DocumentsGovernment Assures of Honouring the May 8 Martyrs

Government Assures of Honouring the May 8 Martyrs

Government Assures of Honouring the May 8 Martyrs

The Ministry of Public and Political Affairs of the Government of Sierra Leoneans has assured Sierra Leoneans that henceforth the Commemoration of the 22 Sierra Leoneans that lost their lives during a peaceful protest march to the residence of the Revolutionary United Front leader, Corporal Foday Sankoh, in May 8, 2000 would be a state responsibility.

The Director of Communication in the ministry, Alhaji Dauda, who deputized the minister, made this disclosure during the Commemoration Ceremony held at the Presidential Lounge of the National Stadium in Freetown on Thursday 8 May 2014 - the first of such event since Foday Sankoh and his agents viciously and gutlessly murdered 22 peaceful and unsuspecting Sierra Leoneans 14 years ago.

“They are Martyrs, no doubt about it. They died for a heroic cause. They sacrificed their lives so that Sierra Leoneans will live in peace.  As a government and as a nation, we have a responsibility to glorify and honour their bravery.


“We must ensure that we give them the honour and pride of place that they deserve. That is why our ministry is working very hard to get Government to take full responsibility for future commemoration events for these heroes and heroines. The cost should be budgeted for in the national budget.

“We call on civil society and the media to help us in this,” Dauda said.

These 22 compatriots were among hundreds of thousands of Sierra Leoneans who took to the streets of Freetown on May 8, 2000 to communicate their remonstration with Foday Sankoh and the RUF leadership. Foday Sankoh and his Revolutionary United Front (RUF) outfit had succeeded in holding the whole country and the entire peace process to ransom; everything was just swinging like a pendulum with no definitive direction.

The RUF had captured and held hostage 500 Zambian peace keepers of the United Nations peacekeeping force. This singular act alone dealt a huge blow to the peace process, particularly after the RUF leadership had defied all reasoning to release the innocent peacekeepers. The peace process was heading for the rocks with hundreds of thousands of more people fleeing the country everyday.

There was need for urgent action at the time to salvage the situation and to bring the peace process back on the rail. In response to this urgency, the civil society of Sierra Leone under the auspices of the Civil Society Movement of Sierra Leone (CSM-SL), the Sierra Leone Parliament and the Sierra Leone Police under the leadership of British-born Inspector-General of Police, Mr Keith Biddle, formed a partnership to square up to this huge challenge.

“At that time, there was no colour – no green, no red, no blue; no political colour of any kind. We were one nation and one people whose collective goal was to achieve peace for our people and for our country.

“It all started with the civil society and parliament which was then coordinated by the late Hon AOD George. Our intention was not to cause the deaths of our compatriots, but to deliver a message to Foday Sankoh to give peace a chance, and to release the 500 peacekeepers.

“Unfortunately, the rebels had already positioned themselves for violent action. They opened fire on peaceful and harmless citizens. There was mayhem, pandemonium and chaos; 22 people perished and many more sustained injuries.

“The scars are still visible even today. We don’t want anybody to disturb that peace. Let me assure yu that the Minister of Public and Political Affairs, Hon Kemoh Sesay, is working towards making this day a national event. And it will improve and become grander from year to year,” former Member of Parliament and one of the organizers of the May 8, 2000 protest march, Hon Joe Conteh, said.

Since their remains were buried in May 2000, civil society has never organized any event to remember and honour our compatriots whose supreme sacrifice brought peace to the country. This is a complete reversal of the many promises that civil society, government and other interested organizations and institutions made at the time of the incident – provide support to the surviving families, award scholarships to their children, erect a tomb on their graves,  undertake special activities such as annual lectures, symposiums, etc on May 8 every year…

Successive governments too have totally disregarded the bravery and the daring role they played in bringing about the much-sought after peace in Sierra Leone. It is a little embarrassing to admit, though. But it is the reality. On the other hand, the failure of civil society to undertake these activities was not out of negligence or forgetfulness, but it was largely due to the divisiveness, lack of cohesion and internal strife, which have become a common characteristic of the Sierra Leonean civil society in the past decade or so.

This state of affairs undercut civil society’s effectiveness in the pursuit of its mandate. Civil society groups preferred to work in isolation of each other rather than coming together to maximize the impacts of their engagements; parochial/personal consideration taking precedence over the national interest.

