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Hip Hop gang rivalry kills 3 in Sierra Leone

Hip Hop gang rivalry kills 3 in Sierra Leone

Freetown, 14 January, 2011 – The innocence on the pristine sandy beaches at Lumley in the west of Freetown was compromised at sunrise this morning after an apparent hip hop gang related violence left three killed. The full detail is yet unclear but police sources say popular hip hop artist Alhaji Bah aka LAJ (in photo) has been arrested. The police local unit commander at the Congo Cross police station in Freetown says they are hunting for Big Fish whose real name is not yet known. Superintendent Mohamed Jobe said preliminary investigations indicate that a fan of LAJ’s had a brawl with Big Fish inside a nightclub over a 21-year-old woman.

The situation degenerated with the two sets of fans chasing each other to show supremacy. Eyewitnesses say that the music star LAJ left the nightclub at sunrise and stopped on the main Lumley beach road where he was chased by rival gang supporters. In a country where gun ownership is outlawed, he then allegedly brought out a gun and fired some shots before boarding his car and driving off with his group of fans. They were chased by Big Fish and a group of other gang members who, apparently owing to terrific speed and some deflated tyres, had an accident killing one person on board and a passer by. It is not clear how the third person died later at a hospital.

Violent hip hop gang rivalry is not uncommon here. In December 2010, it took a sinister turn and led to an orgy of looting and vandalism by thousands of gang members with some supporting the Red Flag Movement led by LAJ and others the Black Leo Movement led by another popular hip hop star Kao Denero. Neither artist was charged. Government intervened and spoke to the two gang leaders and their supporters to cease fire. Their shows were even banned.

Sierra Leone’s lead entertainment writer, Murtala Mohamed Kamara says it is a rivalry that extends even to the United States where the two artists are based; and is mirrored on the hiphop gang situation there. He says it should not be taken lightly especially with youth unemployment rife in the country and many of the fans seeing their gang leaders as their only means of economic success. He says the groups have some attachment to politicians which could impact presidential and legislative elections scheduled for later this year.

Umaru Fofana, Freetown for BBC Focus on Africa

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