Gibril Massaquoi is a former commander of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a notorious rebel group in Sierra Leone responsible for a long list of atrocities, human rights violations and war crimes. Massaquoi is a Sierra Leonian national and was arrested in Finland in March 2020; accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Liberia.
Gibril Massaquoi played an important role – as a key-witness – during the trial of warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor who was found guilty of war crimes and human rights violations in Sierra Leone and sentenced to 50 years in prison by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).
For briefness sake I refer to the following site for more background information on this person: Liberia: Past and Present of Africa’s Oldest Republic, click here.
Highly recommended reading is also Justice Info Net, in particular Thierry Cruvelliers’ contribution: THE MASSAQUOI AFFAIR: SPECIAL REPORT ON THE JUDAS OF SIERRA LEONE (PART 1 and PART 2). (webmaster FVDK)
Liberia war crimes: Sierra Leone rebel commander acquitted by court in Finland
Published: April 29, 2022 By: BBC
A court in Finland has acquitted a rebel commander of rape, ritual murder and the recruitment of child soldiers during Liberia’s civil war.
The court said there was not enough proof to convict Gibril Massaquoi.
The 52-year-old is from Sierra Leone and was a senior member of a notorious rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), that also fought in neighbouring Liberia from 1999 to 2003.
He had moved to Finland in 2008 and was arrested two years ago.
Mr Massaquoi was a school teacher when Sierra Leone’s civil war began in 1991. He joined the RUF, quickly rising through the ranks to become spokesman of the group which was notorious for atrocities such as hacking off the limbs of civilians, as well as murder and rape.
But he then gave evidence to the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone set up to investigate war crimes committed in that conflict.
He was relocated to Finland as part of a witness protection programme, which provided immunity for crimes committed in Sierra Leone, but not Liberia.
Prosecutors alleged that in Liberia, Mr Massaquoi had ordered buildings with people locked inside to be torched, and described the widespread rape and murder of civilians, often by enslaved child soldiers.
The ex-rebel said he was not in Liberia at the time.
The Finnish court had decamped to the Liberian capital, Monrovia, for a while to hear local testimony.
Around 250,000 people were killed during the internal conflicts that ended in 2003.
This was the first prosecution over Liberia’s civil war to be partially held in the country, although Mr Massaquoi remained in Finland.
Former Liberian President Taylor was convicted by an international criminal court in 2012 of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but that was in connection with the conflict in Sierra Leone. He is serving his 50-year sentence in a prison in the UK.
His son “Chuckie” Taylor was sentenced to 97 years in prison in a US federal court in 2009 for torturing and killing people while he was the head of Liberia’s anti-terrorist services.
Ex-warlord Mohammed “Jungle Jabbah” Jabateh has been jailed for 30 years in the US for lying about his past as a leader of a force that carried out multiple murders and acts of cannibalism.
Alim Jalloh: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 October 2021:
SLPP government stands indicted – no hiding place for NaCSA boss and the chief minister.
Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad are currently in doubt over the on-going investigation of an alleged ritual murder matter involving an employee of the National Commissioner for Social Action (NaCSA) by the name of Chris.
Investigation mounted by The Times SL revealed that the incident occurred at Fudia Terrace, Spur Loop, Freetown, leaving the whole community in shock.
It was revealed that Chris, who, according to our source, is a consultant hired by NaCSA and having a close relationship with the Head of NaCSA, Dr. Sao-Kpato Hannah Max-Kyne, lives opposite the Siena Patso Junior and Senior Secondary School, from where he is alleged to have surreptitiously abducted, albeit under pretence, three children for performance of some ritual, which he described as ‘sara’.
According to our source, Chris approached the two teachers of the said school and requested access to six virgins to perform charity, and it was communicated to the Principal, who refused to honour that request, and called an urgent staff meeting on the matter.
It was also disclosed that he later offered a handsome reward to the teachers, who then stealthily took three pupils in the company of Chris to an unfinished building nearby, where a native doctor was waiting, who later performed the sacrifice, offering coconut and peak milk to the children.
One of the children ate, whilst the others refused, and were forced to take the coconut and milk home in a plastic bag. This incident, it was further disclosed, took place without the knowledge of the principal and the parents.
It only came to light on the next day, when the little girl that ate the sacrificial food, started experiencing profuse bleeding and stomach pain. After changing several sanitary pads, the parent then took her daughter to the principal, requesting an explanation about where her daughter was taken and what food was offered to her that had resulted in the bleeding.
Upon further revelation, which included the participation of the two teachers, The principal – Lawrence Kamara, then called in the police.
Christian – commonly as Chris, and the culprits were arrested and taken to the New England Ville police station, and were later put on bail, allegedly with the intervention of Dr. Sao-Kpato Hannah Max-Kyne of NACSA, who went to New England police station, coupled with several calls, allegedly from senior government officials, leaving the victims helpless.
Chris and the others were re-arrested again on Monday 4th October 2021, and taken to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), after the story was published by The Times SL Newspaper.
A new twist in the matter came to light when the re-arrested accused were released late last Monday evening, prompting concerned Sierra Leoneans to opine that the arrest of the suspects on Monday morning was a ploy to hoodwink the public that some action was being taken, especially as the matter had generated so much public interest.
Questions are being asked as to why the re-arrest of the suspects, when it was clear that they are going to be released on the same day.
