The Terms of
Reference for this Public Inquiry were to:
The Inquiry employed a number of methods to gather evidence and information. Personal statements were taken from victims in Bumbuna, the Officer Commanding the Bumbuna Police Station and the Paramount Chief of Kalasongoia Chiefdom covering Bumbuna Township. Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were also held with Youths, Women and a mixed group of Community stakeholders including the bike riders union, women leaders, market women, the traders’ union and religious leaders.
The fourth FGD meant for the workers of African Minerals (SL) Ltd did not take place.
A Public Hearing was conducted in Bumbuna Town at the Court Barray (Local Court House) presided over by a Panel of three: Commissioner Jamesina King - Chairing, Rev. Commissioner Moses Khanu and Ambassador Allieu Kanu of the Sierra Leone Institute of International Law (co-opted). During the Public Hearing, forty one (41) witnesses testified including four (4) women, two (2) Government Ministers, ten (10) members of the Sierra Leone Police, eight (8) of whom were senior police personnel including the Inspector General of Police.
Among those who testified were thirteen (13) Interested Persons named in the public notice of 1st June, 2012.
Two named interested persons, Allie D. Kamara, Resident Minister North and Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray, Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, neither attended the Public Hearing at Bumbuna nor did they submit any documents. They did not provide any reasons for failing to honour the Commission’s summons to testify. Under the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Act, 2004, this is an act of contempt.
Key Findings and
Findings in Relation to the Police Operation in Bumbuna
1. The Inquiry finds that the police overreacted to the protest action by African Minerals (SL) Ltd (AML) workers and used disproportionate force, including live ammunition, resulting in the death of one Musu Conteh, a young lady who worked for AML. Others were severely wounded; eight (8) of whom sustained gunshot wounds. Some people were also wounded through beating and other forms of manhandling.
2. The Inquiry found no evidence to confirm the allegation that three other persons were killed and their bodies dumped in the river.
3. The violence on the 17th and 18th of April, 2012 led to the temporary displacement of some people to other villages and towns outside Bumbuna.
4. The Police subjected the women of Bumbuna to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in the form of verbal abuse, physical and psychological violence.
5. The police subjected members of the Bumbuna community to arbitrary arrest and detention.
6. The police subjected the people of Bumbuna to inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment through severe beatings, kicking, molesting and arresting two (2) family members attending to the corpse of a relative who had just died at the Bumbuna Community Health Centre.
7. The Inquiry also finds that the Police violated the right to privacy by breaking doors and entering homes without search warrants in a house-to-house search of suspected rioters.
8. The police destroyed and in some cases carried away property belonging to some members of the Bumbuna community.
9. The manner in which the arrest of Rev. Bangura was effected, was a key tipping point in the Bumbuna crisis. He was arrested by a combined team of Military and Police personnel, some of whom were armed even though he was unarmed and cooperative.
10. The Bumbuna community was traumatized by the police operations and described it as a replay of rebel attacks during the war.
11. The high-handed response by the police in Bumbuna was as a result of an exaggeration of the activities and intentions of the striking workers. The reports as to what the youths were doing or planning to do were highly exaggerated, leading to the heavy deployment of the police.
12. The police acted unprofessionally in most cases by not following their Rules of Engagement: “Guidance for Opening Fire for Armed Police Officers of the Sierra Leone Police (Green Card ‘A’)”.
13. Section 16 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991 gives broad exceptions covering the lethal use of force thereby lowering the elements that constitute the duty to protect the right to life in Sierra Leone and falls short of Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone international human rights standards. According to principle 25 of the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Fire Arms by Law Enforcement Officers, the only permissible instances in which lethal force could be used should be limited to the defence of life which would include self-defence or defence of others against the threat of death or serious injury, prevent heinous crimes that involve a threat to life or in the course of arresting a person presenting such a danger to prevent his or her escape.
14. The Inquiry finds that the misconduct by the police is also attributed to a structural problem that is evident in the relationship between Operations Support Division (OSD) and the General Duty Police. This confusion made it difficult to identify the source of the orders to use live ammunition. This relationship makes it easy for the police to generally escape accountability because it allows for a “ping pong” game in which officers blame each other without taking responsibility for their actions.
