Bai Bai Sesay
The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 July 2014
Threatening phone calls and text messages were sent, following the violent assault in Freetown, of Sierra Leone’s leading music producer – Joseph Richard Abdulai – aka Sound boy Riche, for producing Emerson’s ‘Kokobeh’ as well as ‘This Corruption’ by Amadu B Bah – aka LAJ.
Sound-Boy Richie is blind. He is an outstanding music producer and has produced songs for major artists in Sierra Leone, including Steady Bongo, Jimmy B, Emerson Bockarie, Kao Denero, LAJ, Star Zero and others.
He has also produced songs for international artists across the world.
He was attacked and assaulted by a group of 7 people on July 10th, 2014, along Campbell Street in the presence of 441 group member Edward Wright.
He sustained injuries during the attack, according to a Police report at Central Police station, and is in hiding in an unknown location, fearing for his life.
In another incident, he was attacked by 3 people while walking along the Lumley beach in Freetown. Where is Sierra Leone heading?
According to Sound boy Richie; “One of the attackers said: We want the head of LAJ. Others said that they had missed killing LAJ, but would not miss RFM members.”
“I was attacked and asked to deliver a message to LAJ, Emerson and other artists, not to attempt to launch the album, otherwise they will be killed. The attackers have plans to use stones to disrupt the event. They even boasted about the stones thrown at LAJ during his recent performance in Sierra Leone, ’’ said Sound boy Richie (Photo).
Currently recovering from injuries to his knees, he said: “Unfortunately the attack is not an uncommon incident for musicians. Artists are targeted frequently due to our difficult work of exposing corruption and tribalism in the country.
“We continue to face such risks as a result of holding our government accountable. I am a music producer and this is what I do for a living. I am not putting words into the mouth of Emerson, Kao Denero or LAJ or any artist, or tell them what to sing. I am just a regular music producer who is trying to make a living through my talents despite being disabled.’’
“We are taking these attacks seriously,” said a spokesperson at the human rights group – Rights Way International. “Four callers made specific threats. They were angry about songs produced by Sound boy Richie: ’Kokobeh’ by Emerson Bockarie and ‘This Corruption’ by LAJ.
“We are concerned that something may happen to these artists, as the government is unable or unwilling to prosecute the attackers who are allegedly linked to pro-government supporters or rivalry groups.”
More recently, there have been negative media attacks against musicians in the country. These media reports are baseless and unfounded.
As reports of political intimidation continue to rise in Sierra Leone, Sound boy Riche has received death threats for producing the United Sierra Leone music album.
The album features leading musicians that are campaigning against mineral exploitation, corruption and tribalism.
Reports of intimidation are said to have increased since the release of ‘Kokobeh’ and ‘This Corruption’. These songs expose mineral exploitation amid rampant corruption and tribalism in the country.
The report says that over 80% of people questioned in Sierra Leone as part of their research on corruption in the country, admitted to have offered bribe to officials in order to get things done.
Tensions are rising in Sierra Leone as UK-based African Minerals Ltd were awarded 99 years mining contract. This mining contract has been strongly opposed by environmental and civil society organisations as well as journalists and musicians.
RightsWay International has said that mineral exploitation has put at risk the livelihoods of thousands of families that depend on community land for jobs, food and housing.
Some politicians and African Minerals are substantially benefiting from the resulting wealth of the natural resources to the exclusion of the local people, who own the land.This is seen as an injustice to the poor people of Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leone Government and African Minerals allegedly involved in forced relocation of Tonkolili residents and abuses of workers’ rights, according to New York based Human Rights Watch report.
“The security situation for musicians is already bad. Minerals would be a curse. It always increases conflict. It would attract another civil conflict in Sierra Leone’’, said RightsWay International.
Tribalism is also affecting young people. Students have been involved in tribal politics and using colours (Black and White) to intimidate political opponents.
There has also been long standing rivalry between the two musician groups. It could be recalled that the rival groups, namely the Black Leo Movement of Mount Aureol and Red Flag Movement (RFM) of Fourah Bay, had a serious conflict that led to the death of two member of the groups, Mohamed Lamin Sesay aka `Smoky` and Ibrahim Sankoh aka `Luda`.
It is expected that the ‘United Sierra Leone album’ will send a strong message to politicians who are in the habit of using the poor, unemployed youths to carry out their dirty and divisive politics of intimidation and violence.
Sierra Leone has seen among other negatives, a marked increase in the incidence of tribalism in the country. Through the selfishness of our politicians, tribalism has merged into national politics and has been institutionalized at the detriment of development.
The practice of tribalism by Sierra Leoneans is a major contributing factor for the lack of development.