Sierra Leone has managed to evade the death penalty for over 20 years, but now citizens are agitating for it to be reinstituted. Sierra Leoneans want some offenders hanged.
Members of the legal community in the country believe that the new agitation for the death penalty is connected to one particular sad case made moreso by the incompetence of the police force and a poorly handled trial.
In May 2015, a young musician, stage name DJ Clef had been present at the home of a faith healer, who is known in Sierra Leone for his high-society connections and the tattooed faces of demons covering his body, to play a set. DJ Clef (real name, Sydney David Buckle), was found later, missing some organs and his genitals, on the roadside leading to a military cemetery on the outskirts of the capital, Freetown.
DJ Clef had become very famous as the country recovered from the Ebola outbreak. He had acquired a Freetown fan base who enjoyed his Afrobeat mixes and laid-back style.
Milton Coker, the president of the All Stars music collective, which Clef belonged to, led a call for swift justice telling AFP in an interview that “People who kill should be killed, … It will deter others.”
On that note, Baimba Moi Foray and an accomplice were convicted of DJ Clef’s murder and were given a death sentence of death by hanging.
The two individuals convicted of the murder are appealing the sentence but should their appeal fail, they will be the first people to go to the gallows since 1998. Sierra Leone’s Interior Minister Palo Conteh told AFP in an interview that the country was ready to hang the perpertrators. In his words;
“I’ve instructed the Director General of the Male Correctional Facility to ensure that the gallows are oiled, cleaned and ready to be used,”
“We have not been executing convicts due to a presidential moratorium but considering the increased lawlessness and violence in society we have to kill as prescribed by law.”
Presidential pardons have made sure that there are very few people on death row in the country. Most of the death sentences were commuted to life sentences. The Attorney General and Minister of Justice Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, however, said that it is time to reconfigure the way Sierra Leone dealt with violent crime;
“One thing that strikes deep in my heart is the escalation of the murder rate, … Every other day a murder file will come across my desk and that is a real serious concern.”
It is doubtful though whether the death penalty will be the deterrent that Sierra Leoneans are seeking for. The Ebola outbreak not only shattered the country’s health system but also finished its economy. For this reason, many young people are jobless, homeless, and are looking for means (sometimes underhanded) to fend for themselves.
Hanging people, even violent criminals, will do nothing to help the unfortunate situation that Sierra Leonean youths find themselves in.