Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 June 2012:
You are the Inspector General of a country’s police force. Your officers are being held responsible for the deaths of five civilians as the result of negligent and reckless shooting, caused by unprofessional and poor policing tactics.
You gave a press interview and not once did you express condolences and sympathy to the families of the bereaved. In most civilised and properly run countries, your job will instantly become untenable. But not in Sierra Leone.
Of course, most Sierra Leoneans would admit that standards in public life and respect for human life and dignity are appallingly low. But that, is no excuse for abnormal conduct by those in authority.
Those in authority and acting as custodians of the rule of Law and expected to be beyond reproach, far too often appear to lack the gravitas and common sense to do what is common. The head of the police force – Francis Munu is no exception.
Speaking just barely a week after the interment of the remains of the two innocent and unarmed youths killed in Freetown by the police, the police chief was expected to simply say:
“May I take this opportunity first of all, to express my condolences and sympathies to the families of the dead. On behalf of the police force, I express regret for any life lost, as a result of the actions of my force. We will fully co-operate with the coroner’s inquests that the president has launched.”
Why was that so difficult for Inspector General Munu to say?
Instead, in a rather dismissive manner, Munu described the killing of the youths, simply as “unfortunate incidents.” This is what he told government reporter – John Baimba Sesay, reporting from China:
Sierra Leone’s Inspector General of Police – Francis Alieu Munu said that the police force will be held liable and responsible, if there is any security breach in the country and as such, they would do all they can to ensure the safety and security of the people.
He spoke today, Saturday, 16th June during a telephone interview with this writer (John Baimba Sesay), on what they, as the nation’s security apparatus, have been doing in terms of manning the security of the state and in combating armed robbery in the country.
Some two weeks back, the police were involved in a fracas with the local community in Wellington, east of the capital – Freetown, following suspicious armed robbery related activities.
This led to the death of two community youths, subsequently leading to President Ernest Bai Koroma, setting up a coroner’s inquest to look at the circumstances leading to the death of the youths.
Latest reports also indicate that “on Friday 15th June 2012 at about 3:am, an OSD officer shot at and killed a motorcycle rider at mambo in the Goderich area of Freetown. The deceased rider had allegedly bulldozed a police checkpoint set up to check the movement of armed robbers.
A news release from Police Headquarters, assured the general public that “the said OSD officer has been arrested and is being investigated at the CID headquarters in Freetown. He will be charged for murder on Monday 18th June 2012.
Meanwhile, “police headquarters, also used the said news release to called on “the public particularly the motorcycle riders to stay calm and go about their usual activities” as all efforts are being taken to ensure that members of the public go about their legitimate business without let or hindrance.
Speaking with this reporter over the phone today, Inspector General Munu said that, because it is their responsibility to provide security for the citizens of the country, they will not undermine the security and peace of the country and that “the recent incidents in the country are isolated ones that have bearing on the pending elections …they came at a time we are trying to curtail the increase in armed robbery in the country…”
As a force, Inspector General Munu said, they have reversed their strategy to control armed robbery in the country and referred to the recent killings of youths as being “unfortunate incidents.”
He assured that they will do their best to meet the security needs of the country. This writer also asked the Police chief what assurances are there, that they will provide a level playing field during the coming elections.
The police boss said; “The police cannot do anything to hinder or promote any candidate in the coming elections. The system is so transparent now that every voter is entitled to one vote. We now have the biometric system of registration. And what we will do is to maintain our presence all over the place and we will support the National Electoral Commission and ensure peaceful elections.”
Speaking further, I-G Munu said they cannot do anything “that will undermine the credibility of the elections, as we will be equally held liable for any security breach.”
He made reference to the existence of electoral laws in the country and “a special court for electoral offences”, but cautioned, that “we are having zero tolerance to politically motivated crimes.”
That was in reference to recent political crimes, including, but not limited to the political violence in Bo last year, and the incident in which a sitting Member of Parliament was arrested for promoting underage voting during the voter registration process in Sierra Leone.
According to Francis Munu, “the police force is not against the opposition parties; breach of the law is what we look out for in our work and not political colors.”
The introduction of community policing policy in Sierra Leone years back was done with the desire to get the involvement of citizens in manning the security of the country.
For many years, this system of policing was believed to have provided the results needed. When asked therefore what his general expectation from the citizens are, the Police Chief said, the police force has often been criticized by people, but still called for their continuous support.
“We have been criticized for use of weapons, but we know there has been an increase in armed robbery and we need to curtail that…The public has most often not been fair with their needs…”
Francis Munu promised to make amends where necessary, but to “also try to deliver on our agenda.” The force, he said, has been engaged in recent mopping-up activities to crack down on armed robbers, but called on the general public “to support us so as to be able to make progress in our work.”
He also informed that they have been able to get more capacity and that there has been a series of advocacies “in terms of communications.”