REMEMBERING THOSE WHO PERISHED AT
MABAYLLA ON THE NIGHT OF SEPTEMBER 3, 1997
(first published as an editorial on December 23, 2003)
It is yet
another time for celebrations as Christians and their friends
from all over the world commemorate the birth of Jesus the true
Son of God. It is also a time as we approach and enter a new
year labelled 2004, to reflect on events of the past and here
the Sierra Herald would once again call for a thorough
investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deliberate
September 1997 killing of civilians at Mabaylla in the east of
the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown.
who grew up or were associated with that part of the city, that
area though described as slum provided the elements that made
them appreciate what life was all about - that while some
breakfast tables boasted of "bacon en ham", there were other
tables, sometimes none at all, though not boasting of the same
fare yet produced great men and women who were later to
contribute in whatever way to the positive development of the
community in which they found themselves.
the people of Mabaylla has always been a hard grind from day to
day with inhabitants managing to survive it all despite the
neglect of past administrations and indeed a visit to that part
of Freetown will paint a graphic picture of the complete lack of
state of social and health care in a capital that even in the
twenty first century cannot boast of a sewerage system.
Cot Market area and other outlying "trading" centres provided
the means of livelihood with many having to use their wits to
stay free while fending for the needs of ever-hungry stomachs.
Ask those in "high rise" quarters, living above the sea level
that is Mabaylla and you are bound to get various pictures of
the varying shades of characters that are rumoured to live along
the shores that define Mabaylla.
talk about a "haven of rogues and thieves", others would be more
sympathetic and would say some of the inhabitants are masters in
the art of "throwing the dice" while others would tell you from
the corner of their mouths how it was along the shores of
Mabaylla, with the golden sun setting below the horizon, that
they first had their real encounter with.....while having their
first pull on.......
would tell you that it was from these shores that stretched from
Kanikay, through "Mowharf" ending up at the great Kroo Bay area
that they were taught the practicalities of life which
invariably included being taught how to "tie watta" that would
eventually lead to "changy" and other activities.
you were to take a walk around the Mabaylla area, you would
notice traces of a once-vibrant trading post and port area with
rail ruts still visible recalling the days of great commerce as
goods were offloaded ships for the stores in Sierra Leone while
produce from the country was loaded on board.
It was this
same Mabaylla, after many years that witnessed the end of such
activities whose inhabitants only came in useful to politicians
when it was election time that witnessed a horror of horrors on
the night of Wednesday September 3 and the early hours of
Thursday September 4, 1997.
No need to
paint the grisly scene, no need to paint the circumstances
surrounding the suffering of those who survived, no need to
paint a graphic account of what happened to those who emerging
from their rooms and expressing surprise at certain uniformed
people were gunned down in cold blood.
Even as we
look forward to the coming year, let us all pray for the sweet
repose of the victims of Mabaylla and let us pray that their
case would be taken up and investigated by a competent body so
that those who perpetuated the act would be brought to justice,
would be made to account for the blood of the innocent people of
Wednesday September 3, 1997.
Extraordinarily long meeting of the AFRC/RUF coalition of evil
held at State House in central Freetown.
Thursday September 4, 1997.
Tragedy unfolds. Scores are reported killed by bombs/missiles.
Junta claims massacre carried out by ECOMOG forces based across
the estuary in Lungi. Anti-Nigerian/ECOMOG/pro-democrat hysteria
and hate whipped up on junta-controlled radio and television.
One medical staff interviewed by junta-controlled TV publicly
discloses that some of the victims bore wounds consistent with
those inflicted by bullets.
Friday September 5, 1997.
Funeral ceremonies for the dead held at the National Stadium.
One Major Johnny Paul Koroma appeals to the international
community for the removal of Nigerian/ECOMOG troops from Sierra
Saturday September 6, 1997.
Meeting called by junta at City Hall to decide on what must be
done to the ECOMOG troops based at Jui, some thirteen miles from
centre of Freetown. Persecution/murder of Nigerians and
pro-democrats continue. Sackville Street becomes a death zone
for all Nigerians. Meeting decides on march on ECOMOG base at
Jui. Anti-ECOMOG/Nigerian hate broadcasts continue
Sunday September 7, 1997. Early
communion church goers turned back from church entrances. Urged
to join march on ECOMOG positions at Jui. Hate broadcasts
continue. "Cool heads" close to junta advise against preventing
people from attending Sunday services. ECOMOG warns against
proposed march using international media outlets as well as the
98.1 FM radio. March begins with some junta supporters forcing
civilians at gun point to join the march. Warnings by ECOMOG
still continue clearly defining the restricted zone that must
not be crossed - a certain bridge on the road to Jui. March
organisers get the message, falter and stop far short of Jui -
at the Foamex factory just outside the city gates.