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NEWS  

Alleged Slapping of Paramount Chief of Nongowa Creates Political Disturbance in Eastern Sierra Leone
By Sylvia Blyden (just back from Kenema)
Oct 7, 2008, 22:17
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There has been widespread political discontent in the opposition SLPP stronghold of Kenema District in Eastern Sierra Leone with the news that a strong ally of the ruling APC party, Mohamed Mbakui has raised his hand and publicly slapped the Chairman of the Council of Kenema District Paramount Chiefs, P.C. Alhaji A.B. Vangahun IV followed by him splashing  alcohol on the Chief's face.

Mbakui, has a notorious reputation which involves him being arrested for the offence of murder of a Canadian businessman to several instances of him duping International businessmen with 419 scams. He is like a cat with nine lives as everytime he is able to get out of such unsavoury situations he finds himself like a Teflon kid.

Following the alleged slapping incident, Mbakui is alleged to have publicly claimed that his association with VP Sam-Sumana would ensure he got away with the alleged misdeed. In a seeming endorsement of Mbakui’s claims, he was then given uniformed police protection after the reported assault which escort he used to parade the township alongside a host of other civilian bodyguards. The fact that the police did not detain Mbakui but instead gave him police escort further angered the people of Nongowa and reinforced their belief that the Vice President, as Chair of the Police Council was behind the protection of Mbakui in Kenema.

As a result, the people took to the streets and it took strategic moves to bring some calm back into Kenema late last week.

Awareness Times is today publishing, in their own words, our interviews as recorded in Kenema with relevant people involved in this debacle and leaving our readers to make their own judgment. All efforts to get Mohamed Mbakui proved futile as he dodged. All Interviews recounted below were exclusively granted to Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden.

PARAMOUNT CHIEF ALHAJI A. B. VANGAHUN IV OF NONGOWA CHIEFDOM, KENEMA DISTRICT.
Granted an Exclusive interview to Awareness Times' Sylvia Blyden in his Chief's Compound early this week.

I am the Paramount Chief of Nongowa Chiefdom. I am also the Chair of Council of all Paramount Chiefs in the Kenema District. I am also the Host Paramount Chief for all Paramount Chiefs of the entire Eastern Region including Kono, Kailahun and Kenema.

The Paramount Chief shown shortly after he received an intravenous drip to recover him from what his doctors say was a state of Shock

This problem started after I allocated some land for use by the Norwegians who wanted to build houses for the War Wounded Amputees. In my capacity as traditional custodian of the land, I am regularly called upon to provide land from the community for purposes which would be of benefit to the Community. In that way I have provided land for the Police to build a barracks, for the Military to build their own and for many such initiatives. This time, I provided the requested land for the Norwegians who requested that they would build the houses free of charge but wanted the land to be given to them free of charge as the community’s own contribution towards the rehabilitation of the lives of these amputees. As soon as the white men started the work, the rumour went around that they had given me millions of leones which I had pocketed for myself and some people who claimed that their ancestors were owners of the land I donated to the Norwegians started to give me a hard time by attempting to forcefully take any of my own lands. But they were lying as the land I donated to the Norwegians was community land. Anyway, they continue to regularly try to poach on my own lands.

On this date, September 30th 2008, I was in my compound when the Town chief of Gombo telephoned me to inform me that Mohamed Mbakui and some people were on my 6 Town Lots land near the airfield taking measurements. He told me that they included some of the people who had been spreading rumours that the Norwegians have paid me millions for the land to house the amputees. I then telephoned the Police Local Unit Commander and complained to him and informed him that I was heading to the land and wanted him to send some police officers over. I then went over to the land.

Indeed, on arrival, I met one Mr. Pratt a Government Lands Surveyor alongside with Mohamed Mbakui and a bunch of people who were just thugs. As you know, I am suffering from the effects of a Stroke and do not walk quite well. Because of my disability problems, I stayed inside my car and called out to Mr. Pratt if he did not know he was on my land. Mr. Pratt quickly apologized to me and said he had no idea that the land was my own or he would not have entered there. He then quickly rolled up his tape measure and said he would leave.

