By Ragan M. Conteh
Stakeholders of Tonkolili District on Saturday, 28th March, 2020 informed their Member of Parliament, Hon. Hassan Sankoh, that close to thirty or forty houses were observed to be abandoned, doors broken or opened with properties scattered inside and outside, whilst some houses were destroyed by fire including agricultural stores.
The Village Headman, Pa Alie Koroma, and elders of Masuba and other villages, explained to their MP that, due to the highhandedness of the police, the people have fled to other villages across the river leaving behind their produces and belongings at the mercy of the rains.
Pa Alie Koroma said it was also visible that their houses were destroyed by fire, agricultural produce allegedly stolen, dwelling houses seen with broken padlocks and ransacked interiors.
He however alleged that the atrocities were committed by the police who stormed the villages at midnight, effecting massive arrests and wrecking havoc on people who claimed they are innocent in the alleged killing of police in that community.
“Everybody had run to the bushes as if we are in rebel war situation. A lot of properties have been looted and destroyed,” the village Headman, Pa Alie Koroma, and elders, Pa Alimamy Conteh and Pa A. M. Kamara said.
The Chiefdom Councilor, Sullay Kamara, said on the 21st March, 2020, they heard gun shots and discovered fire at their court barray, and that the Police arrested nineteen people despite being some four miles from the Mamanoh village.
A trader and victim, Aminata, residing at Masoko village, said, “They broke my door, stole my rice, groundnut and market money. The police attacked us like rebels. We need the government to help us.”
A suckling mother, with a four days old baby, said her baby contracted fever after living in the bush for four days.
“Our farming projects have been seriously affected; our seeds have gotten soaked. This situation will seriously affect farming this year,” Headman Masoko village, Pa Aruna Kamara said.
Some villagers said children and persons with disabilities were also arrested by the police and their village money pot was carted away with approximately forty million as contributions from seventy six people.
The nurse in charge of the Masoko Village Hospital (MCHP), Fatmata Bintu Kargbo, said the hospital was also not spared, as it suffered broken windows and damaged benches, which will affect their operations during the ongoing Coronavirus fight.
She however said their operations continue and that they are doing the normal screening of sick people. She noted, “I am not feeling too safe but it is manageable now.”
The Principal, Mayosoh Junior Secondary School (JSS), Samuel Sesay, explained that, since the incident, the school has been closed because the pupils and families have fled into the bushes in fear of the police attack.
“The police did not enter our school premise but we are living under threat. A guy named Henry Conteh was slapped and taken away for a week by the police, which fueled more fear and exodus of people into the bushes.
Asked about what can be the way forward in the current dire situation, Principal Samuel said, “Let the police minimize the threats.” He added that for weeks now there have been no school sessions.
One Amidu Kamara informed the MP that Masanga village is believed to be the birthplace of former RUF leader, Corporal Foday Sankoh.
He said the village is the only place with a semblance of normalcy and a thriving rice production, but the people in the village are also apprehensive of the situation.
They however requested their MP, Hon. Sankoh, to help them roof their court barray and the urgent rehabilitation of the Magburaka-Mile 91 road which, they noted, will be cutoff during the rains.
At Masanga, an ill old man, Pa Momoh reportedly died after he was abandoned by fleeing and panic- stricken villagers.
Janet Ola, a Nigerian woman married to a Sierra Leonean, likened the incident to the civil war in Kono District where, she said, they used to trade. She confirmed countless claims of theft of agricultural produces allegedly by the Police.
“Please Papa Government make this place safe for us once more. Let the truth prevail and help us with agricultural assistance,” she appealed.
Mamanoh village is the most ravaged epicenter among the numerous villages and is now a ghost town inhabited by dogs, chickens, goats and sheep and other abandoned cattle. The only church in the village was seen untouched but with an open door.
However, the cattle rearers cannot be reached as they are said to have also fled for fear of retaliation of villagers. Their cows were seen abandoned.
These villagers said they have been holding fruitless meetings on the issue of mushrooming cow yards (worehs), which they say the cattle rearers are ready to pay for the use of more land for grazing of their cows.
By Ragan M. Conteh