Those responsible for Makeni killings must be held accountable – says ARTICLE 19

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 July 2020:

As the international community and Global human rights groups come to terms with the shooting of unarmed youths in Makeni, Sierra Leone on Saturday 18th July 2020, calls for those responsible for the killing of at least five young protesters to be brought to justice, are growing.

This is a report by the Global human rights group – ARTICLE 19, on the Makeni massacre:  

Responding to the bloody repression of a protest in Makeni, which resulted in the killing of five protesters and injuring of a dozen on 18 July, Fatou Senghore, Regional Director of Article 19, West Africa said:

“What happened in Makeni this weekend is troubling. People were out in the street to exercise their right to protest. But the security forces responded with deadly force. We strongly condemn these unnecessary killings and attack against the freedom of expression and right to protest. We call on the Government to immediately investigate and bring to justice those suspected to be involved in the deadly repression”.

According to hospital and international medias sources, at least five persons, including a 15-years-old teenager, were killed and a dozen injured. An unconfirmed number of people were reportedly arrested and the authorities imposed a night curfew in the city.

Hundreds of persons, mainly youths, were gathering in the city to protest the decision of the Minister of Energy to relocate the locally based power generator to the Freetown International Airport.

When some protesters began throwing stones to the local office of the governing Sierra Leone People’s Party, the police and army responded with excessive force. First, they fired live ammunition in the sky to disperse the protesters. Most ran away, but some continued to throw stones. Then the security forces fired into the crowd resulting in the deaths, which may amount to unlawful killings, and injuries.

“Sierra Leone has the duty to protect the life and physical integrity of its citizens. There was no real and uncontrollable threat to life, so the security forces should never even have used their firearms. Why did they not do enough to de-escalate and respond to those who were throwing stones? It is unlawful to shoot at protesters solely to disperse them.”

Citizens have the right to contest a decision of public interest. The security forces should have limited their intervention to lawful means to stop those who used violence against a private office. Instead, they cracked down on the people with brutal and excessive force. People should never have to worry about their life when they go out on the streets to express contesting opinions. ” Fatou Senghore emphasized.

ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns the use of disproportionate and excessive force, the use of lethal arms against unarmed protesters and the consequent deaths and injuries in violations of African and international laws and standards on the freedom of expression and rights to freedom of association and assembly.

Under its own and international law, Sierra Leone is obliged to carry out prompt, effective, independent, and impartial investigations into deaths resulting from the use of force by the security forces.

“We further urge the authorities to unconditionally release all protesters who were arrested solely for their expression. No one should be arrested for exercising the right to protest. Anyone suspected of a criminal offence should be charged to court and guaranteed a fair trial.” (END)

In its 2019 Annual Report, Executive Director of Article 19 – Thomas Hughes, said:  “The wake-up call for expression is loud and clear. In 2018, we saw that freedom of expression and information reach their lowest point in a decade. Space for meaningful discussion and communication has come under siege, even while its defenders continue to battle and inspire.

“We have seen the rise of ‘strongman’ politicians and autocracy continue: politicians who we should look to for inspiration are often engaged in xenophobic, misogynistic and homophobic rhetoric, while the number of states that we look to for leadership became fewer in number.

“On the rise too, is the price of protecting the right to freedom of expression and information. Lethal attacks are just the tip of the iceberg, as enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, unlawful surveillance, gender-based violence, and harassment and intimidation continue, all with impunity.

“Hatred and violence against vulnerable communities are being stirred up by nationalists and right-wing groups seeking scapegoats. These narratives are increasingly normalised, even legitimised, by mainstream politics as it lurches away from human rights. More than ever we need informed citizens, strong institutions, and the rule of law: expression and information are the keys to this.”

16 Comments

  1. To all the APC party propagandists on this forum: The foundation of the cause of the death during the 11 years of APC misrule was LIES, which resulted in massive theft or looting of our natural resources and consolidated government funds just to build mansions with swimmming pools with no water even though people were struggling to fetch drinking water. Even most of those houses are still vacant because most people can’t afford the rent. The massive APC party office in Makeni which is currently unusable was also built from stolen monies. The other effect from the LIES was suspicion which resulted in mistrust, then violence and finally destruction of lives and properties.

