''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol XI No 2

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Monday October 1, 2012 - The report on the Bumbuna violence in which Musu Conteh was murdered and several other civilians were shot and wounded by the armed wing of the ruling party has been published...and up till now no reaction from a government that wanted to stall proceedings initiated by the Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission. Another shooting victim - compensation if any was discriminatory

The report of investigations into the Bumbuna violence in which Musu Conteh, a Sierra Leonean protesting about conditions at a mine with close links to the President is now out and details a number of human rights violations perpetrated on not only workers protesting against working conditions at the mine, but on the entire Bumbuna community for their dare in allowing a protest against a commercial enterprise in which the President himself has more than a passing interest. It is an investigation that highlights to what extent the OSD police is prepared to go in crushing what it sees as any protest against the party which founded them - the APC now led by Dr Dr Dr Ernest Bai Koroma (FBC Division 3 - Let my people go...allowed to pass).

We would encourage all stakeholders within and outside Sierra Leone who want to see peace consolidated in Sierra Leone after those troubling years so they can appreciate the fears of many who believe that in the desperate attempt to get a second term, Ernest Bai Koroma and his gang would go to any lengths using but not limited to murder, arson, abduction, intimidation, extreme violence and the security forces as well as the judiciary to get their wish. It would seem the first five years of corruption, massive corruption and the ravaging of the country's finances and resources has not got them satisfied but yearn to take the country back to the same climate of intimidation and intolerance that led to our troubles and which the country is still trying to devise ways and means of avoiding a repeat. One Bumbuna resident is quoted thus

...the police went on the rampage shooting and beating up people, carting away people’s property, kicking doors and hurling insults at market women. The market women accused the police entering into their market, destroying their wares and shooting and damaging the roof of the market which is now riddled with bullet holes and leaking.

LUC Dassama disagreed. He said, “The people themselves used nails on sticks to damage the roofs. Some items were stolen by the community people and not only the police.” “The firing was still going on. The police started moving from house to house. They were shooting and kicking doors. We did not eat that day and those who attempted to cook that day had their pots kicked and overturned, making the contents spill over to the ground. People started leaving the town to seek refuge in areas deemed secure at the time.

My mother –in- law who is an old woman got so stressed by this. I had to arrange for her to be taken to Makeni.” This was a part of the findings of investigators as contained in the report - "The Police subjected the women of Bumbuna to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in the form of verbal abuse, physical and psychological violence."

It was during this mayhem that was being unleashed on unarmed civilians in their own God-given country that one Samura who speaks on behalf of his boss, the Gestapo Police Chief Francis Munu told the world's and local media that only one person was killed (as if this was not the life of a human being) and even so this occurred, according to him, when civilians tried to disarm an OSD personnel. The report has this observation - "It was confirmed that the young woman who was killed by the police was also singing and dancing alongside the other women at the time she was shot. A total of nine (9) people were shot including the late Musu Conteh. Eight (8) of them were not workers of AML. The wounded were taken to the Government Hospital in Makeni. They stayed there for several days the longest stay being a week."

Even as war was being waged on the people for daring to act against a mine in which the President has an interest, the police and those entrusted with the safety of citizens were denying they discharged their weapons and instead lied that it was the civilians who carried out the shootings in Bumbuna using locally-made guns, the chakabula type as well as those that use cartridges.

This lie was nailed thus - The police did not take responsibility for the use of live ammunition in Bumbuna. Rather than own up to the shootings, the police made allegations that community people could have been doing the firing using shot guns. W13 repeated this allegation that he had made earlier during the fact finding mission. W36, the former Assistance Inspector General of Police (AIG) in charge of the North East Region, told the Panel that some of the reports that informed his decisions were that there was firing coming from the bushes surrounding Bumbuna. In disagreement W18, the Paramount Chief told the Panel that there are no shot guns in Bumbuna. W19 told the Panel, being an ex-soldier himself, that the wounds he saw and treated were not shot gun wounds. These testimonies have been corroborated by the report of the ballistics expert who confirmed in his report that at least 9 bullet shells tendered by witnesses as evidence were from police or military guns and not shot guns.

Details published in the report clearly showed that weapons used against civilians in Bumbuna could only have come from the multi-million dollar weapons purchase as shells recovered after the police rampage showed as well as the excesses of one OSD personnel who threatened women using unprintable language as well as other acts deemed most unwholesome for which President Ernest Bai Koroma must be held accountable.

