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Cablegate: Unrest in Kono District

VZCZCXRO7289
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #0198 1151658
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 241658Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1878
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS FREETOWN 000198

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DS/IP/AF, DS/DSS/CC, AF/W, CA/OCS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC CASC PGOV SL
SUBJECT: UNREST IN KONO DISTRICT

1. (U) On 04/23/2008, it was reported that there was a
serious disturbance in the Kono District of Sierra Leone. In
the early morning hours some local youth went to an area that
is under contract to the Kariba Mining Company in Koidu Town
to mine for diamonds at the No. 11 Tailings. The youth were
told that this area is leased to the Kariba Mining Company
and to vacate the premises. The youth dismissed the request
to vacate stating that they were promised by the Vice
President, during one of his campaign tours, that they could
mine anywhere if they voted for the APC. The youth said that
they were disappointed and angered that it appears the Vice
President did not keep his promise and police had to be
called in due to the escalating situation.

2. (U) When the police arrived they were confronted by an
estimated 500 youth, some of whom were armed with machetes
and petrol bombs (Molotov cocktails). The aggression was
also directed at the local Paramount Chiefs' and their
properties, since they were viewed as collaborating with the
mining companies. The police were able to disperse the
crowd, only to have them regroup again. At this time the
police called in reinforcements from the Regional
Headquarters and surrounding areas. Reports also state the
President activated the MACP (Military Assistance to Civilian
Power) to further supplement the police.

3. (U) During the confrontation several arrests were made
(conflicting reports put the arrests between 8 - 30) and a
police officer's side arm was taken off of him by one of the
youth and has yet to be recovered. Police were finally able
to disperse the crowd by firing tear gas and several live
rounds of ammunition into the air. No casualties were
reported.

4. (U) Currently the situation is calm, but tensions are
still high in the area. A curfew has been implemented and
the SLP (Sierra Leone Police) has been deployed to protect
the police station, mining companies and their interests, and
other buildings and offices that were targeted.

5. (SBU) Comment: As of late on 04/24/2008 the area remained
calm. However, simmering tensions exacerbated by reports of
fuel shortages and high prices for commodities and foodstuff,
could result in further outbreaks. Post will issue a warden
message to alert U.S. citizens to exercise caution if
traveling to the area. Post has been in contact with the
American Citizen Warden resident in Kono and also with USAID
implementing partners who have projects there. Post will
continue to monitor the situation.


PERRY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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