Zainab Kamara, mother of the main victim (the bleeding girl), stated that she is struggling to get medication for her child, and since the incident, no one had approached her to check on the health status of her daughter, adding that as things seem to have taken a different turn, family members of the accused are now getting in touch with her to have an out of police and court settlement, as there are indications that the matter will soon be charged to Court.
Police at CID confirmed that the accused are on bail and that the matter is still under investigation, and the file will soon be sent to the Law Officers’ Department for advice.
The poor mother who could not afford legal fees is now under fear that she will find it difficult to continue with the legal battle because she has no support.
It was also disclosed that the prime suspect in the matter had earlier mentioned the name of the Chief Minister – Jacob Jusu Saffa (Photo), asserting that he is aware of his act.
However, there are concerns among residents about who owns the unfinished house, where the said ritual was performed.
Due to circumstances I haven’t posted any article on this site for nearly four weeks. The reason for this silence on my part was certainly not the lack of ritual murder cases reported in this period. In the past four weeks African newspapers reported on ritual murder cases and related ritualistic acts in a number of SSA countries, notably in the Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe (in chronological order), with Nigeria leading this ugly list and Zimbabwe ranking second.
Having said this, two observations merit specific mentioning. First, as the list shows, the countries mentioned are all English-speaking countries (a heritage of their colonial past). This creates a distortion in the observation or analysis with a bias creating the impression that in non-anglophone countries ritual murders would not occur. Far from that! It is just a consequence of the fact that the collection of articles and reports on these heinous acts based on superstition is too narrow based. I have also reported this problem in a distinct section of this site (see under ‘Methodology’).
Secondly, and as I have also repeatedly stated on this site, we must fear that reported ritual killing cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Many cases of disappeared children, men and women remain unresolved, the bodies of the victims have successfully been hidden by the murderers. The effort of perpetrators to wipe out all traces of their crimes reveals an important aspect of nowadays ritualistic murders. The murderers know very well that their act is illegal, and constitutes one of the worst crimes one can imagine: to take the life of an innocent person for personal gains. Ritualistic acts may have been based originally – in the past – on traditional beliefs serving the interests of a community, in the course of the 20th century these practices have become criminal activities fed by a desire to become rich, famous or another selfish goal.
Ritual murder, human sacrifice, and even cannibalism are no unknown phenomenons in Sierra Leone, as can also be understood from the article below. In this West African country, the disappearance of people inevitably leads to rumors and speculation of ritualistic activities, creating fear and causing parents to keep their children nearby, at home, and not to send them to school.
In the situation described below there are no firm indications of criminal activities but the people are alert. They know the history of their region. Forewarned is forearmed. (webmaster FVDK)
Ritual murder fear grips Kenema
Published: May 11, 2021 By: Politico SL, Published by FreeMedia Group – Prince J. Musa
Governments, state authorities and legal institutions are obliged to protect the life, property and honor of citizens, in conformity with the mandate that they have received. In many traditional societies it is not done to criticize the authorities. However, luckily, times are changing. In Sierra Leone the population of Gherihun village in Baoma chiefdom, in the south of the country, have protested the alleged planned return of three chiefs whom they accused of involvement in ritual murders.
Read the story below. It’s a plea for the rule of law.
Suspected ritual murders should stand trial, and if found guilty sent to prison. However, if not found guilty after an impartial trial, the accused should be allowed to re-start their lives (webmaster FVDK).
Villagers protest alleged plan to reinstate chiefs accused of ritual murder
Published: June 16, 2020 By: Politico SL – Newman Antony Levey (in Bo)
Another case of suspected ritual murder in southern Sierra Leone. On May 19, a mutilated body was found, ‘with missing parts’. The latter description is enough to arouse suspicion. Everywhere in the region people have the same reaction after a body has been found ‘with several parts missing’. In this case, tongue, palm, private parts. The deceased was identified as one Moseray. His cruel death coincides with the disappearance of a 75-year man, Sorie Kargbo, missing since May 18.
It is not the first time the Police are investigating a suspected case of ritualistic murder. Open cases still being investigated are the death of Morrison Kpaka, the disappearance of a boy and an Okada rider. Resident in the area are increasingly getting worried.
The question arises whether really nobody has a piece of information. After all, ritualistic murders often imply complices and very often the involvement of relatives or other people who are close to the victim. (webmaster FVDK).
“Ritual murder” in southern Sierra Leone
Published: May 28, 2020 By: Newman Anthony Levey – Politico SL
This posting is NOT about ritual killings of people with albinism in Sierra Leone. It contains a public lecture by Rashid Dumbuya on the occasion of Albinism Awareness Day celebrations in this West Africa Country. However, also in Sierra Leone people with albinism face discrimination and barriers that limit their full participation in society on an equal basis with others.
In Sierra Leone, people with albinism are considered people with disabilities. Rashid Dumbuya concludes his public lecture with a number of recommendations to improve the position of people with albinism in Sierra Leone. (webmaster FVDK)
Published: June 19, 2019 By: The Patriotic Vanguard (Sierra Leone)
Albinism Awareness Day Celebrations in Sierra Leone
Public lecture by Rashid Dumbuya Esq
Them: Still standing strong; realizing the rights of Persons with Albinism in Sierra Leone.
Due to the immense challenges that were being faced by persons with albinism coupled with the increased momentum and outcry for their protection across the world, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution in 2013 (A/HRC/RES/23/13) calling for the prevention of attacks and discrimination against persons with albinism around the world.
Consequently, on the 18th December 2014, the United Nations General Assembly heeded to the call and adopted Resolution 69/170 proclaiming 13th June as International Albinism Awareness Day.
