Sierra Leonian FlagCivic Freedom Monitor: Sierra Leone

Introduction | At a Glance | Key Indicators | International Rankings
Legal Snapshot | Legal Analysis | Reports | News and Additional Resources
Last updated: 12 July 2019


Sierra Leone is a post-conflict country that continues to recover from a civil war fought between 1991 and 2001, which killed 75,000 people and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.  Since the civil war, civil society has flourished in the country, with the formation of organizations providing a wide range of services to assist in reconstruction and development, including health, mental rights, human rights, and democratic development, just to name a few.  Notably, civil society played a leading role in responding to the Ebola virus epidemic which killed nearly 4,000 people in Sierra Leone between May 2014 and March 2016.

The legal framework in Sierra Leone is rooted in customary law, statutory law, and the common law.  A former British colony, Sierra Leone gained its independence in 1961.  Under Article 170(2) of the Constitution, the law of Sierra Leone is deemed to include the rules of law generally known as the common law, the doctrine of equity, and the rules of customary law, including those determined by the Superior Court of Judicature. “Customary law” refers to the rules of law which by custom are applicable to particular communities in Sierra Leone.  (Article 170(3)). Civil society organizations may assume a variety of different forms in Sierra Leone, including community-based organizations, religious bodies, trade unions, student organizations and non-governmental organizations.

In recent years, however, civil society has come under renewed threats from government through the enactment of restrictive laws governing the sector. The government of Sierra Leone enacted the Revised NGO Policy Regulations in 2009 ("NGO Policy"), the National Revenue Authority Act, and the Anti-Corruption Act, which subject civil society organizations to increased oversight and intervention at the operational and strategic levels from government and other state agencies. The NGO Policy, however, has been under review since 2015 and was revised at the end of 2018 with the government maintaining restrictions on civil society and its ability to operate in an enabling environment.

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At a Glance

Organizational Forms Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Not-for-Profit Company (NPC) Community-Based Organization (CBO)
Registration Body Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Registry's Department Ministry of Social Welfare or local governments
Approximate Number N/A
Barriers to Entry NGOs are confronted by a number of barriers including:
(1) Establishment criteria include at least 5 staff persons, office space, sign board, etc;
(2) Registration procedures require NGOs to sign an agreement with the government and potentially subject NGOs to field verification visits and in-person interviews;
(3) Re-registration is required every two years.
Barriers to Activities NGOs are subject to a number of barriers, including:
(1) NGOs must conclude an agreement with the government before commencing operations;
(2) Stringent and detailed reporting requirements apply to NGOs;
(3) Membership in SLANGO, an umbrella organization, is essentially mandated by law.
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy The law prohibits and criminalizes the reporting of false news and places the burden of proof on the accused.
Barriers to International Contact None reported.
Barriers to Resources Umbrella group and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development have a restrictive view on civil society.
Barriers to Assembly Unclear definition of "procession" and excessive penalties for minor violations.

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Key Indicators

Population 6,440,053
Capital Freetown
Type of Government Constitutional Democracy
Life Expectancy at Birth Male: 38.92 years
Female: 43.64 years
Literacy Rate Male: 46.9%
Female: 24.4%
Religious Groups Muslims: 60%; Christian: 10%; indigenous beliefs: 30%
Ethnic Groups 20 African ethnic groups: 90% (Temne: 30%, Mende: 30%, other: 30%); Creole: 10% (descendants of freed slaves who were settled in the Freetown area in the late 18th century); refugees from Liberia's recent civil war; small number of Europeans, Lebanese, Pakistanis, and Indians
GDP per capita $900

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2009.

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International Rankings

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale 
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 184 (2018) 1 – 182
World Bank Rule of Law Index 23 (2018) 100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index 39 (2018) 100 – 0
Transparency International 129 (2018) 1 – 168
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Free
Political Rights: 3
Civil Liberties: 3 (2018)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
35 (2018) 177 – 1

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Legal Snapshot

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 1996
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) Yes 1996
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 1996
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR) No  --
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 1967
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1988
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women No  --
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1990
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) No  --
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) No  --
Regional Treaties    
African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights Yes 1983
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child Yes 2002
Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Yes 2001
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights on Women in Africa No  --
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights No  --

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

The current Constitution of Sierra Leone was approved by Parliament in 1991 and is significant in that it re-established a multi-party system.

