Sierra Leone deploys marshals to protect beaches
The Sierra Leone government will deploy marshals to protect its best beaches from crime which officials say threatens the tourism industry.
Some 57 youth have began training as part of the initiative by the Ministry of Tourism.
They constitute the first batch that will be deployed at the Lumley/Aberdeen Beach, along the premier tourist village of Aberdeen in the west end of the capital, Freetown.
Tourism and Cultural Affairs minister Sidie Yahya Tunis, who officially launched the training, said the initiative would be expanded to cover over 40km stretch.
The civil war
Sierra Leone is reviving its tourism, which has largely been neglected since the end of the civil war in 2002.
The 2014 Ebola outbreak dealt a severe blow to what remained after the war.
But latest figures from the National Tourist Board (NTB) show a gradual increase in arrival numbers since 2016.
Security has, however, been a growing concern with officials saying the beaches were replete with drug use and prostitution.
Victims of robbery
There were reports of tourists and local beach goers being victims of robbery, prompting complaints from hotels and other business owners.
In 2015, Lumely Beach was the scene of the death of a teenager alleged to have been sexually abused before being murdered by her assailants. That incident prompted an overhaul of the security in the area.
NTB General Manager Yassin Kargbo said reports of crime along the beach were scaring tourists away.
He said the marshals would provide security at the beach and its environs, noting that their training entailed maintaining law and order.
Some of the marshals were drawn from the beach boys who have been suspected of involvement in crimes.
Some of Freetown’s beaches, like the Number Two River, were ranked among the best in Africa, characterised by pristine white sands and lush vegetation.
But indiscriminate sand mining also poses a major threat to such areas.