Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 April 2021:
Sierra Leone’s police force has established a bad reputation for itself in its fight against peaceful civil protests. It is now resorting to beating and removing the tops of female protesters during arrests, before being thrown into open police trucks like sacks of flour, driven across the city in humiliation and shame to be interrogated at the station.
Yesterday, hundreds of students at the Institute of Public Administration (IPAM) took part in peaceful protest against the institution’s management, after failing to release the names of hundreds of graduating students without reasonable explanation.
Over 500 students were supposed to have graduated this year from IPAM. However, the university has only published a list of 100. The angry students are demanding answers.
Police stormed the campus, firing teargas and smoke bombs at students seeking refuge inside the building.
A female student – Fatmata Binta Barrie, was arrested, beaten and stripped before she was bungled into the back of an open truck for public display as they drove her to the CID for interrogation.
Human rights groups are questioning the abusive behaviour of the police that are now targeting female protesters with such degrading act, aimed at humiliating, and intimidating other women from taking part in peaceful protests.
But it seems it is not only the police that are assaulting female peaceful protesters. Earlier today, a senior female doctor at the Freetown Connaught Hospital – Dr. Catherine Jackson – Cole was assaulted by senior ministry of health officials in the presence of the police and the deputy minister of health.
The protest by the doctors and nurses was over the huge and unsightly mountain of rubbish that can be seen inside the hospital, after cleaners refused to collect the rubbish because of the government’s failure to pay their wages for several months.
According to Dr Catherine Jackson – Cole (video above), she was assaulted after being accused by government officials of sharing a photo on social media showing uncollected rubbish at the Connaught hospital. She was accused by the officials of damaging the SLPP government’s image abroad.
But critics say that the Bio government is now embarking on the destruction of the country’s image – all by itself, without the assistance of peaceful protesters, whose only crimne is to call on the government to pay the salaries of cleaners at the hospital.
It is also reported that the Permanent Secretary and Chief Medical Officer assaulted a nurse at the Connaught Hospital during the protest.
Dr Catherine Jackson – Cole later went to the Central police station to make her complaint against the government officials who assaulted her. The entire medical staff, doctors, nurses, lab technicians and cleaners accompanied her to the police department.
Meanwhile, a statement was released today by Mr Abu Bakarr Benson – a Youth and Girls Advocate calling for justice for Fatmata Binta Barrie – the female student of IPAM who was beaten, stripped and arrested by police yesterday. This is what he said:
“For far too long we’ve been preaching about the unprofessional conduct of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) especially when it comes to riot/conflict managements. But I think it is getting to a point wherein some of us cannot be silence any longer. Yesterday after watching this video (I shared below) of a female student of IPAM by the name of Fatmata Binta Barrie who was molested, beaten, and almost stripped naked by the Sierra Leone Police, I asked myself this question, what the hell of the hypocrisy that we are committed to safeguarding the right, honour, and wellbeing of our women and girls?
“What amount of disorder will sum up to such an abuse by the SLP of a woman, a student, whom with no reservations was protesting for what is due for her? Let’s assume her protest (and resistance) was illegitimate but did that sum up to such an abuse by over 10 police officer, beaten and disrespected the honour of that lady? This is totally unacceptable!
“Today she will be charged to court together with four others. I want to use this medium to call on all women’s groups, civil society organizations, the judiciary, activists and advocates for women and girls to fight for justice for this young lady. No longer should anybody take our women for granted. We refuse to give a blind eye to all forms of abuse against our women and girls. Enough is enough”.
Photo below – showing one of the Twitter posts by Dr catherine Jackson-Cole that angered the Bio government: