Monday, July 18, 2016

Culture Clashes Lead to Fatalities in Bonthe as Local Youths go on the Rampage

Over the weekend in Bonthe, arguably the most peaceful area Sierra Leone, a group of youths went on the rampage over a minor incident that resulted in clashes between some misguided youths on the island and soldiers stationed there, resulting in fatalities. It is reported that at least two people were killed yesterday in skirmishes between the youths and some soldiers stationed in the area, with some of the soldiers sustaining minor injuries.

The whole incident started with a quarrel between two young people on the island, one Michael Jikpama and a lady called Esther Senesie. During the quarrel Esther sucked her teeth at Michael, an act that is traditionally considered extremely disrespectful in the area, especially if it is from a woman and directed against a man who has been initiated into the local Poro secret society. To add fuel to fire, Esther also told Michael that if he was a man, he should do what he wanted to do over the perceived insult.

Michael was so outraged by the challenge that he started mobilizing a group of male youths in the area, saying  that a woman had disrespected and challenged their society. The news of the apparent cultural affront soon quickly spread and a lot of enraged male youths quickly rushed and joined Michael and his rowdy crowd.

As news of the incident spread, the local chiefs tried to intervene and told the youths that the days when people fought over such minor cultural infractions were over. They told them that the island was becoming a multicultural place and new people were moving to the area, including outside investors necessary to the development of the area, who did not necessarily know the customs. They told them that the world was changing and the aggrieved youths should just overlook the incident.

However, Michael and his now growing gang did not listen and continued mobilizing angry youths in the town, with a plan to attack the lady and all those they perceived as her defenders. The news got to the security  personnel on the island and the ONS went on radio and warned the youths to desist from any action that would compromise the peace and security of the areas. He told them that if they had any grievances they should convey them through the legal channels. The mayor,who was away, also reportedly called the youths and appealed to them for calm. However, the youths were now bent on defending their customs and were not prepared to listen to anybody.

The traditionally minded youths went to the residence of the ONS and severely beat his wife, and also attacked a soldier there. A group of over one hundred irate local youths also started pelting the military personnel who were dispatched to the area with rocks. They soldiers fired some warning shots, but that just got the crowd more riled up and they started rusing the soldiers who fired into the crowd, leaving two dead and one wounded.

Tensions are still high on the island, but the quick action of the soldiers has brought some order and calm to the town. Authorities are still on the lookout for Michael and some of the key leaders of his gang.

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