The police operation in Bumbuna was characterized by lack of respect for women and their rights. In particular, the women who came into contact with the police were subjected to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV). This took the form of severe beatings on their buttocks, verbal insults and other forms of molestation. A pregnant woman was arrested and later released. The police arrested a breastfeeding mother found in a hospital. The women were also forced to partner with other women to dance to sexual insults. Beating women on their buttocks is culturally offensive as buttocks are seen as forming part of the sexuality of a woman’s body. In addition, the police were firing live ammunition into cooking pots and spilling to the ground cooked food.

“They arrested the women then tied them together using their lappa (cloth women tie around like a skirt) and asked them to sing and dance while insulting their mothers”, W11 told the Panel. Supt. Benedict Samuel Vandi, W8 was singled out by the women as having rained “mammy cuss” on them. “Ar want mek dem put dem bombo befo me mek a cherr am for dem”, W11 repeated to the Panel what she said Supt. Vandi, W8 had told the market women. W8 vehemently denied leading his men in insulting the market women.

"W27 told the Panel that the police told the women at the market that they will “vaginate” their newly supplied guns on them. This means that they will be used for the very first time on them (likening it to the situation when a woman has sex for the very first time.) “The Police were around using abusive language, entering into kitchens and throwing pots away. Young Police Officers continued to use unprintable words against women”, said W27.

"The women are expecting a public apology from the police. “The relationship between the community and the police is sour. I was expecting OC Konneh to have talked to us the market women”, W11 told the Panel.

The police failed to show respect for the women’s Secret Society which had mobilized in order to restore calm. The women explained that their intention was to ensure that men stayed indoors and not aggress on the police in order to restore peace. Traditionally, men are supposed to stay indoors when the women’s Society parades its mask devil, Shekereh, out of respect for women. The police did not show such respect and instead harassed the women and shot at them.

The police action poured scorn on the women’s effort to restore calm in Bumbuna. This act not only shows lack of cultural sensitivity but also the failure of the police to recognize the role and the right of women to participate in the search for solutions during times of crisis. “We the women were dancing behind the masked devil, holding leaves and singing traditional songs. We had believed that once it was just us the women outside, there will be no bloodletting because the police officers knew the significance of the songs we were singing and also that the men were not supposed to see the women.

As we were singing these ceremonial songs, Vandi was defiant and threatened us that even if we stripped our private parts, he would shove the guns into them. I did not know under which influence Vandi was; his eyes were red and he was using all types of abusive language. I had never in my life heard such a grown up man describe a woman’s sexuality in such a disrespectful manner. They were using “mammy cuss” on us. It was disheartening to hear men, who had mothers, wives, sisters and daughters use such abusive words against women. They told us that they would “vaginate” their new weapons on us.”
-Bumbuna Resident and Market Woman.

“These people fired at this lady [the late Musu Conteh] and she dropped in front of my sister and I for us to see. The lady cried out, ‘I am dying for my right’, and she was shot at again. Altogether, she as shot at three times and we all panicked and ran because anybody who came to rescue the lady was shot at.”
-Bumbuna Resident

We would urge everyone to read this report and absorb the enormity of the crimes committed against the people of Bumbuna including the murder of Musu Conteh and how women of Bumbuna were subjected to the worst forms of degradation that could only come from agents of the government who are encouraged by Ernest Bai Koroma and his gang to continue acts that are incompatible with good governance, tolerance, the tenets of law and order and all the good things that make for development.

Even more worrying and something we would urge the international community to investigate are the findings of the Commission relating to the types of weapons that could have been deployed and used by the OSD police against civilians

"149. Though the police had denied using live ammunition and had indicated that community people might have been shooting using shot guns from the bushes surrounding Bumbuna town, the Panel, with the help of a ballistics expert from the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) is able to confirm that the bullet shells tendered in evidence by witnesses were from modern police guns. In a letter to the Inquiry Secretariat dated the 24th of August 2012, the RSLAF ballistics expert identified the sources of the bullet shells as

Self-Loaded Rifles (SLR),

General Purpose Machine Gun,

G3 Rifles,

741 Heavy Assault Rifle (HBAS),

M4 Carbine,

M16A2 rifle and

M16A1 rifle. These clearly are not shot guns. They are military or police guns."




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