Following this Resolution, the UN Human Rights Council on the 26 of March 2015 in resolution 28/6 established the mandate of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism.
The work of the Independent Expert among many other things as provided in its mandate is to engage in dialogue and consult with States and other relevant stakeholders; to identify, exchange and promote good practices relating to the realization of the rights of persons with albinism and their participation as equal members of society; to promote and report on developments, challenges and obstacles relating to the realization of the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism and to make recommendations in that regard to the Human Rights Council.
On 3 July 2015, the Human Rights Council appointed Ms. Ero of Nigeria as the first mandate holder and Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism.
She assumed her duties on 1st August 2015 and in January 2016, she submitted her first report on Albinism to the UN Human Rights Council.
STILL STANDING STRONG has been chosen as the international theme for this year’s International Albinism Awareness Day Celebrations.
The theme is a call to recognize, celebrate and stand in solidarity with persons with Albinism around the world, to support their cause, their accomplishments as well as their challenges and to promote and protect their fundamental human rights.
LEGAL LINK is therefore proud to have associated and collaborated with the Sierra Leone Association of Persons with Albinism in commemorating this historic and symbolic day here today in Sierra Leone.
But why does the UN mark international days like this?
International days have been embraced by the UN because it affords an occasion to educate the world on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems; and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity.
They also serve as powerful advocacy tool to draw attention and make strong case for reforms.
What is Albinism?
Albinism is a rare, non-contagious, genetically inherited condition that affects people worldwide regardless of ethnicity or gender.
It results from a significant deficit in the production of melanin and is characterized by the partial or complete absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. In order for a person to be affected by albinism, both parents must carry the gene and, in that case, there is a 25per cent chance that a child will be born with albinism at each pregnancy.
What are the prevailing statistics on Albinism across the world?
The proportion of persons affected by albinism in the world differs from region to region.
In North America and Europe, it is estimated that 1 in 17,000 to 20,000 people are affected by the condition, while in sub-Saharan Africa,1 in 5,000 to 15,000 could be affected, with specific countries having a much higher tendency, including estimated rates of 1 in 1,400, and about 1 in 20 persons in the general population carrying the gene for albinism.
Other studies suggest that in specific groups in Panama or in the Pacific region, the rate of people affected could be as high as 1 in 70 to 1 in 125.13.
However, in Sierra Leone, a report done by OSIWA in 2018 puts the statistics at a little over 500 people affected by albinism.
What are the different types of albinism?
Albinism is of different types. The most common and visible type is oculocutaneous albinism (OCA), which affects the skin, the hair and the eyes.
Within this type, there are subtypes, which reflect varying degrees of melanin pigment deficiency in an individual.
The main subtypes of OCA are tyrosinase negative albinism (OCA1) and tyrosinase positive albinism (OCA2).
In OCA1, there is little or no production of melanin and it is often characterized by white hair and opaque or transparent irises.
In OCA2, which is more prevalent particularly in African countries, some melanin is produced and it is characterized by yellow-blonde or sandy-coloured hair and grey to light brown irises.
A less common form of albinism is ocular albinism which affects the eyes alone, while albinism accompanied by Hermansky-Pudlak syndromeis is another less common form, which is characterized by bleeding disorders, bowel (colitis) and lung diseases.
*What are the legal frameworks protecting the rights of persons with albinism?*
At the International level:
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
International Covenant on Civil and Political RightsUnited Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism.
All of the above international frameworks promotes equality and non-discrimination.
At the African regional level:
The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights
The Regional Action Plan on Albinism in Africa
Resolution by the Pan African Parliament to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of attacks on persons with Albinism
At the domestic level:
The 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone – (talks about protection from discrimination)
The Sierra Leone Disability Act of 2011.- (classify them generally as PWD’s)
The National Commission for Persons with Disabilities
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone -(promote and protect their rights)
Sierra Leone Association for persons with Albinism- (umbrella body in SL)
Challenges and areas of concern
Persons with albinism face discrimination and barriers that restrict their participation in society on an equal basis with others every day.
Due to those many challenges, persons with albinism throughout the world are unable to enjoy the full range of human rights and the same standards of equality, rights and dignity as others.
While some of those challenges are global, others have predominantly been identified in certain regions.
In the Independent Expert’s report of 2016, some of the challenges identified include human rights violations such as attacks, desecration of graves, trafficking of body parts, displacement, discrimination against persons with albinism, as well as human rights violations based on disabilities, deprivation of the right to the highest attainable standard of health and the right to education.
1. Witchcraft and related offences
It has been widely reported and documented that persons with albinism are hunted and physically attacked due to prevailing myths such as the misbelief that their body parts, when used in witchcraft rituals and potions or amulets, will induce wealth, good luck and political success.
Other dangerous myths that facilitate the perpetration of attacks are those linked to perceptions of their appearance, including misbeliefs and myths that persons with albinism are not human beings, but ghosts, that they are subhuman and that they do not die, but disappear.
An increase of those attacks, referred to as “ritual attacks”, has been reported by to have been high in Africa especially during periods of political elections.
2. Brutal and deadly nature of the Attacks on PWA’s
In Africa, it is reported that, attacks directed at persons with albinism are usually carried out with machetes, resulting in severe mutilation or death.
In most cases, the persons attacked are dismembered; body parts such as fingers, arms, legs, eyes, genitals, skin, bones, the head and hair have been severed from the body and taken. In several of those cases, body parts have been hacked off while the person was alive.
