Titus Boye-Thompson, Communications Expert
Inspector General of Police Francis Alieu Munu held a high level meeting with the National Youth Council to discuss pertinent issues on youth engagement, community participation and the need for young people to develop themselves in readiness for leadership for the future. In speaking at a closed door meeting with some members of the Executive of the National Youth Council, The Police boss admonished them to be law abiding citizens, cautioned them that when someone gets convicted of a criminal offence, that puts the future of that person in jeopardy as the prospect for public elective office, high public positions and even Presidential appointments would be denied them. He demonstrated this to the youth leaders by saying that even the prospect of visas to travel will be denied because of a criminal record. A crime is a crime, even the lowest of crimes are all criminal and any contravention in the law that results in a police and criminal record puts your future at risk, the IG advised.
The National Youth Council is a national organization with representative networks in every Chiefdom, District and Province of Sierra Leone. Replying to the instructive comments by the Head of Sierra Leone’s Police, Mr Ibrahim Tholley, President of the NYC thanked the Police supremo for what he described as a pep talk to them, offering them the opportunity to enjoin the Police at that strategic level. Mr Tholley informed the Inspector General of Police that the strength of the NYC is based on the fact that they are everywhere in the country. He stated that there are Youth Leaders in every Chiefdom in the country and in some areas, young people are truly engaged in local governance. He told the IGP that the NYC ifs fully decentralised and they are empowering youth leaders to engage with governance authorities including the Chiefdom, District and Provincial Secretaries and their secretariats. He welcomed the Inspector General’s invitation to operationalize a national framework for collaborative working between the NYC and the Police so that young people can be given access to lines of communication at local, regional and national levels.
The NYC President informed the Inspector General that while they condemn excessive force, they are aware as young people that whatever they demand as of right is accompanied as responsibilities and therefore, they are working to educate young people to be more patient and reasonable in the way they conduct themselves and react to issues that could possibly be resolved without such mindless violence and the rampage of youths in an unlawful demonstration.
Speaking about youth lawlessness, the Inspector General addressed the NYC Executive about the rights of others, stating that young people should be mindful that their actions do not impinge on the right to free enjoyment of others, that they do not cause panic and rampage and that when foreigners witness these lawless behaviour, they report bad things about the country and it may be the very young people themselves with the most to loose as investors would be afraid to come here to set up businesses. The IGP stated that it is the duty of the police to ensure that the security of the state is maintained and that there is a conducive environment for freedoms to be maintained. That is why government is serious about providing the right infrastructure of good roads and energy to attract investors. The Police and the Security Agencies ensure that the state is secure and that law and order prevails and the primary responsibility for that lies with the Police. The IG also touched on the perception that Sierra Leoneans are generally seen as not being honest, people bring in investment and open up businesses but our people would steal from these investors and run down the business. Employees go on strike for needless causes and they misuse property belonging to the companies.
On the whole, the meeting was very cordial and several avenues were explored for actualizing a strategic arrangement between the Police and young people. The NYC informed the IGP of their close working with the Ministry of Youth, recounting several mutual engagements wherein the Executive members have had a chance to interact with the IGP and other stakeholders.
In closing, Inspector General Francis Munu informed the youth leaders that they should use their good offices to ensure that those who were at the forefront of the incident in Kabala report to assist the police in the ongoing investigations of damage to life and property. That they should ensure that this matter is resolved to the satisfaction of all and in keeping with the tenets of the law in Sierra Leone. He informed the Youth Leaders that no one would be unduly incarcerated and that the investigation is progressing swiftly but it would be helpful if those who were strategically placed to identify the culprits and those who damaged property to come forward and assist the process. He told the Youth Leaders that all the Police wants is their cooperation. The Police welcomes their willingness to engage and to set up proper structures for future engagements and deliberations on such issues before they are turned into such conflagrated mischief.