Freetown prison rioting – 9 dead and dozens critically injured

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 April 2020:

There is heightened tension and heavy presence of armed military security in Freetown today, as the aftermath of yesterday’s rioting by prisoners at  the country’s main prison located in the west of the capital unfolds.

Dozens of prisoners were gunned down by heavily armed soldiers and police, as rioting prisoners set buildings on fire, in protest at what many believe to be the government’s failure to protect the prison population at Pademba Road from the coronavirus.

Although the government put the number of prisoners killed at 5, there are reports that up to 9 or more prisoners had died in the shooting by armed security forces.

According to sources, the atmosphere in the prison became very tense a few days ago after the government announced that an inmate brought into the prison had contracted the deadly COVID-19 virus.

But the government says that yesterday’s rioting was an “attempted prison break”, causing destruction of prison property  -including the reception area, rice store containing over 3,500 bags of rice, a health centre, and a training workshop.

Police spokesman Supt. Abu B. Kallon – the Local Unit Commander of Freetown’s Central Division, issued this statement yesterday: “On today’s date Wednesday 29/04/2020, inmates at Pademba Road Correctional Center attempted to break the prison to escape.

“Some buildings within the Prison Yard such as the Reception, Stores, Hospital, the Vocational workshop were all burnt down. Several other infrastructure such as the Church and the Mosque were partially damaged.

“Whilst the Prison Yard was on fire, a combined team of SLP& RSLAF stormed the Yard and there was some exchange of gun fire. The combined team nevertheless contained the inmates and subdued them under control.

“Fire Force however succeeded in outing off the fire but buildings set ablaze had already burnt before the arrival of Fire fighters.

“During mopping up operation, it was observed that two prison officers were killed. Several others sustained various degrees of injuries as a result of the incident. Up to 5 inmates were counted dead and several also sustained various degrees of injuries most of which were catastrophic.

“Senior Officers of the SLP and RSLAF including CDS, IGP and AIG Operations visited the scene. CID personnel also visited the scene and have commenced investigations into the cause of the insurgence in the Prison Yard. The undersigned have been taking down relevant information regarding the cause of the riot, now identified names to the investigators of certain inmates who could be of assistance to the police in determining the cause of the riot and the operatives amongst the inmates and Prison Officers involved. Supt. MK Alieu Operations Officer from CID HQ have been provided with those names. The situation at the Prison Yard is now under perfect control. The entire area is quiet and calm.”

But today, questions are being asked by human rights activists and international agencies about the government’s use of heavy military grade weapons to quell the riot, and safeguard the property and lives of prisoners in its custody and care.

Several prisoners who were rounded up were badly beaten and subjected to inhumane treatment in an attempt to publicly root out confessions from them.

Chaotic and violent scenes of police brutality were captured on video which went viral on social media, showing wounded prisoners handcuffed on to lamp posts,  whilst they were being subjected to public summary justice.

As fears grew over the condition and welfare of a group of opposition political prisoners held at the prison, including former defence minister Palo Conteh and former mayor of Freetown Herbert George Williams, there were reports late last night that Palo and other “high stake prisoners” (as the minister of information refers to them yesterday), have been moved to the Special Court detention centre.

But lawyers representing Palo Conteh, last night expressed serious concern that the wife has been arrested. There are reports that she is being held in custody for alleged involvement in plotting the rioting, a claim denied by her family.

Mrs Conteh was taken away by police, leaving behind their 7 year old son, after Conteh’s residence at Wilberforce was searched by armed police officers.

“Were the prisoners armed, to have exchanged fire with the security forces as alleged? Something is definitely not right in this report.” This and many more questions are being asked today by many in Sierra Leone about the government’s handling of the rioting, which the ministry of information yesterday aptly described as an “insurgency”.

The government in its defence of the action it took in bringing the rioting to an end, went further in saying that, it “strongly condemns this attempt to destabilise the security of the state”.

Speaking on Radio 98.1 this morning, Lahai Lawrence Leema who is the country’s deputy internal affairs minister, was bullish about the government’s handling of yesterday’s rioting, and warns of tougher response should anyone attempt to destabilise the country.