Reportedly, there is a corollary witchcraft belief that it is preferable to harvest body parts from live victims because screams increase the potency of the potion for which the parts are used.
Since 2007, civil society organizations have reported hundreds of attacks against persons with albinism in 25 countries.
All of those physical attacks appear to be, at least in part, related to the erroneous beliefs and myths linked to witchcraft practices.
3. Lucrative Trade and markets for the body parts of persons with albinism.*
It has been reported that there is a market for body parts of persons with albinism. The body parts are reportedly sold both locally and across borders.
The prices of body parts reportedly range from $2,000 for a limb to $75,000 for a “complete set” or a corpse. Civil society reports indicate that, motivated by those prices, family members and communities have sold, or attempted to sell, persons with albinism, thereby fuelling the supply side of this macabre trade.
Recent cases of body-parts trafficking that were brought to the attention of the Independent Expert by civil society include cases where law enforcement agencies acted promptly and were able to prevent the sale and save the persons with albinism involved.
In a few other cases, however, the body parts were harvested and have still not been recovered.
4. Forced migration
Attacks against persons with albinism in some areas have caused hundreds of persons, particularly women and children, to flee their homes and seek refuge in temporary shelters.
Most of these shelters were neither designed nor prepared for an influx of persons with albinism, and are also not equipped to address the special needs of persons with albinism. Reports show that inhabitants with albinism are exposed to early skin cancer risk and various forms of abuse.
5. Discrimination and stigmatization
One of the main barriers to the implementation of the human rights of persons with albinism is discrimination and stigmatization, both of which are historically and culturally entrenched. Information on discrimination against persons with albinism is a common reality around the world. However, the expression and severity of the discrimination faced by persons with albinism vary from region to region.
In sub Saharan Africa in particular, bullying of school-age children owing to their appearance is on the increase.
Also, discrimination takes more extreme forms, including infanticide, physical threats and attacks.
Lack of information on the condition facilitates the spread of myths to explain albinism, most of which are erroneous and in some cases dangerous, including myths that people with albinism are ghosts or the result of conception during menstruation or the result of a general curse.
Challenges faced by persons with albinism in Sierra Leone
Though not severe and deadly like those encountered in East and Southern parts of Africa, Persons with Albinism (PWA) in Sierra Leone also face huge challenges in the realization of their rights.
Firstly, they have been largely excluded and sometimes forgotten by government, civil society, donors and development partners in the democratic and governance agenda of the country. Issues affecting them have generally gone unnoticed and has resulted to deep engraved stigma, exclusion, discrimination and sometimes violence against them.
Furthermore, they have little or no voice compared to other marginalized groups such as persons with disabilities, children and women.
Also, there is little activism on the part of civil society as well people living with the condition to advocate for the promotion and protection of their rights and wellbeing which may be a consequence of lack of knowledge and understanding and/or interest.
Other challenges include access to justice, education, health, employment and even political representation in the democratic governance architecture of the country.
More negative still, the lack of effective, functional and genuine bodies, organizations or CSO’s in Sierra Leone to help advocate on the rights of PWA’s has also left them vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous persons and organizations.
Finally, the challenges encountered by Persons with Albinism in Sierra Leone could be best summarized in the words of the Founder and Executive Director of Sierra Leone Association for Persons with Albinism, Mohamed Osman Kamara aka Jay Marvel, as posted on their Facebook page.
*‘’We Demand Action to be taken Now! We Crying Since Yesterday Night…… About the Demise Of Mahid Jalloh, Who Was Also Admitted At Connaught For Skin Cancer With The Late Ruth. He Was Transfered To The Shepherd Hospital At Tombo. There He Passed Away On The 23rd At Around 12:00pm. We Are Calling On the Sierra Leone Government, And All Organizations Around the World… Skin Cancer Is Killing Us. These Are Just The Two ( 2) Known Cases.. Who Knows How Many Persons With Albinism Are Dying From Skin Cancer In The Country? , Because We Lack Proper Health Care. This is a Serious National Issue. Every Citizen Should Be Concerned and Try in His or Her Own Way.!!! Ministry Of Health, National Commission For Persons With Disability, Ministry Of Social Welfare Children and Gender Affairs etc YOU SHOULD TAKE THE LEAD IN THIS CASE! Rest In Peace Our Beloved Brother! We Love You Both and Pray the Government Puts An End To Skin Cancer Affecting Persons With Albinism In Sierra Leone.!’’*
From the above points raised, it stands to reason that human right abuses and violations of the rights of persons with albinism is still commonplace in Sierra Leone.
*LEGAL LINK* therefore joins the Sierra Leone Association for Persons with Albinism in calling on the government of Sierra Leone to adopt and implement the Regional Action Plan on Albinism in Africa as well as the newly adopted resolution by the Pan African Parliament to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of attacks on persons with albinism and further ensure effective education and awareness training on the human rights of people with albinism. Also, we call on the government and Parliament of the Republic of Sierra Leone to pass a specific law that will adequately protect the rights of albinism in the country.
Furthermore, we call on the government to ensure that victims and members of their families have access to appropriate remedies.
More significantly, we call on the government, the human rights commission, the National Commission for persons with disabilities and other civil societies organizations with human rights mandate to increase education and public awareness-raising activities on the rights of persons with albinism so as to deconstruct stereotypes and existing myths.
We further call on government to ensure that PWA’s are not discriminated in schools and are provided with scholarship support to pursue their education to the highest of levels. Free healthcare for PWA’s must also be guaranteed so as to help address the problem of skin cancer.
