Lawrence Williams: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 August 2020:
Over continued acts of hostility by the government security forces in Makeni, Rights Activists are demanding an end to brute force. “We are concerned about the continued indiscriminate and arbitrary arrests and inhumane treatment meted out on residents of Makeni by security personnel.”
Those are the exact words of the Bombali District Human Rights Committee, expressing grave frustration, fears, and anxieties over the conscious display of heavy weapons and acts of intimidation by the government security forces in Makeni.
The security forces are accused of exercising brute force in policing a city of peaceful inhabitants.
In its press release of 4th August 2020, the Committee frowned at the beating of a 13-year-old by security forces for simply enquiring about the arrest of his uncle, the arbitrary arrest of a youth for wearing a t-shirt with the inscription “Makeni Life Matters” and the capturing of another who was whisked off half-naked, wearing only underpants to cover his private parts.
The beating of the 13-year-old boy reminds us of the sad demise of a 14-year-old boy who was shot and killed by security forces during violent clashes that erupted in the Tonko Limba bye-election in September 2018.
“If innocent children can be beaten and, or killed and nobody is held accountable, adults can be treated far worse than that!” A rights activist exclaimed.
The Bombali District Human Rights Committee observed that these actions are very provocative, to say the least, and amounted to acts of terrorism against a civil populace already bereaved by the killings of their loved ones by the government security forces.
The Committee also observed that the bereaved families are now victims of psychological trauma, and a state of despair and despondency now permeates the northern city.
“Nearly seventeen days after the unfortunate incident, an uneasy calm, a state of fear and an atmosphere of uncertainty has persisted in the city of Makeni,” the press release stated.
The Committee concluded by making high demands for the release of all those in police custody, including the 51 suspects arrested in connection with the July 18 protest in Makeni that left five people dead and dozens injured. It also called for the cessation of the display of heavy weapons by the government security forces.
“The parading and displaying of heavy weapons by convoys of security forces in the streets of Makeni must stop,” they emphasized.
In solidarity with their Makeni brothers and sisters, the All People’s Congress Members of Parliament who hailed from the northern region yesterday staged a silent protest in the house of Parliament.
Cladded in black attire, the opposition MPs say their action is to draw the government’s attention to their plea for justice.
In an interview with the Hon. Catherine Zainab Tarawally of constituency 037 in Bombali district, she told our freelance journalist Osman Karim Konteh that they as opposition wore black to show solidarity with the families of those who lost their lives and to also urge the government to release those languishing in police cells.
She said: “Sierra Leone is not a banana republic. And the lives of Makeni people matter!”.
In his keynote address at the Consultative Dialogue Conference (Bintumani III) on 23 May 2019, President Julius Maada Bio noted that impunity is rife in the country. He also noted that “the inability of the poor and the vulnerable to access justice are sources of tension in the country”.
He said: “Let us hold ourselves accountable for how we treat our people and communities. Let us hold ourselves accountable for delivering justice fairly and speedily to those who deserve justice.”
Opposition Leader of Parliament, Honourable Chernor Bah and NGC Leader – Honourable Kandeh Yumkella yesterday joined MPs representing constituencies in Bombali in calling for justice for the six people who were shot and killed in Makeni by also wearing the ‘Makeni Lives Matter’ t-shirts in the House of Parliament.