Makeni – A time bomb

Bamine Charlie Boye: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 July 2020:

Let me start by expressing my sympathy to the families of those who lost their lives in the unfortunate incident that took place in Makeni yesterday Saturday and Friday. Let me also hasten to make it known that I am against any form of violence and lawlessness. We are supposed to be a nation of law and order.

Having said that, it is no secret that Makeni is sitting on a time bomb; and this is because of the massive distrust that exists between the SLPP led Government and the people of Makeni. This has been heightened over the past few months due to the propagation of fake news which is the order of the day nowadays, and also the unfortunate utterance of the Resident Minister, North, Abu Abu in a video that got him suspended for some time after it was leaked.

In fact, one might be tempted to go back and revisit the threatening statement of the Resident Minister, North, who boasted that he had ordered the police and army to shoot and kill rioters. True to his words, everything he said in that video has now seemingly been executed allegedly by the Sierra Leone Police and Army.

Is this a coincidence? No. Is it planned? Not sure. Either way, this distrust and tension is unfortunately expected to continue, unless addressed.

Makeni over the weekend, Friday and Saturday, was described as a war zone, by reliable eyewitnesses. This is because of protests by its residents against the move of a standby generator from their town to elsewhere, leading to clashes between them and law enforcement officers. It is alleged that both the Sierra Leone Police and Army fired live bullets at mostly unarmed protesters whose only crime was protecting their township standby generator.

It is clear that Makeni has been enjoying a steady flow of electricity supply, and thanks to the Bumbuna Hydroelectric dam. To ensure that electricity is enjoyed at all times in the township, the city has a spare generator which is there to chip in if and when Bumbuna has a problem, more so during the dry season. Due to the rainy season, Bumbuna is fully functional, has been working well, so the standby generator was of no use per se.

Lungi is facing massive issues with electricity due to their generator being broken down and it needs to be fixed. I have been reliably informed that per a deal signed, only foreign (German) engineers can fix it. A bad arrangement if you ask me!

As a result of government efforts to solve the problem immediately, whilst they await the foreign engineers, the Ministry of Energy thought it fit that the standby generator at Makeni should be temporarily transferred to Lungi so that they too can enjoy electricity. Through all this planning, the ministry engaged stakeholders within the township in order to inform them about the government’s plans.

I don’t know what the outcome of the engagement was, but what I know is that the relocation effort has cost lives due to lack of respect for life by the police acting on behalf of the central government!

Unfortunately, we must note that the deep distrust that exists between Makeni residents and the central government alone, is a recipe for violence.

Continuing, the efforts by the government to relocate the generator during the nights of Friday and Saturday faced massive resistance by locals. This is an action that should surprise nobody since we have a largely uninformed population. We also know that not everyone within the township even knows that they have a spare generator sitting down idle while other parts of the country struggle with lack of electricity.

With fake news being the order of the day, such an operation will be automatically misinterpreted as an effort by the government to deprive them off the electricity they are enjoying. What any right-thinking mind will do, when faced with such resistance, would have been to immediately pause the relocation exercise and re-engage again with local authorities, but this time, let them, the local authorities, lead the relocation efforts.

The idea of using force at all means to get things done is bad. We have to understand that dialogue often produces better results and doesn’t necessarily show any sign of weakness. Using toughness as a sign of showing strength and sending a message of “I am in power” is wrong. In this century, soft-power is the order of the day. Toughness was only fashionable in the 80’s and 90’s.

What happened in Makeni is sad, and I think the government had all the opportunities to avoid it. To make matters worse, two press releases were issued by the government in relation to the incident, and none of them showed any sympathy or empathy towards the loss of lives. In fact, it is believed that this has been the norm of the government.

One can recall the May 8th, 2020 speech, now dubbed as infamous, by the President in connection to national security, in which the Commander-In-Chief never expressed any sympathy or empathy for the lives that were lost at the Pademba Road massacre. Does this sound alarming? Yes!

Moving forward, the government needs to be involved in dialogue with communities nationwide. It should allow communities to take the lead and ownership of issues that are important to them.

The ever-growing distrust between the government and the people of Makeni needs to be addressed. Government is for ALL and only when the people believe that is what is happening, is when these unnecessary tensions will cool down.

Soft-power is the new world order! Government needs to adopt it and move away from the use of unnecessary force that has cost the lives of its citizens.

The police and armed forces are there to serve and protect the people, not shoot them down in cold blood at the sign of any protest or disturbance.

Makeni Lives Matter too.

About Author

Bamine Charlie Boye (Photo) is a US based Child and Youth advocate. He’s the Former National President of the Sierra Leone Children’s Forum Network. He is a graduate from American University School of International Service, Washington D.C. He’s an expert in Diplomacy, Conflict Resolution and Crisis Communication & Management.