This is what he said:

As international condemnation of the government’s handling of the rioting grows, the UNHCR has issued this statement:

In another development yesterday, there was panic in Freetown after reports of a fire at the USA embassy bulding in Freetown. Today,  ambassador Maria Brewer spoke about the cause of the fire and the extent of the damage:  

13 Comments

  1. Young4na, or Mr. John Fornah, your comment “Unpatriotic Sierra Leoneans are busy using cyberspace including this platform to sow the seed of discord deeper into our society, peddling political conspiracy theories befitting their political inclinations.”

    I strongly believe that this statement is very disturbing for this newspaper and the editor who has spent most of his time, money and energy to not only present all the raw facts about situations in our country for over a decade, and created the platform for every reader to express their personal opinions based on the number of scenarios from every angle. The editor even stated his rules and regulations for comments by investing his time and energy to moderate some of the comments and even deleted some that he found inappropriate which sometimes includes my comments.

    It’s sometimes tempting from both APC and SLPP supporters to label him as a political adversary but in my personal opinion I believe that he is just an advocate for the citizens of Sierra Leone. My point is, your above statement implies that you are questioning the integrity and competence of the editor and moderator of this credible newspaper.

    Mr. Sahr Matturi, I sometimes pity your plight because I personally believe that your ideology is based on “ KONOISM” which means any politician from the Kono tribe is a saint or genius. If you take your time to read my above comment, I tried my best to go down memory lane about the stability of our past and present governments under democratic process , and not the most popular revolution that toppled the one party 25 years dictatorship of late President Stevens and late President Momoh . Thanks to the Almighty, after that popular revolution we are now enjoying democracy – as always “ The end justifies the means.”

    Mr.Alimamy Turay, thanks for the clarification because I really thought your comment was for Mr. Matturi who unfortunately you described as an entertainer during this difficult and trying times in our country, because he keeps repeating his lofty dream that his Kono Chief will be the next president in 2023. I’m sorry to keep reminding you that the APC party lost the 2018 presidential election and we have only one president who is President Julius Maada Bio, who sacrifice his life to restore peace and democracy for our country, and all the people of Sierra Leone are asking for is to give him a chance to govern in peace.

    • Mr Fallay – No one has been, nor will they be allowed to “use this platform to sow the seed of discord deeper into our society”. My appeal is for ALL forumites to please calm down. Let us focus on the issues.

  2. Sierra Leone is among some of the poorest countries in the world that have lost German Aid, because of barbarity, violence, unlawful incarceration of its citizens and gross violation of human rights. I believe, other sensible nations will follow suit. Thank you very much Moinina for the information and for sending me this link –

    https://www.faz.net/aktuell/wirtschaft/mehr-wirtschaft/deutschland-beendet-zusammenarbeit-mit-jedem-dritten-entwicklungsland-16745915.html

    God bless you Moinina. We are all, despite of different ethnicity, fighting to eradicate barbarity, tyranny, unlawful incarceration of our citizens, violence and cold blooded murder of innocent Sierra Leoneans. Be rest assured that, an APC lead no nonsense coalition in 2023, will not clamp down on any SLPP party members or the Mendes. It’s the perpetrators and tyrants who are committing these barbaric, inhumane acts and violence that would be taken care of, both under Sierra Leone and International law.

    Sierra Leone is for every Sierra Leonean and not only for the Bio lead SLPP and some unscrupulous SLPP officials, who in collaboration with members of President Bio’s presidential guards, went and murdered innocent prisoners and prison officers at Pademba Road Prisons in cold blood. Now, the hell has been ramped up in arresting fine and descent opposition members like Dr Sylvia Blyden and Rtd Major Paolo Conteh. Again, may the souls of all those who fell under the brutal command and hands of President Bio’s presidential guards, R.I.P.

