By Alpha Kamara NYU Alumni
Sierra Leone president Julius Maada Bio on Wednesday September 21 spoke at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. Bio among other things said his government has done well in uplifting education. “We have increase domestic financing in education, provide teaching and learning materials which has seen an increase in the number of girls in schools including pregnant teenagers,” he said.
President Bio also talked about global challenges affecting development including rights like sexual violence against women and girls, stressing his government’s commitment to reducing the problem. He said Sierra Leone has done a lot to protect rights of victims of sexual and gender-based violence since he declared rape a national emergency. “Last year, I asked the UN Mission in Sierra Leone to champion a legislation on access to justice for victims of sexual violence. Early this month, the UNGA Adopted the resolution to support victims of SGBV. Thank you,” Bio said.
President Bio said small states contribute a lot to the functioning of the global body. He therefore made a request on behalf of his country. “I urged you all here to back Sierra Leone’s bid as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council in 2024 -2025 to continue promoting the U.N. agenda”, he added. Julius Maada Bio also called on the U.N. to look into the issues of colonial injustice against African countries even within itself to allow them take their rightful place in the world.
Meanwhile, outside the U.N. Headquarters in New York, two groups of Sierra Leoneans protested for and against President Bio and his delegation. Those against President Bio chanted “Sierra Leone President, a Human Rights abuser”, referencing Bio’s government lack of respect for human rights. Some of the protesters told TV Salone they were protesting because Bio and his government has killed dozens of innocent civilians with no accountability. They also talked about their dissatisfaction over his management of the country’s economy as the cost of living keeps skyrocketing. They also talked about the suppression of critical voices including the numerous arrests of opposition members because of their political or critical opinions.
Those who protested in favor of the President said Bio has done a lot to improve education and is working hard to fix the economy he inherited in a bad shape. They also said they are happy with his style of leadership and wants him to continue for a second term.
The two groups of protesters had a little confrontation at some point in the early afternoon. A well-known social media critic of President Bio Daphne Pratt was harassed by ruling party supporters. Her phone and wig were taken away for allegedly waving her hands on them which they termed as provocative. The lady in turn rushed to retrieve the items which prompted a minor fiasco. The NYPD was swift to respond and separated the two parties. Later on, ruling party officials posted on sisal media pictures and videos of the lady’s wig with provocative comments. Daphne Pratt promised to update her followers on social media on the issue later.