The director of the Operational Support Division (OSD), David Sara Sesay, has testified before the Jenkins-Johnston commission of inquiry that it is not in the rule of engagement for the police to fire warning shots but only shoot to stop the action.
The Jenkins-Johnston commission of enquiry was set up by government to investigate the deaths of two people and injuries of many after clashes of discontent between Koidu Holdings Mining Company and the people of Kono on December 13 last year.
The commission, which had finished its first hearing in Kono, yesterday continued hearing at the Miatta Conference hall in Freetown with the OSD director as the commission’s 32 witness.
Asked by the commissioners how the police engaged demonstrators before firing live ammunitions at them, he responded that they would start from polite requests and negotiations but as the situation deteriorated they might be warranted to fire teargas and if it further deteriorated “wherein we will resort to the use of arms then that is where you have the rule of engagement warranting us to use arms and we have to know that it has to be proportional, legal and you should be able to account for it and it should be necessary”
He further explained that using the rule of engagement did not stop one’s legal right from defending oneself.
Asked further by the commission’s chairman, Jenkins Johnston, whether the police did not issue blank shots against demonstrators he answered, “We do not issue blanks at all.”
Further questioned when live ammunitions were to be used if the police did not fire first in the air he answered, “it is not there (rule of engagement) we only shoot to stop.”
“So you shoot straight at civilians,” commissioner Mustapha K. Dumbuya asked. “No”, he answered “we do not shoot at civilians but we shoot to stop the action and it depends on situations where it started and where it generated. So if you have the right or you want to shoot you have to be well guided with the rule of engagements wherein you should be able to account and it should be professional, legal and necessary”.
The OSD director also testified that 80 OSD personnel were deployed at Koidu Holdings as static guards with other personnel at the Tankoro police station as mobile arms guard, and public order units under the control of the local unit commander and the control commander.
He revealed to the commission that he received reports on December 13 about the deaths of two people in Kono and the wounding of several others.
But he could not identify a bullet which was removed from one of the dead demonstrators; he only said the bullet might have come from either a pistol or a sub machine gun.