By Saikujohn Barrie
When I listened to Ibrahim Tommy on 98.1 discussing the findings of about 13 Civil Societies’ organizations on the Makeni killings on Friday, I understand that both the Military and Police who were in charge of security in Makeni on that dark day have both denied using live bullets.
This is the highest level of institutional dishonesty from the forces which supposed to take responsibility for the action or inaction of their personnel.
The fact is civilians were killed on that day and both the military and Sierra Leone police were sent there to quell the riot and both forces were well-armed.
So who killed the people?
Sierra Leoneans will not afford to lose their compatriots just like that without anyone taking responsibility or to be held to account.
Killings had happened in the past across the country and more importantly recently in various places in the country but let every Sierra Leoneans make the Makeni killings as the cut-off point on police and military brutality. It is high time we stopped using past police brutality to justify current killings.
We acknowledge in the past because of political and police leadership’s reluctance, I hardly recall any case where police officers are being prosecuted for any unlawful killings of protesters.
However, we have seen actions against some police for minor offences which resulted in sacking or demotion.
Who is benefitting out of this Police heavy-handedness?
Apparently our governments both past and Present had or have been using the Police and most times the Military to intimidate and suppress the opposition.
Unfortunately, the Police have been one of the crucial weapons used by our politicians to wage revenge attacks on each other whenever they come to power and their actions have resulted in massive suffering of Sierra Leoneans.
The issue of police or military killing of unarmed people with impunity should be addressed adequately and heads most roll and officers culpable must be held to account.
Sadly, I recently heard the Inspector General of Police during a Police Family Support Unit meeting with the First Lady to discuss sexual violence in the country, the IG publicly said that his loyalty is to the President.
I know he was appointed by the President but I think his loyalty should be to the state as stated in section 13(b) of the 1991 Constitution.
The mentality of loyalty to the President or political leaders must change.
Public officials must peg their loyalties to the state first before politicians who appointed them.
Yet that is very difficult to achieve especially in Sierra Leone where political leaders wield overwhelming powers.
However, I also know there are challenges within the police in terms of resources such as the appropriate police gears to use in the situation of riot etc but the least officer must know that using live bullet must be the last resort and it should be proportionate to the opposite force.
We are calling on all CSOs and religious leaders in the country to come together to demand justice from the Maade Bio’s government for the people of Makeni and other places who had perished in the hands of police and military brutalities.
Moreover, state actors must take this issue very seriously and set a precedent. Remember, today is Makeni in the North tomorrow it might be somewhere in the South or East depending who will be in power.
It is high time President Bio drew the line and put an end to this madness by setting up an independent committee to investigate this unforgivable violence and bring those culpable to book.
Sierra Leoneans demand to know between the police and Military who killed the people in Makeni.
I rest my case.