The Operational Support Division (OSD) officer in charge of deployment at Koidu Holdings, Sgt Tamba Michael Samadia, over the weekend testified before the Jenkins Johnston’s commission of inquiry that their duty was to protect lives and property.
He testified that his other duties were to comply with other orders given by the Local Unit Commander and the Officer in charge of the OSD. Asked by the commission what he did when normal Kimberlite blasting was going on at Koidu Holdings, Mr Samadia replied that whenever blasting was about to be undertaken, “letters of notification are distributed among the senior police officers and reinforcement is sent to the mines to evacuate the affected persons”.
Mr Samadia recalled December 13 when the demonstration took place. He said he was on duty and they were required to evacuate the people but they met them assembled in a group against the blasting by Koidu Holdings. He explained to the commission that on that day, “reinforcement from Tankoro Police arrived after information that the people wanted to demonstrate. The police officers were deployed in six zones and up to 2:30 pm when the siren was signaled by Koidu Holdings, we saw large crowd of people chanting, ‘no blasting’. We spoke to them to go back to their houses as no notice was given for their strike action even though they had given a 21-day ultimatum to strike which coincidentally fell on that day.”
He continued, “the LUC, Mansaray, the acting paramount chief and another official were at the scene to talk to the demonstrators where the LUC told them that he did not permit anybody to strike. The people demanded that they would follow the LUC to the station only if the siren blown by Koidu Holdings was stopped. We were at that process when we saw some people distributing placards to the demonstrators.” Mr Samadia further testified that tensions heightened as the demonstrators started chanting songs but continued negotiating with the demonstrators. He said when news went out that blasting was to be done more tensions heightened, which led them to throw petrol bombs and other objects on them which led the police to fire tear gas at them pushing them back before the blasting was done. “With the firing of tear gas the demonstrators threatened to burn down Koidu Holdings, adding that they would go to the accommodation area and hold everyone hostage. Some went to the concession area and others to the police post which they vandalized and later burnt the generator pumping water at the concession to the community. They also stole some spare parts”, he revealed. Mr Samadia said the demonstrators regrouped to enter the mines to disarm the police officers and that it was at this stage that the firing took place.