Reports coming from the Northern village of Yoni revealed that a young man, Osman Kanu, narrowly escaped death in the hands of members of the dreaded Poro Secret Society, after he was forcefully captured and taken to the society shrine in the forest for initiation.
According to our source, the father of Osman Kanu, Pa Kanu, is a senior member of the society, and plays an important role in the society. According to society law, if the father is seriously sick or incapacitated in anyway, or dead, the eldest son should be initiated to take his place. Family sources say that Osman’s father was seriously ill and could not participate in all society activities, which included initiation and other rites.
It was disclosed during our investigation that as the father was ill and incapacitated, members of the society approached the family demanding that Osman should replace his father. A request that he vehemently refused. On one fateful day, whilst Osman and his wife and kids were at home relaxing, the members of the society visited the house and asked Osman to show them the chicken house, so that they will take one chicken and sacrifice for the health of his father.
It was further explained that whilst he went out of the house that night to take them to the chicken house, he was forcefully abducted and taken to the society shrine, where he was to be forcefully initiated. Family members say that they heard Osman cry for help, but were unable to go to his rescue because the society members invoked their Gods and performed ceremonies, which they said will result in the death of anyone who attempts to follow them.
One old man, Pa Alimamy, a close friend of the father and a member of the society, who was also present at the shrine, is said to have helped him escape from the shrine during preparation for the ritual to commence during the night. Osman is said to have been untied from the secluded area where he was kept and tied up. He managed in the darkness of the night to escape through the bush, pursued by a group of young men.
One resident in the village explained to this writer that he saw Osman running towards an unfinished house, pursued by some heavily built young men with machetes in their hands.
He further disclosed that as the men passed the unfinished house, he noticed them run in the wrong direction, adding that he made a sign to Osman that they had gone the wrong way. Osman is said to have then escaped and left the area with an injured left hand.
Family members told this writer that members of the secret society visited their house in a very angry and aggressive posture, demanding for Osman. As they were unable to locate him, they threatened to take his wife and kids if he is not produced when they return in the morning.
Sources further disclosed that the wife and kids secretly left the house during the same night, and are believed to have met Osman and have since disappeared. However, when the society members turned up in the morning, they did not find Osman and his family and vowed to pursue him, threatening that if they catch him, he will face the penalty of his actions. Head of the Poro Blood Secret Society, Pa Santigie Conteh, had also sent out a strong message through the village crier (announcer) that whosoever provides any accommodation for Osman Kanu and his family would be severely dealt with.
He also said that they will continue to go in search of Osman Kanu, and they will make sure that they get him at all cost. At around 6pm in the evening hours of 18th November, 2020, some members of the household had left the house and hidden for fear of being taken away.
One of them, Mohamed, who managed to leave the village, explained that whilst they were hiding, a group of young men stormed their hiding place with cutlasses, knifes and sticks singing challenging traditional songs, intimating that they will not hesitate to physically attack any one that will interfere in their operations. As they were not discovered, those family members from the house who had hidden then escaped to the nearby village, but the whereabouts of Osman and his wife and kids were not known.
When this writer asked what the penalty was, he was informed that it was death. Our enquiries revealed that in the process of initiation, all new recruits are forced to drink human blood and undergo the most inhumane treatment, all in the name of initiation. It was also disclosed that during such ceremonies those who could not make it, die in the shrine and are buried, with their parents told that the God of the society has taken them. The police do not interfere into such matters, as they are considered sacred and even some of them belong to such societies.
However, as things unfold, a civil right activist, Mr. John Koroma, said that the secret societies are gradually becoming ungovernable in Sierra Leone. He added that it is becoming a norm that the traditional societies would perpetrate violence and other human rights abuses and they are not held accountable. He therefore called on the Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission to step up and take a more robust step against evil traditional practices. “The young people are forced to move away from the country because of these harmful traditional practices,” he said, adding that most of the young people are forced to go out of Sierra Leone against their wish, for fear of being forcefully initiated, and in the process, die.
It was further disclosed that the reason why escapees are pursued is the fact that it is a taboo for anyone to explain what he saw in the bush. Since the pre-colonial era, secret societies have played a dominant role in the politics of African societies including Sierra Leone, but over the decades, they have become so powerful that they have gone to the extreme point of becoming dangerous.
As we go to press, the whereabouts of Osman Kanu and his wife and kids are still unknown, and are still being sought after by the secret society members.