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Teenagers flee forceful initiation into secret society

Teenagers flee forceful initiation into secret society

Relatives of Mohamed Bangura, a sixteen year old boy who escaped from Tefeya in the Sandor chiefdom, Kono district, in December 2019, are still searching for him. According to report, the latter and his elder brother Salieu Bangura were trying to avoid forceful conscription into a certain secret traditional society known as the Poro.

Mohamed’s elder brother Salieu had got intelligence that society members will try to conscript both of them (Mohammed and Salieu).

Into the Poro traditional society forcefully since their father was also a member. Late in the night when Mohamed was sleeping, his brother Salieu woke him up and led him through a bush in the night as they traveled to neighboring guinea .   

A close friend of the two brothers had informed this medium that the latter and the former were defiant to be part of a society that they alleged some people who go through it do not survive. In sierra leone in general and Kono in particular, it is difficult to see grown up men who do not belong to a traditional society and also it is impossible to be a traditional chief or sometimes a honorable member of parliament without going through a secret society.

The Poro society is a very popular traditional secret society that is known in Sierra Leone, West Africa and it has majority of the country’s political and traditional authorities .It is widely believed that people can be forcefully conscripted without any court action by the victims due to the fact that 50 to 55 % of the male population especially from some tribes excluding the Madingo and Fulas are members.

There are reports that Mohamed is not dead but made his way to an unknown destination just like some other boys who were threatened by traditional society members. In general, every member of a society must also make sure that his male children also be part of it. This is done to maintain the tradition as generations yet unborn are expected to follow the same trend. Even though traditional secret society conscriptions takes place mainly during the festive seasons within October, November and December, yet someone who goes against the secret society by laws either by making utterances or breaking a taboo can still go through emergency initiation and pay fines accordingly.

At the time Mohamed and his brother disappeared, the former elected vice president Sam Sumana who was removed by Sierra Leone’s former president had voluntary paid for the initiation of nearly a thousand young men who wanted to go through the Poro society through their own volition .The process cost the former vice president Millions of Leones.

It should be noted that despite the fact that some people can be forced, apparently there are also many other young men who are initiated willingly because they want to live peacefully in a conducive atmosphere where they don’t have to hide or abandon their villages or home due to secret society activities.    

Meanwhile, any persons whose name is on the list to be enrolled into the society cannot have any other option but to accept or abandon the village for a lifetime.

 One cannot seek redress in any court under the traditional law. Like female genital mutilation which is common among women in most parts of Africa, the Poro is the replica. Just like the manner in which young girls are forcefully conscripted, the Poro is no exception. In one of Sierra Leone’s third largest cities Kenema which is located in the eastern region, a female journalist late Mangia Balama Samba who was working for the state radio, Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation {S.L.B.C} was attacked and forcefully taken to the female society camp known as the Bondo bush for utterances that condemned the barbaric act. 

 Most young girls are also suffering from similar acts from Bondo women who conduct female genital mutilation on young girls despite international efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation.

 Meanwhile, it is forbidden for a nonmember to deliberate about the Poro secret society. Nonmembers who go against such by laws can be conscripted forcefully and also charged to pay fines. Fines includes cash money or palm oil, goats and sheep.

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