Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 January 2019:
The government of Sierra Leone yesterday published a letter imposing an immediate ban on all initiation ceremonies conducted by traditional secret societies across the country, after the gruesome murder of two young men believed to be in their twenties.
The alleged killing took place in Sahn Malen, Pujehun District in the Southern Province. There are conflicting reports about the cause of death, which according to some reports is believed to be connected to the ongoing violent protests over land dispute between community activists and the palm oil producing company – Socfin.
The letter addressed to all secret societies by the Local Government Minister – Anthony Brewah, says that the ban is “as a result of unsatisfactory reports of misuse of Secret Societies in parts of the country”.
A constituency Member of Parliament for Sahn Malen – Shaka Sama, has been arrested by police following investigations into the two killings. The MP is understood to be campaigning against Socfin, after accusing the company of land grab.
Shaka is being investigated by police for his possible involvement in the use of the traditional Poro Society in the death of the two men.
In a statement published yesterday, Shaka Sama denied involvement and accused the government of false allegation. This is what he said:
“The IG (Inspector General of Police) told me this afternoon that a security meeting was held where the President lifted my parliamentary immunity and asked for an in-depth investigation into my activities. I am told my charges may include incitement, murder of the two persons who were killed in Malen, obstruction of the operation of Socfin, causing an illegal Poro Society to operate and forcefully grabbing a piece of land in Sahn.
“A letter written by Chief Kebbie, addressed to the President and other authorities, was read to me by the IG in which these allegations were stated. I am being detained at the CID Headquarters in Freetown, Pademba Road.
“All indications that I will be detained and charged with Murder and Incitement so that I am removed from Parliament and sent to jail for standing up against the land grab and other human rights abuses in Malen. A lot of false reports have been manufactured against me.
“The police say the civilians shot at themselves while retreating leading to the two deaths, maintaining that the police didn’t kill them. The ONS, the Police, the DO, Sadiq Sillah, the Resident Minister, Chief Kebbie, Socfin and others have all written bad reports about me. I believe in God and strongly believe that Justice will ultimately prevail. I will remain strong despite the serious allegations against me.
“I have always advocated for mediation and dialogue and have never incited my people to use violent means to resolve conflicts. I am innocent. In God alone must all believers put their trust. Written in haste. I remain your humble servant, Hon.Shiaka Musa Sama, Independent Member of Parliament, Constituency 104, Pujehun District.”
Yesterday the BBC journalist – Umaru Fofanah reported another incident involving traditional secret society in another part of the country. This is what he said: “It’s just emerged that at 02:00 am today, Tuesday, some members of the Poro Society kidnapped eight workers of Sierra Rutile Company and their driver, and forcibly initiated them into their ranks. They were on their way to work at the mine when their bus was stopped and taken away in Moriba Town which is inside both Bonthe and Moyamba Districts in southern Sierra Leone.
“A couple of weeks ago some Muslim leaders expressed concern over the rampant initiation of people into the Poro Society in Kenema District against their will. The government has slammed an immediate nationwide ban on all initiation into secret societies.”
Police investigations into the killing of the two young men in Sahn Malen continue. But there are doubt as to whether the facts will ever be known, as investigations into similar killings across the country are believed to have been shelved.
President Bio must act swiftly to ensure that these investigations are concluded, reports published; and that those responsible are held to account in a court of justice.