ZCTU confronts Sierra Leone’s president over colleagues’ detention

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By Alois Vinga

THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has written to Sierra Leone President, Julius Maada Bio demanding the immediate release of the west African country’s top labour group’s leaders arrested over a week ago while trying to elect their new executive.

The statement also sought to draw President Bio’s attention to his government’s obligations to various international conventions aimed at protecting workers against state interference.

Those arrested belonged to the Sierra Leone Labour Congress (SLLC) and the Motor Bike Riders Union.

They are Williams, who is SLLC vice president together with fellow unionists Emmanuel Pratt, Edward Kamara, Aaron Bioma and Ballad Koroma.

Also detained were Obia Kamar, who is president of the Motor Bike Riders Union and two other members of the same labour group.

They were taken into custody December 14 when Sierra Leone police stormed a trade union elective congress organised by the Motor Bike Riders Union at the SLLC offices.

“President, we hereby demand the immediate and unconditional release of these trade union leaders,” said Zimbabwe’s biggest labour union.

“We would also like to remind your government of its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights adopted in 1981 that recognise the right to free assembly, association and expression.

“The same rights are also protected by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

“The UN declaration also provides for protection against arbitrary arrests and detention.”

ZCTU also reminded President Bio that his government was also party to the ILO convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948 (No.87).

The convention protects workers against interference by your government with the clear intention to control it.

“We therefore urge your government to uphold the rule of law and comply with your international obligations by granting the workers of Sierra Leone their full right to association and assembly,” said ZCTU.

The expression of solidarity towards the Sierra Leone labour group comes after various international workers’ unions have also come out in full condemnation of Zimbabwean authorities’ abuse of workers’ rights locally.