MAC: Mines and Communities

Sierra Leone civil society demands action over violence and killing in African Minerals lease area

Published by MAC on 2012-05-15
Source: Statement (2012-05-09)

As Conflict Brews in Bumbuna, Civil Society Demands Immediate Government Action

Natural Resource Governance and Economic Justice (NARGEJ) Platform - Sierra Leone Press Release

9 May 2012

Freetown - We, the civil society organisations working on natural resources in Sierra Leone under the umbrella of the Natural Resource Governance and Economic Justice (NaRGEJ), having undertaken an in-depth investigation into the recent Bumbuna incidence, are worried over the level of and frequency of violence that is occurring in that once peaceful community.

Our worries stemmed from the latest incidence, which was allegedly characterized by sporadic shooting by the armed wing of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), resulting in the death of 24 years old Musu Conteh and leaving eleven others with serious gunshot wounds.

It may be recalled that workers of the African Minerals Limited staged a protest in the Bumbuna mine site on Monday 16 April 2012 over low wages and unfair treatment meted out by their employers. The highhanded response of the police deployed to maintain security around the site led to the dead of one person and the wounding of many others.

As a consequence, the government issued a press statement indicating that His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma wasted no time in dispatching a team of senior government officials to the area to engage all stakeholders, including the aggrieved workers, in an effort to resolve the impasse. The outcome of the meetings was a communiqué signed by all parties, in which the company (AML) agreed to adhere to most of the concerns that the workers had earlier raised.

It is worthy to note that the use of excessive force against defenseless and peaceful citizens protesting against the inhumane treatment meted out to them by mining companies operating in the country has become a disturbing phenomenon. The police are in most cases accused of doing this at the behest of the mining companies. This cannot be unconnected to the lack of transparency and inclusion in corporate governance resulting in poor regulations, procedures and mechanisms that favour largely the company leaving the citizens very vulnerable.

In 2010, at another AML mining site on the outskirts of Bumbuna, landowners were subjected to unprovoked violence and harassment as they resisted corporate abuse of their rights. Similar disturbances between affected property owners in the Koidu Holdings Limited concession in Kono District in December 2007 led to the death of two unarmed protesters and the wounding of several others. Despite official pronouncements from the government and subsequent investigations carried out, not much was done to redress the situation.

And we believe that the government has a fundamental constitutional and moral responsibility to protect lives and properties of its citizens. This does not in any way allude that we are not mindful of the government's swift interventions in addressing conflicts emanating from workers protests and in helping to pacify the ensuing tensions. But we also equally believe that bringing the perpetrators of these inhuman and barbaric acts to justice will further enhance citizens' confidence and peace in the mining communities.

It is in view of this that the Natural Resource Governance and Economic Justice platform is demanding that:

1. The Government of Sierra Leone sets up a Commission to inquire into the violence and conflicts that have been associated with AML resulting in the death of one Sierra Leonean and injuries to many others in order to establish the root causes of these conflicts and the best way forward;

2. The Government of Sierra Leone ensures that all parties fully comply with the Communiqué on the recent incident in Bumbuma;

3. The Government of Sierra Leone and AML adopt international best practice procedures in corporate governance by implementing the UN Business and Human Rights Principles and the ILO Convention on Labour Laws;

4. The Government of Sierra Leone immediately restore the Bargaining Certificate of the Mining and Allied Services Union (MASEU) whose withdrawal is depriving the workers of exercising and enjoying their labour rights;

5. The Government of Sierra Leone causes the AML to hold orientation sessions for their expatriate workers on the culture of Sierra Leone, particularly those aspects that are peculiar to the Tonkolili district where the operations of the company are based;

For detailed report and more information please check website www.nmjd.org or contact any of the institutions listed: Campaign for Good Governance, Conscience International, Talking Drum Studio, Sierra Leone Network on the Rights to Food (SilNORF), ACTION-AID International SL, Association of Journalists on Mining and Extractives (AJME), Green Scenery, Mining and Allied Services and Employee Union (MASEU), Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD) and National Advocacy Coalition on Extractives (NACE) and individuals whose contact numbers are mentioned below:

NMJD - Platform Chairman +232 76 645 314, +232 76 673712 

or

NACE - Co-Chair +232 76 602470; CJM 076-600954

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