CSOs Call for Speedy Investigation & Affirmative Action on Extra-Judicial Killings

By Amin Kef Sesay

In a new report titled, “Story on Youth Disenfranchisement and Protest in Sierra Leone: Response and Recommendation” also referred to as the Bombali Human Rights Committee Report-2020, the root causes of youth disenchantment, frustration , recourse to violence to vent out grievances with recommendations how to remedy their plight were treated deeply.

During a report aired by the BBC correspondent in Sierra Leone, Umaru Fofana, on the 4th August 2021 he spoke on issues bordering on concerns raised by certain Civil Society Organizations over fracas that emanated in different parts of the country involving angry youths and the Police in which lives and properties were destroyed.

Umaru Fofana cited the Tombo, Makeni, Pa Demba Road Maximum Prison incidents stating that dozens of people were killed in the hands of  security forces but since then authorities have not looked into the incidents and take the necessary actions against the perpetrators.

He made references to the Tombo incident when as a result of the enforcement of the COVID-19 restrictions residents of that community resisted leading to a confrontation with the Police and lives were lost.

Umaru Fofana also mentioned the attempted jail break at Pa Demba, Maximum Prison where again security forces were said to have gunned down prisoners.

He again cited  how during the process of removing a standby generator in Makeni by officials of the Ministry of Energy and the Electricity, Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA) a fracas ensued between irate youths and the Police which led to the destruction of properties and lives.

According to Umaru Fofana, since the ugly incident took place it has been quite a considerable period of time now that no affirmative action has been taken by the authorities who have the mandate to do so.

He said a group of Civil Society Organizations has apportioned blame on the authorities challenging them to act as the new report disclosed.

According to his report, in July 2020 gunshots echoed in Makeni which was a combination of string of violence that characterized mainly the opposition strongholds in Northern and Western Sierra Leone.

Umaru informed that in the fishing village of Tombo young men were protesting against the COVID-19 measures that hinged on their survival leaving the local Police Post torched and two people were shot dead allegedly by the Police.

In a recorded insert played by Umaru Fofana, one of the victims of the Makeni incident, Hassan Kargbo, a twenty-two-year-old, said he was shot by a member of the security force on that fateful day.

He said, Hassan Kargbo, told him that since he was shot on his spine he cannot stand on his own and he spent three months at the Emergency Hospital in Freetown and when he was discharged pain has been the constant feature of his life in anything he is doing and was told that surgery cannot be done on him locally but needs to be taken abroad for better treatment.

Hassan, according to the BBC Correspondent, said all what they are crying for Makeni is justice.

Umaru Fofana continued in his report that while some of the protesters are standing trail and have been denied bail since the incident  it is a year now and nobody has been brought to book for the killings.

Valnora Edwin, a female rights-based activist who led the research that culminated in the publication of the Report when asked by Umaru Fofana to comment on the said issues said the youth had issues in terms of feeling not being part of the decision making, not being considered as worthwhile and they have low-level of trust for the State and Community structures and so they decided to take those issues in their own hands and the best way they thought of doing so was to mount up  protests that escalated to killings and burning down of buildings to which the Police responded but underscored that the protest could not have been proportionate to the treatment they actually faced in the hands of the Police.

She said ,however, from the interviews conducted they realized that at some point the Police in Makeni were stoned and at some other points the youths did not have any weapons but mounted blockades further arguing that the use of live bullets was not a proportionate response.

According to Umaru Fofana the Report recommends, amongst other things, that an independent investigation be mounted by the State that the killers should be held accountable, compensations be paid to victims’ families and the injured.

The BBC correspondent interviewing the country’s Inspector General of Police, Ambrose Sovula, on Whatsapp who was in Lebanon, the latter denied his troops’ actions. He said the Police responded professionally stating that they are equally human maintaining that in most cases gunshots are fired at the Police during protests and they cannot sit down and watch people cause damages to critical infrastructure rendering the State cripple and dysfunctional.

Umaru Fofanah ended his report by stating that the history of Sierra Leone is replete of security forces killing protesters without any affirmative action taken in return.


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