    To LIE to the youths of Kabala then, that they will use the funds provided by our international donors and partners to build a youth center destroyed the hopes and aspirations of the youths and also to LIE to the youths of Makeni that the current government is planning to take the standby generator to the SLPP strongholds of either Bo or Kenema town and leave them in darkness, is what triggered the destruction of the SLPP office which I believe was rented from a citizen of Makeni, also the commercial bank and unfortunately lives.
    As always Karma will finally catch up with destructive LIARS especially the lifetime chairman and leader of the destructive APC party .

  2. Yes indeed. The rudiments of tyranny obviously involve the complete denial of basic freedoms to a certain section of the society – including the right to a different opinion from another person or institution, human rights and civil liberties – and a desire to equip and arm other competing group(s) to police the ‘order’ of the day. One way or another, this philosophy cannot exist without the tendency to divide, incite hatred, marginalize and be prepared to kill anyone including, young and innocent people who may not agree with the resulting status quo. This was exactly the attainment of the boiling point of Maada Bio’s tyrannical antics during the massacre of 6 youths (12 critically wounded) on the streets of the northern city of Makeni amid the relocation of a standby 1.6MW generator to another town, Lungi.

    Most of the youths in Makeni were not even aware of the existence of a second-hand standby Caterpillar generator in the city. All they can brag about was the availability of 24/7 electricity supply in the city. Probably an inherent consolation in their misery as they found themselves amongst the most marginalized in the country. There is some respite for these young men during school time; however, in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of idle time and stress was at their disposal – thus; even the loss of a battered old generator was bound to somehow agitate them. What they didn’t realize was that they have lost the rught to voice out their grievances through peaceful protest; and sadly they came out to defend their city by throwing stones against trained and indoctrinated killers.

    The whole incident simulates a classic plot of an unknown soldier of fortune (a mercenary) desperate to cause havoc to a certain area in an attempt to send a signal that he is now the undisputed TERRORIST in town. After all, if Maada Bio can afford to purchase 30 SUVs (at US$60,000 each) to benefit the inner core of his clique, what stops him from providing electricity for a town that is harbouring the international airport? The reality is, since Maada Bio came to power 2 years ago, he has been cajoling the Northern part of the country into a genocidal war with the South. Today, he has got the key to the ammunition dump, and believes he has got a chance to solve the ‘equation’. Maada Bio did not only order the killing of youths in Makeni, he also took hostages and left the town and its evirons in perpetual siege. Was this all for a generator?

    • Bravo for bringing up this past police brutality against innocent youths Mr. Fallay. Now since this incident happened during the APC regime and in a semi-stronghold of the APC, is it safe to conclude these riot were also caused by APC INCITERS? Also since you and diehard regime supporters have been applauding the police despite the countless number of civilian killings within the past 2 years, I am curious as well why you will be interested to know the outcome of previous police killing during a different administration.

      Or are you saying the police should only be held accountable for committing gross inhumanity when your party is opposition, but should be pat on back for every killing when you are in governance? Forgive me, but I am just confused as to where your stance is when it comes to the rule of law and justice within our beloved nation.

    • Are we talking about what happened in 2016 or 2020 Mr. Alusine Fallay? This is a complete distraction from the discussions we are having right now. First things first Mr Alusine Fallay. I appreciate the link you sent me, but with all due respect Mr Alusine Fallay, 2016 seems odd to me with regards to the present situation. What I want to see happen is this – all those responsible for the massacre of those vulnerable and marginalized civilians in Makeni recently, just asking for the Bio SLPP kakistocracy to leave their generator alone, must be severely dealt with according to law.

      Finally, is the Former President and former Commander in Chief of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces Ernest Bai Koroma, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone today? Your thoughts Mr Alusine Fallay. Many thanks Mr Alusine Fallay for your sincere and outstanding contribution on this glorious platform and may God bless you. See you soon.

    • Thanks for the link. The killings in Kabala in 2016 doesn’t make it right over the murders in Makeni. No one should justify the killing of an other man. Whether it was in the 1970s or 2020s. Whoever committed murders should be held accountable. Indeed we continue to live in strange times. The police that is supposed to be protecting the public, has been used by the Bio government like a private militia.

