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Sierra Leone News: Ultimatum issued over HANCI trafficked children

The parents of 200 Sierra Leonean children who were illegally adopted from their biological parents and trafficked to the US by local NGO, formerly called HANCI (now called Street Child) through a US adoption agency, MAPS, want to raise their concerns with the new Government. They have also accused the All People’s Congress (APC) MP from Constituency 064 in Karene District, Roland Foday Kargbo, who used to head HANCI, of complicity in illegal adoptions. Field staff of HANCI, Henry Abu, Peter Brima Kargbo, John Gbla and Lamin Dumbuya, were also accused of trafficking the children from Sierra Leone. The affected parents said the actions of the former Attorney General, DPP, and the APC government was a deliberate attempt to discourage them from getting justice by protecting one of their members. The parents are calling on the new government to revisit and act on the recommendations of the Justice Showers Commission and the High Court case within 90 days before they take to the streets in protest. Some time between 2006-2008, young children between 4 and 7-years were taken from their parents from Makeni, Kamakwei, Binkolo, Kamabai and Konsho in the Bombali District, as well as Mile 91 in the Tonkolili District, Rotifunk in the Moyamba District. Parents and media began to question the process of adoption and the whereabouts of the children. The former Government instituted the Justice Showers Commission of Inquiry in 2010 on the HANCI-MAPS adoptions. The Commission reported to the Attorney General, Joseph Kamara, and the Government on 13th April 2012 (7 years ago) with a number of recommendations. The Commission referred to the adoption process as “a sham” and the “best interests of the children were completely flouted by HANCI”. The penultimate paragraph of the Shower’s White Paper stated: “Government is mindful of the fact that all the children would by now have attained the age of majority. That notwithstanding, and subject to respect for their wishes, the government through the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will initiate bilateral contact with the authorities and governments of countries in which the children currently reside, with the hope of facilitating contact between them and their natural parents.” The Justice Showers Commission recommended a police investigation, which leads to charges and a trial at the Magistrate Court. Magistrate Komba Kamanda committed the criminal case to the High Court and MP Kargbo, Abu, Peter Kargbo, Gbla and Dumbuya, were charged on 1st February 2014 with nine counts of human trafficking. The parents said, “We have not been informed about the subsequent proceedings.” The case in High Court has stalled. The parents of children sent out of the country formed a group and wrote letters to the Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), the acting Master and Registrar and the State Counsel, Gerald Soyei. There was no action or reaction to the correspondence. On 4th December 2013 the solicitor for the parents, Sonkita Conteh, wrote the Government about their respective refusal and neglect to implement the directives of the Justice Showers Commission. The lawyer said his clients have been continually deprived of any form of contact with their biological children for more than 20 months after the Showers Commission found in their favour. Conteh wrote, “By failing to act as directed in the White Paper of 13th April 2012, your respective ministries jointly and severally are in breach of Section 36(1) of the Child Rights Act 2007, which stipulates that, “every parent shall, in relation to other persons, have as regards his child, the right, subject to the short and long term best interests of the child, to maintain personal relations, if the child is not living with him.” Conteh went on to state, “Your ministries are also in breach of the provisions of several international child rights instruments which are binding on Sierra Leone such as article 19(2) of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child which provides that, “every child who is separated from one or both parents shall have the right to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis.”

MK/23/4/19

By Mohamed Kabba

Twitter: @chikakabba

Wednesday April 24, 2019.

 

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