• September 9, 2023

BUFF CASE – A Culture of Impunity against the Rule of Law

BUFF CASE – A Culture of Impunity against the Rule of Law
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It is a culture of impunity that is commonly practiced in Sierra Leone and many poor countries that continues to affect the rule of law, justice and respect for the enforcers and dispensers of justice.

In Sierra Leone there is the common belief that someone can injure even murder you and if you take that case to either the police or the courts would amount to nothing. Such a case is commonly referred to as a “buff” case.

The culture of buff case also finds its expression in someone paying a law enforcement officer, even a prison officer, to have someone else locked up, just to show that individual his or her power. The concept of ‘buff case’ is rife in Sierra Leone. To date there are so much of such cases in our courts, prisons and police systems that they have raised concern and suspicion among members of the public.

This culture of impunity against the laws of the land continues to be a problem for the image and reputation of the law and those that enforce the law. We usually hear of people taking ‘orders from above’ that tend to supersede established laws and procedures aimed at addressing such.

Based on ‘orders from above’ many people that were out to protest against their hardships and how government’s plans and actions continue to affect them were gunned down by gun totting police officers at Lunsar, Tombo, Mile 91, Makeni, Koidu, Pademba Road Prison, on 10th August, 2022 and 11th September, 2023.

Because these men did what they did citing ‘orders from above’ they are yet to be named and made to face punishment as a result. The killers of our brothers and sisters across this country since 2018 continue to live and move among us because they were taking ‘orders from above’ which have rendered their actions and the lives of those that were snuffed out as ‘buff’ cases.

All across this country there is not a single person that does not know someone or of someone that has suffered or continues to suffer as a result of the ‘buff case’ phenomenon. While they are not considered the stock of such cases, several ‘buff cases’, some listed below, continue to leave many with questions if those considered culpable in such cases are above the law, or if their cases have been swept under the carpet and conveniently set aside.

Failure by the government to sort out this assault on the law that is the cause of over 70 per cent of court cases and those incarcerated being for assault to cause grievous bodily harm further erodes efforts to enhance the rule of law in the country.

Many will recall the case of Don Pole, the former SLPP thug that was transformed into personal bodyguard for the party’s former chairman, Dr Prince Harding. It was alleged that after they had a falling out, Harding accused Don Pole and others of organising and having someone spill a liquid concoction of allegedly human piss and excreta on him at the party’s Wallace Johnson Street headquarters. To cut a long story short, Dr Harding allegedly ordered his assigned state security officer, who was armed, to shoot Don Pole, which order he obeyed.

It must be noted that Don Pole and his family had alleged that Dr Harding’s wife had warned Pole’s family for him to stay away from the former SLPP chairman, or he would lose his life. After Pole died in hospital from his wounds Dr Harding was held overnight at the CID after which we are yet to hear of the case.

It is alleged that ever since Dr Harding unilaterally decided to name and so select Maada Bio as the party’s flagbearer and chairman, the case has met a temporary death. The case many consider an open and shut case were it to make it to court is yet to be decided in open court as the police that is responsible for taking such a matter before the magistrate had it that Pole died from stab wounds while the autopsy result said he died from bullet wounds. Such brazen complicity between the police and the suspect is one of the hallmarks of a ‘buff case’.

Apart from Don Pole’s case, we are yet to know who shot and killed Evangelist Samson in Makeni on 10th August, 2022, Kallon at Moeba on 11th September, 2023, and at the protest actions in Lunsar, Makeni, Tombo, Pademba Road Prison, 10th August, 2022, and 11th September, 2023. We also refer to the cases of the state security personnel Boika that was gunned down and Sata Lamin who was gang raped in Kailahun by pro SLPP youths. The case of the SLPP youth that was stabbed at Base 1, Last Station Ataya Base in the east of Freetown by other SLPP youth is yet to face the light of day. The properties of leading APC members were set ablaze during the past electioneering period without anyone being held responsible for such actions.

We have a system of governance that supports lawlessness and gangsterism, while at the same time attempting to try to enforce the rule of law. Even the nation’s chief executive has been accused of treating the law, especially the National Constitution, with levity. Members of the Fifth Parliament routinely accused Julius Maada Bio of bastardising the Constitution.

The culture of ‘buff case’ can be blamed for armed public security officers threatening to shoot unarmed civilians saying it would amount to nothing. This has also affected how we respond to others we have done something wrong to. Saying sorry is the hallmark of forgiveness as sorry has something to do with feeling remorse for your actions. But under a culture of ‘buff case’ people say sorry for the face value without that deep remorse that has to do with them not repeating such an action.

Many community heads that spoke to this medium on this issue say they know of people in their communities who have injured and murdered others in the communities but who are still moving about without any action taken against them by the police. Such men should have been in jail and not allowed to live in a community as they pose clear and present danger to the lives and properties of people in the community.

The ‘buff case’ culture has made heroes of violent people while at the same time making the people lose respect for police and other law enforcement officers. Recently a well-known political thug who was responsible for so many people not voting in elections across the country was given a police escort funeral in appreciation of his service to the ruling party government, while a statesman like Joe Demby was not accorded a state funeral. It follows then that if you are a lawbreaker as long as you do so on behalf of the government of the day, it is a ‘buff case’.

The biggest ‘buff case’ according to the people is the current presidential elections result impasse. Many people are of the belief and opinion that Maada Bio will do his five years because the dialogue and other efforts to solve the stalemate will all amount to ‘buff case’ and Maada Bio will do his five years.

The culture of ‘buff case’ usually acts as a hindrance to plenty people from effectively performing their duties for fear of being violated without recourse to the law or courts. They include but not limited to whistle-blowers, journalists, outspoken people, teachers, people accused of stealing, lawyers, judges and the like. They operate under a cloud of fear of someone injuring them for free.

The government of Sierra Leone must urgently address this issue of lawlessness that continues to affect the dispensation of justice, which will affect us all in the long run because while it might be ‘buff case’ today, tomorrow the Lord might intervene and someone would have to do the time for the crime.

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