12 Comments

  1. If I may asked those of you who are claiming that the machine or generator is owned by the government,this current Bio administration and the people of Sierra Leone (Makeni to be specific) WHO IS THE GOVERNMENT? Why didn’t Tejan Kabba or Ernest Koroma take with them all the government properties that was under their purview or control if government owns property? This sickening argument that some of you are peddling on this forum just exposed your low level of intelligence if not ignorance.

    Why won’t we Sierra Leoneans agree that a spade is just a spade! This incident that took the lives of innocent Sierra Leoneans should be condemned by all, irrespective of our political affiliation. The excessive force used by the military, ordered by this administration was just the wrong thing to do. Lets call it as it is. There were so many other alternatives that could have been used. If the pelting of stones on government officials is what you called stepping beyond bound,well does that even warrant them being butchered like that? What would some of us on this forum say, had this incident happened in Bo, Bonthe, Moyamba, Pujehun, Kenema, Kono and Kailahun under the past administration?

    Come on guys! Are we now saying it’s ok for the Bio administration to flaunt the rules of engagement with impunity? Every one is saying tribalism is not good but yet some of you on this forum are fanning the blaze of tribalism everyday by your words, actions and wrongly defending the wrong acts of this government. When for God sake will we all come together and condemn what is wrong and support what is right? If we think this current administration’s actions are ok and they will get away with it, lets rethink again! So, say all you want and do all you can. But remember truth will prevail at the end of it all!

  2. I don’t really understand how someone will fix an eleven(11)years of destruction and mess only in two year’s brother?. Please be specific about the reality, remember when the late President Kabba left office, the country was trying to heal from it’s civil war wounds, but EBK inherited a big surplus from him. I am kindly asking you to have a look at some evidences like” who can come out with a single evidence of hidden property for the late president Kabba within the country?. I was on my way about my business trip last week, when someone showed me something saying” look at Pa kabba’s unfinished house” a town or village named(Gbuloo) by Kambia North East, I could not believe my eyes.

    On the other hand, it is an opposite explanation towards the former president H.E. Ernest B. Koroma. Go to Makeni city, and check in Freetown how many hidden houses have been purchased by EBK with other individual’s names. In 2017, EBK was named the most richest African president, how did that happen? Stop yelling at Bio, he just came into the business two years ago, Give this man a chance to do his job. Yet to date Mr. EBK still is life chairman for the APC party, none of you has the tongue to stand him, but in the morning, you are free to say anything about Bio, failed gov’t and so on.

    This country is not like South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria. I don’t even understand how the intelligent operated in the country or else the former regime would have been exposed long ago. I am right here in Kono we know what we are going through. May the God solve our problem

    • You are rigth Mr Brima Sesay. EBK and his APC government squandered the goodwill of the international community. The civil war was over, governments around the world rolled over backwards to help lift us from the ashes, but our government failed to rise up to the occasion like what Paul Kegema of Rwanda did for his country. Our division is deeply engraved in our society. And over the years it has hampered development. It should not be, and should never have been, because we are not a backward looking nation. Only our political classes are wedded in those dogmas. Now it will take time to overcome this division, that has been with us since independence.

      The only way forward is through education. Even here, sometimes you have to doubt the calibre of our educated African brothers that eat and drink the promotion of tribal politics. But for us to move forward, we need a starting point. At the moment what president Bio is doing, is perpetuating divisions, instead of tackling the bull by the horns and sow the seed of reconciliation, or steer the ship of state towards national development.

      There is Momoh’s house in Binkolo, EBK’s house near my family member living in Freetown, Pa Siaki’s house near my niece house in Freetown, and another house which was pointed out to me is under construction for this president. So our politicians goe into politics just to make money for themselves and their families. Outside politics they are lost in the masses of poor and wretched Sierra Leone, like every one of us that has been exploited by the political class. May God bless Republic of Sierra Leone

  3. Honorable ART, I appreciate your leadership and timely intervention in calling out David Bangura, a notorious PAOPA extremist with a history of Psychopathic behavior. This is the kind of leadership our nation so dearly needed. Extremism at all levels must be curtailed if our nation is to succeed. Much respect to you sir!!

  4. It is all about the recent revival of the significance of Makeni as the pivotal city for the sowing of the seeds of sustainable economic development that will permeate rapidly across all the corners of the country. The recent launch of the 23 million Euro funding contract by the European Union in Makeni, for all intents and purposes, left the Bio-SLPP coterie deflated and flabbergasted. This event reduced Maada Bio to a fuming little child with psychoanalytic disorders. The photoshot of this occasion seemingly depicted the churning of his stomach, and the uncontrollable shaking of his right hand as he supported it against the table in an attempt to elude the cameras, and by extension the public. Even his signatory pounding of the chest that makes him look like a fake and deceitful monk was overridden.