At this development, Mohamed Mbakui got furious and walked over to me and told me off loudly in front of everybody for what he said was my audacity to challenge his ownership. I was seated inside my car and whilst he was boldly exchanging words with me and calling me a foolish man, he actually put his hand inside my car and pushed my jaw with a slap.

At this point, my driver rushed out of the vehicle with my son to face Mbakui for slapping my face. Mbakui then threatened them that he had more men than them and he also told them that this was not, in his words, "that your own f**king SLPP Government" but that their own APC Government does not think twice to discipline Chiefs. At this point, my son, Momo Coya was given slaps on both sides of his face until one side of his face got swollen. My Native Administration Policeman who was accompanying me, got roughed up and all the buttons on his neat uniform got torn off. One man who was passing by named Mr. Kai expressed concern over the treatment of me, their Chief and he was forcefully frog marched to Mohamed Mbakui and placed to sit on the floor after he was also beaten up in front of my eyes. They wanted me to see as they beat up my subjects.

During all of this, Mbakui kept on telling me how powerful he was in the APC; how it was his dollars that catapulted Sam-Sumana into office; how he could click his fingers and even Ernest Koroma the President would come running. He also boasted to his thugs not to worry saying he had been accused of killing a white Canadian man before and it was in Freetown that the case was settled by the APC because he was their sponsor.

At one point, he shook a can of beer and sprayed it on my face inside the vehicle I was sitting inside and then proceeded to splash the alcohol on my other subjects and my son.

Eventually, one of the men with Mbakui spied the police Landover coming from afar towards our direction and he warned the others that the police were coming and so many of them jumped into their vehicles and drove off whilst banging their vehicle doors and singing that they had conquered the Paramount chief and all his sons.

The Police arrived and met the scene and saw my own Native Admin police with his uniform all torn up and my son with his face swollen. I angrily recounted to the officers about how I was slapped and splashed with alcohol. To my shock, instead of detaining the remaining men with Mbakui, the police officers took orders from Mbakui to go away as he would take his men to the station at his convenience. And they just followed his orders. Indeed, whilst I went to the Police Station to make a complaint, Mbakui just went off with his remaining men.

The way my complaint has been treated by the police has been very shabby. I am not at all happy. From 30th September to this night I am speaking to you is about one week now. No arrests have been made. Instead, Mohamed Mbakui has been given extra police protection which he is using to go all around the town making threats that nothing will come out of the matter.

And to further worsen the matter, Mbakui has now proceeded to take cement, stones and sand to my land by the airfield that I have all legitimate conveyance documents for. He is now claiming that he bought the land six months ago. Land for which I have documents ranging for years and years past.

The other reason why I have been disappointed is when the Resident Minister for the Eastern Province invited me to his office only to put me across a table from Mohamed Mbakui and calling for us to settle the matter out of the police in what he says is a traditional way. Is that tradition? Equating me with Mohamed Mbakui across the same table? I don’t understand how Mohamed Mbakui can raise his hand to slap the Host Paramount Chief for the entire Eastern Province and the Chairman of the Council of Paramount Chiefs for Kenema District and he is called to join a roundtable meeting with me like I am his equal? Who is Mohamed Mbakui to slap me? Who is Mohamed Mbakui to throw alcohol in my face? Who is Mohamed Mbakui to molest and disgrace me?

The Portrait of the Chief on his parlour walls

Like on the walls of many Paramount Chiefs throughout Sierra Leone, the photo of Queen Elizabeth hangs up next to other Special Photos


CHIEF IBRAHIM MAMBU MBELEWA OF GOMBO VILLAGE

I am the Town Chief of Gombo and the land in question lies near Gombo. After the molestation of our Paramount Chief on September 30th, the very next day on October 1st 2008, at around 9pm in the night, I was coming from using the toilet outside my house when I was attacked by a group of men who said I was the one supporting the Chief to lay claim to the land by the airfield which they said they had now sold to Mohamed Mbakui.

