102. This Inquiry was conducted using a combination of methods as provided for under the Commission Rules and as guided by the terms of reference. These methods were used in order to ensure that the Commission had several ways of verifying information received and therefore ensure the credibility of its findings and recommendations. The methods and manner of conducting an Inquiry are provided for under Rules 42 to 56 of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (Complaints, Investigations and Inquiries) Rules, 2008.
A. Focus Group Discussions under Rule 52
103. Guided by the TOR of the Public Inquiry, three targeted Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were conducted with Youths, Market Women and a blend of community stakeholders comprising of the (Imam, Pastor, Teachers, women leaders, Motorbike (Okada) Riders, Traders and ordinary residents of Bumbuna). The FGD with youth was attended by ten (10) young people of which two (2) were women. The FGD with women was attended by ten (10) women. The mixed group FGD was attended by eight (8) people two (2) of whom were women.
104. The Inquiry Secretariat had initially planned to conduct four (4) FGDs, but only three (3) were conducted; the fourth for AML workers did not materialise because the Inquiry Secretariat did not receive any response from AML to the letter of invitation to participate.
105. To facilitate the discussions, a Focus Group Discussion Guide, Annex 3, was developed and refined before the team traveled to Bumbuna. The development of the FGD guide was informed by the report of the fact finding mission to Bumbuna that was undertaken from the 9th to 11thMay 2012 with follow up trips being undertaken on the 22nd and 24th of May, 2012.
106. The FGDs were conducted between the 11th and 14th of June 2012.
107. The FGDs had sought to confirm the narration of the events of the 16th to 18th of April 2012 as experienced by the people of Bumbuna, understand the impact of those events on the community, to understand how those events were experienced by different segments of the Bumbuna population, to understand the causes of those events from the perspective of the community and also understand what it would take to prevent a recurrence of such events from the perspective of the community.
B. Personal Statements under Rule 47
108. Personal statements were taken from mainly victims, the Officer Commanding Bumbuna Police Station and the Paramount Chief. A total of forty two (42) statements were taken. Sixteen (16) statements were from women. The personal statements were taken between the 11th- 14th of June 2012 and on the 16th of June 2012.
109. The personal statements were taken to document and identify particular human rights violations that had allegedly been experienced by individual residents of Bumbuna.
C. Desk Review of Documents under Rule 46
110. In the Public Notice issued to inform the public of the decision by the Commission to hold a public inquiry, a call was made for institutions and individuals to submit to the Secretariat of the Inquiry any information in the form of written memoranda or other documents that would help determine the issues that were the subject of the inquiry. In response, the Commission received documents in the following forms:
Reports from organizations that conducted initial investigations into the Bumbuna incidents; and,
Reports of previous inquiries into similar issues.
111. In addition, documents received at the Public Hearing in Bumbuna were also reviewed. The review of documents was done to understand the perspectives of others. The review also served as a means of corroborating information the Inquiry Secretariat had received through other methods. We also learnt from previous reports of similar incidents in Sierra Leone.
D. Public Hearing under Rules 47 and 49
112. A public hearing was held in Bumbuna from 16th to 20th July 2012 and on the 7th of August 2012 in Freetown. A total of forty one (41) witnesses testified, four (4) of whom were women. These witnesses included the fifteen (15) persons named as interested persons, victims of the violence, market women and other community members including religious leaders, youth leaders and traders. The Secretariat had originally identified fifty (50) witnesses including twelve (12) women.
113. The low level of women’s participation as witnesses could be attributed to three (3) reasons. First, all the fifteen named Interested Persons were male. The Inquiry Secretariat had no choice in selecting the gender of the witnesses because they were named as Interested Persons and became witnesses by virtue of their offices. Second, all the witnesses from the Police were also male. Similarly, the Inquiry Secretariat had no choice in the matter because these police officers were witnesses by virtue of their offices and the role they played in the police operation in Bumbuna. Third, some female witnesses did not turn up for the hearing despite persistent assurances that they would not be intimidated or harassed by the Panel or even harassed after testifying. Some told the Secretariat Staff who were responsible for the witnesses that they were ashamed of coming forward and testifying.
114. However, it is important to note that women participated as observers and were present at the Court Barray (Local Court House) in large numbers from the beginning to the end and keenly followed the proceedings.
1.3 Report Overview
115. This report is divided into eight (8) sections. Section 1 contains the background to the Inquiry, sets out the terms of reference of the Inquiry, frames the issues before the Inquiry and the methods used to gather evidence and information. Section 2 narrates the events of the 16thto 18th April 2012 and the aftermath as narrated by the people of Bumbuna in their personal statements, the FGDs, the testimony of witnesses and as gleaned from the reports received by the Commission. The narration of events makes it easier to understand what happened, how it happened and when it happened and therefore sets the background on the findings on human rights violations.
116. Section 3 discusses the police operation in Bumbuna during the period.
Section 4 discusses Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) that characterized the police operation in Bumbuna on the16th to 18th April 2012.
Section 5 discusses Labour Rights in the context of the strike action by the workers of AML.
Section 6 discusses stakeholder responsibility and response to the events.