  3. This time, it’s not the Police and not the Military who went and murdered prisoners rioting for their rights in cold blood. It was members of the Presidential Guard and some unscrupulous and rogue Bio Administration and SLPP officials, who took the law into their own hands, to murder prisoners and prison officers in cold blood. Parliament and The International Community should help supervise an independent commission of inquiry, to rapidly bring the criminals in this matter to justice.
    We want to make it clear to the International Community, Den Haag, our Donors, Partners, AU, UN, the UK, the U.S. etc, to reconsider where possible to place an arms embargo on Sierra Leone and travel restrictions and other sanctions on anyone involved in this criminal act.

    Any arms delivered to Sierra Leone, will be used by the Presidential Guard under the pretext of the present emergency situations to kill Sierra Leoneans. Also, the U.S. and the UK in particular must monitor this event closely. British Taxpayers money were heavily spent in bringing the Civil war in Sierra Leone to a speedy conclusion. If it was not because of the sacrifice of the British People, Sierra Leone would have been a FAILED STATE by now and JUNTA justice should have been the order of the day as it seems to be now. Even though Britain is very occupied in fighting the Coronavirus and saving the lives of British citizens right now, we are crying for help to stop this madness in Sierra Leone. In Sierra Leone today, people are being killed instead of saving lives. See the difference.

    Please Britain, don’t let Sierra Leone enter into another Civil war. As everyone can see, barbarity, violence, Gross human rights violations, unlawful incarceration of citizens and wounding and killing of innocent people is now becoming rampant since the Bio Administration came to office. God bless Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his no nonsense Administration, the British people and the United Kingdom. May the souls of all those who were killed in cold blooded murder by members of the Presidential Guard, rest in perfect peace. Amen and Amen.

  4. Paddy, we just the watch una.

    My heart goes out to those who are innocently suffering in the prison systems due to the gross incompetence of the former APC governments and the present ineffective prison officials.

  5. In a civilize and democratic society, a national tragedy resulting to the lost of lives and destructions of properties worth billions of leones will solicit patriotic actions and measures that will eventually lead to answers as to why such horrific events happened. In Sierra Leone, my only beloved nation, things are quite the opposite. As usual, tragic events generally brings out the worst in our society as individuals with political and tribalistic extremist views seize the opportunity to express their hatred towards their fellow Sierra Leoneans.

    While we have yet to fully understand exactly why the Pandema road riot occurred, official reporting, and various news outlets including this credible newspaper have informed readers and viewers that the discovery of a Convid-19 patient among the inmates, couple with the postponement of all court sittings in the next 6 months plus could be a big factor why the prisoners decided to go on the rampage. Notwithstanding these facts, unpatriotic Sierra Leoneans are busy using cyberspace including this platform to sow the seed of discord deeper into our society, peddling political conspiracy theories befitting their political inclinations.

    Reading through the comments coming from extremists regime supporters, several of which purports that the incident at Pandema road has the handiwork of opposition members, one is left with no alternative but to paint these extremists as warmongers and unpatriotic citizens. For crying out loud, are we now saying that majority of the prisoners in Pandema road are members of the opposition parties? Since when a prison breakout or attempted escape of prisoners became a political issue? Over the course of the Pandema prison, there had been countless prison disturbances or attempted escapes, but never had any of those incidents been label as political motivated or backed by any major political party in the nation.

    Gradually, we are heading more and more towards the wrong direction. Our nation is more impoverished, divided and tribalistic than ever before. Instead of working together as nation for the common good, politics has divided us further. No one cares to look at facts anyone when things happen, it’s all about our parties and political masters. Our nation just turns 59 years a couple of days ago, yet we are still crawling in the midst of abject poverty and hatred for another. We definitely need a divine intervention.

  6. Sometimes I become tired with the comments. Either they are from SLPP or from APC supporters. There are no independent ordinary people in this beloved country? And what is with the statement of the UNHCR?

  7. This is a strange coincidence, because anytime the APC party lost an election to the SLPP in a democratic election there is always a riot and breakage at Pademba Road Prison. During the 25 years of the one party dictatorship under the APC government, soldiers like late Hinga Norman, Abu Noah to name but few, or politicians like Mohamed Sorie Fornah and F.M Minah who were accused of plotting a coup served their sentences or were executed.

