''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke

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Vol XI No 10

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Monday December 7, 2015 - Justice at last for the people of Bumbuna as mining company is hauled before London High Court. The failure of the rat and his cabal to protect the lives, livelihood and the way of life of the poor.The blood soaked body of the murdered Musu Conteh. She was killed while protesting for her rights in Sierra Leone

Many in Sierra Leone and elsewhere interested in justice for the poor would have heaved a great sigh of relief on hearing the news that one law firm in the UK is seeking justice for the people of Bumbuna in the north of Sierra Leone.

The UK-based Guardian newspaper had this headline - "Sierra Leone villagers sue mining company in London high court" and went on - "An iron ore firm once listed in London is being sued in a multimillion pound lawsuit over evictions and alleged violent treatment of workers and villagers living near one of its mines in Sierra Leone. African Minerals Limited is accused of complicity in false imprisonment, assault and battery, trespass and theft of the claimants’ property. It is also allegedly implicated in a fatal shooting of a 24-year-old by police during a protest over pay and conditions. The allegations, which have been denied by AML, once again raises questions about regulation of western companies, listed in London, New York or other major stock exchanges, when operating thousands of miles away in developing countries.

A London law firm will put the case on behalf of 142 claimants before a judge at the high court in London on Monday in a bid to get compensation for the injuries sustained in two incidents in 2010 and 2012. In defence papers, the mining company denies liability, saying it has no vicarious responsibility for any actions of the police and the English courts lack jurisdiction for events in Sierra Leone.

The London law firm that is taking up the matter on behalf of the people of Bumbuna is Leigh Day - a company known for taking up matters where it believes a wrong needs to be corrected that affects the poor and unconnected as is to be found in Sierra Leone and the many concerns passing off as investors in a resources-rich but dirt poor country. Leigh Day successfully sued Shell on behalf of Ogoni people in Nigeria and has won Ł150m for tens of thousands of the poorest people on earth from some of the world’s richest companies.This victim, a woman, was shot in the back, arm and stomach in her own God-given country as Ernest Bai Koroma protects his interests in Bumbuna

On the website of Leigh Day is the headline -

"Legal actions begins at High Court over allegations of abuses in Sierra Leone" dated 1 December 2015 - "Law firm Leigh Day has confirmed that it is taking High Court legal action in the UK against iron ore producer Tonkolili Iron Ore Ltd (formerly a subsidiary of African Minerals Ltd) following allegations of human rights abuses against workers and villagers living near one of its mines in Sierra Leone.

Leigh Day say their clients' allege that the company, which had its headquarters on Stratton Street in London, was complicit in the false imprisonment, assault and battery, trespass and theft of property.

Allegations have also been levelled against the company in relation to its role in the fatal shooting by police of a 24-year-old female during a protest over working conditions and pay in 2012. The pre-trial hearing at the High Court today heard arguments from lawyers representing the 142 claimants, who are mainly small scale or subsistence farmers and traders, in a bid to get compensation for their injuries sustained in two incidents in 2010 and 2012.

Tonkolili Iron Ore Ltd denies liability for the incidents which took place just outside the Tonkolili Iron Ore Ltd mining site outside Bumbuna town in the north of Sierra Leone. The company claims that it has no vicarious responsibility for the actions of the police and that the English courts lack jurisdiction for events in Sierra Leone.

The High Court has heard arguments from the legal team at Leigh Day, who are representing the claimants, that a number of villages were taken over and hundreds of families relocated with minimal consultation in a move to allow African Minerals Limited to expand its operations.

One of the lead claimants Kadiatu Koroma, 25, claims that she was beaten, raped and miscarried as a result of violence in Bumbuna town in 2010. In court papers, she said: “I remember seeing big AML trucks coming to work on our farms. They didn’t speak to anyone. We had already planted our produce and we gathered as a community and started grumbling. We were saying, how can these people come and work in our farms without saying something to us,” Witness evidence alleges that villagers who had set up a roadblock, to stop the company destroying their farms and their livelihoods, were faced with police who opened fire on them.

