Commission to probe Sierra Leone children missing in US

(AFP) –20 October FREETOWN — Sierra Leone’s Social Welfare Minister Soccoh Kabia announced a probe Friday into “the unknown whereabouts” of 20 children he said were spirited to the United States without the knowledge of their parents.

They were allegedly taken for adoption from couples who had handed them to a local organisation called Help a Needy Child International (HANCI), for schooling and safety at the height of the country’s civil war.

“The investigation will unravel whether the adoption was done in a transparent manner and we have not put a limitation as to what the commission should do with regards to time,” he said.

“The commission will establish whether parents had a full understanding and knowledge of the adoption process and whether they willingly gave up their children for adoption.

“In addition, whether the whole process was transparent and fully explained to the parents by HANCI.”

Kabia said High Court judge Adeliza Showers would head the investigating commission, assisted by retired civil servant Mustapha Rogers and an educationist, Albert Kanu.

Kabia said that in 1996 HANCI established so-called child survival centres in the northern towns of Makeni, Kamakwie and Mile 91 with the purpose of providing educational services for children from kindergarten until tertiary level.

“The parents gave up their children for the purpose and after the war the parents checked for their children and found that they were gone,” he said.

“When HANCI officials were queried they said the parents had supported the organisation to give up their children for adoption. The parents rejected the claim and demanded the return of the children.”

The minister said that two officials of HANCI were taken to court ‘but were acquitted but not discharged meaning that the case can be reopened at some future date.3