Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 October 2016
Two weeks ago there were frenzied reports of an alarming rise in the number of ritualistic murders in Sierra Leone, especially of children as young as five and six.
Even more disturbing are the gruesome photos published on social media and circulated globally, purporting to be genuine evidence of ritualistic murders taking place in Sierra Leone.
These reports though uncorroborated by the authorities in Sierra Leone, are causing alarm and distress among many parents, who are quite rightly worried about the safety of their children.
But after conducting its own investigations through the ministry of children’s affairs, local journalists and the police, there is very little evidence to safely conclude that there is an increase in child murders or ritualistic murders in the country.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph has not received any eye witness account of such murders, nor seen any report from parents or relatives about their murdered child.
This then raises the question: Who is behind the publishing and circulation of such awful photos and why?
If this is being done by depraved, ill-motivated individuals to cause panic and fear in an already traumatised nation, then it must be condemned in the strongest possible terms and those responsible must be held to account.
Sierra Leone has recently come out of a brutal civil war, witnessing a level of barbarity not seen anywhere else in the world, including the amputation of children, women, disemboweling of pregnant women, and removal of body parts. But that was over twenty years ago.
Sierra Leone’s democratic foundation may be in serious need of repair; poverty, unemployment obscenely high; and law and order remotely resembling what is expected of a civilised society.
But stories of a resumption of large scale – almost abattoir -like slaughtering of fellow humans for whatever reason, must be treated with suspicion, until there is evidence of parents and relatives reporting the murder or disappearance of their loved ones to the ministry of children’s affairs, the police and local media.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph last week contacted Sierra Leone’s Inspector General of Police – Francis Munu (Photo) to comment on those photos that are being circulated on social media, and the alleged stories of ritual murders in the country.
This is what he told the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph – Mr. Abdul Rashid Thomas:
“I know of one case recently, when a young girl was killed and her body mutilated. And certain ill motivated people took the opportunity to use pictures from other countries to send across social media to cause scare-mongering in Sierra Leone.
“The last time we had a ritual murder in this country, was the murder of DJ Cleff. We investigated until we got the threshold of evidence and we sustained a conviction. Even with this current reported case, we will continue to investigate until we get to the bottom of the matter.”
Police chief – Munu, has also issued this public statement in a press release:
“It has come to the attention of Police Headquarters that certain unscrupulous persons are in the habit of posting photos of mutilated human bodies on social media, purporting that they relate to incidents occurring in Sierra Leone.
“The public is hereby informed that the only recorded incident of mutilation was the body of a ten (10) year old girl found in a bag at the Kaningo environs, which is actively under investigation and for which three persons are helping Police investigations.
“There is no other incident of mutilation or suspected ritual murder as reported by social media. Such reports are calculated to mount a smear campaign through rumour mongering to cause fear in the minds of the public.
“The Sierra Leone Police wishes to assure members of the public that there is no reason for any alarm as shown by those photos and comments in circulation on social media.
“On the other hand, those perpetrators of the smear campaign against the Government and the Security of the State should desist forthwith from such practice or face the full penalty of the Law. You have been warned.”
The Sierra Leone Telegraph is calling on any one receiving these images to treat them with suspicion, as to date there is no report of parents or relatives calling for an investigation into the suspicious or ritualistic death of a child, other than the recent killing of one child in Lumley, Freetown, which the police say they are currently investigating.
However, it must be said that the police are yet to confirm the case of an attempted abduction of an eleven year old girl, reported by local journalist – Aruna Turay last Saturday night, `in the far west of the capital Freetown, by two unknown men on motorbike.
The promotion of panic and fear in Sierra Leone by circulating photo-shopped images and false audio stories is wrong and must be strongly condemned.