By Alfred Koroma
Lahai Lawrence Leema, Deputy Internal Affairs Minister refused to face the Special Investigative Committee (SIC) set up by President Bio to look into the August 8, 9,10 anti- government protest that left 37 people dead.
The Deputy Minister is accused of killing some of the people during the hours of a curfew declared by the Vice President to coil the violence. He has denied engaging in any extra judicial killings, saying the accusations are a ploy aimed at tarnishing his name and undermining the good working relationship between him and the President.
But Leema refused to present himself to the Investigative Committee for questioning despite repeated attempts to have him provide answers on the allegations against him.
He blamed the committee for not notifying him for a meeting with them. “Not appearing on the committee is not a fault of mine. But is as a result of the fact that I was not notified that I should be on that committee,” he told AYV in a phone call interview. “I never receive a letter, nor did I get any text message.”
However, Leema admits receiving a call from one of the committee members on the day he was required to be on the committee. At the time, he was engaged in another meeting with a guest in his office.
But the committee said letters were sent to the Deputy Minister’s office twice and calls made requesting for a meeting with Leema, yet he refused to honor the invitation. Of all the persons of interest whom letters were sent to, the Deputy Internal Affairs Minister is the only one that did not show up. Others persons of interest like Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, former Mayor of Freetown City Council and Femi Claudious Cole, Leader of Unity Party showed up, although they refused to be questioned by the committee.
Leema was the only person the committee sent two letters to. “We sent letters to 38 people. Everyone received the letters,” Chairman of the Special Investigative Committee, Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai told AYV, clarifying: “Lahai Laurence Leema’s letter was sent on the 6th ofJanuary. His letter was sent and signed for by Tamba Sam. On the letter, the committee had scheduled his meeting on the 18th of January.
“When we did not hear from him, we sent another letter on the 10 of February signed again by Tamba Sam,” Saffa said, the Deputy Minister did not show up.
The Special Investigative Committee (SIC) published its report on the protest over a week ago. The findings reveals the protest was incited by Holland based social media commentator, Will Kamara, nicknamed Adebayor in association of the leadership of the main opposition party, the All Peoples Congress (APC). At subnational level, the Committee finds the ringleaders of the insurrection were all active members APC, especially in Lungi, Port Loko, Kamakwei, and Makeni.
Children were recruited to participate in the riot; used as human shields by the adult rioters. Some of the children who were arrested in Freetown said they were recruited from Makeni and Portloko and brought to Freetown to participate in the riot, the report disclosed.
Notice of the protest that began with a three-day sit-at-home strike action had gone viral on social media, reaching authorities days before it could take place. But there was a dereliction of duty on the side of the security sector, as it applied more reactive than proactive measures to forestall the infamous August 8th-10th insurrection.
The protesters targeted critical national infrastructure, the report says, attacking the Freetown International Airport, burning down numerous police stations and barrack locations, as well as government buses that form part of the national transport infrastructure.
37 people died from the violence. That includes 6 Police officers who were murdered and 21 civilians. The claim by some people of extrajudicial killings following the August 10th protests could not be ascertained, but the report says, Hassan S. Dumbuya (Evangelist Samson) was killed on August 14th, giving three accounts leading to his killing.