Ms Koroma claims she was flogged by the police before being taken to the Tonkolili Iron Ore camp, she was two months pregnant at the time and lost her baby.

“We all wanted to stop AML from destroying our farmland so I was guilty just because I lived in the village,” she said. In 2012 it is alleged that police used live ammunition to stop a protest staged by workers over low wages and unfair treatment resulting in a 24-year-old woman being shot dead while eight were wounded after police. According to Human Rights Watch, hundreds of families were evicted from their land to make way for the mine near Bumbuna with minimal consultation with villagers.

Astrid Perry, a lawyer in the international claims team at Leigh Day who is representing the villagers, said: “the conduct of the defendant has caused a number of delays to the progression of these claims and we are pleased to finally get before the Court and have the plight of the claimants heard.

“We believe it is all too easy for multi-national companies to operate abroad in rural and isolated environments and entirely avoid liability for actions which negatively affect those impacted by their operations. I hope this case serves as a warning to companies that they will be held to account”.

It would be recalled that after the various incidents at Bumbuna with the government doing its best to defend, shield and condone the actions of the security forces, a kind of concession was obtained with a promise that the matter would be investigated.

That was the end of the matter until a key civil society group, the Human Rights Commission of Sierra, HRCSL, made it quite clear that it would be carrying out its own investigations into the matter. The report of the Commission's findings, with names of those deemed to have committed unwholesome acts against unarmed civilians, mainly women was presented to the government and as is usual with such reports in the fiefdom of the rat, no action was taken and many within and without the boundaries of Sierra Leone would be relieved that at last someone, somewhere has thought it fit that the voices of the poor and oppressed should be heard.Another victim of the police use of disproportionate force as the police enforced zero tolerance and what looks like a shoot to kill policy.

The government of the rat, coming under increasing pressure from civil society issued a statement that was as meaningless as it was dubious - part of which stated -

"....the workers of African Minerals Limited commenced a protest action on Monday 16th April 2012 when they complained about poor conditions of service – a development which ignited a state of chaos but was later normalized by the police.

The situation however deteriorated last night bringing all activities of AML to a halt with allegations that firing took place.

Consequently, the President has appointed a committee of government ministers and security personnel to thoroughly investigate the Bumbuna incident to help the government take decisions to resolve the impasse.

Simultaneously, Government appeals to members of the public, especially the workers at Bumbuna, to remain calm as it will leave no stone unturned to address the issue. All and sundry are assured that any death that may have occurred in the process will be treated seriously, will be thoroughly investigated, and Government will allow the law to take its course accordingly."

Kindly recall that the Sierra Herald joined the many who had expressed concern over the highhandedness of the security forces and called for justice for those affected especially in the case of what looked like the deliberate targeting and killing of one Musu Conteh.

Calls for justice to be seen to be done fell on deaf ears as reports filtered to us that some brave journalists who dared to raise the issue and to criticise the operations of the company were faced with threats of legal action.

Those who fed fat on the droppings from the rat and the mining companies were in overdrive to highlight the virtues of the exploiting companies who are seen to be working hand in glove with the rat and his cabal.

Indeed one online news outlet, Swit Salone has noted the failure of some sections of the press to report on the death of Musu Conteh and the others suffering from gunshot wounds inflicted by the police as they went all out to protect the interests of the mining company whose workers had been on strike for better working conditions.

When police fired on protestors on strike at an African Minerals Limited (AML) site in Bumbuna in April there was little mention of it in Sierra Leone’s local print press. But this week the press is singing the praises of African Minerals and its boss Frank Timis. Either the reporters are really happy for the employees at AML or they are doing overtime for those highly coveted AML paid for advertorials.
 

The controversial billionaire has announced that it will increase the wages of its lowest paid employees by a whopping 350 percent. Timis said that the company’s minimum monthly wage of 300,000 leones ($72) will be raised to 1,000,000 leones ($240). This increment will be adjusted for inflation and back dated to January 1st 2012.

