We Are Slaves’! …Sierra Leoneans In Iraq Cry
WRITTEN BY SAHR DIXON & FODAY FOFANA
SATURDAY, 12 JUNE 2010
Yandi Paul Turay, 41, a Sierra Leonean who was working with the company Serba International Security runs by British nationals, died on April 14, 2010 after a very short illness. Eventually, he was reported to have collapsed in the security tower where he was serving as a PKM Gunner. Reports say he died at the pains of his 11-hour daily duty, malaria and daily exposure to desert winds. According to a co-worker Ahmed Turay, an ex-military officer like the deceased, the corpse was transferred to another camp – Green Camp- from where his death was announced.
The corpse was flown to Freetown after pressure from co-workers; all ex-military officers from the Sierra Leone army. One Bockari who travelled with the corpse was coaxed into telling the company’s side of the story – the reason why a cousin of the deceased, Alhassan, refused to accompany the corpse.
Ahmed disclosed that he threatened to resign if he was not allowed to accompany the corpse as he supposes to be responsible for accompanying the sick and knows how he died.
“My argument was that the company was treating us as slaves, with very poor medical facilities which led to the death of our colleague. The site leader, Anthony Courtney, a US national requested my passport after which he booked my air ticket but refused to give me my certificate for the course I had attended in Sierra Leone and Iraq and, of course, for the money they owed me. I insisted that I will not travel without these two things,” Ahmed explained, adding that “John Stewart, the recruiting Manager, met us at the Baghdad Airport and demanded my letter of authorization which I produced and asked whether I had a copy of it, I told him I do not have a copy. He then tore the original into pieces and threatened to hand me as an illegal alien to the Iraqi police.”
“Unbeknown to me Stewart hadn’t paid for my luggage”, Ahmed said, “I boarded the flight and on arrival at Dubai I was asked to pay for my luggage. Not having a dime on me, I left my luggage behind with Kenya Airways with no right to claim”.
“On arrival, I went to the Labour Ministry. While the Deputy Minister, Moijueh Kaikai, appeared to defend our tormentors; the Minister, Minkailu Mansaray summoned the local company representative, Dave, immediately to find out what went wrong but till now my problems remained unsolved,” he told The Exclusive.
Capt. Rtd. Milton Sam Bangura who led the bulk of men (344) from Sierra Leone on December 22, 2009, spoke of his bad experience.
“We were subcontracted to Torres solutions Enterprise by SABRE. After 2 weeks crash military training I was appointed Training Manager for the company. I was deployed to the Tactical Operational Center as Communications Officer,” the Rtd. Capt. narrated, stressing that “before our arrival, myself and Abubakarr Baryoh were tied up and tortured by America security men who injected us with something and till date we are not our normal selves. Since we were forcefully flown to Sierra Leone without my monthly salary, we do not have insurance or benefits according to the contract,” he explained.
Sgt – Rtd. Mohamed Sesay told The Exclusive that they were not deported because they who arrived recently in Sierra Leone unanimously agreed to demand from the company medical facilities, insurance policies, good food, salary increase,” having promised us that after 3 months they would raise our salaries.”
“But after the 3 months the US Army, concerned that our monthly pay of $250 is so small we could be bought over by the enemy, piled pressure on the company to pay the agreed increase, but the latter refused without any explanation. Our Uganda brothers who are getting $1000 like the Napalese or Indians make mockery of us; asking whether our government does not know international labour law.”
This provoked a drop in morale among the men to the point that a revolt was feared, after which a disciplinary committee headed by Rtd. Sgt. Mohamed Sesay was set up.
“Between January and February, back home in Freetown, our families were chased out and humiliated at the banks, where most times our salaries are not transferred. In an investigation, we were told that our monies had been transferred to a company in Freetown. A delegation from the Ministry – Mohamed Mansaray, younger brother of the minister and Abdul Sesay (Pessima) came to Iraq and ordered us to change our accounts from Standard Chartered to the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank. But we refused, suspecting a fraud,” he explained.
They were finally paid and their services terminated after the protest latter. “The SABRE International Ltd, the British Country Director met us and said they can’t honour our request because Sierra Leone government receives $1000 per guard… But government is not listening to us but rather tarnishing our image and character,” Mohamed Sesay (M.T.L) pointed out.