“I DID NOT PUBLICH THE REPORT TO MAKE AML HAPPY” Says Dr. Rona Peligal
Human Rights Watch Report Exposes the Mysterious death of Sallu Conteh
Former employee of Africa Minerals Limited (AML)
Page 64 to 66 in the Human Rights Watch Report titled ‘Whose Development? Human Rights Abuses in Sierra Leone’s Mining Boom’, clearly explains the death of Sallu Conteh of blessed memory of the Africa Minerals Limited.
According to the report, Sallu Conteh, a shop steward for the AML workers, was the only AML employee to testify at the Human Rights Commission hearing about the experiences of its workers. He said that on the eve his July 2012 testimony, two company employees “called me and told me to testify in favour of the company.” The two who called him that the company was addressing the workers” complaints. Despite the phone call, Conteh, an air conditioning technician and former soldier, decided to testify:
“What gave the urge to speak the truth was that the bosses wanted otherwise. I spoke as a Sierra Leonean. The people in this country would suffer if these concerns are not addressed. I have faith in the law… I wanted to show that I would not be bribe.”
In September 2012, Conteh was transferred to Freetown. According to the company, he was promoted, and received an increase in pay. He said it became much more difficult for him to serve as a shop steward to the workers in Bumbuna and that was unsure as to whether the relocation was an acknowledgement of his potential or retaliation for his public appearance at the commission’s hearings. Other shop stewards were also relocated.
On the weekend of May 18-19, 2013, Conteh died under unclear circumstances as he made his way to Bumbuna from Freetown. The Paramount chief of Kalansongoia apparently asked Conteh on Saturday morning, May 18, to assist him with some technical household issues. On his motorcycle, Conteh left Freetown for Bumbuna at about 10:30 pm., spoke to his wife in Bumbuna by phone at 11 p.m. and was not heard from again. His wife called him at 1 a.m. on Sunday May 19 to check up on him, and another voice answered the phone, saying that Conteh was driving.
On May 19, nearby residents found Conteh’s body lying in a ditch near the road just outside of Bumbuna- his phone and money were taken –and reported that matter to police that day. The Police, through its traffic division, immediately ruled the death an accident and brought the body to the town health center. Conteh had died from a serious head injury. The community health officer told Human Rights Watch:
Sallu was a friend of mine. He was brought to the Health center in Bumbuna by the police. He had a dent on his head and frustrated skull. One of his limbs was also frustrated. His jeans were torn near the pocket. The corpse was found in a swamp. When they found him, he was already dead. They called the police. The police said it was a road traffic accident. I went to the scene of the accident, and saw patches of his hair on a stone. It seems clear that he was hit by something, or that he hit something. He had a traumatic head injury. I also went to the police station, where they showed the bike to me. It was not seriously damaged. Just the headlight was broken. I recommended an autopsy to the family in Makeni, but they seem to have declined. The body was not embalmed, and was thus not well preserved.
Human Rights Watch, which was contacted by Conteh’s relative on May 20, immediately raised the matter with African Minerals, which indicated that the company was conducting an inquiry. The Company reported that, because Conteh was off- duty, it was difficult to establish the exact details of the incident, since it was not workplace related.
Civil Society activities issued a public statement in June 2013 calling on the Sierra Leone police to fully investigate Conteh’s death, given his public role as a shop steward at AML, and to obtain a call log and conduct an exhumation. Francis Munu, the Inspector General Police told Human Righst Watch that he was waiting for the relevant NGOs to follow up and “partner with” the police. NGO activities who had been in touch with the police said they were told their financial assistance was needed for the police to do a proper criminal investigation, a common request in Sierra Leone.
AML is the largest iron ore mining company in Sierra Leone, which has an estimate iron ore deposit of 12.8 billion tons.