Rioting and shooting at Pademba road prison in Freetown – one prison officer dead  

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 April 2020:

In the last  few hours, there have been serious rioting and shooting at the male correctional Pademba Road prison in Freetown which houses some of the most dangerous prisoners , as well as a group of high profile political detainees in the country.

Some of the political detainees include the previous government’s former defence and internal affairs minister – retired major Palo Conteh as well as the opposition APC party’s former mayor of Freetown – Herbert George Williams.

Palo Conteh is being held in custody after he was charged with treason for allegedly taking a gun into State House, where he was to hold a meeting with the president.

According to reports, the shooting at the prison by police and the military, started at about 9am when prisoners set several buildings alight.

Heavily armed police and the army opened fire – including live bullets within and around the vicinity of the prison complex, as some prisoners were alleged to have been trying to escape.

The number of casualties is not yet clear, but there are reports of one prison officer killed.  According to the information minister speaking to journalists in the last few minutes, “there are several casualties”, but he was unable to confirm the number of  those killed or seriously injured in the rioting.

Today’s rioting and shooting come as one of the inmates at the Pademba Road prison was yesterday confirmed to be carrying the COVID-19 virus after test was conducted. This prompted the country’s chief justice to order the temporary suspension of all court proceedings across the country to protect magistrates, judges, and court officials.

According to the Public Notice published by Chief Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards on 27th April 2020,  the infected inmate attended the East End Police Station in Freetown and later appeared at the Magistrate court on the 17th of April 2020, before he was removed to  Pademba Road.

Three days later, the COVID-19 infected prisoner reported sick on the 20th April 2020 and was  admitted at the Pademba Road Prison Hospital.

The chief justice’s statement said: “During his admission he confessed that he escaped from a quarantine centre at Cow Yard, Guard Street, Freetown and he was referred to 34 Hospital and later to Connaught hospital on Friday, 24th April 2020. On Sunday, 26th April he was confirmed positive and is now Case 90.”

As a result of this COVID-19 incident, the Chief Justice said he has ordered the following measures in consultation with the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General of the Sierra Leone Correctional Centre:

  • All inmates at the Freetown male re-integration centre hereinafter called “the isolation and observation unit” at Special Court be transferred to the Male Correctional Centre at Pademba Road.
  • All inmates at the remand section at Pademba Road and the Correctional Hospital are now with immediate effect relocated to “the isolation and observation unit” at Special Court as a quarantine measure; inmates from the Correctional Hospital will be transferred / treated separately from the other inmates;
  • The Church Building at Pademba Road will be temporarily used as a Medical Referral Centre for inmates at the male correctional centre.

Regarding the suspension of all court sittings, the chief justice announced that:

The Civil High Court which was scheduled to commence work from the 11th May 2020 has been postponed to Monday 10th June 2020; the January criminal session comes to an end with immediate effect; the special criminal sessions which were scheduled to start on the 8th May 2020 are now postponed to Thursday 28th of May 2020; and the May criminal sessions commencing 18th May 2020 is also postponed to Monday 10 of June 2020.

It is not clear what prompted today’s rioting at the Pademba Road prison, and the government says it has started an investigation. But there is no doubt this could be connected to the reported coronavirus at the prison, as well as the suspension of all court trials.

Thousands of prisoners are being locked up in remand, pending court sitting which in Sierra Leone could take several years before they appear in court.

These are some of the videos from this morning’s rioting:


  1. Sierra Leone became a failed state and stayed a failed state under the corrupt leadership of the APC; from Siaka Stevens to Bai Koroma.

  2. Oh my God, there are now again a lot of conspiracy theories. Where is the truth? Is there no independent professional journalism with correct investigations?

  3. It’s better to read the article properly and make comments accordingly. We are not talking here about what APC did in the past or comparing our situation with what happens in the US. We are concerned about what is happening at Pademba Road Prisons and the problems facing prisoners there. First of all, this prison was built for maybe 300 to 400 inmates, I’m not sure. Now, more than a thousand inmates might be incarcerated their. The fact that the courts are too slow in pursuing cases, have lead to the overcrowding of this prison. Prisoners have every right to ask for improvement in their prison centers. If you start sending infected persons in their must, then, you are responsible for spreading the virus which will be disastrous and catastrophic in an environment like prison.

    No one knows exactly for now what happened, although, there are lots of views over this matter. How for heaven’s sake, will such violence take place in an area with high profile political detainees and maximum security? Where was all that security Armada in and around the prisons at the time of the unrest? Where they sleeping? Is it another dodgy Political dirty trick to get rid of their opponents? We shall see. Something is not just right. To be continued.

  4. What is happening in the country is very bad. Just because of one positive covid case, serious calamity was brought on the lives of innocent people. And besides I’m still not getting it right why the prospontment seems so long with the high court because of one positive covid-19? Something isn’t right with this court issue. May God place punishment upon anyone that has negative plans towards our mother’s land. They’re causing us too much tears and frustration not to enjoy the peace of our God given right in our land.

  5. Shame on you to call the country a failed state. Where were you all that time when the country was failing as you mentioned in your statements? All what APC and their supporters are planning to destroy this country has already backfired on them.
    First of all, the main plan was to recruit armed thugs driving ambulances pretending to be a mission from the health ministry directly to the Pademba road prison. Using the covid19 as an excuse to enter the prison freely to hijack and escape with Alfred Paola Conteh and the others.

    We knew that the boat was ready if there was any success, to cross them to the neighboring Guinea, just like 1992, what happened for Dr. Abdulai O. Conteh, Sim Turay and the others. APC is ready to split this nation into fractions, but we promised that it won’t be. All their prayers now is to let Paolo Conteh die, that is why the infected cell phone was discovered. We know all the big fishes but time will tell soon. May God bless Sierra Leone. Paolo conteh has now been moved to an unknown location. Thank you

    • But Mr Sesay – my mother’s maiden name – our beloved country is nothing short from a failed state. As a matter of fact Sierra Leone epitomizes what a failed state ought to be. this is true Mr. Sesay. If there was a failed state list with boxes that symbolize all its criteria, for SaLone every last one of the boxes on the list would be checked off lol. I’m just calling it as it is, so help me God.

      Somehow you party faithfuls have cornered anyone who criticizes a party to be a supporter of the other.

  6. APC and their cohorts have failed to learn the relevant lessons of history. If they want history to repeat it self, it will happen. Whatever consequences the attackers received under the new direction, they have to blame themselves. No retreats – no surrender.

  7. Failed state, but its misleaders want to be venerated for it. They ride through the city bombastically with sirens amplifying out their vehicles as proud men for running a failed state. No shame whatsoever.

  8. This is lawlessness to the highest degree. Even in the USA where hundreds of Inmates have tested positive for the Coronavirus nothing of this situation has occurred. I hope the APC party is not behind this lawlessness in an attempt to create a situation where former defense minister Paolo Conteh, former mayor Herbert Williams and other criminals will escape. I hope the government will speed up the investigation and punish the criminals that are responsible for this lawlessness.

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