A SIGNAL OF DESCENT INTO TYRANNY?
ITUC CALLS FOR THE IMMEDIATE AND UNCONDITIONAL RELEASE OF DETAINED TRADE UNION LEADERS IN SIERRA LEONE
It was with shock and a sense of profound dismay that we received the news of the arrest and detention of trade union leaders of the Sierra Leone Labour Congress (SLCC) and the Commercial Motor Bike Riders Union by the Sierra Leonean Police. The trade union leaders have been in detention since December 14, 2018. We are also reliably informed that there are plans to stalk and arrest other leaders of the SLCC.
We understand that the reason for the arrest of our Comrades in Sierra Leone was to forestall the National Delegates Conference of the Commercial Motor Bike Riders Union, which is an affiliate of the SLCC. The Sierra Leonean Police attacked and disrupted the Delegates Conference of the Commercial Bike Riders Union under the guise that the event constituted a threat to public peace. Meanwhile, we were informed that the real purpose for the clampdown was to allow the government to force the emergence of their preferred candidates as leaders of the Commercial Bike Riders Union of Sierra Leone.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) condemns in the harshest tone possible such brutal infraction of trade union rights. The International Labour Organization (ILO) by its Convention 087 of 1948 expressly provides for the freedom of association and the right to organize by trade unions. The denial of workers’ right to organize their own activities especially an event as important as a National Delegates Conference is indeed a new low in industrial relations in Africa.
ILO Convention 087 also grants industrial unions the freedom to identify with and associate with trade union centres of their choice. The clampdown on SLCC on the account of providing affiliation and support to the Commercial Motor Bike Riders Union is indeed unfortunate and condemnable. The restriction of trade unions from carrying out trade union activities and elect their own leaders without dictation or coercion by government is a fundamental and extreme violation of the ILO Convention 087.
We wish to remind Mr. Julius Maad Bio, President of Sierra Leone, that the brazen attempt to undermine trade union independence in Sierra Leone is a slap on international instruments which Sierra Leone has signed up to and or has ratified. Some of these international instruments include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and the African Union Democracy and Good Governance Protocol, all of which Sierra Leone and the International Labour Organization’s Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize.
The ITUC with a global membership strength of 207 million members and 17 million affiliated workers in Africa call for the immediate and unconditional release of our detained comrades in Sierra Leone. We also demand that the government of Sierra Leone should desist forthwith from interfering in the election and other activities of Commercial Bike Riders Union or any other union for that matter. The government should also cease from harassing and hounding trade union leaders in Sierra Leone.
Finally, we implore the government of Sierra Leone and the security agencies to apply utmost restraint while dealing with workers and trade union related issues as they do not want to send a wrong signal to the whole world of a regime that is sinking in the mire of brutal tyranny.
A word is enough for the wise!
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni
President, ITUC and NLC
17th December, 2018