Under the command of PC Fullahmasa Gbabereh II, the Paramount Chief of Yoni Mabanta Chiefdom, three men accused of stealing groundnuts in Petifu Fullahmasa village were stripped naked with charcoal rubbed on their bodies and made to dance throughout the streets in the village.
There has been widespread criticism after the video of three able-bodied men from Yoni Mabanta – a Chiefdom in the Northern District of Tonkolili dancing naked with charcoal rubbed all over their bodies went viral on social media a few days ago.
In the video, the men were seen dancing, and a large number of villagers sang behind them while the others were with phones taking videos and pictures of the men.
The three men were tied with ropes on their waists.
However, the Paramount Chief, PC Fullahmasa Gbabereh verified the video to be true and admitted he was the one who ordered the men to be stripped naked because they had admitted to having stolen some bags of ground nuts from neighbors in the village.
Recently, PC Gbabereh said, a law was passed that whosoever is caught stealing must be stripped naked and made to dance in the whole community to stop the rampant theft and thievery in the Petifu Fullahmasa village.
“I have been receiving a series of theft cases in the community. Every day, people are complaining of their animals and other valuable properties being stolen. We therefore passed that law as a community to stop the rampant thefts,” PC Gbabereh said.
The decision, he said was taken by the community because everyone was aware of the new law and the three men weren’t the first victims.
Therefore, Chief Gbabereh said the matter shouldn’t be seen as big because it is happening everywhere, and that’s not the first time such has happened in his chiefdom.
“Is that a big thing, why are you making it look like a big thing,” the Paramount Chief asked journalists who went to ascertain the authenticity of the video.
Even during the reign of his father, PC Fullahmasa Gbabereh I, the Paramount Chief said, the wife of a Chiefdom Police officer was stripped naked and made to dance in public because she was caught stealing.
When asked the full names of the three men, all of the chiefs could not remember but they admitted the men were members of the community. The Chiefs said they only recall their nicknames. The three men weren’t around when this reporter visited the village.
However, some family members of the three men expressed dissatisfaction over what they say is the inhuman way the men were treated.
However, the Chief said, he had ordered his sub-chiefs to stop the said law in the chiefdom.
An accused person or someone suspected of having committed an offense of this nature, the laws of Sierra Leone said, must be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law. The individual must be taken or reported to the police who will investigate and charge the suspect in court.
However, contrary to the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone, PC Gbabereh ordered the men to be undressed and made to dance in the whole village with charcoal rubbed on their bodies.
While many condemn the act of stealing in its entirety, the action of the Chief was also seen as a blatant human rights violation.
For others, the Chief must be investigated for violating the rights of the young men and degrading their human dignity.
The issue has been topical in and out of the chiefdom since the video went viral, and the majority condemned the act.
“PC Gbabereh is an educated man and a graduate for that matter. Unfortunately, he’s still treating his people in such a barbaric act,” Ibrahim Conteh, a teacher in the Chiefdom said.
Abdul Armani Kamara, a Civil and Human Rights Activist in the town of Mile 91 has condemned the act calling it unfortunate and unlawful.
The Mile 91 Police Division has not commented on the issue. The Spokesperson for the Division said he has to seek permission from his boss, the Local Unit Commander before commenting on the story.