On Monday 13th December 2010, the Government of Sierra Leone, through the Ministry of Internal Affairs, placed a ban on all musical activities in the country. These activities include musical rallies, assembly and album launchings.
Notwithstanding this, the Freetown City Council is insisting that its musical concert with Morgan Heritage group will go on as planned. “The ban placed by the central government has nothing to do with the Freetown City Council show,” Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Freetown City Council, Cyril Mattia, told the Awareness Times Newspaper on Tuesday 14th December 2010 at his Wallace Johnson Street office in Freetown.
He insisted that the ban is for Sierra Leonean musicians, adding that the FCC show is not just for mere pleasure. “Morgan Heritage is an educational group of Black Americans that is coming to Sierra Leone to advise and educate our musicians on music and their general behavior,” he explained.
“Our show is slated for the 28th and 29th December 2010 and all modalities have been worked out to stage the never to be forgotten show,” he said, stressing that ‘the FCC is closely working with the police’.
“We have been making arrangements for this show for the past four months now and backing out at this point in time is not an option,” Mattia confidently intimated, noting that they would be spending over two hundred thousand United States Dollars to host the concert.
He said the FCC has already organized two peaceful float parades for the said show, adding that they will soon organize more street publicity to garner support for the show.
Meanwhile, musicians and organizers of various musical shows have expressed grave concerns over the insistence and defiance of the FCC.
“The government press release made clear that the ban is for all musical activities in the country and there is no aspect in the statement that exempted the Morgan Heritage musical show,” a music producer, who preferred anonymity told the Awareness Times, whilst expressing frustration over the decision to ban musical activities in the country.
A major musical stakeholder in the country who granted an interview to the Awareness Times yesterday is the Manager of Dry Yai Crew (a musical group comprised of Pupa Baja and Baw Waw Society), who also doubles as Organizing Secretary of the Federation of Salone Music Industry Stakeholders (FOSMIS), Jihad Akmad Bilal Bah aka Black Muslim.
Bilal said the need for government to review its decision cannot be overemphasized, as according to him, he has spent over one hundred million leones for his group’s forthcoming show slated for December 24 at the National Stadium Main Bowl. “We held a very peaceful rally in the city and we have nothing to do with the Saturday and Sunday violence,” Black Muslim said, whilst emphasizing that the government and police must go after the perpetrators.
Asked for his comment on the insistence of the FCC, he described the situation as unfortunate, noting that the Council has no right to exempt itself from a central government order. “If the government says it is banning all musical activities, then the City Council Morgan Heritage musical show is inclusive, because they are not above the law,” Black Muslim said.
According to Bilal, his musical group preaches peace and promotes the music industry in Sierra Leone. He expressed disappointment over reports from the media suggesting that the Dry Yai Crew had something to do with the Saturday and Sunday violence in Freetown.
“We obtained police permission for our rally and we have recorded evidences and eyewitness testimonies that our rally went on peacefully,” he emphasized.
The police and the internal affairs ministry are yet to comment on the city council show.
Music stakeholders and the police are having a meeting today, Wednesday 15th December 2010 to chat the way forward.
Meanwhile, supporters of various Sierra Leonean musicians have vowed to disrupt the city council show. The supporters, who were randomly interviewed by the Awareness Times in various parts of the city, expressed disgruntlement that the ban will negatively impact on their musicians who have spent millions of leones to organize various musical concerts, and will not tolerate what they consider as provocation from the city council.
“The Morgan Heritage group, the APC government and Mayor Herbert George Williams, will receive the shock of their life if they attempt to go on with the show as planned,” a supporter of one of the local musicians commented at PZ yesterday.
A renowned youth activist known as Bockarie Ensah has condemned the assertions of the youths, noting that violence is not an option for expressing dissatisfaction. He however made clear that the city council is not above the law and must heed to the decision of the central government. “The Freetown City Council should know that decentralization does not mean disintegration and they must obey government orders,” Bockarie Ensah pointed out, whilst calling on the government to review the decision of the ban. In as much as Ensah is not in support of the violence perpetrated by the youths, he blamed the police for granting rally permits to musicians when they know they cannot adequately police such rallies.
Whilst emphasizing on the need for the government to lift the ban, he alerted that such decision can only be reached after the police would have assured that it will adequately protect lives and properties when such events are held.
“I am sure that this is a temporal decision by the government which is aimed at cooling down the situation that was gradually becoming unmanageable,” he said.