On Friday 9th September 2011, the flag bearer of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) Brigadier (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio was on a ‘Thank You Tour’ in Bo when he was hit on the head by a stone resulting in a head injury. The incident led to the burning of buildings, shooting and wounding, and the death of a motor bike rider.
On Saturday 10th September 2011 His Excellency the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma convened a meeting at State Lodge attended by heads of the security services and Civil Society leaders. The President ordered the setting up of an Investigative Panel with a two week mandate to look into the stoning of Brig. Rtd. Maada Bio, the burning down of buildings, the shootings, injuries and death.
The Investigating Panel set to work on Monday 12th September 2011 and moved to Bo where witnesses were listened to and suspects interviewed. It was established that the SLPP “Thank You Tour” procession in Bo was legal and authorised.
The Panel found out that the stoning was carried out by APC youths, and the burning down of buildings were carried out by supporters of the SLPP. The shootings were done by the OSD personnel in Bo and it resulted in one dead and twenty three people injured including two police personnel. The stabbing of the APC Regional Chairlady South was also identified. The Panel also found out that senior police officers of Bo Police Division were out of station and there was no operational plan. Key recommendations were made with regards the operations of the Police, political party activities, role of the media and civil society amongst others.
On Friday 9th September 2011, it was reported that the flag bearer of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) Brigadier Rtd. Julius Maada Bio was stoned on the head resulting in a head injury. This allegedly led to rioting in the Bo Township, burning down of the All People’s Congress Party (APC) office, the residence of the APC District Chairperson, Mr. Sheik Sahid Sillah, and the office of ‘Di Pa E Yai”. Shootings also erupted which allegedly resulted in the death of a bike rider and the injury of a number of persons.
Consequently, on Saturday 10th September 2011, the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma convened a meeting at State Lodge comprising the Inspector General of Police, the Chief of Defence Staff, The Chairman of the Political Parties Registration Commission, the Ministers of Defence and Internal Affairs, the President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, the National Coordinator Office of National Security, the Executive Director Campaign for Good Governance, the Chief Fire Officer National Fire Force, the Chief of Staff State House, the Secretary to the President amongst others at which the above issues were discussed.
Subsequently, the President directed that an Independent Investigation Panel be constituted with immediate effect with an evidence-led mandate to investigate and provide a report on the following areas.
a. The stoning of the Sierra Leone People’s Party flag bearer Brigadier (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio.
b. The burning down of buildings in Bo.
c. The shootings resulting in the death of an individual and the injuries of a number of persons.
d. Any other related Issues.
The aim was to ensure prosecution and also proffer recommendations that could forestall any future occurrence of this nature in any part of the country within two weeks (12th to 26th September 2011).
Composition of the Panel
The following organizations constituted the Panel:
The Sierra Leone Police (SLP)
The Office of National Security (ONS)
National Fire Force (NFF)
The Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC)
Campaign for Good Governance (CGG)
The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ)
The Inter-religious Council Sierra Leone (IRC-SL)
Civil Society Movement (CSM)
It was agreed that Mr. Kelvin Lewis of SLAJ serves as the Chairperson, Mr. Lucien Momoh of the PPRC in charge of Administration and Logistics and Ms. Valnora Edwin of CGG as Executive Secretary and the investigations were led by Head of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Alfred Karrow-Kamara.
The panel agreed on the following:
a. Signing of the Terms of Reference
b. Visit to Brig. Rtd. Julius Maada Bio at his Freetown residence.
c. To pay visits to local and political authorities in Bo township as a confidence building measure to explain the Panel’s mandate and solicit their support in ensuring public cooperation in providing appropriate information that could enhance the work of the Panel and ensure its success in lieu of its stated mandate.
The panel visited:
The Paramount Chief,
The Resident Minister South,
The Mayor, Bo City Council
The Assistant Inspector General of Police, Southern Region.
All functional political parties – PMDC, SLPP, APC and NDA.
Civil Society Organizations, South.