The Government of Sierra Leone should also ensure that PWA’s are included in the three arms of government as well as the public service and other sectors crucial for the running of the affairs of the state. This will help to de- mystify myths and erroneous beliefs about PWA’s not being human.
Finally, inclusion of information on the situation of persons with albinism in reports submitted by the Government of Sierra Leone to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights under article 62 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and also to the UN Human Rights Council under the UPR, is good practice in the protecting and promoting of the rights of persons with albinism.
Persons with Albinism have faced and continue to face, ongoing hurdles and challenges that seriously undermine their enjoyment of fundamental human rights in Sierra Leone and the world at large. From stigma and discrimination, to barriers of access to health and education as well as marginalization from socio-political and democratic institutions in the country.
In addition, PWA’s have also become subjects of attacks for ritual killings and political power in many parts of Africa.
But despite all of these challenges, PWA’S have remained undaunted and are STILL STNDING STRONG! WE CAN DO BETTER FOR THEM BY ACCEPTING THEM AS HUMAN BEINGS THAT DESERVES TO LIVE, ENJOY EQUAL RIGHTS, DIGNITY AND RESPECT WITH US!
Rashid Dumbuya ESQ
Executive Director – LEGAL LEGAL LINK
Christian Lawyers Centre (a.k.a LEGAL LINK) is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission of Sierra Leone as a non-profit legal advocacy group comprising of lawyers, law students and human right activists that seeks to provide legal assistance to religious communities and vulnerable groups in Sierra Leone through legal advocacy, public interest litigations, state and private sector accountability, enforcement of the rule of law and respect for domestic and international laws that guarantee fundamental human rights and freedoms.
The case presented here is not a recent one. It relates to the year 2000. A young boy, Brima Kposowa, had been missing for several days from the village of Temede in Bumpeh District, Sierra Leone. His mutilated body was found after an apparently intensive search in early May 2000. A number of suspects was soon arrested, but the subsequent investigation and trial of the accused raise many questions.
Dr. Lans Gberie has been studying the case, as part of an ongoing research into ritual killings. In Dr. Gberie’s own words: “(…) I recently read the trial records of this case, known as ‘Abubakar Kallon vs. the State’. Meticulously bound, they run to 193 pages: consisting of the transcripts of police statements taken, court testimonies, a so-called forensic report, the Judge’s summing up for the juries and Foremen, and the verdict and sentencing statement. The trial appeared to have followed all the formal rules of such proceedings; it certainly was ponderous. But it is hard to say that it was fair.”
For this reason I present his findings and conclusions here. Maintaining ‘the rule of law’ also implies a fair trial. Please judge for yourself whether this has been the case here. It is a lengthy article but certainly worth reading. (webmaster FVDK)
Alhaji Bockarie Kallon was sentenced to ‘suffer death’ by the circuit court sitting in Bo on 24 August 2002. He was 70. Mr. Kallon had been convicted of murdering, for ritual purposes, a 9-year old boy, Brima Kposowa, two years earlier. Judge Olu Ademusu, presiding, noted, apropos of the severity of the crime and the death sentence, that ritual killing was “becoming rampant” in Sierra Leone. “The sentence of the court upon you,” Mr. Ademusu told Mr. Kallon, “is that you be taken from this place to a lawful prison, and thence to a place of execution, and that you there suffer death by hanging until you are dead. And may the Lord have mercy on your soul.”
Mr. Kallon was then taken to Pademba Road Prison and gaoled; I have found no record anywhere of what happened to him next. He might have died forgotten in the prison shortly after (he was 70), as so many condemned prisoners have; but he almost certainly was not hanged.
As part of an ongoing research into ritual killings, I recently read the trial records of this case, known as ‘Abubakar Kallon vs. the State’. Meticulously bound, they run to 193 pages: consisting of the transcripts of police statements taken, court testimonies, a so-called forensic report, the Judge’s summing up for the juries and Foremen, and the verdict and sentencing statement. The trial appeared to have followed all the formal rules of such proceedings; it certainly was ponderous. But it is hard to say that it was fair.
The police report containing the statements of several accused persons upon which the case was built were obtained through torture of almost medieval severity; the doctor who did the ‘forensic examination’ was not a pathologist and his report was inept and ridiculous; and the involvement of certain powerful local forces who were certainly not beyond suspicion with respect to their culpability in the crime raises the probability of a mistrial.
Map of Sierra Leone – showing Bumpeh District
The context of the trial is of more than incidental interest. The body of young Brima Kposowa, who had been missing for several days from the village of Temede in Bumpeh District, was found after an apparently intensive search in early May 2000. At almost exactly this moment, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels had abducted 300 United Nations peacekeepers and killed some, triggering a massive crisis for the UN’s budding peace operation in Sierra Leone. The Kamajors, then a very powerful pro-government force combating the RUF, was active in the Temede area. Their spiritual leader, Alieu Kondewa, appears in the pages of the trial records; he and the local chief ordered the Kamajors to apprehend four people in connection to the disappearance; they arrested those four people even before the body was found. They four were taken to a police station in Bo. The Bo police, under Karrow Kamara, then despatched a team to the village to search for the missing boy. The police team joined the Kamajors in this search. The body was found in a swamp some distance away from the village: it had not been hidden or buried, suggesting that if it was murder there was no real attempt at cover up.
