The Irish Ambassador to Sierra Leone Her Excellency Claire Buckley accompanied by the Embassy’s Senior Programme Advisor on Gender – Madam Nafisatu K. Jalloh, on Wednesday 27 January, 2022, made a follow-up visit to the Inspector General of Police – Dr. Ambrose Michael Sovula at his George Street office in Freetown.
Explaining the purpose of the follow-up visit, Her Excellency Claire Buckley recalled visiting the IGP two months ago in which they discussed issues of mutual interest and benefits to the SLP and the Irish Embassy. She said that the Irish Embassy in Sierra Leone specifically seeks to support the empowerment of Sierra Leonean women and girls especially those who are victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Adding, that they work with survivors, help in providing customised training, and also support the Rainbow Initiative in Sierra Leone.
Ambassador Claire Buckley requested information concerning the role of the Family Support Unit (FSU) in the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) with the view to identifying possible areas she could collaborate and support the Unit.
Responding, the IGP noted that the FSU is charged with the responsibility of handling all investigations and prosecutions bordering on sexual and gender-based violence reported to the Police. He spoke about the obvious existing knowledge gap within the rank and file of the Family Support Unit, which thus prompted him to call on the Ambassador to assist in the area of enhancing personnel’s capability such as the provision of improved local and/or international training; help in securing the required tools and equipment such as setting up a standard forensic lab to aid in investigations and prosecutions of perpetrators of SGBV.
The IGP was very bold to note that no matter how much is invested in training of personnel they can still be deficient in the discharge of their duties if they lack the required tools to do their work. He boasted that the FSU has intelligent personnel who only need further training and development with the required equipment to enhance their efficiency and effectiveness.
Dr. Sovula however lauded the work of Rainbow Initiative for offering free medical services to victims of SGBV, the President and Government of Sierra Leone for establishing a special court to deal with SGBV matters, and other partners including the First Lady’s Hands-off our Girls Campaign and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation for their contributions to mitigating SGBV in our communities.
IGP Sovula also proferred reasons for the increase in reports of SGBV in the country; attributing same to sustained and unrelenting awareness raising campaigns and sensitisations in communities across the country. He said that unlike what subsisted before now wherein people were afraid and shy to report incidents of SGBV, people no longer fear to come out and report sexual and gender-based violence because of increased education on SGBV, legal safeguards and Police protection of victims.
Touching on some of the challenges besetting the work of the Police to curb SGBV, the IGP identified certain cultural and traditional practices rooted in some family settings such as approval of early marriages.
He was however quick to state that the environment has drastically improved with the availability of national laws and government’s commitment to fighting the menace. He boasted that the Police now have the capacity to mitigate any challenges posed by traditions or cultural practices.
Non-cooperation of family members especially in investigations and prosecution of matters bordering on incest was also identified as another challenge impeding the work of FSU, the IGP noted.
In closing, Dr. Ambrose Michael Sovula told Her Excellency that the SLP is working and collaborating with key partners in the fight against SGBV, to the point of signing cooperation agreement or memorandum of understanding with some of them; and assured that the SLP through the Family Support Unit will continue to engage and collaborate with all stakeholders to mitigate sexual and gender-based violence in Sierra Leone.