    From then on, it was game on: all the focus of the SLPP stalwarts and supporters was centred on Makeni. Why should the hometown of the former President EBK – who is inadvertently diminishing the political status of Maada Bio into grains of sand – all of a sudden becomes a relevant venue for the decentralization of the country? Thus, it was not a coincidence for the choice of the removal of the standby generator from Makeni to relocate at Lungi. After all, the price of 3 SUVs (at US$60,000 each) is equivalent to a brand new 1MW Carterpillar generator. Why spend millions of dollars on 30 SUVs without making contingency plans for electric power generation that is more salient in the running of the affairs of the country? Is the country stuck with a lousy President who cannot formulate priority judgement?

    The consequent massacre of the marginalized and disgruntled youths of Makeni City was a miscalculated gesture to test, intimidate and belittle the people and the city. It was also a measure designed to compensate the gradual waning of the image and reputation of the ruling party, and in particular Maada Bio. It is a pity that the government that is supposed to safeguard the lives and welfare of the people is adamantly prepared to systematically kill them – all in the pretext of keeping law and order. Nevertheless, in the context of a civilised society, the erratic killing of even one person by the government will generate an outcry for its immediate resignation. May the souls of those innocent youths rest in perfect peace.

  5. Nothing can justify, the wanton killing of innocent young men by members of the Sierra Leone Armed forces.what ever the rights and wrongs of the relocation of this generator, good leadership and communication skills would have prevented this massacre. Now the country is crying out for leadership. Since president Bio likes to hug the lime lights, where is he when we want leadership? We want a president that go on national television, and explain to a weary public what is really going on in this police state we call Sierra Leone. Because people rightly want to know who is next in your crossfire of dictatorial tendencies. Or better stil, was this killing of innocent people part of your manifesto promises you made during the election campaign?

    If that’s the case, make sure your government acts good on your promises. Where is president Maada Bio’s statement to the bereaved families and the nation as a whole? This is an abdication of leadership on his part. You should order a commission of inquiry, otherwise, this seeds of hate will grow and fester. We want peace. Enough of rivers of blood of young men flowing in our country. Mr president you were elected by the people of Sierra Leone to prevent this sort of things happening. To bring the country that went through eleven years of civil together. Now no one is fooled by your lip service statements. We’ve seen enough of destruction of life and property.

    Instead of rising up to the occasion and make a national statement to the nation, traumatised by your actions or the lack of it, you and your cowardly advisers that are bent on revenge politics have retreated to your wolf lair, hoping to ride out the storms of anger. The people of Makeni will never bow to dictators. They will never forgive you and your government for the act of treachery. Last time was lunsar, Tombo, Pademba road. Now Makeni. Where does this stop? We want a leadership that can explain to us about the state of the country. POWER CORRUPTS, POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY. May God bless the people of Makeni. May God bless Sierra Leone.

  6. We need to urgently conduct research on the reasons for the disunity among all Sierra Leoneans on the political front and to swiftly implement all the recommendations so as to save our lovely Sierra Leone from further degeneration and underdevelopment.

    • Mr Peter Douda you raised a very good point, about the blood filled hate that is flowing amongst us Sierra Leoneans .Yes Gambia is a small country but they are peaceful. President Bio should learn a lesson from there. When a leader turns against his own people. You want to know why we hate each other and always retreats to the barricade of our tribal lines where we feel reassured and secure, is because we as a nation are not bright enough to recognise, we have been manipulated by a greedy corrupt politicians of every strip. We have been led to believe that our identity is under threat, by the other tribes. We are back to the era when tribes used to fight with spears.

      The difference in this modern era, we are now using the AK 47 rifle. MAKENI. The poeple who have managed to do that are our unpatriotic, greedy, lacking any sense of forward thinking for our country’s development. Let no one fool you, but we Sierra Leoneans are a tolerant bunch. Just look at religion. Muslims and Christians live and worship side by side.The rest of the world – kill each other for religion. So you ask me why? I tell you my brother there is no MONEY to be made by dividing us on religious grounds.Politics is where the money is. The art creating division amongst our people is where the money making process is possible. Hence, our politicians will continue to be corrupt, tribalistic, dictatorship, North/South divide. These are the tools they have in their arsenal to make profit. The people who suffer as a result is us. May God bless the Republic of Sierra Leone.