Such was the state of affairs of the Sierra Leonean civil society when the Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD) initiated a process in 2013 that aimed at rejuvenating the engagement of civil society in the country. The process, which is part of the United Nations Democracy Fund-supported project titled: Initiative to Build Social Movement in Sierra Leone, seeks to build the knowledge, skills and confidence of national civil society platforms to become more organized and more effective in critically analyzing their situations and to take collective actions to challenge the centres of power and to become more active in decision-making processes. The need for civil society to come together and work as a team could not be over-emphasized, and it was underpinned by the entire leadership of the civil society.

“It was difficult when the project started because of the deep-seated acrimonies that had already set in. We held series of consultations and planning meetings; some of them were not really figured out at the time of writing the proposal. But they became imperative as we progressed.

“A landmark decision was reached at the meeting held at Hotel 5:10 in Freetown on 17-18 November 2013. There it was agreed that the Civil Society Movement of Sierra Leone (CSM-SL) should be revived, re-organized and strengthened to once again become the sole umbrella body for all civil society organizations in Sierra Leone as it were.

“In order to communicate this decision to the wider society, the leadership of civil society that was present at the meeting agreed to hold a public commemoration service and other remembrance events for the Martyrs of the May 8, 2000 citizens march to Foday Sankoh,” Director of Communication of NMJD, Sallieu Kamara said.

Earlier in her opening remarks, Political Analyst in the Ministry of Public and Political Affairs and Secretary of the May 8, 200 Commemoration Group, Ms Ajara Bomah, said the main objective of the event was to remind citizens and the international community about what happened in Sierra Leone on that day.

“But more especially to remind ourselves of the things that led to the rebel war in the first place so as not to repeat them,” she said.

Speaking on behalf of the civil society of Sierra Leone, Mr Davidson Kuyateh thanked all those whose support in diverse ways led to the holding of the event.

“Nigeria, ECOWAS, the United Nations and the African Union - all supported this process. We thank them for their support and for always standing by our side in times of need.

“It was not easy to organize the May 8, 2000 procession. There were lots of rumours and threats. We defied all of them and stood firm as a nation to pursue what we wanted; what we believed was good for our country. Today, peace has come.

“But posterity and even our fallen heroes and heroines will blame and hold us responsible if we sit by and allow May 8 to disappear from our history. May 8 is so far the biggest and most successful civil disobedience in the history of our country,” Kuyateh said.

Sallieu Kamara joined Davidson Kuyateh in urging Sierra Leoneans to remember their Martyrs in different ways.

“But the best way to remember our fallen colleagues is to ensure that we refrain from all those things that caused the rebel war in Sierra Leone in the first place eg corruption, marginalization and exclusion, poor service delivery, human rights abuses, weak and corrupt judicial system, poor governance and unaccountable political leadership.

“I challenge all of us – parliament, government, civil society, police, army, etc – to make this possible. It is within our reach.

“As we are gathered here today to mourn their loss, we must also celebrate their remarkable sacrifice, and hope that it will serve as an inspiration to all of us to work hard to make their dreams of a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Sierra Leone come true…. and to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than our individual selves,” Kamara said.

People from all walks of life including survivors, mainly attired in black and white, attended the short but very solemn Commemoration ceremony. The brass ban of the Sierra Leone Police provided moving rendition to add colour to the event.

Below is the list of people that perished on that fateful Monday morning:







Saoman Conteh

Reporter, The Tablet Newspaper


48 years


Josephus Conteh

Student, Njala University


29 years


Foday Brima

Sierra Leone Labour Congress – 21 Green Lane


60 years


Sulaiman Bah

Student, Njala University, Agricultural Department


32 years


Abu Bakarr Conteh

25 Guard Street

16 years


Ms Hawa Mariama Gassama


21 years


Manso Sesay


38 years


Foday Bangura

Staff, Elections Office


47 years


Alhaji Sesay

Officer, Sierra Leone Army (SLA)


24 years


Saio Marrah

Officer, Sierra Leone Army (SLA)


47 years


Peter Kargbo


34 years


Harding Kallon

Security, Mount Everest Security Agency

Security Officer

32 years


Kabba Bangura



21 years


Musa Kamara



26 years


Ms Kumba Brima



21 years


Ballah Turay



27 years


David Jusu



28 years


Pa. Kemoh Jusu



39 years


Lamin Massaquoi



42 years


Ms Alice Koroma



Not known


Ms Lucy Cole



35 years


E. T. Kamara



32 years