the management, they are sometimes catalogued as a family affair issues, and therefore personal issues. It seems that an approach of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was adopted by RSLAF with regard to sex based abuses.
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CHRDI challenges RSLAF to publish a complete documentation on mechanisms in place for members of the RSLAF to file complaints based on sex discrimination; how are these complaints processed, by whom, and within which timeframe.
“How many such complaints were received in the past 2 years, and how were they addressed. How many individuals were held to account for sex based abuses, and what were the punishments”, CHRDI asked.
How many complainants suffered retaliation because of their complaints?
After all, all Sierra Leone’s public institutions should publish their efforts to address sex based harassment, discrimination, and assault within the workplace, particularly given President Bio and the First Lady’s costly efforts to change the attitudes on women in our society.
CHRDI sincerely hopes, and reiterates their call for the MoD/RSLAF to stand up for women rights, and treat their colleague military personnel, their mothers, their sisters, their daughters, with respect for their human rights.
CHRDI has a dedicated team of selfless volunteers who have remained committed and have contributed immensely to our existence since we registered in 2011 and since then have made a difference in the lives of many Sierra Leoneans through research and public education on human rights and social justice.
As a Civil Society Organisation, CHRDI has a moral obligation to the people, and to democracy to ask for accountability and transparency and to help address the issues that affect the most vulnerable in our society.
CHRDI assures MOD/RSLAF that they will not relent in their efforts to ask for accountability and transparency. No amount of intimidation will deter them.
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CHRDI concluded that they will continue to protect the confidentiality of their sources, as some of the survivors who spoke with them fear for their life, their job, and their family.