15. It is clear that even though the SLP have an accountability mechanism on the use of ammunition, this accountability mechanism was not adhered to.
16. The two (2) injured OSD police officers, W24 and W25, looked timid, under aged and not appropriately educated to interpret and follow their Rules of Engagement and are also not likely to refuse orders that are manifestly illegal.
17. The uncoordinated and unsupervised Police intervention precipitated a riotous situation involving AML workers that was taken advantage of by members of the Bumbuna community that had other grievances to settle with AML or with the Paramount Chief. The latter were job-seekers or laid off workers who blamed AML and the Paramount Chief for their plight.
18. Some members of the Bumbuna community perpetuated violence against the police, which resulted in the wounding of three (3) officers who were treated at the Makeni Police Clinic. The youths erected road blocks and hurled stones and sticks at the police.
19. The SLP has no Compensation Fund for police officers injured/wounded in the course of duty or to compensate the families of officers who might be killed in the course of duty.
20. The relationship between the police and the Bumbuna community is not cordial and conducive to community-oriented policing.
21. The Police Station in Bumbuna is understaffed and under-resourced given the influx of job seekers into Bumbuna town. The station has eight (8) Police Officers and no vehicle, leading the police to use AML vehicles in their operations.
22. A vehicle owned by HAWK, a sub-contractor of AML and driven by an AML worker, was used to arrest Rev. Daniel Bangura, a broadcaster of Radio Numbara. This relationship between the Police and AML is a cause for concern and suspicion to the people of Bumbuna and feeds the perception that the Police will not be impartial in situations that involve AML.
23. Police response to communities in situations of conflict with private companies appears to have taken a pattern of arbitrary arrests and detention, looting, vandalism, beating and the unlawful use of live ammunition. This pattern appears to be one of systemic violations of human rights that need to be addressed in a holistic manner in order to prevent the recurrence of the events of the 16th to 18th April, 2012 in Bumbuna or elsewhere in Sierra Leone.
Findings Relating to Labour Rights and African Minerals (SL) Ltd
24. The freedom
of association of the workers of AML has been violated and continues to be
violated by the failure of the Government and especially the Ministry of Labour
to make available and real, the possibility of workers to belong to a trade
union of their choice. This problem is acute with respect to AML workers at the
AML mining site in Feregbeya in Kalasongoia Chiefdom who expressly sought to
join a different trade union because they lacked confidence in the United Mining
Workers Union (UMU).
26. The absence of a trade union of choice for AML workers, compounded by a history of broken promises on the part of the management of AML and longstanding unaddressed grievances led the workers to protest out of frustration.
27. There is evidence that there is a problem of communication between management and low ranking staff, leading to the frustration of the workers.
28. The relationship between the Community and AML is ambivalent and a cause for concern.
29. The Inquiry was unable to confirm whether all the conditions agreed upon in the Communiqué signed between the representatives of AML workers and the Management on the 24th April 2012 were fully implemented, because the Commission did not have access to AML Workers except for witness W21.
30. The Regulation of Wages and Industrial Relations, 1971 places impediments on the enjoyment of the freedom of association of workers under section 26(1) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 by making it impossible for workers to join trade unions of their choice.
Findings in Relation to Government Response
31. The Government responded promptly by sending a high-level delegation to Bumbuna that included Government ministers to calm the situation down and restore normalcy.
32. The Government set up a Coroner’s Inquiry to investigate the death of the late Musu Conteh.
33. Victims that sustained gunshot wounds were given money on behalf of the His Excellency, the President. The failure to properly assess and compensate victims of the gunshot wounds left some victims with lingering medical conditions that were not adequately compensated.
34. Furthermore, because no quantification of losses or damages was done, some victims, even the severely affected who lost material goods were excluded from the “compensation process.”
Findings in Relation to the Media
35. The role of the media in a situation of crisis is very critical. Overall, the media did their best in informing the public on the events in Bumbuna. Radio Numbara, the community radio, provided timely information about the incidents in spite of its limited capacity. The Commission was not able to prove that the Station incited violence as alleged by the police, due to the absence of the recordings of the programmes which were referred to as ‘inciting’.