  7. All these draconian laws that have been used to prosecute citizens, and the government pursuit to seemingly take as many Sierra Leonean lives as possible – for reasons that do not remotely fit the prosecutions, my mind is seriously starting to lean towards the idea that the government is doing all of this to instill fear in people in order to install dictatorship. This could be somewhat of a reach, however, I truly have a feeling that president Bio is going to attempt to buck the system when the time reach for him to exit. And I don’t mean bucking, in the sense of merely speaking on it, in the way that President Koroma did when it was time for him to leave. I think this one here is for the taken, and it’s going to be constitutionally mandated.

    While I’m typing these same acts are being orchestrated on the people of the Republic of Ayiti – Haiti. The government has ordered his thug law enforcers and mercenaries to terrorize its citizens, and just a few days ago, a 4yr old innocent girl was sniped – may her little beautiful soul rest in peace, by one of those barbaric minions. And This is all being justified because a power hungry man, who seemingly is suffering from an unadulterated psychosis have decided that he wants to be the president for life of the Republic of Ayiti. Watch your president – Sierra Leoneans.

  8. Since partisan politics and tribalistic instincts have eroded some aspect of humanity and empathy among some of the diehard PAOPA supporters and extremist, I will like to point out several instances of riotous conducts and lawlessness within the last 2 years with security personnel intervening, yet no shedding of blood via live bullets towards those citizens. Let’s begin with the most recent protest/riotous conduct that took place at Kailahun town during this convid-19 lockdown. On the eve of one of 3 days nationwide lockdown, social media was awash with videos portraying Kailahun youths confronting security personnels resisting to clear the streets, insisting the lockdown must only be enforced after midnight. Despite the display of lawlessness by irate youths, the security forces used peaceful means to quell down the situation without a single bullet being fired or anyone harmed for that matter.

    During the month of July last year, the citizens of Bo town were caught in skirmishes featuring SLPP intra-party bouts with supporters of Batilo Songa and rival Prince Harding, pelleting stones and other projectiles towards each other in broad day light. Security forces who came to interven were met with the same projectiles, resulting to several injuries. Despite the display of lawlessness and brutality, no single bullet was fired. Before this incident, the Poro society men went on the rampage on several occasions within the Bo, Kenema, Bonthe, and Kailahun axis, terrorizing citizens with a paramount chief rape at Bonthe. The security forces were brought in to quell some of these incidents, no single bullet was fired despite the spate of lawlessness and brutality.

    In the case of power generator relocation resistance, almost 2 years ago, the youths of Koidu town confronted the authorities and security personnel while attempting to relocate a power plant from their township to some other location in the country. Despite the spate of lawlessness and destruction of properties, no single bullet was fired. Now if all the aforementioned incidents were quelled down using non-lethal riots control mechanism, why did the security personel chose to fire live bullets toward youths in Lunsar, Tombo, Makeni and prisoners at Pandema road displaying the same lawlessness? Are the youths in opposition strongholds not citizens, compared to the youths in regime strongholds? If the so called security forces are perfect and doing a fine job, why did some of you cry them down when gun shots were fired at students protesting at Njala university, Bo campus during APC regime?

    • Young4na, it is precisely the intolerance, ethnic hatred and lying instincts of supreme APC Tolongbo agents of your ilk that are responsible for the ugly situation that we sometimes experience in Sierra Leone. When the country experiences a crisis, if you cannot help to calm nerves down, you should shut up. Catalogueing lies on a public forum amounts to inflaming an already poisoned situation. The incidents in Kailahun and Bo that you mention do not compare in any way to the Makeni riots, with APC thugs running amok and attacking law enforcement officials with lethal weapons. As if that was not enough, there was also a vicious attack on the SLPP party office as SLPP personnel fled for their lives. Is this what you can compare to low level protests in Kailahun and Bo that did not even necessitate the presence of law enforcement?

      Come on Young4na why the bold-face lie and blatant dishonesty? Are you also suggesting that the police officers quelling the Makeni riots were from other regions of Salone? The police that fought for their lives in Makeni were all local Makeni policemen, many being born and raised in Makeni and other parts of the North. My advice to you is, stop inciting your youth to lawlessness. Your violent party has complete control over lawlessness and violence in Sierra Leone. You can save many Salone lives in the future by simply eschewing violence, lawlessness, and political and tribal intolerance. Lonta!!!

    • Mr Bangura, you have contravened the mutual respect rule of this forum, in which case we are left with no alternative but to exclude you from this forum to maintain harmony. You speak of the need for law and order, yet fail to abide by your own very dictat. Goodbye. Young4na I expect no retaliation from you. Thanks.

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