Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 August 2016
After yesterday’s brutal massacre of unarmed civilians in Koinadugu district of Sierra Leone by the police, there has been no official response from State House or the ministry of internal affairs to pacify the people of Koinadugu.
A few years ago, one person was shot and killed by the police in Tonkolili during an industrial protest against the management of the iron ore mining company African Minerals. The president and a delegation of ministers and MPs representing constituencies in the district went to Tonkolili to meet with the community.
But yesterday, it was Koinadugu, a district that critics say is held in contempt by the Koroma government, especially after recent media revelations about the withdrawal of State House support for the chairman of NATCOM – Momoh Konte – a son of Koinadugu.
Koinadugu is minerals poor and largely survives on subsistence farming, despite its vast, rich and green agricultural lands.
With youth unemployment at more than 80%, Koinadugu is the poorest district in Sierra Leone, yet there are several senior ranking ministers in the Koroma government who come from the district, and have made little or no impact to Koinadugu – their district of birth. This includes the former finance minister – Kaifala Marah, now governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone.
As condemnation of the police brutality continues, opposition presidential aspirant – Mr Alie Kabba (Photo) had this to say:
“Reports of police shootings and killing of unarmed protesters in Kabala, Koinadugu District, are another grim reminder that our national politics is still heavily chained to the crudest of dangerous miscalculations on the part of law enforcement officers.
“Whatever the explanations for the brutal crackdown on unarmed youth protesters and its resultant spillage, the responsibility for upholding the peace should never be allowed to deteriorate into a full-scale shooting spree.
“The shooting of peaceful civilian protesters is definitely unacceptable, and it constitutes a grave threat to national peace and security.
“Citizens, in the exercise of their civic responsibilities, have the right to express their views and hold government accountable. The police, on the other hand, have a duty to maintain law and order, but it is not an unrestrained license by trigger-happy officers to intimidate or use deadly force against unarmed protesters.
“I am calling on the government to immediately rein in the forces it has at its disposal, and to speedily launch a credible, transparent and independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the tragic events in Koinadugu District.
“As we edge closer to national parliamentary and presidential elections, it is crucial that those in charge of state machinery act to assure the public that “power” and “force” would not be used to coerce people or thwart their will.
“The current political climate in the country appears to be getting very cloudy. Some defining clarity is needed here from the highest levels of the command chain! And it is needed fast in order to prevent further needless loss of life.
May the souls of all victims in Kabala rest in perfect peace! And may peace reign supreme, everywhere, in our beloved nation.”
Mohamed Marrah – leader of Koinadugu District Youth Council, told AFP yesterday that the protest was non-violent and related to the transfer of a training facility designed to improve job prospects in this poor rural community.
“They were unarmed and singing songs to get the authorities to reconsider the action. Suddenly, we heard shots and two people in the crowd just went limp,” he said.
“We protested for our rights but the police violently reacted by firing tear gas canisters and live bullets into the crowed which killed two of our people and left many others seriously injured,” he added.
A police officer reached by AFP said anti-government demonstrators had attacked and burnt down the office of the ruling All Peoples Congress and his own residence.
Local Unit Commander Superintendent Alimammy Bangura said he had been “reduced to a pauper” with his home razed to the ground.
A local resident today reports that: “There are two corpses at the hospital from the sad incident yesterday and one has just been taken for burial with armed men as escorts. His name is Boboh Savage, 16 years old and attended Ahmadiya secondary School and was in form two. He was hit by a bullet on his right upper side whilst coming from School lessons. He was staying with his mother at Imam Street in Bankolia.”