Relevant constitutional provisions include the following: 

Article 25 Protection of freedom of expression and the press:

Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, and for the purpose of this section the said freedom includes the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference, freedom from interference with his correspondence, freedom to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions, and academic freedom in institutions of learning: 

Provided that no person other than the Government or any person or body authorised by the President shall own, establish or operate a television or wireless broadcasting station for any purpose whatsoever. 

Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in the contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision—

    a. which is reasonably required—

    i.   in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or 

    ii. for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons, preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of the courts, or regulating the telephony, telegraphy, telecommunications, posts, wireless broadcasting, television, public exhibitions or public entertainment; or

    b. which imposes restrictions on public officers or members of a defence force;

and except in so far as that provision or, as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof, is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society. 

Article 26 Protection of freedom of assembly and association:

Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association, that is to say, his right to assemble freely and associate with other persons and in particular to form or belong to any political party, trade unions or other economic, social or professional associations, national or international, for the protection of his interests. 

Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision—

    a. which is reasonably required—

    i. in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, or provision for the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community; or 
    ii. for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedoms of other persons; or

    b. which imposes restrictions upon public officers and upon members of a defence force; or 

    c. which imposes restrictions on the establishment of political parties, or regulates the organisation, registration, and functioning of political parties and the conduct of its members;

and except in so far as that provision, or as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society. 

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Relevant national-level laws and regulations affecting civil society include:

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

The Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL), through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MOFED), adopted the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) Policy Regulations ("policy regulations") in November 2017, which became effective in January 2018 (although a precise date was not specified). A number of NGOs only learned about the policy regulations in early February 2018 and criticized the process as secretive. The policy regulations covered NGOs and community-based organizations (CBOs). Among the most restrictive provisions were requirements for NGOs and CBOs to: (i) align their mission statements and activities with GoSL development policies, which significantly limits permissible NGO activities); (ii) sign service-level agreements with the relevant sector ministry before commencing operations; (iii) register or renew their registration every year (instead of every two years); (iv) obtain project–level approval from MOFED and the relevant sector ministry; and (v) allow MOFED unduly broad powers to delve into their financial information and operations.

The policy regulations also introduced a new sanction of criminal prosecution with no opportunity to rectify an alleged violation and other new restrictions, including banking services not being permitted for unregistered organizations. The regulations also retain a mandatory requirement for all NGOs to be members of an umbrella organization and placed limits on administrative expenses to a maximum of 30%. Finally, the fundamental right to legal redress through an impartial and effective tribunal was not guaranteed.

National elections and a presidential run-off poll in March 2018 ushered in a new administration. Following the reconstitution of the ministry overseeing NGO operations, the authorities indicated that they were open to discussions with civil society to review the policy and legal framework. A regional consultative meeting with Western Area heads of NGOs was held at the Civil Service Training College on November 2, 2018. The NGO heads discussed "the threat to civil space and the new draft NGO Policy," which they saw as a threat to their existence, and stated said they needed space to operate that is devoid of threats or intimidation from government.  According to Alphonsus B.M. Gbanie of Human Rights Defenders Network, “The purpose and intent for NGOs to participate in the NGO Policy was not genuine from the government, because our views in the consultation process was not reflected in the final draft of the NGO Policy."

Most recently, the Development Cooperation Framework (DCF) was submitted to the Cabinet in December 2018 as the latest version of the NGO Policy. However, it includes numerous provisions that impose restrictions on NGOs and impedes the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association. Provisions in the DCF, for example, state that “assistance channeled through NGOs must be aligned to "national priorities," which may result in preventing funding to projects that do not align with "national priorities," such as good governance, advocacy and human rights. Other provisions state that 70% of all donor funds to an NGO must be directed to target beneficiaries and 30% towards administrative costs and that NGO membership in the Sierra Leone Association of NGOs is mandatory, which is a violation of organizations freedom of association. In response, civil society has appealed to the President and his administration to create a more constructive framework.