After these confidence building courtesy calls the group embarked on the following activities:
d. Visited and established contacts with the injured admitted at the Bo Government Hospital (BGH).
e. Visited the crime scenes and collected evidence.
f. Conducted interviews, and obtained statements from witnesses and victims including those admitted at the hospital (BGH).
g. Witnessed the exhumation and examination by the consultant pathologist Dr S.O. Koroma.
h. Entertained appropriate Information from the general public as sources of useful leads for the investigators.
i. Solicited recorded evidence in the form of video clips, audio recordings, pictures etc. from reliable public sources.
j. A Press Release was issued admonishing the media against publishing and broadcasting judgmental commentaries related to the 9th September 2011 incident in Bo.
The Panel agreed on the following guiding principles;
Adherence to the Terms of Reference Ensuring witness protection as an integral part of the process
Ensuring confidentiality, objectivity and professionalism throughout the investigation.
The incidents of Friday 9th September 2011 in Bo did not just happen. It was a combination of factors before, and during the ‘Thank You Tour’ of Brigadier (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio which sadly led to the death of one person.
a. The Build Up “Fire for Fire”
On Thursday 8th September 2011 at the District Security Committee (DISEC) meeting in Bo, the Deputy Mayor was captured in the minutes of the meeting thus:-
The Deputy Mayor informed the Committee of the visit of the SLPP Flag Bearer Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio on 9th September, 2011 and in addition, he revealed that they have been reliably informed that the Minister of Internal Affairs Hon. Musa Tarawally will be in Bo on Thursday, 8th September, 2011. He went further to express that the minister’s presence at the time of the flag bearer’s visit may have the tendency to repeat the KONO crisis. The presence of the MIA he said was a security threat and that the SLP strength on the ground was not enough to neutralise it. He intoned that they will take nothing for granted and any resistance will be met with equal resistance (in his words, “fire for fire”). This information was said to have come in timely and must be treated with utmost seriousness. (DISEC minutes of meeting 8th September, 2011 on page 4 of 5)
Confronted as to why he made such a statement, Deputy Mayor Joe Pyne said that at a meeting in State House on Tuesday 6th September 2011 where the ceremony for the signing of performance contracts took place, the Minister of Internal Affairs (MIA) Musa Tarawally told him that he would be in Bo on Thursday 8th September 2011.
Furthermore, Pyne said he had overheard Member of Parliament and head of “De Pa E Yai” Hon. Legacy Sankoh insinuating over Kiss 104 radio that “if it were in Bo the incident that happened in Kono (where the Minister of Internal Affairs was allegedly attacked by irate youths and shots were fired) would not have happened.”
As a result Pyne said knowing the MIA and his association with violence and further recalling the incidents in Kono he had a premonition of danger. This is why he said he made the statement so that proactive measures would be put in place.
Questioned what the Police officer representing the SLP in the meeting did after the “threat” information was relayed, Deputy Mayor Pyne said the ASP Crime John Sesay assured the meeting that all modalities have been put in place and everything was under control.
When questioned about his statements over radio alluded to by Deputy Mayor Pyne, Hon. Legacy Sankoh stated that he was replying to a previous statement made over the radio by the Resident Minister Moijueh Kaikai and had nothing to do with the visit of the SLPP flag bearer to Bo.
b. MIA’s Presence
The Minister of Internal Affairs (MIA) Musa Tarawally is not trusted by members of the SLPP. Several of them who spoke to the investigating panel expressed fears that the MIA was capable of perpetrating violence. Therefore it became clear that the mere information of the MIA visiting Bo during the period when the SLPP Flag bearer was on a ‘Thank You Tour’, served to increase the political temperature.
Only one witness confirmed on record that he positively saw the MIA in Bo on Friday 9th September 2011. Other possible witnesses were too scared to go on record about the MIA’s presence and his alleged activities. When confronted the MIA denied having spoken to Deputy Mayor Joe Pyne of Bo City Council and that he was never in Bo on Thursday 8th September 2011. The MIA recalled that he was last in Bo on the 20th August 2011. The MIA confirmed that he personally knew Mohamed Conteh alias Bomb-blast, Mohamed Koroma alias Rati, and explained that they were in the APC office before he (MIA) became an APC member and Resident Minister South.
The MIA stated that he had an early warning signal that there were plans to set him up.
These issues need to be further investigated.
c. The Boys
Stationed as caretakers in the APC office 82 Mahie Boima Road were a group of boys among who were Mohamed Conteh alias Bomb-blast, Mohamed Koroma alias Rati, Ibrahim Conteh alias Shakur and Abdulai Tarawally.