Section 7 discusses the nature and scope of alleged human rights violations that occurred during the events of the 16th to 18th April 2012. It also discusses similar happenings prior to the events in Bumbuna with a view to interrogating the possibility of the existence of a situation of systemic human rights violations.
Section 8 contains the findings, recommendations, directives and orders.
2.0 THE EVENTS OF 16Th TO 18TH APRIL, 2012
117. According to the Officer Commanding the Bumbuna Police Station, OC Konneh, the workers of AML delivered a letter to the station on the 15th April 2012 informing the police of the proposed strike action. In the letter that was addressed to the General Manager, African Minerals (SL)Ltd (AML), Exhibit HRCSL B 25 9(b), the workers were complaining of poor working conditions, poor working relationship with expatriate staff, medical insurance, casual labour or short contract employment, arbitrary termination of contracts, poor meals and long working days with no commensurate compensation amongst other issues. Most importantly, they were demanding that they be allowed to join a trade union of their choice.
118. Following that letter the workers on the 16th of April 2012 barricaded roads and prevented people from boarding vehicles including other AML workers who wanted to go to work. The OC considered the strike action illegal because the workers should have given a twenty one (21) days’ notice to the police but only gave a day’s notice.
these developments, the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) North-East
Region and the Brigade Commander Northern Province traveled to Bumbuna on the
16th April 2012 and pleaded with the workers to calm them down. It was agreed
that the management of AML, Government officials and other stakeholders would
hold a meeting with the workers to address their grievances. On the same day, in
a sitting facilitated by the Paramount Chief Alimamy B.Y. Koroma III and the
Local Unit Commander (LUC) of Magburaka Police Division, Alfred C. Dassama on
the 16th April 2012, the aggrieved AML workers insisted that key stakeholders
including the Mines Minister, Labour Minister and the top management of African
Minerals should be present before the discussions could take place. The meeting
was rescheduled for Tuesday, 17thApril at the Court Barray (Local
120. On Tuesday the 17th of April 2012 the workers and other youths as well as community members went to the Court Barray to wait for dignitaries from Freetown. As they waited, they saw a truck full of police men and another car going up to the hill towards the AML mining site in Feregbeya. This was about 11.00 A.M in the morning. The youth decided to disperse because the dignitaries they had been waiting for had just passed them by at the Court Barray. Some youths were walking up towards the Fuel Farm of AML when they met police officers who started shooting. The community people heard the shooting and began to run away for safety. The reasons for the firing were at this point unclear to the community people.
121. From then
onwards, 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.”
122. The Police
in their testimony and previous interviews during the fact finding mission
alleged that the youths had gone to set on fire the Fuel Farm belonging to AML.
The workers denied this saying that they were only trying to make sure that AML
was unable to access fuel and had resolved not to burn the fuel depot or damage
the property of AML. W21 told the Panel that they [protesting workers] they were
aware that setting the fuel farm on fire will affect the entire Bumbuna
community, the reason they resolved not to
123. The need to
protect the Fuel Farm of AML does not explain why the police were shooting all
around the Bumbuna township and especially at the market. It was confirmed by
all respondents that the armed police personnel went on the rampage in the
township including the Market raining verbal insults on women, firing teargas
canisters and live
124. The protest had ceased being one for the workers of AML and had become an activity for a mixed group of protesting youths. The protesting youths were a mixed group of AML staff, former AML employees who had either been sacked or their contracts had not been renewed and job seekers from various parts of the country.
125. Towards the evening of the 17th April 2012 the situation in Bumbuna calmed down and another contingent of OSD police officers arrived from Freetown. Earlier as the people were waiting at the Court Barray a contingent of Police officers had come from Makeni, Magburaka and Mile 91. W34 told the Panel that he moved to Bumbuna with 120 police officers.
126. The police alleged that on the night of Tuesday the 17thApril, one Reverend Daniel Bangura (W10) of Radio Numbara, a community radio in Bumbuna incited the people to fight for their rights through a night long broadcast and a phone-in programme. A decision was taken to invite the Reverend for questioning at the Police Station. On the morning of Wednesday the 18th April 2012, between 6 and 6.30 A.M, the police went up the hill to the radio station to arrest Rev. Bangura who alerted the community through a live radio broadcast that the police had gone to arrest him. The community people phoned in and asked him not to open the door. The people then left their homes and headed towards the radio station where they succeeded in preventing the police from arresting Rev. Bangura. They then took Rev. Bangura from the police to residence of the Paramount Chief. The Reverend Daniel Bangura went into hiding immediately after this incident.
127. Following this incidence, there was shooting by the police and stoning by community youth according to witnesses, FGD participants and as corroborated by Exhibit HRCSL B21, a police video tendered in evidence by W17. The witnesses who appeared before the Panel and those that participated in the FGDs refuted the charge of incitement and instead said that the Rev. Bangura preached peace and non-violence throughout the night. The popular view from the people is that the Police went after Rev. Bangura because he announced over the radio that he was in possession of live ammunition shells that implicated the police in the use of live ammunition in the Bumbuna operation.