As of August 2019, the government appears to be moving forward with its plan to adopt the DCF as written, and civil society is continuing to advocate for reforms that would create a more enabling environment for NGOs.

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Legal Analysis

Organizational Forms

Civil society organizations seeking legal entity status may assume one of the following organizational forms in Sierra Leone:
1.    A non-governmental organization (NGO) is defined by the Revised NGO Policy Regulations to mean “any independent, not-for-profit making, non-political and charitable organisation, with the primary objective of enhancing the social, environmental, cultural and economic well being of communities.” (Article 2.1.1) According to the NGO Policy, NGOs are required to register with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, after first registering with the Sierra Leone Association of Non-governmental Organizations (SLANGO). 

2.    A not-for-profit company (NPC) is regulated under the Registration of Business Acts 2007 and registers with the Registry’s Department, which is an independent body for the registration of legal instruments in the country.  NPCs can be formed for various purposes, including member or community benefits.  They are allowed to engage in business activity, provided the profit is used to further the not-for-profit purposes of the organization. 

3.    A community-based organization (CBO) is “a group of community members working together as an independent non-profit making charitable organization,” according to the NGO Policy 2009.  Apart from this definition, there is no law, policy or regulation that specifically governs community-based organizations; indeed, the NGO Policy 2009 excludes CBOs from the scope of the Policy by stating that a CBO cannot register as an NGO.  In practice, a CBO can either register with local governments or with the Ministry of Social Welfare.  

Public Benefit Status

There is no public benefit or tax exempt status that is generally available for all CSOs in Sierra Leone.  Instead, certain organizational forms are conceived of as specialized forms, which are subject to limited permissible purposes and supported by specific fiscal incentives.  For example: 

  • NGOs are accorded public benefit status and therefore qualify for tax exemptions under the National Revenue Authority Act and the NGO Policy.  NGOs are eligible for a waiver from import duties as well. 
  • Not-for-profit companies are exempt from certain taxes and granted a duty-free waiver under the Registration of Business Act 2007.  Not-for-profit companies can also engage in economic activities, provided that the profit is used to further the not-for-profit purposes of the organization.  

Community-based organizations and other civil society organizations are not granted “public benefit” or tax-exempt status.  

Barriers to Entry

Many CSOs are unregistered and operate freely, provided that they carry out their activities within the confines of the law.  There is no penalty for operating unregistered groups in Sierra Leone. 

The law is permissive with respect to potential founders of CSOs.  Anyone may form a not-for-profit company or a community-based organization, including both foreigners and Sierra Leoneans.  The same is generally true for NGOs as well; the only limitation is that founders/members of an NGO should not consist of people from one family. 

Establishment requirements vary depending on the organizational form.  To set up a community-based organization requires initial founding members of at least five people living in the community.  To form a not-for-profit company, the law requires a board and partnership members.  To establish an NGO, the law requires at least five full/part time staff (excluding messengers and drivers, but including secretaries).  In addition, NGOs are required to have office space, a sign board visibly displayed, accessible postal address, and an organizational bank account.   

In order to be registered as an NGO, applicants must submit a completed application to the NGO Unit within the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED). There are a number of registration requirements and rules that raise potential concerns, depending on the implementation.  They include the following:

  • The NGO Unit may conduct “field or office verification of the application”;
  • NGO applicants may be required to attend an interview with the NGO Unit;
  • Successful NGO applicants must sign an “Agreement with GOSL”;
  • Registration fees are determined periodically by the NGO Supervisory Committee;
  • NGO applicants are permitted to re-submit an application, following an initial denial of registration, but have no right to appeal the denial to an independent arbiter.

In practice, some NGOs are subject to excessive delays; the Society for Democratic Initiatives, for example, has been forced to wait nearly 2 years since it filed for registration, and has still not received a response to its application from the MoFED.

