Several young protesters gunned down by police in northern Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 August 2016

Rioting in kabala1

Tonight questions are being asked by Sierra Leoneans across the country and outside, who are desperately concerned about the increasing use of live bullets by the police, which today resulted in the killing of several young people and many left injured.

“Riot in progress in Kabala Town now today – 16th August 2016, 10:00am, as angry youths have taken to the streets, protesting over the relocation of the proposed youth village from Koinadugu District to Tonkolili District. I can hear gun shots from my office here at Yogomaia. Police and military personnel are trying to put the situation under control. It’s scary I must say…We call on the authorities to take immediate action.”

That was the cry for help sent out of Kabala in the Koinadugu district of Sierra Leone this morning, by one resident of the town – Mr. Wurie Barrie.

But as an eerie calm returns to the once sleepy town of Koinadugu, after several hours of police violence and chaos, unconfirmed reports put the number dead at more than four.

What could have gone so horribly wrong, in one of the ruling APC party’s political stronghold?

police violence in kabala - several youths shot dead.jpg2According to an earlier report by BBC reporter – Umaru Fofanah, “a 24-hour curfew has been imposed in Kabala where hospital sources have confirmed the shooting dead by police of two protesters. Two people are admitted there while two others are in a critical condition, and have been referred to the capital. The ruling party headquarters in the town and the homes of the local police chief and the District Officer have been torched”.

If this report is true, then it is safe to say that the government and its ruling APC party have lost huge political capital and goodwill in Koinadugu, where the last two general elections have seen a massive swing to APC at the expense of the opposition SLPP.

Koinadugu is the most deprived district in Sierra Leone, with the highest concentration of household poverty, illiteracy, youth unemployment, and childhood mortality. Like Kono district in the east of Sierra Leone, successive governments have not only lied to the people of Koinadugu district about investing in their communities, but have also failed them woefully.

And it would appear that the ruling APC’s decision to relocate the proposed youth village from Koinadugu District to Tonkolili District, is quite simply one lie too many for the youths of Kabala.

President Koroma in Kabala - Dec 2015

The APC government had received over $200 million from the international community and the World Bank, to help pay for the construction and development of the youth village in Kabala, as part of efforts to support vocational and employment skills training for youths in the district. (Photo: President Koroma early this year, promising the youths of Kabala that he will ensure that the youth village is built in their community. He has reneged on his promise).

But it seems the government has decided to re-prioritise this funding and there are suspicions most of that money have been misappropriated, like so many other funded development projects in the country.

police violence in kabala - several youths shot deadTonight as the people of Kabala count their dead and injured, the peace and stability of Koinadugu district is at serious risk of deteriorating further. (Photo: A school boy bleeding profusely, wearing a shirt that aptly reads on the front: “I survived another school year”. But has he?).

It seems the government and police have failed to protect him. The chief of Sierra Leone police – Munu, must resign or be sacked. He has certainly become unfit for purpose.

Sierra Leone’s human rights campaign group – the Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) has issued a statement following the police killing of unarmed citizens in Kabala. This is what it says:

“Today (16-08-2016) Youth of Kabala, Koinadugu District who were staging a peaceful demonstration over the government’s decision to relocate a Youth village that had been promised the district since 2014, were met with extreme Police violence and some of them paid with their lives.

Rioting in kabala2“According to our sources from the township, Police officers called on the scene to control the protesters, fatally shot youths and injured a few others. This resulted in a rampage that led to the loss of more lives and burning down of houses.

“We in the Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) strongly condemn the recent police attack on innocent protesters and the police brutality, both during and in its aftermath.

“We are extremely concerned that the standard of policing in Sierra Leone has sunk to unimaginable depths.  For far too long, there have been double standards in place for police officers involved in incidents of brutality and misconduct, and today’s event in Kabala is no exception. The ease with which police officers use live bullets to disperse unarmed protesters is a very worrying sign for this nation’s political future.

“We have evidence of Police violence and professional misconduct from all over Sierra Leone, and we believe that the impunity enjoyed by the Sierra Leone Police explains the distrust and cynicism that undermines effective policing in Sierra Leone. No police officer has ever been convicted for any of the killings or acts of brutality against civilians.

“We in the CHRDI, call on the government and the police to raise their standards to internationally accepted levels. It is time for substantive policy change within the Sierra Leone Police Force, including timely and meaningful accountability in order to begin restoring community trust in the Sierra Leone police force.

“Police should protect lives, not endanger them. They should be a friend of the people, seeking to protect their lives and properties at all cost.

“We acknowledge that the police are mandated to use force where necessary in order to enforce the law, but we believe that such a mandate is not without responsibility. The poignant question that should be asked, even as the country reels from the aftermath of this despicable incident is, was the use of lethal force by the police justifiable?

“In view of the above concerns, CHRDI deems it fit to make the following observations;

  1. The SLP should stop escalating tension in any conflict across the country by adopting proper community relationship strategies and stop resorting to use of fire arms at the slightest provocation.
  2. All Law enforcement officers must be guided by the principles of reasonable force and democratic policing.
  3. A police officer shall always attempt to use non-violent means first and lethal force may only be employed when non-violent means are ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result.

“We also wish to draw the attention to the responsibility of duty-bearers to uphold human rights, and seek to support rights-holders to claim their right.”

This is a video recording by an eye witness describing the chaotic and violent scene in Kabala:

Police killing of innocent youths in kabala.

