As the families of the 29 people extra-judicially executed by the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) military junta in 1992 were demonstrating in front of the U.S. Embassy in their determined bid to seek justice, the wife of the late Captain Hanciles Bangura, one of the murdered soldiers, was granting Cocorioko an exclusive interview to explain how her husband was killed for no reason by the depraved junta and the tremendous trauma and suffering her family had undergone since that fateful day.
Mrs. Samira Bangura is still grieving her late husband who left her five daughters and a son to look after following his senseless murder by the NPRC junta members. She told this paper that Col. Bangura was the love of her life and she has not stopped grieving for him and missing him since he was taken away from her 20 years ago.
Her voice was punctuated with grief as she narrated the story to COCORIOKO. Her children too have never stopped grieving what was a monumental loss to them at a tender age –A loving, doting and devoted father whom they loved with a passion but who was suddenly snatched away from them for no reason by fellow soldiers who did not understand the value of human life. Mrs. Bangura remembered with sorrow that the unfortunate event occurred on December 29, 1992.
The soldiers came to Benguema Barracks around 1am that early morning to get her husband, Capt. Bangura, who was then Quarter-master of the Army. He was fast asleep. The soldiers said that they had come to invite him to a meeting at Brigade Headquarters. The late Capt. Hanciles Bangura got up, dressed and wanted to drive himself to the meeting but the soldiers refused and asked him to ride with them in their truck. There were lots of trucks outside. The soldiers left with her husband. That was the last time she and her children would ever see their breadwinner.
The tearful woman said she had a terrible sense of premonition and this was confirmed around 5am when she heard that her husband had been executed along with 28 other people. Alarmed, Mrs. Bangura went out to verify the story. She had been told that at the Military Headquarters people had seen some military trucks being hosed down with water that morning to clean off the blood of the victims of the killings. She said she went to the CID and was referred to the Military HQ where nobody could tell her anything about why her husband, who had been taken away to ostensibly attend a meeting, ended up being slain by his colleague soldiers.
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One of the most disturbing things Mrs. Bangura told COCORIOKO was that when she went to the Officers’ Mess to enquire about her husband, the soldiers were having a massive party and celebrating the extrajudicial killings of the 29 people. She was aghast that human beings would be so callous as to throw such a jubilant party to celebrate the senseless killings of their fellow humans.
Continuing her pitiful story, the woman who found herself as a widow she never dreamt she would so unexpectedly become, told COCORIOKO that matters worsened that morning when the soldiers stormed their military quarters, claiming that they had come to search for arms and ammunition. The soldiers put the whole family under house arrest and banned people from visiting them that whole day.
She said that there was no food and the whole family was subjected to hunger that lasted the whole day. The soldiers lied to her that her husband was killed during an exchange of gunfire between the junta soldiers and dissidents at Juba Hill but diplomats living around Juba doubted the story as they had not heard any exchange of gunfire that morning around Juba Hill.
One of Mrs. Bangura’s daughters said that the soldiers attempted to rape the women in the barracks but luckily for them, neither her, nor her other sisters were molested. Her other sister also confirmed the atrocities committed in the barracks, but she too thanked God that she and her sisters were not touched. However, they were made to suffer hunger that whole day.
The marauding soldiers ransacked the whole house and stole Mrs. Bangura’s sewing machine and the personal belongings of the family, leaving her with only the dress she had on. The soldiers also cleaned out her husband’s bank account.
“Col. Samura was the C.O. I cried to him. I had 5 girls and one boy. One had just taken his GCE. Samura came and did his best to try to free us. That night, soldiers came to the area and raped women in the barracks. We were protected by Mr. Samura and Major Thomas Momodu. Major Momodu came and decided to save me and my daughters and son. We escaped the besieged barracks by walking through the bush from Benguema to Waterloo”, she explained.
She commended Major Thomas Momodu highly for saving her and her children. When they got to the main road, Major Momodu arrived with a truck. “Nigerian soldiers at checkpoints were crying for me and my children,” she narrated tearfully.
Mrs. Bangura said her husband was an agriculturist also. Germany had donated him a truck, but it was impounded by Col. Fallah Sewah. She said she and her children had to be going to the Lebanese to beg for food. While undergoing all these sufferings, she and her family found out that the soldiers were secretly surveillancing and trailing her and her children wherever they went. She realized that their lives were in danger.
A Nigerian soldier would later teach her how to play the US D-V lottery which was how she and her children came to the United States to stay.
Mrs. Bangura complained that she never saw her husband’s dead body. Nor did she ever see his grave.
“Even the body of the late President Samuel Doe of Liberia was displayed. In our case, none of the bodies of our family was ever returned. We do not even know where they were buried. No single dime was ever given to me, though my husband had accrued benefits.
Words can never explain how me and my daughters suffered. We could not even get one cup of garri to eat. If I ever go to Freetown, I will demand my husband’s grave and death certificate. I learnt that the body was dumped in the No.2 River. “
Mrs. Bangura and her two daughters told COCORIOKO that the soldiers committed atrocities against relatives of some of the other soldiers who were mourning their relatives at Benguema Barracks. She explained that the late Lt. Col. Yaya Kanu, who was accused of being the coup leader, was not involved in any coup plot. He was in prison where he was picked up and executed that morning with the other victims.
“How could somebody in prison take part in a coup plot?” , she asked. She said her husband was a very peaceful, loyal and obedient soldier and he too did not participate in any coup plot.
Mrs. Bangura said that what the NPRC did to her husband was very unfair to him because he had served the army meritoriously for 25 years. It was his first job since he left school. He served the army faithfully for 25 years without any query, only for him to be killed by his colleagues without a just cause, his accounts frozen and his family made to suffer extremely.
The daughters, who were lucky that they were not molested, said however that it was a double loss for them. Their father, Captain Hanciles Bangura was not the only family member killed. Their uncle, the late Col. Kawuta Dumbuya, was also murdered that morning by the NPRC. One could therefore imagine the grief the family went through at the hands of the NPRC.
The family lamented that though the NPRC committed these evil acts, their leaders Capt. Valentine Strasser, Brigadier Maada Bio (the present Presidential candidate of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party -SLPP -) and others were paid off fabulously by the International Community to force them to conduct elections, hand over to a civilian government and come to the U.S. to live flamboyantly.
Maada Bio, one of the junta soldiers, lived in the U.S. for a while before leaving for Ghana where he opened a car dealership. He is now trying to be President of Sierra Leone. Mrs. Bangura accused the NPRC of selling off many of the country’s Hotels and the country’s gold and diamonds.
The family is calling for justice for their beloved father as well as husband and the children’s uncle. They told COCORIOKO that life has been bitter for them without Capt. Hanciles Bangura. They miss him every waking moment of their lives and they don’t want his needless killing to go in vain.
“Human life is very precious and those who killed him must be made to account for their wickedness”, they assert.
Mrs. Samira Bangura is passionately appealing to the United Nations, the United States of America, all human rights organizations and people of goodwill to help the family secure justice for her late husband, who did not deserve his gruesome end at the hands of wicked soldiers.
“We want them to show us where they dumped his body and also we want those who killed him to account for their murder,” she ended.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.