Few months back, the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) released its perception survey report in which it was disclosed that the Sierra Leone Police scored the highest in the area of corruption.
When the report was launched there was a lot of hue and cry by the Police that the report was unfair to them.
However, some boys who said they are thieves around the Big Wharf, Eastern Police and Abacha Street axis, have exposed the Police as collaborators and sometimes even direct them where to go and steal and later share the loot with them.
During an interactive session yesterday organized by Don Bosco Fambul at Fort Street in Freetown to commemorate Day of the African Child, five of the 2,500 street children accepted that they will talk to the press about their experiences on the streets. A 15 year-old boy (name withheld) said that he left his family in 2003 because his parents especially his mother burdened him with lots of heavy chores at home while he preferred to go out and play with his friends.
He said one day when he went out with his friend, his mother told him not to return home so he was happy because his friend had earlier asked him to join him in the street.
He said when he is in the street, he carries loads for people and also indulges in stealing from traders, especially from those along Sani Abacha Street, and sometimes people who launder their jeans and hang them to dry.
The 15 year-old boy explained that they are harassed by police officers, who beat them for no just cause and sometimes they take the items and monies that they have stolen from them.
Another boy, also 15 years old, said sometimes he is asked by the Police to assist them in “runnings” and ask them to give some of the stolen property to them.
He said that a particular Policeman once asked him to run a mission for him, “when I asked him what the mission was he said he will put me through a window at a house and steal some things for him, when I refused, he gave me serious beating.”
Another boy who is also staying around PZ said that living in the street is not easy because of the harassment they are faced with, especially by the Police and their “bras and mammies”.
The boy said that all he relies on while in the Street is when he indulges in stealing, saying that he is mostly around Abacha Street area where he hunts market women who often forget their bags and steal their monies.
He said that normally if he is caught and taken to the Police station, he gives some of his money to the Police.
“The Police will then chastise the woman who has the money that she is telling lies and even go to the extent of putting the complainant in a cell and he will walk away free..
I sometimes run to the Police station when I am being chased and they give me protection. But I have to share the loot with them”. .
Most of the boys said that they want to go back home as they are tired of living on the streets and called upon government to come to their aid and build orphanages that will host them, as some of them want to attain higher heights in society like becoming doctors, ministers and engineers. The children also said that they are happy with the programme initiated by Don Bosco Family and they are trying to get away from all the bad things they were engaged in.
Don Bosco Fambul is a non-governmental organization which has lots of programmes including Don Bosco Mobile, rehabilitation, family tracing youth center, child phone line and 24 hours girl shelter, is helping to transform the lives of these children.
According to Lothar Wagner Director Don Bosco Fambul, the organization is faced with lots of challenges in getting the children out of the Streets.
He said that they have a cordial relationship with the police as not all of them are involved in these issues.
Lothar Wagner also said that the kids are very important for Sierra Leone and they are trying their best to get them out of the Streets.
Abdul James Mansaray, a Social Worker at Don Bosco Fambul spoke about the various departments that the organization operates.
He said the Don Bosco Mobile works five days a week, whereby a social worker visits slum areas at night with a bus.
The children are provided with ID cards, medical care when the need arises, clothing and access to games.
By Betty Milton