On Wednesday 7th September 2011 they ordered their wives to collect stones, as one of the wives allegedly said in Krio: “da useless man dey cam” meaning: the useless man is coming. Bomb-blast was seen carrying a catapult which was described as yellow in colour (of the wooden handle) and red at the back. They were reportedly very hyper; smoking cannabis sativa and had dressed up with knives hanging from the sides of their trousers and a pistol was seen in the hands of one of them, who quickly hid it.
On Thursday 8th September 2011 they held a meeting in the afternoon, inside the APC office where it appeared to the witness that something was in the air. On the morning of Friday 9th September 2011 two women wearing green were subsequently molested by these boys when passing in front of the APC office. In the afternoon when the procession was passing they came out into the streets and were seen standing on the junction with their red attires, and at some point wrestling with the Police.
The APC Regional Chairlady South Zainab Mansaray was in the premises of the APC Office among the youths and cooking for them.
d. Media build up
During a discussion program on Radio Kiss 104 on September 8th 2011 threats to disrupt the visit were voiced. It was alleged that some people wanted to wear Maada Bio T-Shirts and cause trouble. Others were warned against holding contrary banners calling for a running mate and others still were said to be calling SLPP stalwarts using unregistered sim cards and abusing them. Also the route was clearly read out along with the program of events.
e. SLPP/SLP build up
On the 29th August 2011 the SLPP District Secretary Mohamed Allie wrote to both the Paramount Chief Prince Lappia Boima IV of Kakua Chiefdom and Local Unit Commander Theophilus Senesie informing them that their Presidential flag bearer would be making a maiden visit to say thanks to his party supporters.
The letter was asking for permission to process, and police coverage. The SLPP also wanted to pour libation at their party office, hold a public meeting at Coronation field, and radio discussion. The request was later accompanied by a mapped out procession route on the morning of the procession.
On the 1st September 2011 Paramount Chief Prince Lappia Boima IV responded to the request by granting clearance, and a copy was sent to the LUC. The LUC Theophilus Senesie in turn wrote acknowledging receipt of the SLPP application, and granting security clearance whilst warning them of the 1965 Public Order Act.
While all this was going on the LUC also wrote another letter to the Regional Commander of Police South, Assistant Inspector General of Police David Sesay asking for two weeks leave to attend to Urgent Personal Affairs (UPA) covering the period 4th to 17th September 2011.
On Sunday 4th September 5 days before the planned visit for Brig. Rtd. Maada Bio, the LUC, his Support Officer and Operations Officer all left Bo to attend a seminar at the Police training School. These are the three officers who should sit down and plan police presence for such a visit. So the LUC appointed the Crime Officer ASP John Sesay to act on his behalf. ASP John Sesay says he was asked to do only administrative work of the LUC. He told the panel that he called the LUC to ask about plans for the Maada Bio visit and was told everything was in place. When the LUC was confronted with this allegation he denied.
APC District Chairman Sheik Sillah told the panel that he had informed the AIG South that he had heard threatening remarks that on the 9th September 2011 that the offices of APC, De Pa E Yai and his house will be burnt down and himself killed. When the AIG was asked he intimated that Sheik Sillah only told him about an influx of people into Bo City and not about threats to burn down buildings.
On Friday September 9th 2011 the morning of the visit the Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police South David Sesay says he called the OSD Commander and the SLPP representatives to a meeting in his office where they planned and agreed on the security detail for the convoy. AIG David Sesay says they agreed that 10 unarmed general duty police officers would be close to Bio’s vehicle and one van load of OSD will be in front as the lead vehicle while another van load with 25 OSD will be at the back. Asked whether they agreed on the route he said no. However SLPP District Secretary Mohamed Allie who was accompanied by SLPP Member of Parliament Constituency 68 Rado Yokie claimed they discussed the route and it was approved.
AIG South claimed he monitored the progress of the convoy from Mile 91 on to Kebbie town in Bo.
f. Tour Party arrives in Bo
Video footage showed Maada Bio in Mile 91 where he was closely guarded by armed OSD personnel during his entire sojourn in the area. His visits to Moyamba junction and Taiama were equally without incident.