      Paid and equipped by public funds to further the goals of his government. Yes other past governments have done it and politicised the police, but what is worrying about this government, they have only been in power for two years, but the death toll of civilians has grown up to such a level, more than any other time. There are lot of families hurting. They want answers. If this military killings are not independently investigated, and the perpetrators punished. I wonder what will be the tally of deaths by the time this presidency comes to an end in 2023? The country’s soil is soaked with blood of the innocent. This is no way of bringing a divided country together. This is sowing the seeds of hate, which at some point will comeback to hunt us. People are tired, they just want to live in a peaceful country. Let’s try and figure out how to move our country forward. The West African sub region is not stable. We don’t want to be part of that. Sierra leone should be an oasis of peace.

  3. You cannot blame the youths for protesting against a government that has shown callous disregard for the very laws that is made by the politicians on behalf of the people they governed. The first law breakers in today’s Sierra leone are the politicians and members of the security services. So you wonder where the youths got it from? President Bio and his government are experts in law breaking. I always have high regards for him, due to the fact he seized power and handed it to president Kabbah. But looking at his behaviour today, his human rights record paints a different picture. His two years rule has turned a once promising bright future for Sierra Leone to a charity case.

    People will argue that youths were pelting stones at armed military personnel and destroying government property. So if the Sierra Leone military were policing the riots in Portland, Oregon in the USA, there would been a lot of dead Americans. The first people that provoked the unfortunate incident was government officials that decided to take a stand by generator for the people of Makeni to Lungi international airport. These politicians are not stupid. They calculate their actions and every move they make. We the people of Sierra leone haven’t realised, these politicians are more dangerous to our lives than COVID19.

    Anything that will enhance their money making business is what they will pursue. Due to the lock down in Kono and Makeni, these two districts are not economically active to meet the needs of these corrupt politicians. Now the only place they can make a quick buck is at Lungi international airport, where the traveling public are charged extortion prices. These corrupt politicians are not interested in the welfare of Sierra Leone. They are only interested in their own personal welfare. More like they were robbing Peter to pay John. What was the point of the SUVs, if they were aware of a broken generator at our gateway to the outside world? Sierra Leone is slowly and surely becoming a police state, or a BANANA REPUBLIC. May God bless the republic of Sierra Leone.

    • “Sierra Leone is slowly and surely becoming a police state or BANANA REPUBLIC”-Abraham amadu Jalloh.

      What were we before May 2018 or September 2007 or before April 1996 or before May 1992? Were we a middle level country. My friend even if you are less than 15 years old, you are old enough to know that we have been a failed state for a long time. In fact between 1977 and 1993 we were a perfect example of a police state. Then we had a police prefect who was powerful than the Chief of Defense Start and second only to the president. Ministers had to pay homage to him to retain their jobs and life. His forces openly operated a dark room at CID where confessions were forced out of people and deaths in police custody went investigated.

      When you use illustration to hammer your point becareful not to lose cognisance of the facts to backup up your claim. Like many reasonable Sierra Leoneans, I hold president Bio responsible for not clamping hard on the high handedness of the police. He of all should know that the police he inherited was a rogue police force. He and his supporters were victims of trigger happy police force. The Modus operandi of the men and women in blue especially the armed unit of that Force had not change. Bio should not allowed their unprofessionalism to define his government. He should vigorously ensure that every incident like these are investigated and the culprit brought to book. After many of these trigger happy Officers will remain with the force even after he leaves office.

      Derek Chuven in the USA did not enlist in the Force when Trump came to power. He is a veteran of several years and his record shows that he recent behaviour was not new. But successive governments including the Obama era did not weed him out. Today people think he did what he did because of Trump.

    • Thanks Mr Alieu Kamara, you are 100% right. Sierra Leone has always been a police state. Unfortunately, the irony of all ironies, the only time we were free as citizens from being watched and brutalised by our men in blue was during and after the eleven years of civil war. Yes I remember the 1977 students riot, when the shoot to kill policy was enacted by the Stevens government. Maybe I don’t know whether you read a previous posting, when I led a students demonstration against president Momoh’s government in the streets of Makeni for his then government’s refusal of payments for teachers salaries. When an SSD officer pointed a gun at me and asked me “Why a Fula boy like you should lead such a demonstration?” I knew what he meant.