NGO registration is valid only for two years, and therefore must be renewed on a regular basis. Renewal of registration is dependent on the submission of documentation and an “independent assessment of the performance of NGOs” by MoFED.  In order to satisfy MoFED, NGOs must submit any or all of the following:

  • A summary of final donor project narrative and financial reports;
  • Audit reports on projects or the organization itself; and/or
  • Proof of registration with the Sierra Leone Association of Non-Government Organizations (SLANGO).

A certification of incorporation can be issued for not-for-profit companies based on the submission of a detailed Memorandum of Association, which includes information on the partners, board and name and place of business.  The law allows for no appeal from a denial of registration; instead, the applicant has the right to re-apply. 

Community-based organizations are required to submit a constitution, list of members in the community, and a report on past activities; and to pay a fee to the Ministry of Social Welfare and Children’s Affairs or Local Councils.  Here again the government can deny registration, but this seldom happens.  

Foreign NGOs need accreditation from their government or embassy, proving their legal status and credibility before they can operate in Sierra Leone. 

Barriers to Operational Activity

Of all organizational forms, it is NGOs that are subject to a number of legal barriers affecting their operational activity.  

First, NGOs must sign an “Agreement” with the government before they can commence operations.  This is interpreted to mean that every project implemented in Sierra Leone by NGOs must be approved by the sectoral ministry concerned and by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.  No project shall be implemented by an NGO in the country without prior approval. 

Second, NGOs are subject to stringent reporting and supervisory requirements.  NGOs must submit annual reports for all projects implemented.  NGOs must submit details of “all funds committed by donors for project implementation,” including the amount committed, sources of funding, details of donors and any details of installment arrangements or other donor requirements.  And NGOs are subject to site visits without prior notice.

Third, the NGO Policy states that all assets purchased or acquired with donor funds should be the property of the people of Sierra Leone who are the beneficiaries – rather than of the NGO itself.

Fourth, NGOs are subject to sanctions (which could include cancellation of duty-free concessions and/or suspension or cancellation of certificate of registration) for failing to comply with the provisions of the NGO Policy, for acting in contravention of its stated objectives, and where the “NGO shows by its nature, composition and operations over the years that it is not developing/promoting the capacity of Sierra Leoneans in the management of its operations.”

In addition, a major concern for the sector relates to the role of the Sierra Leone Association of Non-governmental Organizations (SLANGO). Membership in SLANGO has essentially become a requirement for NGOs, as it is a key factor in the government’s decision on annual re-registration.  In effect, therefore, SLANGO is arguably becoming an instrumentality of government, rather than a truly independent umbrella group and voice for the NGO sector. Recently, an NGO Timap for Justice was denied registration of its vehicles, because it is not a member of SLANGO.   

Finally, CSO activists have on several occasions been victims of death threats and attacks on property. No official statements from government condemning the threats and attacks have been issued. The State has a role in providing a secure environment for all of its citizens, civil society activists included. 

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

Sierra Leone still maintains Part V of the Public Order Act (POA) 1965, which criminalizes libel and sedition. Specifically, the POA prohibits and criminalizes the reporting of false news and places the burden of proof on the accused. Advocacy-based CSOs that criticize government policy or monitor government performance may be constrained by the POA. Though the law has been used sparingly, recent developments have witnessed the National Elections Watch (a local CSO) being charged in court by a Member of Parliament, thus demonstrating that the law can be used to muzzle civil society in the country. 

While the NGO Policy excludes NGOs from engaging in human rights issues and political advocacy, other organizational forms, including not-for-profit companies and community-based organizations, are free to engage in such issues, including criticism of government. 

Barriers to International Contact

There are no longer barriers in Sierra Leone restricting international contact or communication.

Barriers to Resources

There are no legal barriers to funding sources for civil society in Sierra Leone.  

NGOs are expected, however, to disclose all funding sources to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.  This includes “sources of funding”, “details of donors and any details of installment arrangement or other donor requirements (Article 2.7 of the NGO Policy 2009).”

More disturbingly, assets transferred to build the capacity of local NGOs should be routed through the Sierra Leone Association of Non-governmental Organizations (SLANGO) and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED). It is unclear how this will be implemented in practice.