The country’s main opposition SLPP party has also published this statement condemning the police attack on unarmed civilians in Koinadugu:

Violence in kabala - SLPP responds

 

5 Comments

  1. Mr. Sulaiman Bar, In recent years the Sierra Leone police seem to find bliss shooting live bullets at unarmed protesters and whosoever is perceived a threat to their safety. There has been a number of events where the police quickly resorted to shooting at unarmed citizens across the country and, it is unabated.

    Going to a protest is a legitimate right of the people when government and management fail to deliver what is expected of them for negligence or omission of duty by the authorities. This incident is the worse case scenario where young protesters are exercising their democratic right to protest against a deceitful promise by the APC government, when they were needed to gain political power, only to end up in disregard.

    The police are becoming an institutional terrorist force against the citizens in this country. Government must put an immediate stop to this, before it ignites a social upheaval in the country.

  2. It’s really horrible for people to be killed by police officers. Is A.P.C. Willing to leave power as time gets closer and closer for election? Are they provoking another civil war, having killed thousands in the last war?

    I ask all peace loving sierra Leonean to use all ways and means to get this regime out, if not this country Will be in perpetual poverty. Thanks, bye for now.

  3. Why are the people being so unfair with the police? Are they not citizens of this country? Why blame all violence on the Police?

    When are we going to warn our youths to stop being lawless? Who has ever had the slightest misunderstanding with at least an Okada rider to see what they become, even when the rider is at fault? Is that the way we are going to train our children?

    Who will be happy to hear his/her child is in a night club, even when he/she warned the child to stay home? If they had been prevented from holding protest, whether peaceful or not, why should they go against the law? They resisted the law in the first place, took the law into their own hands.

    So if they meet any resistance who should be blamed? The Police or the youth? If you want to show to your father that you gave birth to him, you should be ready to carry the curse that follows.

    Let the human right activists begin to talk about the responsibilities of these youths. Were they right to have destroyed the properties of the state? Or properties of individuals? Why not blame the politicians who are never united even within their parties?

    If these politicians were united, am not sure trivial issues like this would have erupted. I am not of the opinion that the youths should have protested. I strongly believe negotiation should have been the best option. But the youths always want to take to the street any time they feel aggrieved.

    We all know the history of demonstrations in Sierra Leone. Even the most peaceful demonstration will end up with at least an assault. Even where the police is completely left out of it. People provoke others. Most times the protesters are under influence (Drugs/Alcohol) before they take to the street. So how are we sure that they themselves did not ignite the violence.

    CHRDI, how sure are you the youths were not armed? One of the youths was shot on sight, planning to set the MSF run maternity on fire with petrol from his pocket.

    President Koroma has made a lot of promises to this nation, why should we go out into the street to demand the fulfillment of all those promises. Why not engage in peaceful negotiation rather than peaceful protest.

    We have seen the results of most peaceful protests in the country. So let us stop hiding behind the phrase “peaceful protest”. It is never peaceful with the Sierra Leonean youths. Even the politicians hide behind the youths.

    So, CHRDI, begin to engage the youths and train them on how to engage in peaceful negotiation. It will be better that way. The police are also part of the country and have right to protect themselves against these ruthless youths.

    • Mr Bah, you are quire clearly an ignoramus with very little education and and a chip on your shoulder. If you think for one moment that because these youths took to the street to protest (which I should add is a democratic right) they deserve to be met with blood thirsty so called police officers, you quite surely are part of the numerous cancers of this country.

      Protesting does not give the right to murder clearly unarmed adolescents. This is a prime example of the utter incompetence of the police to manage a docile crowd of protesters. In case you are unaware the use of force by the police is not unfettered or indeed something they can use as and when they like. Because of the actions of a thug rogue officer, young people with their lives ahead of them now lie cold on a slab somewhere.

      The police and more importantly the president, need to address these issues as a matter of urgency and hold the perpetrators accountable. Surely failure to address this very serious incident and betrayal of trust by the police can only be deemed as gross miscarriage of “justice” should the country still be familiar with the term in a society where who pays is innocent.

      I sincerely hope you will take the time to re-evaluate your stance as this nonsensical drivel is from like minded individuals one of the many reasons the country is the state it is in.

      It fills me with deep remorse that these barbaric acts are so nonchalantly glossed over by people like you in 2016. After all the aid and money we have accepted like the beggars of the international community we are, have we no shame that we yet to develop into a society where basic atrocities like this are discouraged. Rather we would prefer to line our own pockets and spend aid money in the West in the very countries the money originated from. The practices of this country’s government are truly sickening and their sheer incompetence knows no bounds.

      For the sake of shame and our fellow citizens, let there be a turnaround…..

    • Shame on you Mr Bah for describing the lethal police shooting of innocent youths as “trivial issues”. Don’t you know that there are rules of engagement which the Police should adopt in such situations? Haven’t you heard of rubber bullets, water cannons, etc?

      It appears that the huge amount of overseas taxpayers money from development partners (the United Kingdom, etc) spent on training of the Sierra Leone Police is going down the drain.

      Further, if you had taken the time to analyse the cause of the riot, you would have realised that livelihoods and development are at the core. The youth village is all about building (future) livelihoods, generally, for the POOR and DEPRIVED youths in that part of the country – and an abrupt decision for its relocation elsewhere is a recipe for anger.

      Policies should be CONSISTENT, and any abrupt change without prior plausible explanation is not advisable.

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