      And don’t forget the SSD – a paramilitary unit in its own right, was initially created by the Stevens government to counter civil unrest and prevent any members of the military wanting or dreaming to overthrow the government. The SSD was originally called the ISU. They use to carry guns More than members of the RSLAF. If you look at the history of Sierra Leone or the timeline, you will find our country has gone through a lot of political upheavals. And its all MAN MADE.

      Even the recent flooding is due to unchecked deforestation. Until corruption is rooted out; respect for the rule of law, free press, transparency becomes way of doing things; an independent judiciary and human rights are respected, it is difficult to see how our country can progress. Great Grandfathers and Mums like Bai Bureh and Mammy Yoko have fought against British tyranny, the grand fathers against colonialism, the fathers against the same evils that held us back. Now its the son and daughters that have taken up the baton to fight against corruption and the police brutality. May God Bless the republic of Sierra Leone.

  4. PROTEST is the cornerstone of any democracy around the world, which can be described as a peaceful public display of disapproval or displeasure by chanting and marching in public in this case in the city of Makeni preferably with placards.

    On the other hand a RIOT is an expression of dissatisfaction characterized by violence, vandalism, theft as well as the destruction of public or private properties. Hopefully the investigation will determine what really occurred in Makeni and they will hold people accountable including instigators.

    • While the loss of life in any circumstance be it riot or peaceful demonstration” is regrettable, I want to challenge the tone of this article by asking the following questions: if the rioters or peaceful demonstrators posed no threat to others, how come buildings were touched in the city? Was/were the buildings touched after the security forces had shot at the peaceful demonstrators? Did David not use a stone to kill Golaiath? If so, do we expect security officers to be killed first by stone throwing peaceful demonstrators before they can act?

      These and many questions are what any investigation need to answer. As it is now all the enquiries taking place by the police watchdog and other bodies are not sufficient for some who are pretending as if no action has been instituted to know what happened and to hold to account all who bear responsibility for the loss of life, injuries and damages to property.

      May common sense prevailed.

  5. It is a citizen’s right to protest peacefully. But misusing that right by destroying government institutions is also an offense.

    • So Mr. Senesie ,the way to deal with that offence is to kill the offenders ? I wonder if it had involved your siblings if you would hold that view. Lord have mercy on this country.

    • While no one is condoning lawlessness or destruction of private or public property, there is absolutely no justification for killing of citizens guilty of committing such acts. No property or building is worth killing for. Even the destruction or vandalization of Siaka Stevens Stadium should not warrant the destruction of lives, since it can always be rebuilt to a higher standard albeit the unnecessary expense.

      Life on the other hand, can never be rebuilt or bought back. I urge people to think human first. Let’s not allow politics to erode our sense of humanity. The fact is, some of the victims killed or injured were never partaking in the protest. Innocent bystanders were inflicted by stray bullets from the security firing live bullets indiscriminately. These innocent Sierra Leoneans could have been your family. Wrong is wrong, let’s stop this hypocrisy!!

    • Did I hear someone asking me this – “Did David not use a stone to kill Golaiath? David did not have a stone from the quarry Mr David Samura. Don’t say that! David had five spiritual stones- courage, faith, obedience, trust and praise. These were the five spiritual stones for his preparation for the fight against Goliath. Not five bullets from the weapons of the Bio SLPP dictators kakistocracy police and armed sojas, to kill vulnerable, marginalized and unarmed civilians in Makeni, just asking the authorities to leave their generator alone.

      So, be careful Mr David Samura when quoting anything from the bible and penning it down for the more than 26000 readers of this globally respected online Newspaper and all Forumites including me. Someone might pick up the weak points in your comment and dissect it piece by piece to make things clear. Do you agree with me Mr David Samura? I am on holiday, but I can intervene at anytime to put the records straight. God bless Mr David Samura.

    • Read this article Mr Aruna Senesie and Mr David Samura. If anyone wants to quote from the bible, talk about democratic institutions, departments, Bio SLPP kakistocracy office or ask silly questions whatever, he or she or whatever, should read this article.

      https://www.aciafrica.org/news/1736/prelate-in-sierra-leone-condemns-unrest-that-killed-five-urges-focus-on-covid-19-fight

      Send me your thoughts Mr Samura and Mr Senesie, right here and right now. May the souls of all those died in yet another massacre RIP.

Tell us about your views

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.