The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 April 2013
But it seems despite decades of peace-building, efforts to assert the rule of law and curb violent behaviour, there are still far too many youths in the country who cannot turn their backs on the urge to inflict pain and suffering on their fellow citizens.
The violence that erupted in the down-town city streets of Freetown, of course is an isolated incident. But, that thousands of marginalised unemployed youths could take to the street with such venom and disastrous consequences, is a cause for serious concern.
One of Sierra Leone’s most successful pop idols – Amara Denis Turay, dubbed Kao Denero, has been accused of allowing his fans to run riot in the streets of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown.
“It’s my goal to pursue these gangs – bring them to justice, in order to prevent a recurrence of conflict”, says Denero at a press conference in Freetown.
Many people were injured and properties valued at millions of Leones were destroyed as rampaging youths ran amok.
But two days ago, Kao Denero released a statement absolving himself from the violence and apologised for the behaviour of his fans. This is what he says:
Foremost, let me reiterate my very sincere apology to the people of Sierra Leone, and to all those affected during the musical rally.
I want to sincerely register my deep regret and apologies to both the government and people of Sierra Leone who may have been affected by this incident or otherwise who may have been offended by any statement or comment, following the incident.
I would like to clear the air and make it known – in no uncertain terms – that I do not tolerate violence or thugs. It is most regrettable that this has happened and innocent people have suffered. We acknowledge and apologise for the distress caused by this incident.
Let me state that our music rally on Friday, 5th of April 2013 was approved and spearheaded by the Sierra Leone Police Service. We had a permit with routes that we followed as the rally convoy was headed by the Police themselves.
The police recommended 150 officers which we accepted and paid for to the effect.
I came from a very humble background. My father was an airport staff and my mother was a local clerk. The war took a lot. I was a refugee in neighbouring Guinea for several years.
I know how difficulty life can be for people who are struggling and working hard to meet their basic needs. I would not be a party of any group or activity that will affect the lives of innocent citizens.
This ugly situation may have been caused by a small minority of misguided and foolish gangs who infiltrated and hijacked the purpose of our peaceful event.
Today, I am in this room with some of those who may have been affected. I feel huge sympathy for the people who have suffered, innocent people who may have been attacked, their products looted and their livelihoods potentially ruined.
And I have this very clear message to those people who may be responsible for this wrongdoing and criminality: This is criminality, this is burglary, this is violence, and we will pursue each and every one that has been involved in this and we will be making sure they are brought to justice.
Individual acts of looting and robbery, resistance to authority and, ultimately, violence against persons add up to a system of disregard, which had marginalised too many young people.
It is important that we attune our consciences to law and order. If we propagate a system of disregard we are acting outside the guarantees of the law and order.
Despite all the pain that has happened, we have to believe and work to find ways of accepting each other, acknowledging wrong-doing and putting the common good above personal interests.
I am taking the lead in enabling people to find meaning and purpose in their lives and avoid violent activities. To the affected people, I vouch to fight for their rights and I will work with them to chase the gangs and bring them to justice. I have declared an all-out war on gangs and gang culture.
It’s my goal to pursue these gangs – bring them to justice, in order to prevent a recurrence of conflict.
I will also work to transform the mindset of those young people who are unemployed and engaged in criminal activity.
The surest way of eliminating gangs is to try to ensure that children and young people never want or feel the need to join them.
To do this we need to tackle deeper issues in our society and seek to nurture and support ever-strong families and stronger communities.
I have already established an organisation called ‘’Mama Nor Dae Na Hose Pikin Foundation’’ to address the plight of young people including providing educational support to children. Furthermore, I will set up a project in an effort to raise public awareness to help prevent conflict and end the gang culture.
I will use my talent and the arts towards community cohesion, justice and protection of vulnerable people in Sierra Leone, in my capacity as a Peace Ambassador working alongside the United Sierra Leone initiative.
Difference can bring conflict, confusion, and uncertainty, which can make us feel out of control, creating fear and the need for security and sameness. Difference can make us more aware of questions like what do I believe in, where do I belong, who are my people, who am I?
Difference may be the cause and the cure of many of the issues we will face in this country.
One way to embrace these differences is through conversation and positive action, through connecting with each other, through really understanding where the other is coming from, stepping into their shoes, and assuming that each person has something to offer.
New ways forward, unpredictable in advance, can emerge from this type of deeper conversation. This approach forms the basis of my new leadership approaches such as facilitative, collaborative, participatory, etc.
Building peace and reconciliation is one of the main agenda for action that I will be committed to. We need to create trust, unity and integrity. These efforts must go hand in hand with our development objectives to eradicate violence. Here, the role of music is vital.
History shows that mountains can be moved when small groups of people mobilise, work together and take positive action. We need changes in attitude to enable people to move beyond politics, race, class and creed.
We have many Sierra Leoneans who are making a difference, both in the Sierra Leone and abroad. Each of us can make a difference. Individuals can initiate projects with their colleagues to make a common vision a reality, and help build a better Sierra Leone.
Let me make this passionate appeal to the government and people of Sierra Leone to allow the proposed album launching event to take place, so peaceful people could participate and enjoy themselves.
Music is my life and the only job that I do for my living.
I call on the government to help us, protect us, and help prevent the gangs from destroying our lives and our music. My team is committed to delivering a successful event and ensure it violence-free.
These are my five commitments to God, my people and my country:
- I will work with the Police to respect law and order. I will continue in my efforts to preach the message of peace and non-violence.
- I will work with all people who may have been affected and ensure they secure justice for what happened to them.
- I will employ an independent security firm and I will work closely with the Police and other security agencies to ensure the event is violence-free.
- I will not allow any gang member to be admitted into the event and reckless dressing or behaviour will not be allowed.
- I will work for peace and a United Sierra Leone and build bridges with all peoples including my brothers and sisters in the music industry, and all works of life.
- I want to call on all my loyal and genuine supporters and fans to renounce violent activities and not to write or say any offensive comments on private and public platforms including the media, internet – facebook, twitter, etc.
I condemn and rebuke any such person or group who engages in violent activities – you will not be supporting me and you will personally be liable and held accountable for your action and you will be prosecuted.
I do not associate myself with hooligans and misguided people. let peace, security and justice prevail!
I do hope we can put this most regrettable incident behind us and move forward as allies and partners.
Thanks to the UNITED SIERRA LEONE Initiative, for this opportunity to engage with some of the people directly affected and to work together for justice, security and peace for all.