Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 July 2020:
One of the youths shot by security forces last Saturday in Makeni has died this morning at the Connaught Hospital, where several other seriously injured young people are receiving treatment. This brings the total number of young people killed in Makeni last Saturday to six.
The 28 year old man who has been named as Mr. Alusine Sesay, was shot in the head by security forces, using live bullets during protests that ensued when the electricity generating company went to the city to collect an unused generator for relocation to the Lungi Airport.
According to Awareness Times report, the “28 year old Mr. Alusine Sesay, has this Saturday morning passed on here in Freetown at the Connaught Hospital. According to the Spokesman of the Makeni City Council, Mr. Emmanuel Samura who contacted the Awareness Times Newspaper, the late man died from bullet fragments lodged inside his brain. The bullet had pierced through his skull.
“One of the healthcare workers at Connaught Hospital has also confirmed to Awareness Times that the 28 year old was referred from Makeni in a coma, and never recovered or woke up, and died this morning with his relatives at his bedside.”
As calls for an independent inquiry into the shooting in Makeni continue, two opposition political parties have published statements condemning the use of live bullets by security forces on unarmed citizens.
This is what the APC party said:
“The All Peoples Congress (APC) party condemns excessive use of lethal force by the Sierra Leone Police and the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) against harmless citizens of Makeni and Sierra Leone at large.
“We are saddened by the fact that the All Peoples Congress (APC) Party has to express, yet, another round of condolences to victims of excessive use of lethal force by the Sierra Leone Police and the RSLAF against harmless citizens in Sierra Leone.
“As we categorically condemn all forms of violence, we hereby express our deepest condolences to the bereaved families of all those whose lives have been cut short and also wish speedy recoveries for the many more who sustained gunshot injuries in Makeni in the process of exercising their rights of protestation on Friday, 17th and Saturday, 18th July, 2020.
“The Party is particularly concerned about the highhandedness displayed by security forces against innocent civilians who came out to protest against the suspicious relocation of a standby generator by the Government to another locality, late at night and under the cover of darkness.
“We are dismayed and concerned by the way and manner in which the security forces generally respond to peaceful demonstrations staged by harmless citizens and at the resultant killings and injuries from such reckless use of lethal force against citizens.
“And in this recent shooting occasioning deaths and injuries to innocent civilians in Makeni City, Bombali District, it is now clear that there is a serious threat to democracy, constitutionality and the rule of law in Sierra Leone.
“In respect of the above, we wish to draw the attention of all civilized communities of the world to the incessant incidents of gross human rights abuses that are being perpetrated by the Government of Sierra Leone, which may tantamount to “crimes against humanity”, and to the unabated violation of the 1991 Constitution.
“To be specific, chapter three (3), article 15 (a),(b),(c) & (d) and article 16 (1) of the Constitution, in respect of the “Recognition and Protection of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms of the Individual”, an entrenched proviso of the Constitution, was grossly violated by the level of lethal force employed by the joint Police and RSLAF forces in response to citizens’ protest in Makeni that resulted in the loss of many lives and injuries to many more innocent Sierra Leoneans.
“The APC Party also wishes to call the attention of the international community, local and international opinion leaders and the public at large to the deafening silence by the Government of Sierra Leone to the ominous and looming spate of deaths and injuries to many more persons from gunshot wounds by law enforcement operatives.
“With hindsight, the APC believes that proper communication between Government and Local Council authorities and a joint sensitization exercise, or better yet, a proper handling of the protestation by the security forces could have yielded a desired outcome and averted the unnecessary loss of lives and bloodletting.
“Once more, we are calling on the Government and the international community to institute an independent inquest into all the deaths of innocent citizens caused by the Sierra Leone security forces in past and present incidents referred to below and to bring to book, all those responsible for the killings of and injuries to innocent civilians.
“The APC Party strongly believes that the Government’s failure to investigate previous killings of innocent civilians in Tonko Limba, Mile 91, Lumley, Tonkolili, Tombo, Lunsar, the Pademba Road Correctional Centre etc., and then this one, is giving rise to impunity, cavalier attitude and reckless use of lethal weapons against unarmed civilians.
“So far, scores of Sierra Leonean lives, and still counting, have been lost and scores more have sustained gunshot injuries perpetrated by security forces and still counting since 2018 when H.E. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio took over the mantle of leadership in Sierra Leone and no question has been asked for any of those killings.
“Signed: Amb. Dr. Alhaji Osman Foday Yansaneh, National Secretary General – APC”.
