Makeni Two Years On: Impunity is Still Winning

Two years ago, a confrontation between protesting youth and security forces turned bloody in the
northern city of Makeni. Six people were killed and several wounded by security forces. To date, there
has been no justice for the victims and their families despite calls from rights groups and civil society.
This is just one of several incidents of police violence that remains unresolved and it points to a deep
culture of impunity. There have been other incidents of police killings around the country and the attitude
has always been the same–State complicity and negligence, civil society fatigue and forgetfulness.

Following the incident, the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone carried out an investigation and
issued a report that established that the police and military personnel involved in the incident were
responsible for the killings. A violation of the right to life, in Human Rights terms. The same report
recommended that the security personnel responsible for the shooting to death of protesters must be
dismissed and prosecuted. Clearly, that has not happened. No one has been charged for the killing and
wounding of those citizens and others around the country.

The impunity that the security forces, especially the police, enjoy is a product of poor civilian oversight
and ineffective security sector governance. We can attribute this not only to capacity, but politics and lack
of political will. The civilian authorities that are supposed to provide oversight are mostly politicians who
for many years have created a system that only allows the police to attend to their own needs and hardly
for the people.

It is easy to blame the Inspector General (and rightly so), but frankly, the police would not be behaving
the way they do if they did not have the backing or approval of their civilian-politician bosses. And that is
how we continue to nurture a culture of impunity that produces awful policing such as those actions we
saw in Maikeni two years ago, and for which (to emphasise) justice has not been served. All the state
institutions that have responsibility for upholding rule of law and provide oversight for the security
services (including Parliament) share the guilt in this negligence and complicity.

The people that have been wounded in these police clashes with civilians around the country may never
get justice. Families that have lost loved ones may never get justice. This also means that they will never
have closure and it is painful to imagine that you lose a loved one and you know who is responsible, but

they are never held to account because people in and with power failed to guarantee justice. We must be
worried and afraid of impunity, especially ‘power with impunity’–in writer, Isabelle Allende’s words.

Whatever you are up to this weekend, please take care of yourself and try to have a nice weekend.