Barriers to Assembly

Article 26 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone protects the freedom of assembly:
Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association, that is to say, his right to assemble freely and associate with other persons and in particular to form or belong to any political party, trade unions or other economic, social or professional associations, national or international, for the protection of his interests. 

The exercise of freedom of assembly is regulated by the Public Order Act (POA), 1965 and the Police Act, 1964, as amended.

Advance Permission
Part III of The POA on “Processions” requires organizers of assemblies to obtain a permit from the Sierra Leone Commissioner of Police in advance of a “procession” (processions are undefined in the Act). Failure to obtain permission before carrying out a procession is grounds for the police to disperse the procession. Anyone who refuses to obey an order to disperse or anyone who carries out an action that violates the conditions of the permit is liable to a fine not exceeding $12 or six months in prison, or both (Section 17(4)). No exceptions to the permit requirement are made for spontaneous processions, except in the case of events such as circumcisions, funerals, marriages, scouts or girl guide outings, and school activities (Section 17(5a-e)).

In addition, "Any person who intends to convene or hold a public meeting at any place in the provinces shall first notify in writing the Paramount Chief of the Chiefdom (Section 24(1))." The Paramount Chief may "disallow the convening or holding of the public meeting in any place in the Provinces or impose such conditions as he may consider necessary on any such meeting where the interests of defence, public order, public safety or public morality reasonably so require (Section 24(2))." Under Section 24(4), "Any person found guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding two hundred leones or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both." "Public Meetings" are undefined in the POA.

Anyone who deviates from the prescribed route specified in the permit for a procession or who refuses to comply with traffic rules commits an offence. A person guilty of an offence is liable on summary conviction for a first offence to a fine not exceeding $5. For a second or subsequent offence, a person is liable to a fine not exceeding $12 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months (Sections 30 and 31 of the Police Act 1964, as amended).

Any organizer or participant who takes part in a procession that has been disallowed by the commissioner of police or who has failed to comply with the conditions imposed in the permit is guilty of an offence under subsection 3 of section 17 of the Public Order Act (POA), 1965. Anyone guilty of an offence under section 17 of the POA is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding 200 Leones or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both (Section 17(4) POA 1965).

Time, Place Manner Restrictions
Section 19(1) of the POA requires that anyone taking part in a procession keep to the left of the middle line of any road used for the procession and to comply with police instructions about the route to be followed. Section 19(2) states that any interference with vehicular or pedestrian traffic is an offence for which the person is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 10 Leones or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one month or both.

In addition, "any person who within five hundred yards of the precincts of the House of Representatives is guilty of any riotous, indecent, disorderly or insulting behaviour, shall on conviction be liable to a fine of one hundred leones or to imprisonment for six months or to both such fine and imprisonment (Section 23(3))." Similarly,

Certain conduct is also prohibited during processions. For instance, section 20(1) of the POA states that no person is permitted during a procession (except with permission in writing from the commissioner of police) to:

  1. carry a lighted torch; or
  2. carry or bear any offensive weapons.

Section 20(2) states that a violation of section 20 (1) is an offence for which the person is liable on conviction, to a fine not exceeding 50 cents or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both.

In July 2017, police in Sierra Leone banned group jogging in the street on the grounds that it encourages "disruptive behavior." Group jogging had taken on a political tone in parts of Sierra Leone. For example, presidential candidates organized "fun runs" in Freetown and the northern town of Makeni, with participants wearing T-shirts bearing the name of the political party they support. The police's "Public Notice" about the ban said "individuals desiring to jog for health reasons" were "at liberty to do so, but at recreational facilities or at the beach" and added that "any group of persons now found jogging in the streets without authorization will be dealt with according to law. You have been warned." This seemed to underscore the ban's intent to restrict freedom of assembly of oppositional political parties and activitists.

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UN Universal Periodic Review Reports Not Available
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs Sierra Leone
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes

Not Available

U.S. State Department
2016 Human Rights Report
Fragile States Index Reports Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
IMF Country Reports Sierra Leone and the IMF
International Commission of Jurists Not Available
Human Rights Watch Sierra Leone
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library Not Available

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News and Additional Resources

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change.  If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at

General News

Liberia Anti-Corruption Advocate Holds Strategic Meeting with Anti-Corruption Boss (July 2019)
The National Coordinator of Liberia CSOs' Anti-Corruption Coalition (LCACC), James Koryor, has held a strategic consultative meeting with the Commissioner of the Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Francis Ben Kiafala, in Freetown. Commissioner Kiafala stated that the fight against corruption is not a one man or one institution business, but rather a collaborative and collective effort if corruption is to be eradicated in Africa.

