Over the past few days The Exclusive office has hosted groups of concerned parents from Makeni. The aggrieved parents complained that they don’t know the whereabouts of their children they claimed were adopted by an organization called Help A Needy Child International (HANCI).
One of the parents, Sheik Alimamy Kamara of Makeni told this press that between 1996-97 HANCI which has their offices on Pademba Road set up a Child Survival Centre at 3 Mission Road Makeni.
According to the parents, HANCI offered to take care of their children and showed them the centre where they intended to house the young ones. Sheik Kamara said that they saw other children between the ages of 1 years to 17 years adding that “because we saw other children in the centre that prompted us to give our children to HANCI.”
These allegations have been investigated before. According to the UNAMSIL Human Rights Office in Makeni, HANCI in collusion with an organization called Maine Adoption Placement Services (MAPS) helped to smuggle these children out of the country without the consent of their parents or guardians.
HANCI denies involvement in the matter and claims that the responsibility lay with MAPS which no longer operates in the country and the Ministry of Gender and Social Welfare with whom the adoption papers were signed. Last Friday some of the parents went to the Ministry and met with the Social Welfare Minister Soccoh Kabia.
Abu Bakarr Kargbo brother of one the missing children says that “the Minister asked us to submit all the relevant paperwork and promised to look into the matter personally.” Despite HANCI’s denial all that the parents have as proof of adoption are receipts on HANCI letterhead saying that their children had been admitted to the HANCI Children’s Home in Makeni.
Sheik Kamara adds that “The HANCI people never told us anything about adoption. Our children were taken for medical in Freetown and since then we have never saw our children”, he said in tears.
Since HANCI was the only point of contact with the parents, it seems strange that they are now denying any involvement with the adoptions.
The matter was reported to the police in Sierra Leone and was charged to the courts in Freetown in 2004 and in 2005 but was not tried because the parents did not go forward with the prosecution.
Dr. Roland Foday Kargbo, who is the Executive Director of HANCI was charged along side two others on 23 counts of conspiracy to commit a felony contrary to law and child stealing contrary to section 56 of the offences against the persons Act 1861.
When The Exclusive contacted Dr. Kargbo at his Pademba Road offices, he denied the allegations. “We did not do the adoption. It was MAPS that did the adoption. When asked why the correspondences in possession of the parents for their children were on the HANCI Letterhead, he said, “MAPS was operating under HANCI when they initially came into the country. They later broke away from us when they acquired legal status and continued dealing with the children up to the time they taken to the United States.”
Also Speaking to The Exclusive, the Operation Director of HANCI, Kelfa Kargbo denied that 150 children were adopted. According to him only 24 children were registered under the MAPS programme in 1989.
“The parents have been dealing with MAPS since 1989 and that was when the adoption took place. The parents were fully aware that MAPS was an adoption organization,” he said, adding that his organization has over the years put pressure on MAPS through the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs. MAPS, he said, has ceased dealing with HANCI and that since the adoption was done, MAPS had claimed to be updating the Ministry about the adopted children. The parents, he said have since be referred to the Ministry for update of their children.
However the parents lament that they don’t know MAPS but HANCI and that up to date not even the photos of their children have been made available to the let alone an update of their overall wellbeing.