S.Leone panel to probe 13-year-old adoption scandal
FREETOWN — Sierra Leone's social minister on Wednesday announced a new probe into a 13-year-old trafficking scandal in which 40 parents claim their children were illegally adopted in the United States.
Minister Soccoh Kabia told reporters that President Ernest Koroma had ordered the creation of a three-man fact-finding committee headed by a high court judge in a fresh attempt to clear up the controversial case.
"The commission will investigate all issues connected with the child trafficking incident in which some 40 parents ... alleged that their children were taken to the United States for adoption without their consent by a local NGO, Help a Needy Child International (HANCI) about 13 years ago," said Kabia.
According to the minister HANCI was established in 1996, "setting up child survival centres in Freetown and Makeni (in the north) where it offered services of schooling from kindergarten to tertiary level."
When civil war broke out, parents sent their children to the organisation for protection and after the war, which ended in 2002, parents who came to fetch their children were told they had been adopted.
"The parents said they were never informed about the adoption process but the organisation reacted that they were informed," said Kabia.
The organisation also said that the children were adopted with their parents' consent.
Pressure from the parents later led to an investigation in which three officials from the organisation were charged and acquitted.
Parents such as Mamie Bockari, whose 10-year-old daughter Hawa has never been traced, are still craving answers.
She said: "We hope the commission will bring happiness to our bleeding hearts."
"The commission will be looking into the whole saga to see if the process of adoption happened within the context of the laws of Sierra Leone and if at all, the parents or guardians gave approval for the adoption," said Kabia.