The police then brought Dr. Brima Kargbo, a senior medical officer attached to the Bo Government Hospital, to examine the body where it had been found. This was on 5 May. He was not a pathologist. His report, tendered to the court as Exhibit A, is confusing: it outrages chronology and sequencing, not to mention probability. He said he found the body “lying and almost decomposing”, and that he conducted the examination on the spot. “Looking at the corpse I did not see the head,” he said. Upon further search, he said, “we found the head under a shrub about two to three yards from where the deceased was lying.” The search party had to wait for the doctor to look for the head? Though the body was decomposing, Dr. Kargbo’s report does not mention that it was smelling, something that surely would have led the search party earlier to the head, which must have been similarly decomposing. The body appeared to have been purposively decapitated: “the heart and liver were not seen,” Dr. Kargbo said.
In one of his statements – which he later recanted in court because he claimed, credibly, that it had been extracted from him through torture – Mr. Kallon had claimed that he had removed those body parts after killing Kposowa to take to Guinea, there to be used by some unnamed ‘Meresin’ men to make ‘borfina’. This ‘borfina’, a powerful concoction, would have aided him in his quest to become a Paramount Chief.
The word ‘borfina’ is massively resonant in the literature relating to the Human Leopard phenomenon: it entered the popular imagination after the British colonial authorities set up a special commission court to try several dozen cases relating to mysterious killings attributed to ‘human leopards’ in 1912. Sir William Brandford Griffith, a former governor of the Gold Coast, was summoned from his retirement in London to preside over the commission. He described the ‘borfina’ as “a terrible fetish” which must be “frequently supplied with human fat” to remain potent. He later ventured the opinion that the incidental uses of human flesh by the Human Leopards was not “to satisfy any craving for human flesh nor in connection with any religious rite, but in the belief that the victims’ flesh will increase their virility.” He drew this conclusion from the fact that “all the principal offenders were men of mature age, past their prime.”
I shall return to the Griffith commission, his fatuous opinion, and the details of what was almost certainly a terrible mistrial that led to the hanging of a large number of perfectly innocent men during a moment of colonial hysteria. Griffith won international renown as a champion of Western civilization in one of the barbarous corners of the world for this trial; it earned him obituary notices in the Times of London and the New York Timesupon his death.
In Mr. Kallon’s trial, several people, including the parents of Kposowa, were charged with being accessory to the murder of the boy. Karrow Kamara, who was then officer in charge at the Bo Police Station, was the chief statement taker. He emerges from the pages of the trial records as a vicious torturer of demented cruelty. His preferred method was to use a plier, a club, and other blunt heavy instruments to beat up witnesses and the accused; he had the ear of one witness sliced off; he put out fire from cigarettes on their faces; and he had the mother and aunt of Kposowa so severely beaten that they bled through their genitalia, in which he then inserted a cocktail of meshed pepper – causing such pain, the aunt said, that it reminded her of when she was circumcised…
The State Counsel, Monfred Sesay, charged a total of nine people in connection with the alleged killing. They were Alhaji Abu Bockarie Kallon, for murder; Gassimu Ndanema, Francis Leigh, Abdulai Lamboi, Alhaji Sam, Joseph Sandy, Munda Alfred, Amie Dauda (mother of the deceased), and Mamie James (aunt of the deceased) as accessories to the crime of murder. The nine individuals, the indictment ran, “on 17 April 2000…conspired together with other persons unknown to commit a felony” in the judicial district of Bo.
The evidentiary exhibits upon which the indictment drew were mainly confessions; the accused seemed to condemn themselves with their own mouths. In fact, the so-called confessions, extracted through savage torture, were of an extremely dubious probative value. It is hard to believe, reading those statements, that any lawyer would have used them to make such grave charges: they are very obviously contrived. Here, for example, is how Amie Dauda, the mother of the deceased, described her own role in the murder (to her torturer Karrow Kamara): “The death of my son, Brima Kposowa, was not a natural death. It was caused by five of us, namely myself Amie Kposowa, Jose Sandy, Muda Alfred… We sold Brima Kposowa to one Alhaji Gassimu of Bo.”
Mr. Kallon, the first accused, in his first statement to the police on 4 May 2000 denied any knowledge of the killing. Several hours with the torturer Karrow Kamara the next day, 5 May, produced the following statement: “I now say that I have knowledge about the death of Brima Kposowa…I now say that I killed the deceased…on 17th April 2000 in a swamp, at Timiday bush at about 6:30pm. I alone did the killing…I now say that I have a right to stand for Paramount Chief at Koya Chiefdom…as I hailed from a ruling families [sic].” As part of his preparation to contest for Paramount Chief, Mr. Kallon, described as businessman, said he consulted “co-suspect Gassimu Ndanema,” telling Ndanema that in order to be successful in this endeavour, he must protect himself “by offering human sacrifice to wash” his body, according to the testimony.
To acquire the human being for the sacrifice, Mr. Kallon said he gave Danema Le.300,000 to purchase a boy, money Mr. Nanema used to purchase Brima Kposowa from his parents. The amount of money paid for the boy changed several times during the trial, from Le.300,000 to Le.600,000 and finally Le.800,000. Once bought, Ndanema gave the boy to Mr. Kallon, and drove them away from the village. Mr. Kallon then took the boy, alone, into a swampy area in the bush and – Mr. Kallon’s testimony read – “I laid him flat on the grass and offered my sacrifice…wherein I read ‘Al-Fatiah’ on the said Brima Kposowa five times and thereafter I had to use my knife to cut his throat and in the exercise the head of Brima Kposowa cut off.” He had not wanted to decapitate Kposowa, so he threw the head away. He then slit Kposowa’s stomach and extracted the liver and then “collected some of [Kposowa’s] blood in a red plastic.” He was to take the body part and blood to Labbeh in Guinea for the making of ‘borfina’. In the event, Mr. Kallon said in his testimony, he did not get anywhere near Guinea, because the plastic bag containing the ‘sacrifice’ got burst, spilling its prized content. Mr. Kallon said he got disoriented after this loss, “and this obliged me to give a false statement to the Police.”
