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New report says Agenda for Prosperity "vague"

A new "evidence report" on addressing and mitigating violence in Sierra Leone has slammed the "Agenda for Prosperity", questioning its youth employment and empowerment policy and blaming the governing All People's Congress for "divisive politics".

The report says government's flagship "Agenda for Prosperity" needs to have "clear, robust targets for youth employment, as currently its methods for including youth in the economic development of the country are ambiguous".

The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) report says "the winner-takes-all nature of Sierra Leone’s politics is causing national divisions that are spilling over into schools and onto the street”.

The UK based charitable company therefore expresses concerns as to whether “it is the right time for the International Community to exit Sierra Leone”.

At the moment, the report adds, most of the youth employment programmes is focused on providing youth with work opportunities in agriculture in rural areas, adding that while that is an important aspect of the country’s development, it will not suit all individuals who do not want to work in agriculture.

“The government should as a matter of urgency review the National Youth Policy and the National Youth Commission Act 2009 to reflect existing realities”, the report urges.

The report also looks at conflict over land and labour rights and the perceived increase in mismanagement of revenues from natural resources, calling on the government to strengthen adherence to mining laws, especially community development articles in the Mining and Minerals Act 2009 and taxation clauses.

“Mining companies should publish in national and local newspapers what they pay to chiefs, district councils and MPs, especially those amounts that are earmarked for development. Public awareness of what has been paid and what development promises have been made will lead to greater accountability,” it says and urges government to take all necessary steps possible to rejoin the EITI, the global watchdog on transparency in the extractives sector.

At the same time, the government should not rely on companies to be the sole agents of development in the regions in which they operate, the report says, urging that government needs to set a clear precedent for mining company activities. It praises the creation of the National Mining Agency earlier this year calling it "a good start", but cautions that the agency should make sure it represents the people, and not the mining companies.”

While the Chief of Staff in the office of the President, Dr. Richard Konteh, said the government would not be publishing the reports for 2010 and 2011, he assured that those reports would be lodged with the EITI before December 2013.

“Based on the response we get from EITI, after we would have sent in our reports, we can now go ahead and publish as required of us,” he said. He however would not ascertain when the reports would be published.

The communications manager at NMA, Sattie Kamara, said they had always stood with and by the people and not the mining companies.

“Our vision is to ensure that the people benefit from the mining activities and all of our plans are geared towards that. We also ensure that mining activities are carried out in a responsible manner,” he told Politico.

Meanwhile, the report also calls on government and donors to respond to youth’s call for education as the linchpin of their recovery and prioritise the reconstruction of formal and non-formal education systems and the promotion of youth’s livelihoods and entrepreneurship.

“The lack of educational opportunities is their number one problem and they name formal schooling and skills and entrepreneurship training as the main solution. Without education, many feel hopeless and at times turn to more destructive behaviours,” the report says, adding that in the light of those challenges linked to emerging new forms of violence, the government of Sierra Leone and the international community should include conflict prevention as a core aid priority in UNIPSIL's exit strategy and donor transition strategies.

(C) Politico 19/12/13