NGOs consult for a review of Policy (November 2018)
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) gathered in a consultative meeting to discuss the 2009 NGO Policy, which they see as a threat to their existence. They said they need their space to operate that is devoid of threats or intimidation from government. The regional consultative meeting with Western Area heads of NGOs was organised by Society for Democratic Initiatives with support from OSIWA on the theme, “the threat to civil space and the new draft NGO Policy” held at the Civil Service Training College on Friday 2 November 2018. 

Access to justice is central to Sierra Leone’s development (October 2018)
Delivering his keynote address at the ‘Justice 2030: Time for Action’ high-level event in New York on 25 September 2018, president Julius Maada Bio said that access to justice is central to the development of Sierra Leone. The president was addressing lawyers, diplomats, activists and members of Open Society Foundation.

"Suspend new NGO Policy," say NGOs and CSOs (May 2018)
The former government introduced a new policy amid a deterioration in its relationship with NGOs over civil liberty issues. The government said the policy was necessary to ensure efficiency in service delivery for which donor funding is solicited. The policy document requires 70% of all donor funds to NGOs reach the target beneficiaries. But, NGOs and civil society groups say the policy gives the government direct control over their operational activities and funds.

NGC meets with CSOs on manifesto development (January 2018)
The National Grand Coalition (NGC) engaged CSOs on inclusive and effective manifesto development. A party's manifesto is a public statement of aims and policies, objectives and intentions. The Chair of the Standing Together for Democracy Consortium applauded the efforts of NGC. He underscored, "It is the first time in Sierra Leone for a political party to bring CSOs on board while developing their manifesto. We want to see the needs of the citizens be reflected in political party manifestos."

Sierra Leone bans jogging in groups after police say they are 'menacing' (July 2017)
Police in Sierra Leone have banned group jogging in the street on the grounds that it encourages disruptive behavior. An NGO, the Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI), called on police to ensure the ban upheld national and international law and freedom of assembly. Group jogging has taken on a political tone in parts of Sierra Leone. Presidential candidates have organized fun runs in Freetown and the northern town of Makeni, with participants wearing T-shirts bearing the name of the party. The police letter said "individuals desiring to jog for health reasons" were "at liberty to do so, but at recreational facilities or at the beach". But, it added, "any group of persons now found jogging in the streets without authorisation will be dealt with according to law. You have been warned."

The arrest of the leader of the ADP is politically motivated – says opposition (June 2017)
Condemnation of the Koroma government is growing after the arrest of the opposition Alliance Democratic Party leader Mr Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray on allegation of possessing an offensive weapon, a stun gun. Supporters of the opposition leader say that the arrest is politically motivated, and an attempt by the ruling APC party to subvert the will of the people ahead of general and presidential elections early next year. Mr Mansaray's ADP is growing in popularity, especially in the ruling party's northern heartland, where they are expected to make significant gains and likely to cut the APC's overall majority.

Civil Society calls for elections before referendum (April 2017)
The Standing Together for Democracy Consortium, National Election Watch (NEW), Action Aid Sierra Leone and the wider civil society in Sierra Leone are calling for elections before a referendum on the National Constitution. The release ended with a call "on all Sierra Leoneans to guard our young and fledgling democracy by participating and contributing positively to the various phases of the electoral cycle. Civil society wishes to restate unequivocally that any attempt to derail the current electoral process will not be tolerated."

Sierra Leone elections watchdog demand publication of 2018 election timetable (December 2016)
When the executives of the ruling APC party of Sierra Leone announced that they were pulling out of the country's Constitutional review process, it caused consternation among opposition parties and civil society groups. It seems the ruling APC party are not happy with some of the recommendations made in the report for Constitutional change, including limiting the powers of the president. But while that row is still playing out with much uncertainty as to the outcome, there are new fears the ruling APC party may be contemplating delaying the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections in 2018.