The tour party arrived in Bo and was met with a large crowd at Kebbie town near Bo City. According to the estimates of the AIG, it was around 10 to 15 thousand people. Jacob Saffa who was in the vehicle with Maada Bio put the crowd at between 100 to 150 thousand people.
g. The Stoning
After passing the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) office along Mahei Boima Road, youths dressed in red on the right side of the road nearby the APC office struggled with the Police who were bent on keeping them away from the street where the procession was going on. The first stones reportedly came from within the group of APC youths standing by the street. And suddenly stones started raining from the angle of the APC office and within the SLPP crowd.
Witnesses say that Mohamed Conteh alias Bomb-blast used a catapult to launch the stone at the convoy. Other witnesses say the first stone came from within the APC group and subsequent stones aimed at the convoy.
The Police were now caught in the middle at first trying to prevent the APC group from getting into the street and when the retaliatory stoning was coming from the SLPP crowd the police then switched to trying to stop the SLPP crowd from going after the APC boys. Caught in the middle the SLPP crowd then turned on the police who then seeing they were outnumbered quickly disappeared. The general duty police alongside Bio’s vehicle also disappeared.
h. Bio’s wound
When the stones started raining Maada Bio who was standing through the sun roof of the Range Rover AFR-595 allegedly quickly tried to sit down to avoid the stones. According to him upon trying to duck inside the sun roof, he felt an object hit his head and when he put his hand on the spot, there was blood streaming down.
Jacob Jusu Saffa who was riding in the car with him said that when he saw the first few stones he told Maada Bio to sit down and that whilst he was trying to sit down that the stone hit him.
Video clips show blood oozing from the wound on his head and Bio holding a white blood soaked towel to his head. Jacob Jusu Saffa says they then rushed to Dr Yillah’s hospital for treatment. Dr Yillah says he treated Bio for a star shaped wound on his head and three interrupted stitches were administered with two stitches on either side of the star. Video clips showed Bio on the operating table in the hospital while treatment was being administered. Bio was ordered to rest for two hours.
Jacob Jusu Saffa says they heard about the shooting in town and decided that Bio should go and make an appeal for calm at the Coronation grounds where he had earlier been scheduled to address supporters. Bio then went to the coronation grounds addressed the crowd and retired to J&E guest house along New Koribondo Road. Bio complained that during all this period the police were nowhere to be seen.
As the stone throwing SLPP youths outnumbered the police at the APC office the police disappeared on to the main Mahei Boima road. Soon after witnesses say they saw Alias Bawwao, Alhaji (Alias Tapet), Hon. Foday Rado Yokie, Kenneth Coker, Keifa Avayama, Kanneh (UCC Teacher), Daniel Amara (Mines Bo), Mustapha Massaquoi, Patrick Zombo and others, pour petrol and set the APC office buildings (3) on fire. Witnesses say this same group most of whom were dressed in green, then moved to Sheik Sillah’s (APC District Chairman) house and set it on fire. The group again allegedly moved to the office of “De Pa E Yai” and also set it on fire. SLPP stalwarts were seen in possession of fuel which they used to burn the houses.
j. Shooting, Wounding and Death
In a bid to control the crowd and restore law and order OSD personnel fired tear gas and live bullets in the air. This did not stop the irate youths from stoning them. OSD officers then fired straight at civilians some of whom were sending stones at them. 23 people were initially treated at the Bo Government Hospital including 2 police officers but only 9 were for bullet wounds.
Witnesses say that the motor bike rider pleaded not to be shot before he was shot and killed by an OSD officer who was widely known as ‘White boy’ (Steven Bockarie Mansaray). In the evening at J&E guest house Bio says his team had to call on the UN for security because the SLP were nowhere to be seen. He alleged that some people had rumoured that he will be attacked again in the night. UN during their night patrols in the region visited Bio and observed there were gaps in his security so the Maada Bio team and the AIG discussed in the presence of the UN and 10 OSD personnel were provided as guards for the night. Without any incident in the night, Bio left the following day 10th September 2011 for Kenema. They apparently cut short their tour and returned to Bo where he made a statement before leaving for Freetown on Sunday 11th September 2011.