Police in Bonthe Sherbro Island, in the southern region of Sierra Leone, have imposed a curfew to coil down clashes involving the military and members of the Poro society.
The confrontation over the weekend reportedly led to the death of two people apparently as a result of gunshot wounds, although this is yet to be confirmed by medical examination.
It is reported that since the incident occurred on Sunday evening, businesses have remained close, although the situation is said to have been put under control. Local residents say nobody is allowed outside from 1pm local time to 6am.
The Poro is a male secret society that plays an integral part in the socio-cultural practice of tribes in the provinces, particularly the Mende, Sherbro and Temne. Members command immense respect in rural areas and can play politico-military role in times of strife.
According to Station Manager of Radio Bontico – the only radio station on the Island – Samba Koroma, Bonthe township was tense on Sunday after Poro society members took to the street, thus forcing women, children and non-members to go indoors. This ugly development resulted to the alleged manhandling of a military personnel and a worker at the Office of National Security, Harding Massaquoi, by the youths, he said.
He said the incident ensued as a result of an argument between one Esther Senesie, a nurse, and Michael Palmer, over a minor issue which both of them failed to explain to the media.
“The matter was taken to the Deputy Chairman of the Bonthe Municipal Council and was resolved, but Michael insisted that Ms Senesie has challenged his Poro membership and the news went around that they were going to invoke the spirit of the Poro devil to take over the township,” explained the station manager.
He added: “At first, the military restrained themselves from engaging the youth, who were singing from one point to another. The entire township was in a real societal mood and both military and the ONS personnel were seriously beaten.” Also, unconfirmed reports say an unknown number of people were injured.
According to Head of Media and Public Relations of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, Colonel Usman Turay, the matter was under investigation, adding that they have put the situation under control and that they are working closely with the police to bring the perpetrators to book.
Meanwhile, efforts to reach the Police Media officer for his comment on the matter proved abortive.