In addition to this Timis committed to an all round 16 percent increase in all staff salaries. In the print stories on the salary increases there was no mention of strike in Bumbuna, the injured or the dead. Da ooman im life don go buffin. (meaning that Musu Conteh died in vain and that no one will be held to account - our explanation)

Perhaps the greatest betrayal of the people of Bumbuna came from the warped mind of one Sheka Tarawallie, who also doubled then as the Deputy Government Spokesman in which he blames "SLPP snipers" for the wounding and killing incident at Bumbuna. He wrote -

"Independent investigations carried out by this press on the recent fracas at Bumbuna are pointing fingers at the political machinations of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) as not only having instigated the violence, but that they actually planted a gun man to cause mayhem, resulting in the death of Musu Conteh.

The police have vehemently denied using live bullets in quelling the demonstration which was on the brink of becoming uncontrollable. “The police were only using tear gas and rubber bullets to repel the agitated demonstrators,” a police spokesperson said. It is believed that someone other than the police used live rounds to fire at the crowds.

...The Torchlight found out that, for over three weeks, SLPP ‘alagbas’ had been holding secret meetings with workers at African Minerals, encouraging them to go on strike as their working conditions were in disparity with foreign workers. “We fell for the bait, and we followed their advice, because some of those telling us to demonstrate are our own bosses at African Minerals,” a worker, who now regrets having participated in the protest, confided in The Torchlight.

Another worker told us how the senior cadre at African Minerals is dominated by one tribe through the handiwork of a former personnel/human resource manager who was sacked when community people complained about his attitude and discrimination against locals. “This former human resource manager is the brain behind all this trouble. He is aggrieved and is now working in close affinity with SLPP flag bearer Julius Maada Bio. They have been paying secret visits to workers here,” he maintained.

...It was more of a showdown for cheap political gains. It is believed that someone other than the police used live rounds to fire at the crowds. I bet it was these same elements (who instigated the violence) that planted this sniper to cause mayhem. It was a well-orchestrated plan,” a Bumbuna Town elder, who is slowly coming to grasp with the true story, told The Torchlight.

...It was a well-orchestrated plan,” a Bumbuna Town elder, who is slowly coming to grasp with the true story, told The Torchlight. SLPP party sources say Maada Bio was in a jubilant mood, as he reportedly retorted ‘Yes, this is a big opportunity for us to make in-roads in the north’."

The lack of accountability of the security forces touched a raw nerve in all those yearning to see the rule of law, accountability and the sanctity of human life in Sierra Leone respected. One news outlet, Global Times noted -

"The horror stories of police brutality recorded in all areas of the country are appalling and very intimidating with no end in sight but getting worse. The unprofessional behavior ranges from bribery to the most heinous murder, in certain cases an alleged state sponsored. The frightening part of the horror story is that the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Francis Allieu Munu, seems not to be in control of his personnel.

In just a year ago, Some notorious officers of the Operation Service Division (OSD) have been killing innocent civilians with impunity all over the country, from Kono in the East, to Bo in the South, Lunsar in the North and of course Wellington in the East, Earl Street off Circular Road, Aberdeen, Goderich and Lumley in the West. The only case of all the unwarranted killings that was prosecuted is that of ‘Police Killing Police’.

One OSD Officer, Kristopher Kamara, allegedly killing a security officer assigned to Alhaji I.B. Kargbo, one of the Advisers of President Ernest Bai Koroma.

One has to wonder whether it is because of the high profile nature of the killing that prompted the authorities to quickly institute criminal charges against the OSD who allegedly committed the Aberdeen killing.

All the other killings, which involved the notorious OSD’s killing of civilians have not been correctly addressed by the appropriate authorities nor have they even produced a statement from the IG’s office or the Police Board of which the Vice President, Chief Alhaji Sam Sumana is the Chairman.

In fact, instead of action being taken to eradicate the lawless behavior by the police, IG Munu have been on radios justifying the killings, the latest justification of such killings was that of the United States Marine of Sierra Leonean origin, who was killed in cold blood at the Lumley Beach in Freetown.


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