From Awareness Times Newspaper in
In Sierra Leone, Police Speak on Kono Shootings & Deaths
By AN EXCLUSIVE
Dec 19, 2012, 17:12
Sierra Leone Police Spokesman and Director of Operations has explained to Awareness Times, developments which erupted in Koidu town on Tuesday which left two youths dead from gunshot wounds. AIG Al-Shek Kamara spoke over the phone line from Kono where he had immediately relocated when the disturbance broke out on Monday December 17th 2012.AIG Al-Shek Kamara confirmed that irate Kono youths had “set fire to and burnt down the police post at Konomani Lorry Park” and “burnt down the Community Development Center built and equipped by OCTEA Koidu Holdings for the people of Kono”.
The Police Spokesman however assured that “an attempt by the rioters to burn down the Tankoro Police Station was rebuffed and the Tankoro Police Station is safe and untouched. The Police post at Kuyor was also subject to an arson attempt but we effectively repelled the rioters”.
Police Spokesman said a similar attempt to burn down the residence of the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of OCTEA Koidu Holdings was also rebuffed. He said though the CSO was a black South African, he has lived in Kono for some 17 years now and was married to a Kono woman who had actually been inside the house with their teenage children at the time Kono youths tried to burn the house with the Kono woman and her children inside.
Unfortunately, according to the Police Spokesman, the Community Liaison Officer of OCTEA, Mr. Sorgboi, an indigene of Kono, was not lucky and has had to suffer his house being “thoroughly vandalized and looted by the rioters”.
The residence of one Chief Saquee was also laid siege to but the police arrived and dispelled the rioters before they could vandalise it.
According to the Police Spokesman, there were “two sad deaths from gun shots” which he said the police were currently investigating. He said the rioting OCTEA workers had forcibly disarmed a police officer of his fully loaded AK-47 rifle which they carted off “firing the weapon wildly as they ran off”. Eye witnesses have confirmed to Awareness Times that the rioters captured an AK-47 gun from a police officer. Some other credible reports have alleged the rioters had locally built hunting guns (chakabulla) in their possession.
Al-Shek Kamara rejects claims police officers were firing live rounds into the crowd of rioters which caused deaths.
“Our officers were professional in the control of rioters. It is wrong to say the two persons were killed by police officers,” Police Spokesman insists.
“We do know they died of gunshot wounds but until investigations are fully carried conducted, it is premature to say which weapon fired shots which killed and also wounded persons,” Al-Shek Kamara insists adding that what is clear is that at least one of the two deceased victims of the gunshots was not part of the rioters nor standing with them but had been in a direction located directly opposite the rioters.
“This raises questions as to who was firing the gun and from what direction,” the Police Spokeman pointed out.
Al-Shek Kamara however confirms that the police officer who was forcibly disarmed of his well loaded weapon “is in detention awaiting disciplinary hearings”.
He claims several other police officers were attacked by the rioters who were fighting to over-run OCTEA premises but upon meeting stiff resistance from police officers, this angered the rioters. He said attempts were made to disarm many police officers of their weapons. He said a female OCTEA staff, now proven as an ex-RUF combatant, was arrested as she tried to wrestle an AK-47 gun from the hands of a police officer who was trying to control them.
“She and her rioting gang would have succeeded to make off with the gun had the officer not been rescued by his colleagues who promptly arrested her. She will be charged to court,” Al-Shek Kamara said.
He confirmed that the institution of Military Aid to Civil Power (MAC-P) and a curfew on Monday night, is what prevented the situation from being worse than it has turned out. He said whilst they were awaiting for police reinforcements from Kenema, the military had to aid the police.
According to Al-Shek Kamara, by yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon when the Vice-President flew into Kono, the police had restored public order thus making negotiations by the able Vice-President to carry on smoothly and in a safer environment. The Vice-President received high commendation for his peace-making efforts in Kono, which is his home district.
The riot itself started over a series of demands the OCTEA Koidu Holdings staff were making of the company including an alleged promised Xmas bonus, demands for setting up of their own Mines workers Union and better employment conditions. They are also unhappy that the accidental death of one of their colleague workers on a conveyor’s crushing belt, did not see the colleague’s family members get much cash compensation.
The company meanwhile disputes each allegation and has an explanation for every allegation thrown at it.We are continuing to monitor the developments in Kono.