36. The Torchlight Newspaper exemplified irresponsible journalism when it published as headline news on the 3rd of May, 2012, an article titled “‘SLPP Sniper’ Killed Bumbuna Woman”. It is important to note that these claims were neither verified by the Editor (W39) nor confirmed by any of the witnesses.
Findings in Relation to the Community
37. Some sections of the Community have long standing grievances against AML and the Paramount Chief that need to be addressed.
38. The long standing Chieftaincy issues in Bumbuna between Daniel Sara Turay, a member of a rival ruling house and his followers, and the Paramount Chief, although outside the terms of reference of this Inquiry, have the potential to contribute to instability and public unrest and need to be addressed.
To the Sierra Leone Police
The SLP should:
39. Publicly acknowledge, take responsibility and apologise for the unlawful use of live ammunition, violence and trauma they caused. This apology should be communicated using media that can reach the people of Bumbuna and most preferably at Bumbuna.
40. Develop and communicate to the public, especially the people of Bumbuna, mechanisms that will be put in place to guarantee a non-repetition of the events of the 16th to 18th April, 2012.
41. Ensure that Supt. Samuel Benedict Vandi, Supt. Lamin Sesay, LUC Supt. Alfred C. Dassama and OC ASP Daniel Bockarie Konneh individually apologise to the people of Bumbuna.
42. Investigate Supt. Samuel Benedict Vandi, Supt. Lamin Sesay, LUC Supt. Alfred C. Dassama and OC, ASP Konneh for mismanaging the police response to the protest action.
43. Transfer OC ASP Konneh (Bumbuna), LUC Alfred C. Dassama (Magburaka) and Supt. Samuel Benedict Vandi (North-East Region) to give room for a fresh start in the relationship between the police and community.
44. Identify and investigate all personnel involved in the police response to the protest action including a physically challenged OSD personnel (who walks with a limp), adversely mentioned by the community people and discipline those found culpable and where appropriate, prefer criminal charges against them.
45. Apologize to the women of Bumbuna using media that can reach them and most preferably, at Bumbuna.
46. At all levels be trained on the issues of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV).
47. Strengthen and use Human Rights-based approaches to policing. In particular, the police should take immediate steps to mainstream the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.
48. Establish a Compensation Fund that would be used to compensate police officers injured or the families of officers killed in the course of duty.
49. Institutionalize the receipt of gifts and material assistance (including equipment and transportation) from private individuals and companies, by establishing a Benevolent Fund at Headquarters. This will prevent instances as seen in Bumbuna where police personnel were seen using vehicles of a private company to carry out their operations.
50. Take immediate steps to adequately staff and resource the police station at Bumbuna.
51. Review the relationship between the OSD and the General Duty police officers with a view to rationalizing the hierarchy of command in order to enhance the levels of accountability of senior police officers. There should never be any doubt as to who is in charge of any given police operation at any given time. This review should also be informed by the recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that disbanding the OSD should be given serious consideration.
52. Review recruitment procedures and practices to ensure that applicants undergo proper screening to ascertain their moral, physical and educational fitness for the job.
53. Re-screen and ensure continued training of the police officers to ensure that they are fit for the job. Their continued fitness to perform police functions should be subjected to periodic review.
54. Establish an active local partnership board in Bumbuna.
55. In collaboration with the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, expedite the establishment of an Independent Police Complaints Commission/Board. Such a body should be operationally independent of the Government or any political influence and be accessible to members of the public.
To African Minerals (SL) Limited
The AML should:
56. Implement in full the terms agreed in the Communiqué of 24th April, 2012 signed between the representatives of the striking workers and the management of AML officially ending the protest action by the workers.
57. Collaborate with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to ensure that the workers are able to join a trade union of their choice.
58. Mainstream and implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
59. Review and strengthen the Grievance Mechanism available to workers and make it accessible to all including non-literate workers, make it user friendly, independent and non-discriminatory. The Grievance Mechanism should be communicated to all workers and explained to them to ensure that they understand how to use it. Safeguards should be put in place in this mechanism to ensure that workers who use it are not victimized.
60. Improve on communication with low ranking staff. There should be an open channel available to all employees, literate or non-literate
61. Review and strengthen the Grievance Mechanism available to the members of the Bumbuna community and ensure that it is communicated to all and they understand how to use it.
