By Mohamed Juma Jalloh in Makeni
Clashes between security forces and youths in the North-eastern regional headquarters of Makeni have left scores of youths dead and many others injured.
The clashes erupted when the youths protested against government officials who attempted to relocate 1.65 Megawatts generator from Makeni to Lungi in the Northwestern region.
Sources in Makeni told this medium that the deaths were caused by firing of bullets and teargas canisters by the police and the army at defenceless civilians.
Shops and business centres as well as important public places remained closed and other residents sought refuge in isolated locations to save their lives.
Sources say the Police and the army are in a routine patrol in the township while youths have re-organised t to launch an offensive.
Government sources indicate that Lungi town which hosts the country’s only international airport is in dire need of electricity as a measure to support resumption of flight operations in Sierra Leone.
Energy Distribution and Supply Agency says, in a public notice seen by Nightwatch, the relocation of the standby thermal plant from Makeni to Lungi is a stop-gap measure until such a time the 3x2MW engines are repaired.
A press release dated 18th July 2020 issued by the Ministry of Information indicates that the withdrawal of the thermal plant is in line with government policy of improving energy sector in the country.
It also says the withdrawal of the standby generator will by no means affect regular power supply in Makeni.
The press release is devoid of a condolence message for the bereaved families of those brutally murdered.
However, the Minister of Information, Mohamed Rado Swarray, through the press release, has warned of a further crackdown on those who threatens state security.
“…Any attempt by anyone or group of persons to undermine the public peace will face the fullest force of the law,” the press release reads in part.
According to reports from the Ministry of Energy and Power, the onus is on government as the major determiner of development activities to relocate projects where they are badly needed.
In comparison to other cities across the country, Makeni City enjoys relatively stable electricity supply more than the capital city Freetown.
During the reign of former President Koroma, sufficient effort was directed at ensuring a sufficient flow of electricity in Makeni city which is connected to two power generation grids.
Initially, residents and businesses had cause to rely on the Bumbuna hydro Electric power supply.
In the dries, when water level is truncated, EDSA rations power distribution to ensure the equitable distribution of electricity to the city. Addax Bio Energy, an energy company that produces bio-fuel was contracted to complement Bumbuna Hydro power supply through its thermal generators.
The thermal generators, since 2010, have been generating and transmitting power to EDSA which in turn, has been supplying and distributing electricity to consumers.
A resident in Makeni said the act of forcefully relocating a thermal plant from one part of the country to another was politically motivated. “Irrespective of the locality and political affiliation of a district, Sierra Leoneans in every part of the country deserve the right to enjoy social services,” he emphasised.
Government’s move to relocate an electricity generator from one region to another is not the first.
Sometime in 2018, government embarked on the same action of relocation of an electricity generating machine from Kono in the east to Bo city in the south with no clear reason.
Brutal Police crackdown in Makeni is also not the first since President Maada Bio took over state governance.
Killings occurred at Mile-91 during a police raid, Tonko Limba Chiefdom in kambia district during a local council bye-election, and most recently at the country’s central correctional facility where over 30 inmates were brutally murdered for which the alleged perpetrators are yet to be brought to justice.