Members of Parliament last week ratified the United Nations Convention on Stateless Persons and the Protocol to the Constitutive Act of the African Union relating to the Pan-African Parliament.

Parliament-Sierra Leone

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, on behalf of the Government of Sierra Leone, signed the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, the 1954 Convention on the Status of Statelessness Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and the Protocol to the Constitutive Act of the African Union.

Minister of State 1 in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Mohamed Gibril Sesay, told lawmakers that the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 is among core treaties of the United Nations, as adopted by the General Assembly.

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He said though that since its adoption the treaty has been signed and ratified by 177 countries out of 193 member states of the UN, adding that Sierra Leone was among the few remaining member states that were yet to accede to the convention, even though the country is broadly engaged in consular diplomacy.

He noted that the purpose of seeking to accede to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations was to facilitate peaceful and efficient conduct of the country’s consular relations in host countries, to establish more consulates and appoint consuls representing the country’s interest abroad, to provide for consuls in host countries and certain privileges and immunities.

Speaking on the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, he said the UN addressed the condition of statelessness, which is increasingly becoming a major global concern, in the convention.

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He said the purpose of accession was for Sierra Leone, along with other international partners, to put in place a protection mechanism to ensure that people identified as stateless would have protection within the international legal framework of the UN.

Dr Sesay explained that people prone to statelessness are mainly women and children who may be born without identity papers or are made to suffer because of discriminatory legislations and other factors that may render them stateless during turbulent times.

“Adherence to the two conventions is therefore important and necessary in the world today. It is estimated that over ten million people are stateless. West Africa and the continent at large have equally not been spared of this condition. International attention has been drawn to the issue of statelessness due to the horrifying experiences to which stateless persons are often subjected, including the denial of a nationality, legally identity and dignity of people,” he said.

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He furthered that to date, not much seems to have been done at the national level by way of raising awareness about the issue, while no specific policy action had been taken in the past to address the issue of statelessness in the country. “We need to act to address this matter. There is need to identify and collect data on people that are stateless in our demographic surveys, to cater for such category of persons in our socio-economic development framework,” he maintained.

Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament. Hon. Dauda J.B. Kallon, noted that Sierra Leoneans in foreign country might be classified as stateless because of the condition they find themselves in.

He expressed hope that the ratification of the conventions would mean that the lack of recognition of people would lessen, and urged that the conventions be ratified by his colleagues within the shortest possible time. The House unanimously ratified the conventions.