NGOs, stakeholders discuss draft policy (May 2016)
Representatives of NGOs and other stakeholders attended a one day consultative workshop to discuss the NGO Policy of 2009, and proffer recommendations, organised by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.The meeting between the representatives of state and non-state actors generated wide ranging discussions around the 2009 NGO policy for Sierra Leone, which many say needs review and enactment into law.

Sierra Leone Civil Cociety Reacts to Socio-Economic Consequences of Ebola (January 2015)
At a 20 January 2015 presentation at Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, Sierra Leone Youths Rights Activist & Goodwill Ambassador of Sierra Leone Youths, spoke on the "The Socio-Economic Consequences of Ebola in Sierra Leone: Challenges and Prospects for Youth." She had a special focus on inclusive policy-making and long-term responses to the crisis, particularly paying attention to the voices of youth and women. She acknowledged the efforts of the government, international community, media, civil society, youth, women, children, community groups, NGOs and companies helping to prevent and stop Ebola.

Parliament Takes INGOs to Task (June 2014)
The Parliamentary Special Select Committee has begun probing international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) for funds received for and on behalf of the people and government. Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Claude Kamanda, said they are not witch-hunting any INGO but wanted lawmakers to know how monies collected on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone, in the name of development, were being spent. He said that as representatives of the people, they would want to see monies meant for the people being utilized in the right way, adding that a report of the probe would be laid in the chambers of the House for debate by members.

MCC Rejection - Getting It Right Next Time Round (December 2013)
The message from the Board of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) cannot be clearer; 'The fight against corruption is not good enough'. This is despite the fact that our anti-corruption law is very good coupled with the efforts of government and civil society organizations. But all is not lost. The good news is, [Sierra Leone] still stands a chance of being reselected in December 2014. This is reflected in this statement by CEO for the MCC, Daniel W. Yohannees, 'We recognize the efforts that the governments of Benin and Sierra Leone have undertaken to address corruption, and I can assure them that MCC is committed to helping those efforts succeed. I am hopeful that the continued and deepened efforts of both countries will be reflected in future performance on the control of corruption indicator'.

Discussion of the Constitutionality of a Press Release Issued by the Government (October 2013)
"The government’s issuing of a press release condemning CSOs for giving it ultimatums is a blot on the image of our budding democracy," says activist Mohamed Kunowah Kiellow. "It is a slap in the face of democracy and a kick in the teeth of our constitutional rights. The president considers civil society as members as mere foreign invaders who are trying to overthrow its government by issuing ultimatums. Who are in these CSOs? Are they not Sierra Leoneans? Did they not vote?" He highlights that, "After all, CSOs are pressure groups who work in the interest of the silent poor in a country where the opposition is there to be seen and not to be heard."

Civil Society Representative Complains of Social Injustices (May 2013)
The 2013 Human Development Index (HDI) report presented by the United Nations Development Programme at State Hall of the House of Parliament has indicated that Sierra Leone, among 187 countries is ranked 177, suggesting speedy progress as against previous years. In the midst of this UNDP accolade, a representative of Civil Society organizations in the country, Abu Brima, who is the Director of Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD), highlighted a number of social injustices prevalent in the country, as the report unveils. Abu Brima, questioning whose prosperity does the “Agenda for Prosperity” caters, said that lecturers are still on strike, as a result of delay in salary payment, thereby deterring academic progress in the country. He said that no country can attain human development without making remarkable success in education, for which, he said, the government should pay considerable attention on education.

Protestors killed at mine in Kono (December 2012)
Reports from Kono, Eastern province of Sierra Leone, state that four mine workers of OCTEA mining company, formerly Koidu Holdings, were allegedly killed by officers of the Sierra Leone Police (OSD personnel), following a protest for payment of bonuses and better conditions of service . Witnesses say it started on Saturday, 15 December, 2012 when hundreds of youths barricaded the entrance to the company and demanded that their concerns be addressed by the company. It is reported that these aggrieved workers gathered at the Tankoro Chiefdom, where the kimberlite mining company does its operations, and started pelting stones at the vehicles belonging to the company. Sources revealed that the incident became worse, which forced the Police to quell down the situation.