The knife with which Mr. Kallon claimed he slaughtered Kposowa, which he described in precise terms, was never found – much like the British were never able to apprehend, after dozens of arrests, the exactly described forked knives allegedly used by Human Leopards. Where the liver and blood got wasted was never identified; Mr. Kallon did not seem to remember such an immensely striking detail. In Mr. Ndanema’s testimony, the decomposing body of Kposowa described by Dr. Kargbo became “skulls”. Amie Dauda did not state how much money she received. Another salient fact is that all the accused were not literate in English, and the statements were taken from them in either Mende or Krio and rendered in English by Karrow Kamara and his co-torturers.
Under cross-examination by the defence, an immensely salient detail emerged from Amie Dauda’s (mother of the deceased). In the morning that her son disappeared, she was home with the boy when he went behind the house “to the toilet.” Shortly after, she said Alieu Kondewa, the Kamajors spiritual leader, drove by the house. “As the vehicle passed, I did not see the child again,” she said. She went in search of the boy and never found him, whereupon she reported the matter to the local authorities, the most powerful of whom were Kamajors. They immediately had her tied “with a Kamajors rope called Baime” and beat her mercilessly. She and others arrested that day were taken to the Bo Police Station where Karrow Kamara “inserted pepper in my vagina.” It was then that “I admitted it was my doing, because the pepper was burning…. It was Karrow Kamara who suggested to me that I sold the child and which is not true.” She acquiesced with Kamara’s accusation, she said, “because of the burning pepper and this was what the police read to me.”
Her sister and co-accused, Mamie, was similarly tortured to ‘confess’ to doing what Karrow Kamara, acting in concert with the local authorities and the Kamajors, wanted her to confess to. “Mr. Karrow Kamara had a rubber with which he was flogging me,” she during her cross-examination. “[Police] Sergeant Gaima came to the scene. He slapped me in my mouth causing one of my teeth to come out.” The torturers then kicked her in the abdomen and “I started bleeding until I lost consciousness,” she said. Once she regained consciousness, they “inserted kanya pepper into my vagina. After that I was unable to walk. I was,” she said, evoking what to her must have been her primal experience of terror, “I was feeling like somebody who had been circumcised.”
Judge Ademusu, summing up for the jury, ignored these statements. He focused on Mr. Kallon who, he said, told the jury that “he was tortured and beaten by OC Karrow Kamara at the scene” of the murder (untrue: Mr. Kallon said he was beaten at the Police Station). However, Ademusu continued, the evidence of Dr. Kargbo, who played the role of pathologist though he had no such qualification, in his “post mortem examination report shows that the first accused’s indirectly made the confession.” Needless to say, it wasn’t Dr. Kargbo’s job to extract any confession, direct or indirect, from the accused.
The jury convicted Mr. Kallon of first-degree murder; and the judge sentenced him to death. The jury found the rest (8 accused persons) Not Guilty of the crime of accessory to the murder, and the judge had them freed.
Nothing in the records of the case prepared me enough for this curious verdict.
Mabinty Kamara – she was found murdered with several parts missing
Published: March 31, 2018
When elections come round in Sierra Leone parents are warned to take extra care of their children, as it’s feared that candidates or their supporters may abduct them and use their organs in black magic rituals. Olivia Acland reports on troubling signs that the rumours may be true.
At 10:00 on Friday 16 February, less than a month before Sierra Leone’s presidential, parliamentary and local elections, 14-year-old Mabinty Kamara clambered down the rocky path outside her house in Freetown. She was wearing a knee-length black skirt and grey polo shirt, and was swinging two plastic jerry cans.
The water pump was about 800m away – just a few minutes’ scramble down and up the stony mud lane carved into the hillside. With her mother away visiting relatives, Mabinty had been told to fetch water by her 25-year-old sister, Alimatu, who was at home finishing up the other morning chores. As Muslims, this was the first day of their weekend.
Alimatu swept the floor of their scruffy, tin-roofed house and shook out the bed sheets. She cooked some rice for her younger brother, sister, and cousin, and washed up the pans. After a couple of hours, though, she started to wonder why Mabinty had not returned. She scrambled down the path, shouting her sister’s name, expecting to find her sitting with friends and gossiping.
At the water pump a gaggle of women said that they hadn’t seen Mabinty, so she started knocking on neighbours’ doors and questioning people on the streets. After hours of fruitless searching she went home and waited, thinking that perhaps her sister had returned to the house when she was out, and since left again. Anxious hours passed and finally at 18:30 Alimatu went to the police station to report her sister missing.
“A policeman told me to go home and that he’d call me if they found her,” she says, twisting one of her short dreadlocks. “I couldn’t sleep at all that night, it’s not like her to stay out. I was very worried.”
The room where Mabinty lived with Alimatu, another sister and a younger brother
Alimatu spent the next four days wandering all over Freetown, checking areas where runaway children are known to sleep rough. She showed a zoomed-in picture of Mabinty, which she had downloaded to her phone from Facebook, to more than 100 strangers.