    But during the first two years of Late President Tejan Kabba, Johnny Paul Koroma was arrested for plotting to kill the president and few months later the Pademba Road Prison was broken and unfortunately Johnny Paul escaped and burnt down almost the whole of Freetwon. During the past 11 years of the APC party misrule, some soldiers were arrested at Teko Barracks in Makeni for plotting to overthrow former President Ernest Koroma, and within his two terms in office, there was no breakage at the Pademba Road Prison or any destruction of lives and properties in Freetown.

    Now exactly just 2 years when the APC government is in opposition again, after some of their members murdered a journalist and one of their former defense minister break the rules by taking a loaded GLOCK 17 Gun to the Statehouse, suddenly there is another attempt to break them out of Prison to destroy lives and properties in Freetown.

    One thing that is obvious is that Satan has always blessed the APC Party with the power to STEAL, DESTROY AND KILL the innocent people that voted them out of office, but thanks to the Almighty and our GALLANT SECURITY the damages were only limited to the Pademba Road Prison which is also painful because lives and value properties have been destroyed. May the Almighty continue to bless and protect our country against the destructive APC party and let’s continue to hope and pray that the investigation will be concluded as soon as possible so that who is behind this mayhem will be brought to Justice.

    • Why is Mr Alusine Fallay failing to tell me about people like former IG Bambay Kamara and others, who were maliciously and unconstitutionally murdered, by the NPRC JUNTA PART I and II under the auspices of the then so called Liaison Commandant. I asked him last time, to tell me where the Liaison Commandant lives and he refused. It would be better if Mr Alusine Fallay tells me which regime has been the most ruthless, illegal and unconstitutional in the history of Sierra Leone, rather than telling me about judiciary matters under a democratically elected government, which Mr Alusine Fallay himself was part of. God help Mr Alusine Fallay to make a fair decision on constitutional legality. Bottom line, no life is better than the other.

    • Alright Preacher Man with the praise-song hymns, when are you going to read another book? Don’t you realize your monotone posts are deafening people’s ears on this intellectual platform? Honestly, you can do better than that if you tried. TRY!

    • The comment is for the attention of Mr Alusine Fallay. Of course not for Comrade Sahr Matturi – who is multitoned and very entertaining. Not boring.

  8. One government affirmation appears questionable. A Sierra Leone government spokesperson reported that “there was an exchange of fire” implying that some of the inmates were armed with guns and bullets! How did these arms get in, and, which inmates had used them? WE ARE ENTITLED TO CREDIBLE ANSWERS!

  9. Indeed. See how bullish the Ungentleman deputy minister of the interior as always is. Intimidation or not, the opposition will remain strong and ready for action in 2023. Practicing how to enter the International Court of Justice in Den Haag as final destination, is unavoidable for this ungentleman deputy Minister of the Interior by latest 2023. So, Sierra Leone has become a country of mob justice under the Bio Administration.

    Look at the picture and video. How could the Bio Administration convince anyone that human rights are respected in Sierra Leone and how could anyone take this Administration seriously when it comes to assistance or investments? Everyday, things are getting worse in terms of violating human rights. What has Mrs Conteh done to be taken away? Was she involved in the millions of leones squandered scandal, with the hands of our girls project? Is that how we get information from citizens in Sierra Leone these days? So, anyone affiliated with Rtd Paolo Conteh is now a suspect? I say no to JUNTA PART III. The whole world now sees why our opposition should be voted to office in 2023. Have to.

    However, it was a very good idea for IG Sovula to get to the scene to see for himself what transpired. I believe, that he will not be happy about the police brutality that that has now been made clear. This was daylight barbarity and violence against people. When you compare the actions of IG Sovula with the so called “faux pas” ungentleman deputy Minister of the Interior, you clearly see the difference.

    IG Sovula is trying to send the signal that all is calm and that the Police is in control of the situation, whilst the Ungentleman deputy Minister of the Interior is practicing his way to Den Haag in 2023 and trying to intimidate people. By the way, Mrs Conteh is another example of unlawful incarceration? I know she would be released very soon. God bless Mrs Conteh and help her keep strong. She is just so strong a woman that will fear no intimidation. No matter what they do.

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