62. Put mechanisms in place to ensure speedy and effective response to complaints from workers and community people.
63. Take immediate steps to improve cultural and racial tolerance and mutual respect amongst its workers.
64. Continue to be supportive of the Community in Bumbuna without being perceived or seen as facilitating or encouraging conduct that violates the rights of workers or community people. This would require a review of the relationship between the Paramount Chief, the Police and AML.
65. Channel its material assistance to the police through an official and institutionalized fund maintained at the Police Headquarters for greater accountability and transparency.
66. Ensure full compliance with the core ILO Conventions on the rights of workers.
To the Ministry of Labour and Social Security
The Ministry of Labour and Social Security should:
67. Establish a Labour Office in Bumbuna in view of increased employment opportunities, to ensure that the rights of workers are protected.
68. Ensure that the workers of AML are free to belong to a trade union of their choice under section 26(1) of the Constitution.
69. Ensure full compliance by AML and other private companies with the ILO core Conventions, especially the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Rights to Organize Convention 1948, the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention 1949, Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention 1958, the Equal Remuneration Convention 1951, and the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at work 1998.
To the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice
The Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice should:
70. Review the Regulation of Wages and Industrial Relations Act 1971 and recommend to Parliament the enactment of a new law to ensure the full enjoyment of the right to organize (freedom of association), in compliance with Section 26 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991 and the ILO core Conventions. This review should ensure that workers in Sierra Leone have, by law, an opportunity to be protected by a trade union of their choice.
71. Review and
recommend to Parliament for amendment of Section 16 of the Constitution of
Sierra Leone, 1991 in order to ensure full compliance with international
standards on the protection of the right to life.
To the Independent Media Commission (IMC) and the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ)
73. Ensure that all journalists conduct themselves professionally by adhering to the IMC Act and the Media Code of Practice.
74. Work with partners to ensure that journalists are trained and have the skills to professionally cover crisis situations.
75. Work with partners to provide capacity building support for Radio Numbara in Bumbuna.
To the Ministry of Youth Employment and Sports and the National Youth Commission:
76. Educate and sensitize the youths to ensure they understand peaceful methods of communicating their grievances to responsible government institutions.
To the Youth
77. Should learn to seek remedies from responsible government institutions and work within the requirements of the law when faced with problems. Acts of violence delegitimize claims the youths may want to make as such acts portray them as lawless. In relation to the Community, the Commission directs the following:
78. In respect of the pain, suffering and anguish suffered by the members of the Bumbuna community and noting that given the numbers of the people affected and considering that certain forms of harm cannot be paid for with money, the Inquiry has considered it wise to emphasize symbolic remedies.
79. The people of Bumbuna suffered collective trauma that cannot be compensated for in monetary terms. Having expressed frustration over the fact that their homes and business premises have not been connected to the Bumbuna Hydro electricity supply, the Commission calls on government to take urgent steps to do so by 16th April, 2013 (the first anniversary of the incident).
80. Government should ensure that the roof of the Bumbuna Market is repaired with immediate effect and provide the market with additional facility of lavatory.
81. Without delving into the Chieftaincy issues in Bumbuna, the Commission considers it important, in the interests of peace, for the Paramount Chief to take immediate steps to reconcile with disaffected members of the Bumbuna community and address the long standing grievance held by Mr. Daniel Sara Turay and his followers.
In Relation to Victims, the Commission directs the following:
82. Government should ensure that Kelly Conteh (W9), who sustained gunshot wounds on the head, receive immediate medical and psychological treatment.
83. Government should arrange and make provision at the Bumbuna Community Health Centre for those that suffered gunshot wounds and are in need of continued medical and psychological care to receive such treatment at government expense immediately.
84. Government should upgrade and equip the Bumbuna Community Health Centre with the provision of necessary infrastructure, equipment, facilities, drugs and skilled personnel to fulfill the health needs in a growing community.
85. The government should use qualified and experienced experts to quantify and determine the levels of compensation deserved by individual victims as guided and not limited to the matrix of injury and loss carried in this report under paragraph 288. The government should ensure that the people receive this compensation within a year of the release of this report.