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EARLY MARRIAGE IS CRIMINAL AND IMMORAL

  • Minister of Social Welfare Gender and Children Affairs

Fifty years old vehicle mechanic, Allieu Barrie, has annoyed community stakeholders at Gray Bush, Ascension Town in Western Freetown following his criminal and immoral attempt to marry a 12-year-old girl who was promoted to class six during last academic year at St. Thomas Municipal Primary School at Gray Bush. Councillor Maxwell Lebbie of Ward 382 in Constituency 108, the local chief and other stakeholders in the community vehemently opposed the parents of the under-aged girl for wanting to force their child into marriage. But the parents have vowed to kill anyone that would stop their child from marrying to the fifty years old vehicle mechanic, who repairs the vehicles of shakers and movers as well as various international agencies and organizations in Freetown. Allieu Barrie is reported to have bragged that he would go ahead to marry the poor girl and nothing would come out of his action that would implicate him.

The furore over the controversial marriage is no longer the issue; the startling revelation that the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone and the Mayor of Freetown City Council backed the decision of Allieu Barrie to marry the 12-year-old class 6 girl sounds unbelievable and ridiculous. According to Councillor Maxwell Lebbie, when he strongly opposed the marriage as grassroots political leader of his ward, it was Mayor Franklyn Sam Bode Gibson who threatened him to back off from the marriage affairs between the vehicle mechanic and the poor primary school girl. He further claimed that an official vehicle of the First Lady Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma went with some officials to his residence at Gray Bush and threatened that he should meddle in the affairs between Allieu Barrie and the school girl who lives in his ward together with her parents now threatening to kill people for the moral and legal concerns they have expressed over the issue.

According to the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone, the minimal adult age is 18 and anyone that tampers with or marries a female below that minimal adult age is a crime punishable by law. It is therefore strange that the First Lady, who has been championing the course of the girl-child over the last seven years, could stoop so low to support what she knew was against the laws of Sierra Leone. I understand that Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma is one of Allieu Barrie’s affluent clients, but even so, she would not have supported his action on both legal and moral grounds despite their personal affiliation. I have so much respect for our First Lady but it really beats my imagination that she could defy all moral and legal norms to back someone who has deliberately committed a punishable offence. As a mother, one would have expected her to admonish Allieu Barrie to allow the poor girl to continue with her schooling instead of supporting that ‘unholy’ relationship thereby destroying her academic future. This is totally unacceptable and incomprehensible.

Of course, the Mayor’s attitude towards Councillor Maxwell Lebbie with regards the latter’s stance on the scandalous marriage affairs would perhaps not come as a surprise to the public given his egregious blunders since he assumed office in November 2012. Only an immoral and lawless person could support such a devilish act against an under-aged school girl. I’m sorry but even the Mayor could not in his hallucination force any of his under-aged daughter into marriage with someone almost five times her age; could he?

The Government has for the last seven years preached about attitudinal and behavioural change among Sierra Leoneans, but it seems that most of us are not serious about changing those attributes for the better. We still have people in higher offices that use their powers to protect their close ones that have committed crimes against the state even if such crimes are felonious. And if the attitudes and behaviours of Sierra Leoneans should change for the better, it must start with our leaders that are supposed to be our role models. But we have a very long way to go as long as those from whom much is expected continue to treat their compatriots with apparent impunity.

Lest I forget; the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs should be highly commended for their intervention in the scandalous issue swirling over Allieu Barrie and his clients for pandering to what is morally and legally unjustifiable. A special praise should go to the Deputy Minister, Mustapha Bai Attila, who has been playing a pivotal role in the issue. He visited the home of the poor girl on Wednesday and gave stern warning to her parents. The girl is currently under the safe custody of his Ministry and the Deputy Minister told journalists during his visit to Gray Bush that they would continue to protect the dignity of the girl and to make sure she returned to school. This is what the public expects from any responsible government official.   

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