Carter Center statement on Sierra Leone elections (October 2012)
Sierra Leone’s upcoming presidential, parliamentary, and local council elections represent a critical test for the country’s emerging democratic institutions 10 years after the end of the civil war. Carter Center observers report that the campaign period has been generally peaceful, allowing political parties to assemble freely and to convey their message to potential voters. The Carter Center calls on political parties to redouble their efforts to promote women candidacies and leadership roles within their ranks, and encourages the All Political Parties Women Association, the Campaign for Good Governance, and other civil society organizations to pursue their advocacy work on behalf of aspiring women candidates and office holders.

Freedom of Information Bill willfully ignored (October 2012)
Outgoing members of parliament came under serious criticism from civil society for "willfully failing to pass into law the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill", which has been in parliament for a very long time. In an interview at his office in Freetown, chairman of the Coalition of Civil Society and Human Rights Activists in Sierra Leone, Charles Mambu, expressed his coalition's disappointment at MPs "for deliberately failing to make the FOI Bill become a law." He stated that MPs were busy passing other bills and agreements, some of which they have no understanding about, but refused to ratify a bill he said is very essential to good governance and democracy.

Civil Society monitoring groups trained (July 2012)
A training was held in Sierra Leone to provide monitors with the necessary skills in assessing the level of compliance in the implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (2011-2013). The Head of Public Education Unit Ms. Koloneh Sankoh stated that the need for the monitors to live by the codes of conduct and ethics of the job is paramount. She advised the civil society monitors to do their job with integrity and confidentiality and to try to avoid the tendency of conflict of interest in the dispensation of their duties. The monitoring exercise is expected to start in August this year.

New legal aid law in Sierra Leone embraces the role of paralegals (May 2012)
Sierra Leone’s parliament has enacted one of the most progressive legal aid laws in Africa—with an innovative approach to providing access to justice for all that will reinforce the rule of law in a society still scarred by the brutal civil war that ended in 2002.[...]The bill provides for a mixed model of criminal and civil legal aid, from provision of legal information and mediation services through to representation in court, and supplied through a public/private partnership of government, private sector and civil society.

Prosecutor Hollis applauds the people of Sierra Leone following Charles Taylor’s conviction (May 2012)
On a tour of five provinces throughout Sierra Leone, Prosecutor Brenda J. Hollis hailed the resilience and determination of all Sierra Leoneans in demanding justice and accountability for the crimes committed against them during the 11-year armed conflict. Village elders, youth leaders, women’s civil society representatives, officers from the military, the police and the prison service, villagers and townspeople, gathered with the Prosecutor to express relief and satisfaction with the conviction handed down by the judges.

Continued delay in Parliament vote on Freedom of Information bill (April 2012)
The legislation would allow members of the public to obtain access to information held by public bodies, including information that was previously inaccessible, or that was considered sensitive such as government contracts with multinational companies. The bill was introduced in the House of Parliament in September 2010, and by October 2011 had gone through the first, second, third and committee stages, but a final vote is yet to take place. The bill will provide a means by which people can know about their rights and entitlements, identify when their rights are being violated and hold the government to account for its constitutional and international human rights obligations.

News Archive

Break-in at the office of the Women's Centre for Good Governance and Human Rights (August 2011)

Civil society in the country must be accountable (Part One) (July 2011)

Court acquits civil society activists from criminal and seditious libel law in Sierra Leone (December 2010)

In Sierra Leone, civil society frowns at procurement procedures (December 2010) 

Sierra Leone: HRC-SL, Unipsil hold consultations with CSOs (August 2010)

UK leads EU efforts to improve human rights in Sierra Leone (July 2010) 

Sierra Leone cabineta pproves Freedom of Information bill (June 2010)

Sierra Leone woman barred from becoming chief (December 2009)

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The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL NGO Law Monitor partner in Sierra Leone: Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, Society for Democratic Initiatives, Sierra Leone.