128. It is the view of the Inquiry that the manner in which the arrest of Rev. Bangura was effected, was a key tipping point in the Bumbuna crisis. That situation should have been handled differently and would not have ignited passions the way it did.
129. This Inquiry was unable to establish whether, as is the opinion of the Tonkolili Progressive Union (TPU) in its report, Exhibit HRCSL B34, because the Rev Bangura opened the phone lines and people started to report deaths, heightening tensions and creating panic, the Rev. Bangura contributed to the escalation of the crisis. This is because we were unable to obtain a recording of the radio transmission for that day. The Rev. Bangura, W10 told the Panel that he had made only three copies of the recording and had given one to the Office of the President, to an officer serving with ONS and to the Police Media and Public Relations officers. The Inquiry was unable to secure a copy of this recording from any of the three sources.
130. The firing continued from this point to the early evening of the 18th April 2012. The police further alleged that the youths continued to set up roadblocks and attempted to set ablaze the Fuel Farm belonging to AML, the residence of the Paramount Chief and the Police Station. They also allege that the youths had surrounded and besieged expatriates lodging at the AML Guest House.
131. When the tension was at fever pitch, the women decided to perform a traditional ceremony with great cultural significance to calm down the situation by showcasing and parading behind a Women Secret Society masked “devil” called ‘’Shekereh’’. The practice is that whenever the “Shekereh’’ is showcased accompanied by traditional songs and dance by all members, all male residents should stay indoors until they complete the traditional rituals. In this context, according to the women, it was used as a conflict resolution method to calm the situation because by staying indoors the men would be prevented from aggressing on the police and vice versa. The women were peacefully dancing carrying green twigs.
132. Unfortunately, instead of calming the situation down, things became worse. The police marched behind the women and physically and emotionally intimidated them thereby disrespecting the women’s secret society. According to them, the police were raining the worst forms of verbal insults saying they will ‘’fire gunshot into the sexual organs of the women’’ and “vaginate” their new weapons. The women reported that they were traumatized because the police operation reminded them of the rebel war. “It was like any rebel attack”, the women repeatedly said. “Due to this incident, our memories of the nineties were recalled when the rebels attacked here in 1994. All what we saw on that day [of the police operation in Bumbuna] can be compared to what we went through during the war. We were worried to imagine we were going to lose all we have worked for a second time. We even thought it was another war.”
- Bumbuna FGD Participant.
“All we were carrying was ordinary leaves, like we do in our society display. The three of us were at the front leading the women and ensuring they did not come with force. It was when we got to Ferry Road Junction when I saw with my own eyes that they [the Police] had laid an ambush like they used to do for the rebels during the war.”
- Bumbuna FGD
- Bumbuna FGD Participant.
133. The intention had been to take the Shekereh to the Paramount Chief (PC) but unfortunately at that particular time the PC had gone to the Police Station. The women then decided to dance towards the police station.
134. 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.
135. It was reported that after the death of the young lady the police were very brutal and went on the rampage in the township beating up residents, kicking doors open and ejecting residents from their houses for beating or arrest. One child who was treated at the Community Health Centre in Bumbuna suffocated from inhaling tear gas, a chemical irritant used to disperse crowds.
“On April 18th
2012 at about 9:00-10:00 A.M I was preparing food when I saw the police in my
compound. They forced the front and back doors open, entered the house, broke
the room door and asked us to come out. My daughter (7yrs) was taken outside and
slapped. They beat up my landlord with their guns, took her away and left. As
the police were leaving they threatened to come back and so I left immediately
136. The police reported that two of their officers were severely wounded with machetes by community youths while a few others had been injured with stones and sticks.
137. Twenty nine (29) people were arrested, two (2) of whom were juveniles. The two children were immediately released. The O.C Daniel Konneh (W17) confirmed that (27) Bumbuna residents, mostly youths were arrested and taken to Magburaka and Makeni for further investigations and later released on 18th without any charges being preferred against them. Most of those who were arrested were forcefully taken from their houses, beaten, and handcuffed before being thrown into a police truck.
138. It should be noted that the police did not take full responsibility for the shooting that took place in Bumbuna between the 16th and 18th of April 2012. W36 told the Panel that one of the reasons for sending in reinforcements to Bumbuna was the information he received that there was shooting from the bushes surrounding Bumbuna.
people have guns. Disarmament was not done properly. They make guns. There is a
difference between the cartridges of police guns and shot guns. The police did
not shoot in the market. The people themselves used nails on sticks to damage
the roofs. Some items were stolen by the community people and not only the
police. Community people who were affected have already been compensated. No
financial provision was made to the policemen who were injured during the riot.”
139. It was confirmed that the aborted meeting on the morning of the17th April 2012 finally took place on the 18th with the attendance of seven cabinet ministers and other stakeholders in Bumbuna during which modalities were put in place to resolve the issues raised by the workers of AML.
140. On the 24th
April 2012 another meeting attended by government ministers, the management of
AML, workers representatives, the Office of National Security (ONS) saw the
drafting and signing of the Communiqué of the 24th April, 2012 in which the
Management of AML agreed to address the workers’ demands.