Published On: Tue, Jul 17th, 2012

The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Begins Bumbuna Public inquiry.



Opening Statement by Commissioner Jamesina King on 16th July 2012 in Bumbuna, Tonkolili District, Northern Province of Sierra Leone .

Jamesina King (Commissioner Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone)

Jamesina King (Commissioner Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone)

PC Alimamy Koroma III, the Resident Minister North Mr. Alie D. Kamara, the Minister of Labour and Social Security Mr. Hindolo Trye, the Minister of Mineral Resources, Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Francis Munu, Senior Government Officials, Senior Police Personnel, the Executive Director and personnel of African Minerals Ltd, Members of the International Community, the Bumbuna Community, Members of the Fourth Estate, Civil Society Organizations, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me welcome you all to the hearings of the Public Inquiry by the Human Rights Commission ofSierra Leone into Alleged Gross Violations of Human Rights in Bumbuna in Relation to the events that took place in Bumbuna on 16th, 17th and 18th April 2012.

The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone was established by an Act of parliament in 2004 with the mandate to promote and protect human rights in Sierra Leone. Under Section 7(2)(a) of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Act, 2004, the Commission has the mandate, on its own initiative, to investigate allegations of human rights violations that come to its knowledge.

It can do so through a public inquiry in accordance with Part IV of the Human Rights Commission ofSierra Leone (Complaints, Investigations and Inquiries) Rules, 2008 (hereinafter referred to as the Rules). Part IV of the Rules deals with the procedure for inquiry into systemic or gross violation of human rights.

When the unfortunate events of 16th, 17th and 18th April, 2012 took place, the Commission, upon receipt of an incident report from its Northern Regional Office, undertook a fact-finding mission to understand what had happened. Upon careful consideration of the preliminary findings, the Commission decided to conduct a public inquiry to determine the facts and full extent of what happened including why and how they happened.

As required by Rule 45 of the Rules, the Commission publicly named persons or institutions we think have a central role or interest in unraveling what happened in Bumbuna on the 16th, 17th and 18th April 2012. These people or institutions are:

1)  Mr. Francis Munu, The Inspector General of Police

2) Mr. Samuel Benedict Vandy, Strategic Regional Support Officer (Makeni)

3) Mr. Alfred C. Dassama, Local Unit Commander, Magburaka

4) ASP Konneh, Officer in Charge of Bumbuna Police Station

5) PC Alimamy B.Y Koroma III, the Paramount Chief, Bumbuna

6) Mr. Frank Timis, Executive Chairman, African Minerals Ltd

7) Mr. Moseray Fadika, CEO African Minerals Ltd

8) Mr. Hindolo Trye, Minister of Labour and Social Security

9) Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray, Minister of Mineral Resources

10) Alie D. Kamara, Resident Minister, North

11) Mr. Tim Fofana, Community Liason Officer, African Minerals Ltd

12) Mr. Moses Gbondo, General Secretary, Mining and Allied Services Employees Union (added as an interested party)

13) Mr. Sheriff Ismail, President of the Tonkolili Progressive Union (added as an interested party)

14) Mr. Mohamed Conteh, Executive Director of the Sierra Leone Network on the Right to Food (SiLNoRF) (added as an interested party)

15) Mr. Falla Ensa- N’Dayma, President, Trade Union Confederation of Sierra Leone (TUC-SL) (added as an interested party)

The Public Inquiry seeks to:

- Investigate the alleged gross human rights violations alleged to have occurred in Bumbuna between 16th and 18th April 2012 with a view to understanding their nature, causes and scale;

- To identify those individuals, or institutions responsible;

- Examine and determine individual cases of the victims of the alleged human rights violations and abuse;

- To determine the impact of the alleged violations on victims if any;

- Document, analyze and articulate the human rights issues and violations experienced by affected communities as a consequence of the alleged activities, actions, omissions or negligence of private companies;

- To understand the human rights implications of the policy and legal framework relating to the exploitation of mineral resources in Sierra Leone in so far as the welfare of workers and host communities are concerned; Prepare a report containing key findings, conclusions and recommendations , directives and orders including legal and policy reforms; and, Issue orders for remedies to victims in appropriate cases.

The method of taking evidence for this Inquiry permitted by the Rules include review of literature and documents, receiving oral or written evidence, written opinions from experts, focus group meetings, seminars or any other method this Inquiry may find appropriate and fair.

The Findings of facts will be based on the evidence available. The Commission will have to weigh all it has seen, heard and read to determine whether the information gathered is true or not.

The Commission wishes the public to note that the Inquiry is neither a criminal trial nor a court of law. It is therefore important to note that no one is on trial here. Finding criminal responsibility is a job for the courts. The Rules state that the procedure of this Inquiry shall not be adversarial and only questions relating solely to the matter within the terms of the inquiry shall be allowed to be put to a witness.

This Inquiry commenced on June 1, 2012 and in accordance with the Rules, a notice informing the interested parties and the public of the terms of reference, the framed issues, arrangements and programs for the hearing and inviting the public’s participation was published in the print and electronic media.

The notice also invited any person, institution or organization to apply to the Commission as an interested party in accordance with the Rules. Since then, a number of activities have taken place. Applications were received and 3 persons representing three organizations were added as interested parties.