Five days later she had reached Waterloo, a traffic-clogged industrial suburb an hour’s drive from her house, when she received a call from one of her neighbours. He shouted down the phone that Mabinty had been found: her dead body was wedged between some buildings at the back of the Ministry of Education. She was identifiable by her black skirt, grey top, and the two empty jerry cans lying beside her. Her right leg had been cut off at the knee.
But she was missing more than just a leg, says Dr Owiss Koroma, Sierra Leone’s only pathologist. On examining her body he found that her tongue, ovaries, intestines, womb, fallopian tube and vagina had also been taken. Someone had removed them with surgical precision. The case, says Koroma, has all the hallmarks of a ritual killing.
These murders, carried out so that body parts can be used in black magic rituals, usually involve child victims, whose younger and healthier organs are thought to be more powerful than those of an adult.
“People use body parts for fame, wealth, or to gain power,” says Ibrahim Samura, head of media for Sierra Leone’s police force. The parts can be used in different ways, depending on the purpose. Tongues are thought to empower a person to speak well, for example. A juju man will say, “I need a female breast,” Samura says. “It will be used as a charm or a sacrifice.”
Ibrahim Samura: Parents should not allow unaccompanied children to the beach or to parties
It’s thought that the juju man’s clients could be local or national politicians, or anyone with a strong interest in the outcome of the vote – and that the body parts may sometimes be eaten.
Koroma says cases of ritual killing occur in Sierra Leone every so often, even when elections are not approaching, but he is aware of three cases in the last six months – significantly more than usual.
The first of the victims was a 10-year-old girl in Western Freetown, whose remains were found in a large, checked bag made from thick plastic. She was missing her left ear, left leg, left arm and part of her vagina. After this case, he examined Mabinty Kamara’s mutilated body, and most recently – on 15 March, after the first day of voting but before this weekend’s elections – the dismembered body of a four-year-old, found in a forest in Port Loko, in the north-west of the country. The child had been decapitated, and every organ had been removed, except for the liver. There were two holes in the back of the cranium. Koroma says he is alarmed by the precision of the surgery, as it suggests that someone with significant medical experience was involved.
Police also say there has been a spike in reports of missing children – though they are unable to provide statistics – and have responded with a nationwide publicity campaign.
“We use community radio stations right across the country to alert parents and community leaders about the trend of crime relating to missing children,” says Ibrahim Samura. We tell them that they shouldn’t allow their children under 18 to go to the beach or to parties unaccompanied.”
The message seems to have got through.
A shy schoolgirl told me last week that she is now scared to walk the 4km from school to her house in the village. Anxious parents have said that they are warning their offspring to be particularly cautious – not to accept sweets or lifts from friendly-looking strangers.
Outskirts of Freetown – Sierra Leone
But rumours can swirl out of control. When two children were found dead in the back of a car in January, an online newspaper reported that “cannibalistic rituals, by “devilish politicians” had long been a problem at election times. Pathologist Owiss Koroma examined the bodies, though, and says the children died from carbon monoxide poisoning; there was no evidence of ritual killing.
Those most at risk of abduction are children sleeping out on the streets. Jorge Crisfulli, country director for the Don Bosco Fambul child-welfare organisation, says that between 20 and 25 children have approached his staff seeking shelter in Freetown in recent weeks and that others have returned to their villages.
Twelve-year-old Abdul says he narrowly escaped a ritual killing after climbing on to a neighbour’s roof to retrieve a lost football. The occupants of the house seized him and started beating his head against a step, accusing him of trying to steal from them. He was then held for days in a room, where he was tortured and drugged, he says, until he overheard a chilling conversation between two of the men.
“One of the brothers said let him kill me, cut the parts that you want, and put the rest into black plastic bags to throw in the gutter,” Abdul says.
That evening he escaped and went to the police, who called Don Bosco asking them to take him into their care.
Adia Benton, a cultural anthropologist at Northwestern University in Chicago who has studied Sierra Leone for years, says ritual killing, or at least rumours of ritual killing, “escalate around elections, or times of power struggle”. She remembers hearing similar stories during elections in the country in 2007. The alleged victims were always children.
The country’s most notorious court case, however, involved an adult and was not election-related.
In 2015 a DJ, known as DJ Clef, was invited to play a set at a party in the house of famous herbalist Baimba Moy Foray. Clef, whose real name is Sydney Buckle, was later found dead, missing his genitals, toes, fingers and nose. It’s rare for anyone to be arrested and prosecuted in ritual killing cases, but Baimba Moy Foray and an accomplice were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging – though this was later changed to life imprisonment.
Nobody has yet been prosecuted in connection to Mabinty’s case. Thirteen suspects were rounded up and then released on bail. Alimatu is one of them.
“Every day I must report to the police station to sign in,” she says.
She would normally spend her days selling oil and rice to make money to support her younger siblings, but lately she’s just been sitting listlessly on the steps of her house.
“I don’t feel like selling now, I don’t feel good,” she says.
“It makes me so sad. Only God knows what happened to my sister.”
The police officer who was initially in charge of the case, A S P Mansaray, says three of the suspects were guards from the Ministry of Education and another nine were a random selection of Mabinty’s neighbours who were around at the time of the crime.
He hoped that even if they were not the killers they might be able to provide useful information. However, so far no leads or evidence have emerged. It looks set to be another unsolved crime.