Chief Mbelewa shows where he was stabbed on his wrist to Kenema Youth Activist Sidie Kajueh. Kajueh is the youth activist who commands the following of a huge portion of the youths of Kenema.

I fought them back and screamed for help and as people gathered around, they fled after they had stabbed me on my hand. But I managed to grip one of them called Stephen Gbessay Momoh whom was met in my hands by the villagers. He was handed over to his brothers but later he went to make a report at the Police Station that I attacked him. But when the police asked him where he was attacked, he said it was in my compound.

What was he doing at 9pm in another man’s compound, he cannot explain but the police are listening to his silly complaint and are trying to waste my time saying they have a counter complaint instead of charging the man to court.


Assistant Inspector General AL-SHEIK KAMARA (EASTERN REGION POLICE COMMANDER)

I can assure that Mohamed Mbakui is not getting any special treatment from the Police in Kenema. What happened was that he also went to the police station and made a counter complaint that he was beaten up by thugs acting on the orders of the Paramount Chiefs. The reason why we gave him Police Protection was because he complained that his life was under threat by people who had promised to raze his house to the ground with fire. I have however ordered the LUC to ensure that inasmuch as we should protect Mbakui’s life, he has no right to move around the town to entertainment spots with the police officers as that is exacerbating the matter. He has been warned to keep a low profile.

I attended the meeting called by the Resident Minister because the situation was getting politically charged and people were coming out into the streets to demonstrate and we wanted to keep the peace.

It was not intended as a mark of disrespect to have the chief sit at the same table with Mohamed Mbakui. They were both complainants and the Resident Minister wanted to see if the matter could be resolved with minimal friction. About the complaint and counter complaint, effective policing will get to the bottom of the matter and will reveal the actual perpetrators and who are the victims.

However, I must here say that the Chief is partly to blame for the delay as he told the police investigators to wait as he was holding meeting with his Council of Chiefs and later he said his medical doctor who treated him after he was assaulted by Mbakui was not around to provide a medical report so we are still waiting for his medical report. However, I have given an ultimatum to the Police Investigators that given the sensitive nature of the politically charged situation, the final report on the matter should be on my desk by this Wednesday 8th October.

The Sierra Leone Police has no sacred cow and no scapegoat. Perpetrators will be brought to book. Mohamed Mbakui is not above the law and neither is the Paramount Chief.


RESIDENT MINISTER WILLIAM JUANA SMITH

I decided to personally intervene because the way the case was heading was a true cause for concern. There was a lot of resentment building up against the establishment of the State and also against my own party, the APC. As the Resident Minister and an APC Party supporter I wanted to see how I could pacify the highly charged situation.

When word spreads that a young man like Mohamed Mbakui actually slapped a Paramount Chief, it generated negative sentiments all over so myself, the AIG Al-Sheik, Mayor Brima Kargbo and other Traditional Chiefs decided to try to resolve the matter.

I believe we have gone quite far with the negotiations so far. It was not a mark of disrespect to have the Chief sit across from Mohamed Mbakui during the negotiations. The people of Kenema did not want their Chief to be like the Chief of Mambolo who had to go to court with his subjects and be cross examined. Such humiliation was to be avoided which is why we wanted to see of we could resolve it using highly traditional methods.

Traditionally, for a young man to be accused of slapping the Paramount Chief, there are ways to resolve it. I am however happy to state that so far things are moving just fine and Mohamed Mbakui, although he is swearing under very serious traditional oaths, that he never slapped the Chief, has acknowledged that he offended the sensibilities of the Chief and he is ready to make amends. By 2pm tomorrow October 7th, we should hopefully have a solution to this problem facing Kenema Town.


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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