Rural labor strike at African Minerals in Sierra Leone leaves 1 woman dead, 21 injured

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Kelly Conteh, 27, lies in a hospital with a gunshot wound to the head after police opened fire on a crowd of protesters in the mining town of Bumbuna April 19. The protestors worked for African Minerals Limited (c) Reuters

The woman shot and killed during the African Mineral’s labor strike in Binkolo last weekend has been identified as a caterer working for ATS. Reported to be in her early 30s, Musu Conteh worked for the expatriate owned catering firm ATS, one of the many sub-contractor at African Minerals Ltd. She was said one of the demonstrating along with others for better pay when he was allegedly shot by police personnel.

Sources said she died on the spot after she collapsed on the ground. No one has come out to claim her as family and sources say she had no children with her while working at Bumbuna. Conteh’s marital status is also yet unknown.

Community Health Officer in Bumbuna, Joseph C. Bayor, said they handled patients with 11  gun shot injuries and one death. And additional 10 people  were treated for other injuries including suffocation. Most of the victims were men.

Bayoh said that there were insufficient drugs and medical materials to treat the victims, adding that there was no ambulance to convey victims to referral centers.

ASP Ibrahim Samura, public relations officer at the Sierra Leone Police, said that a number of their personnel sustained injuries after they were attacked and that they are presently hospitalized at the Makeni Police Medical Centre.

He confirmed the identity of the dead woman, saying her remains are currently at the mortuary for an autopsy. He also confirmed reports of injuries and wounding in Bumbuna the township on that fatal day. The police had previously denied that anyone had been killed on site.

Among the officers injured are PC 11860 David S. Bangura and PC 12897 Kargbo A.B. Samura said that the Police intervened to stop the protesters from setting ablaze the company fuel depot, a guest house, the police station and other key structures and equipment of the company in the township.

‘’The demonstrators were armed with sticks, cutlasses, petrol bombs and other offensive weapons, and our responsibility is to protect lives and properties,” he said, reiterating that there are images of the offensive approach of the demonstrators.

He however noted that the situation is now under control and the security apparatus are on top of the situation.

Workers of the company who prefer anonymity however said that they were underpaid, with no medical facility or union, adding that the absence of a labour office and personnel in the region is making the situation dire.

By Alpha B Kamara in Freetown

  • We have a lot of work to do to desensitize our people from the nightmares of our war. We seem to forget that people went through some traumatic times and if presented with such situation again will resort to the same animalistic behavior.

  • These people need to be paid a fair wage though, considering all the money AM has put into the country and will reap from our soil. They better pay up!