By Dr. L. Gberie.
The State Counsel, Monfred Sesay, charged a total of nine people in connection with the alleged killing. They were Alhaji Abu Bockarie Kallon, for murder; Gassimu Ndanema, Francis Leigh, Abdulai Lamboi, Alhaji Sam, Joseph Sandy, Munda Alfred, Amie Dauda (mother of the deceased), and Mamie James (aunt of the deceased) as accessories to the crime of murder. The nine individuals, the indictment ran, “on 17 April 2000…conspired together with other persons unknown to commit a felony” in the judicial district of Bo.
The evidentiary exhibits upon which the indictment drew were mainly confessions; the accused seemed to condemn themselves with their own mouths. In fact, the so-called confessions, extracted through savage torture, were of an extremely dubious probative value. It is hard to believe, reading those statements, that any lawyer would have used them to make such grave charges: they are very obviously contrived. Here, for example, is how Amie Dauda, the mother of the deceased, described her own role in the murder (to her torturer Karrow Kamara): “The death of my son, Brima Kposowa, was not a natural death. It was caused by five of us, namely myself Amie Kposowa, Jose Sandy, Muda Alfred… We sold Brima Kposowa to one Alhaji Gassimu of Bo.”
Mr. Kallon, the first accused, in his first statement to the police on 4 May 2000 denied any knowledge of the killing. Several hours with the torturer Karrow Kamara the next day, 5 May, produced the following statement: “I now say that I have knowledge about the death of Brima Kposowa…I now say that I killed the deceased…on 17th April 2000 in a swamp, at Timiday bush at about 6:30pm. I alone did the killing…I now say that I have a right to stand for Paramount Chief at Koya Chiefdom…as I hailed from a ruling families [sic].” As part of his preparation to contest for Paramount Chief, Mr. Kallon, described as businessman, said he consulted “co-suspect Gassimu Ndanema,” telling Ndanema that in order to be successful in this endeavour, he must protect himself “by offering human sacrifice to wash” his body, according to the testimony.
To acquire the human being for the sacrifice, Mr. Kallon said he gave Danema Le.300,000 to purchase a boy, money Mr. Nanema used to purchase Brima Kposowa from his parents. The amount of money paid for the boy changed several times during the trial, from Le.300,000 to Le.600,000 and finally Le.800,000. Once bought, Ndanema gave the boy to Mr. Kallon, and drove them away from the village. Mr. Kallon then took the boy, alone, into a swampy area in the bush and – Mr. Kallon’s testimony read – “I laid him flat on the grass and offered my sacrifice…wherein I read ‘Al-Fatiah’ on the said Brima Kposowa five times and thereafter I had to use my knife to cut his throat and in the exercise the head of Brima Kposowa cut off.” He had not wanted to decapitate Kposowa, so he threw the head away. He then slit Kposowa’s stomach and extracted the liver and then “collected some of [Kposowa’s] blood in a red plastic.” He was to take the body part and blood to Labbeh in Guinea for the making of ‘borfina’. In the event, Mr. Kallon said in his testimony, he did not get anywhere near Guinea, because the plastic bag containing the ‘sacrifice’ got burst, spilling its prized content. Mr. Kallon said he got disoriented after this loss, “and this obliged me to give a false statement to the Police.”
The knife with which Mr. Kallon claimed he slaughtered Kposowa, which he described in precise terms, was never found – much like the British were never able to apprehend, after dozens of arrests, the exactly described forked knives allegedly used by Human Leopards. Where the liver and blood got wasted was never identified; Mr. Kallon did not seem to remember such an immensely striking detail. In Mr. Ndanema’s testimony, the decomposing body of Kposowa described by Dr. Kargbo became “skulls”. Amie Dauda did not state how much money she received. Another salient fact is that all the accused were not literate in English, and the statements were taken from them in either Mende or Krio and rendered in English by Karrow Kamara and his co-torturers.
Under cross-examination by the defence, an immensely salient detail emerged from Amie Dauda’s (mother of the deceased). In the morning that her son disappeared, she was home with the boy when he went behind the house “to the toilet.” Shortly after, she said Alieu Kondewa, the Kamajors spiritual leader, drove by the house. “As the vehicle passed, I did not see the child again,” she said. She went in search of the boy and never found him, whereupon she reported the matter to the local authorities, the most powerful of whom were Kamajors. They immediately had her tied “with a Kamajors rope called Baime” and beat her mercilessly. She and others arrested that day were taken to the Bo Police Station where Karrow Kamara “inserted pepper in my vagina.” It was then that “I admitted it was my doing, because the pepper was burning…. It was Karrow Kamara who suggested to me that I sold the child and which is not true.” She acquiesced with Kamara’s accusation, she said, “because of the burning pepper and this was what the police read to me.”
Her sister and co-accused, Mamie, was similarly tortured to ‘confess’ to doing what Karrow Kamara, acting in concert with the local authorities and the Kamajors, wanted her to confess to. “Mr. Karrow Kamara had a rubber with which he was flogging me,” she during her cross-examination. “[Police] Sergeant Gaima came to the scene. He slapped me in my mouth causing one of my teeth to come out.” The torturers then kicked her in the abdomen and “I started bleeding until I lost consciousness,” she said. Once she regained consciousness, they “inserted kanya pepper into my vagina. After that I was unable to walk. I was,” she said, evoking what to her must have been her primal experience of terror, “I was feeling like somebody who had been circumcised.”
Judge Ademusu, summing up for the jury, ignored these statements. He focused on Mr. Kallon who, he said, told the jury that “he was tortured and beaten by OC Karrow Kamara at the scene” of the murder (untrue: Mr. Kallon said he was beaten at the Police Station). However, Ademusu continued, the evidence of Dr. Kargbo, who played the role of pathologist though he had no such qualification, in his “post mortem examination report shows that the first accused’s indirectly made the confession.” Needless to say, it wasn’t Dr. Kargbo’s job to extract any confession, direct or indirect, from the accused.
The jury convicted Mr. Kallon of first-degree murder; and the judge sentenced him to death. The jury found the rest (8 accused persons) Not Guilty of the crime of accessory to the murder, and the judge had them freed.
Nothing in the records of the case prepared me enough for this curious verdict.