The Legal Aid Board recently fulfilled a promise it made to gang, commonly known as ‘clique’, members, a few of whom were female sex workers, by handing over two thousand four hundred and seventy-five (2,475) names of clique members to the Minister of Youth, Mohamed Orman Bangura, for inclusion into one of the youth projects of the Ministry. Only 2% of those on the list are above thirty-years. The list also contains contact details including mobile numbers of clique members and their Five-Os.
As part of the initiative at ensuring free, fair, credible and peaceful elections in the period leading to the March 2018 elections, the Board with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), held sensitization meetings with Cliques in the Solidarity Hall of the Sierra Leone Labour Congress. It was during these engagements that the ‘Crime to Career’ initiative was borne as part of a post office initiative for cliques.
“The clique members had asked for something in return. They wanted to acquire skills that will give them a sustainable livelihood, so they will not have reason to resort to crime to make ends meet. During these meetings, I was confronted with the question: ‘Mummy what are you going to do for us?’ and this really pricked my conscience”, said Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board.
“I was pleasantly surprised to find out one clique member on the list was a degree holder. Some had Higher Teachers Certificate (HTC) while others had certificates in accounting and Information Technology. Also, there are those who have acquired skills in carpentry, painting and driving” She added.
The names, which were drawn from over thirty-two clique groups were compiled by Paralegals of the Board. These include Bloodline of Smart Farm, Blue Flag of Mountain Cut, Gaza State of Hill Cut Road, Central Ross of King Jimmy, Orlorshoraw of Murray Town and KKK of Mount Aureol. Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said the Board targeted these cliques because they are among the most prone to violence.
The LAB Director said that the new Minister of Youth has brought a breath of fresh air into the job because he is seen by youth as a role model and not as a minister.
‘You are a young man who has gone through what these cliques are now going through and have been able to turn around your life for the better.’ She said.
The Minister of Youth, Mohamed Orman Bangura described what the Board has done as a ‘job in the right direction’. He said a lot of factors are responsible for what the cliques are going through at the moment, part of which has to do with the fact that they have been ignored for far too long.
‘We all have a role to play to turn their lives around and this why the efforts of the Legal Aid Board in this direction should be commended,’ he said. ‘We should stop seeing youth as a liability. This is why we have to change the narrative and also help change their mindset.’ he added.
Mr. Bangura said his Ministry has developed programmes aimed at changing the lives of the youth, and revealed that 10 Car Wash projects have already been launched in Freetown and more will follow in the coming months, adding that over a 1000 more youth will be recruited into the ongoing National Youth Service scheme this year.
The Minister further said that Projects lined up in his Ministry for the coming months include Youth in Commercial Transportation, Youth in Fisheries, Youth in Agriculture and the Entrepreneurship programme. He also disclosed that the Ministry will be giving out 200 vehicles to youth as part of the Youth in Commercial Transpiration and the Youth in Agriculture will see youth involved in Tormabom project.
The meeting was climaxed with the handing over of files containing the names of 2,475 clique members from 32clique groups to the Minister of Youth.