A similar statement has also been published by the National Grand Coalition (NGC) party and here is what they said:
“The National Grand Coalition (NGC) is very concerned that the planned relocation of a 1.6 MW EGTC generator from Makeni to Lungi has resulted in so much mayhem and fatalities. Having carefully considered various comments made by the Minister of Energy, the Mayor of Makeni City, eyewitness reports and held discussions with various affected and interested parties to this issue, the NGC comments on this unfortunate issue as follows:
“1. The fact that a normal event like the movement of a generator by a utility from one location to another could result in so much chaos is indicative of the deep political divisions that exist in this country between the two major political parties, the SLPP and APC, which only consider issues through a political lens.
“2. Whatever may be the merits of moving the generator, it is apparent that there were both communication and cooperation problems between the government, Makeni City Council and other local stakeholders. In such instances, the dissemination of fake news to poor unsuspecting and gullible youths for political gain is not surprising.
“3. The urge by the Ministry of Energy to transfer the generator at the 11th hour for use at the airport is indicative of poor planning on the part of the Ministry.
“4. The riotous conduct of youths resulting in damage to property was not justified. However, the recent protest of youths in this manner in several locations for various reasons is indicative of the underlying problems our poor, unemployed and restive youths are currently facing.
“5. The firing of live rounds by security forces, resulting in the death of five unarmed youths and injuries to several more is totally unjustified and unnecessary.
“6. The killing of unarmed people by our security forces has made international headlines more recently. This is concerning and dents the country’s image.
“The NGC supports the right of citizens to peaceful protests but acknowledges that the state has a responsibility to fight lawlessness and riotous conduct when protests degenerate to such a state. Notwithstanding this, we unequivocally condemn this use of live ammunition and disproportionate force on unarmed youths and innocent bystanders resulting in deaths.
“While the killings of unarmed people, including youths, by security forces has been going on for many years, it has become much too frequent recently as can be seen from the events at Lunsar, Makeni and the prison riots. No independent investigations have taken place of these events despite appeals made by several organizations, including the NGC, for independent enquiry.
“We are particularly concerned that rules of engagement for security forces in the use of firearms on unarmed civilians have not been taken seriously and, more importantly, that the force for good and other armed State security of which we were once proud in Sierra Leone are now being perceived as trigger-happy commandos of death. We repeat that the NGC does not support or condone violence and unlawful conduct on the part of civilians, however legitimate their demands may be.
“However, it is also time for Government to make it easy for those who so desire to protest or demonstrate, whether in favour of Government or not, so that citizens and security forces alike will get used to this channel as a peaceful and orderly means of democratic expression rather than as an invitation to mayhem or extra-judicial killings.
“The NGC also notes that the Operational Support Division (OSD) of the Sierra Leone Police is a paramilitary force originally established and trained as such. As a result, it does not seem to be equipped to deal with civilian riots. It is therefore our view that the OSD needs to be completely retrained and equipped with the correct gear to enable them deal with civilian riots.
“Tear gas, pepper spray, taser guns, water cannons, rubber bullets, helmets, batons and shields should be the equipment the majority of them should be trained to use, rather than assault weapons and live ammunition.
“The NGC therefore calls on the government to take the following steps in order to prevent a recurrence of the incident in Makeni:
“1.Speed up planned measures to engender national reconciliation and heal the big divide between the SLPP and APC in particular.
“2. Invite State and non-State actors to examine the underlying economic and social factors responsible for the involvement of youth in political violence, so that better solutions will be found that do not involve the shedding of blood.
“3. Establish an independent and credible inquiry to investigate these deaths, and to look at the increasing use of firearms by our security forces to break up protests.
“4. Carry out retraining and reequipping of the Operational Support Division of the Sierra Leone Police and repurpose the division to deal with civilian riots.
“To the parents, relatives and friends of those who died in the recent Makeni protests, the NGC extends our heartfelt sympathy for the loss of their loved ones. We do sincerely hope and pray that by working together in unity and for the love of our country, politics shall soon be free of hate and violence.
“The NGC wishes to remind all Sierra Leoneans that our main concern at this time should be what we as individuals can do to protect ourselves and others against the spread of the dangerous corona virus. God save our country, Sierra Leone.
“SIGNED: Dr. Dennis Bright, Chairman and Leader – NGC.”
The Sierra Leone Telegraph is calling as a matter of urgency, on the International Community to establish its own independent inquiry into the Makeni shooting for crimes against humanity, and to seriously consider the option of filing a complaint at the International Criminal Court for further investigation, and take action against those found wanting of such ghastly abuse of power.
On Thursday, MPs representing Bombali constituencies sent a private members’ motion to the Clerk and Speaker of Parliament, requesting a parliamentary investigation into the shooting in Makeni. The motion was debated and unanimously approved yesterday by paliamentarians: