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Sierra Leone soldiers, secret society clash

Layemin Joe Sandi, Mayor of Bonthe

By Umaru Fofana

A daytime curfew has been imposed on the southern island of Bonthe after skirmishes between soldiers based on the island and members of the Poro secret society led to the shooting dead of two people.

Two other people involved in the skirmishes are hospitalised, as is the wife of the local head of the Office for National Security (ONS) and a military guard at the naval base who were allegedly beaten up by the mostly young angry Poro members.

Police local unit commander, Superintendent Amadu Turay said the Poro youths were testy at the alleged hissing at one of their members by a young woman.

“They pursued the woman after she had gone to the naval base for safety where they attacked the military guard who stopped them from entering the base”, Supt Turay told Politico.

He said they had imposed a curfew with no one allowed to leave their homes after 1:00 PM to enable them arrest those suspected of being behind the disturbances, but also to ward off any further disturbances.

No boats are also allowed to travel to or from the island.

The Mayor of Bonthe, Layemin Joe Sandi expressed “grave concern” at the turn of events. He said he was worried that “violence has come to my otherwise peaceful island”.

He said he couldn’t understand why “hissing at someone in this 21st century would lead to machete-wielding youths wanting to mob someone”.

Mayor Sandi said he was worried by the restrictions placed on boats travelling to and from the island. “This will result in starvation for my people because almost everything we consume here comes from the mainland on a weekly basis” he said.

He said the police would hunt for those who gave orders to the boys to attack.

Asked whether he would want an inquest into the shooting dead of the two people, he said much as he was concerned over the deaths, he believed the soldiers exercised maximum restraint, fired warning shots until the youths had refused to budge.

“What would have happened to the young woman if the irate mob had laid hands on her” he asked rhetorically.