The Inquiry has also received documents from members of the public and organizations. It has obtained statements from witnesses in Bumbuna including victims and other persons such as the Paramount Chief and the OC Bumbuna Police Station who, in the view of the Inquiry Panel and Secretariat, can provide relevant information concerning the matters under this inquiry.

In addition, the Inquiry conducted three Focus Group Discussions in Bumbuna as a means of collecting evidence. These discussions were with Youth, Women and a mixed group of community stakeholders.

The Inquiry had initially planned to conduct four Focus Group Discussions; with the fourth planned for the workers of African Minerals Ltd. This was not possible because our letter to the management of African Minerals Ltd to release some of their workers for the Focus Group Discussion received no response.

The Inquiry will be sitting here in Bumbuna for 5 days; after which a provisional report with provisional findings will be prepared. This Provisional Report will be shared with all the stakeholders and especially with the Interested Persons named in the Public Notice, in preparation for a Roundtable Discussion to be held on a later date to be communicated to all the interested parties, including those likely to be affected by the report.

The Roundtable is the last activity in our programme of activities before the preparation of a final report which will be published. The Roundtable will be seeking to cultivate a shared understanding of what happened in Bumbuna on the 16th, 17th and 18th April 2012 and commence a search for solutions. The outcome of this Roundtable would, in addition to the other activities, inform the recommendations of this Inquiry.

The Inquiry notes the response of the Government to the matters under inquiry. We specially thank His Excellency the President, Ernest Bai Koroma who sent a high level government team including several ministers to resolve the impasse. This was followed with a personal visit by H.E. the President in which he engaged the Bumbuna Community, and assured the people of his government’s commitment to resolving the issues in Bumbuna.

HRCSL notes and welcomes the institution of the Coroner’s Inquiry into the death of the lady, Musu Conteh who lost her life during the incident. In addition, we acknowledge and thank African Minerals Ltd who immediately released a cheque of 40 Million Leones to compensate the market women whose wares were destroyed during the violence, the attention it has paid to some of the workers concerns including salary increase and the Independence Day celebration community activities.

We thank all other well-wishers including many individuals and organizations who positively responded to the events of the 16th, 17th and 18th April 2012 in Bumbuna many of whom time cannot permit me to name.

For those who travelled to Bumbuna to contribute to the peace efforts or give relief to the victims, this Inquiry recognizes and commends your action. We would like to particularly thank Mr. Ceasar Bayoh, the Community Health Officer in Bumbuna and Rtd. Col. Dr. Ansu Richard Sankoh of the Davidson Nicol Medical Centre in Bumbuna, for personally attending to the injured under very limited conditions. The Inquiry also commends the Regional Hospital in Makeni for also providing medical assistance to some of the victims.

Lastly, I would like to thank you all for making the time to be here to witness and testify before this Panel. The Commission is grateful to all of you who were interviewed during the fact-finding mission and those of you who made statements and participated in the Focus Group Discussions.

As we prepare to start the proceedings of this Inquiry, I would like to introduce to you the Panel presiding over this Inquiry:

I start with Ambassador Allieu Kanu. He is the Executive Director of the Sierra Leone Institute of International Law and a distinguished lawyer who has represented this country in the United Nations. Although Ambassador Kanu is not a member of the Commission, he is a member of this Panel because the Rules give the Commission the discretion to include other persons.

Next to him is a Commissioner of HRCSL, Rev. Moses Khanu. He is a senior cleric of the Baptist Convention who has also served the Inter Religious Council and has played a key role in the peace process in Sierra Leone. I am Mrs. Jamesina King, a Commissioner of HRCSL and a lawyer, and presiding at this Inquiry.

This Inquiry will be assisted by Mr Editayo Pabs-Garnon, a practicing lawyer in Sierra Leone and Mrs. Magdalene Marrah, a Kenyan Lawyer who is working with the Commission. Personnel of the enquiry include Mr. Ibrahim Sorie S. Bangura and Mr. Abdul Karim Kamara, both lawyers who will serve as recorders and 33 members of HRCSL staff who are all here to provide support to this Inquiry.

The procedures we will follow in this Inquiry are simple; the Chairperson will call the Hearing to order followed by prayers. I will read out the names of the Interested Parties to confirm their attendance and then ask the Inquiry Clerk to invite the first witness to testify.

Each witness will take the oath to speak the truth. The person will take the witness chair and will be led by the assisting counsel to testify. The assisting counsel and the Panel will ask the witness questions where necessary. The named Interested Parties will then be given the opportunity to ask the witness questions. Any other persons adversely named by a witness will also be given the opportunity to question the witness.

For those witnesses who have been subjected to or are likely to be subjected to criticism, they must also use their oral testimonies to address the criticism or potential criticism. This procedure will be followed for everybody who testifies before this panel. But please remember that each witness has an allocated time and we must all work within that time. All witnesses were notified of the date and time when they would appear before the panel.

On behalf of the Inquiry, let me kindly request all of us to respect these proceedings, switch off your mobile phones, be punctual for every session of the proceedings, speak the truth and respect other witnesses. We should also maintain silence when someone is speaking.

I thank you all.