Sierra Leone: Domestic Violence: Wife of Military Officer Suffers in Silence
By Stephen V. Lansana
Mrs. Musu M. Bangura in her early 40s, is married to one Major Issa T. P. Bangura by whom she has three children. She has endured over 20 years of physical, psychological, mental, and emotional abuse coupled with life-threatening messages in Major I.T. P. Bangura’s household.
Mrs. Bangura now walks with the aid of a clutch, and she told this medium that they [herself and Major Bangura] started their relationship over 20 years ago before he [Issa TP Bangura] joined the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF).
She emphasized that her husband did not show the level of violence that now characterizes his attitude towards her. “Though he [husband] sometimes subjected me to occasional beating, I thought he would change as our relationship continued. But the situation worsened when he joined the Army immediately after his Master’s Degree.”
She said that she thought her husband would stop beating her after their marriage, but that was not the case because her husband [major Bangura] beat her a month after their Wedding. “We got married during the Ebola. A month after our marriage, my husband beat me severely, and I reported him to his then Boss [Colonel I.M],” she narrated. “His Boss angrily warned him [my husband] that if he beat me again, he will deal with him.”
She explained that after that first complaint, her husband went and reported her to her family. “I am a Mandigo by tribe,” she said. “In my tribe, it is prohibited for a woman to report her husband,” adding that a woman is not allowed to explain her own side of the conflict during the settlement of a dispute between her and her husband.
She pointed out that their culture demands a woman be totally submissive to her husband, adding that in terms of conflict in the home, the family will not allow the woman to explain anything. “Whatever the husband explains will be the final say. No one bothered to listen to my own side,” she added. “My parents threatened to disown me if I continued complaining my husband. So, I stopped complaining him.”
She said that her husband continued to beat her and she had nowhere or nobody to turn to for help.
She explained that at one time when her husband was serving a Peacekeeping Mission, he came to Sierra Leone. “I was thinking that he would spend time with his family [me and children], but he falsely accused me of infidelity just to create a means of beating me again,” she cried. “That night, he beat me severely and he left me with a swollen face before he left,” she said, adding that sometime after that her husband came for the second time from a peacekeeping mission again, and on his first day in the country beat her up again.
She said that when her husband was on the Peacekeeping Mission, it became a habit for him to record life-threatening and abusive messages and send them to her via WhatsApp, which caused her to fear tremendously for her life.
Mrs. Bangura said that in a bid to get her parents and other relatives to know the seriousness of her situation, she started saving the life-threatening and abusive messages, recording his verbal abuses, and taking photographs of evidence of his physical assault. She added that at a time had husband inflicted injuries on her which made it necessary for her to undertake two head scans.
“When I started sending this evidence to my parents and other relatives, they became angry over my condition,” she added. “They started listening to my complaints.”
She disclosed that her husband usually abused her in the presence of the three children, adding that last year, her husband beat her mercilessly and she reported him to the Adonkia Police Division, at Goderich. “The Police were afraid of inviting my husband to the Station because of his military rank. So, I decided to take them to my husband the following day so that they would invite him to the station,” she explained. “On that fateful day after I had called the Police, I was on my way to collect them. Unfortunately, as a result of driving in a traumatic state, I had a serious accident on my way to the Police. I had to be admitted at the 34 Military Hospital for several weeks, and I was later transferred to a private hospital.”
She said that her spinal cord was damaged and she became paralyzed. “I was not able to sit or stand on my own,” she said, noting that she spent several weeks at the Private Hospital, but because there was no improvement in her health her relatives arranged for her to travel to the United States for proper medication.
She said that she returned from the United States late last year , but instead of returning to her husband’s quarter at 7Battallion in Goderich, her family rented an apartment for her at Hamilton, along the Peninsula, stating that while staying at Hamilton, her husband has restricted the three children from visiting her. “My husband hardly allows my children to visit me despite my health condition,” she said. “In fact, this is the longest time [three days] he has allowed my children to stay with me which I believe is as a result of the letter that Abdul Fatorma wrote to the Ministry of Defence.
“I have been at Hamilton from November ending when I returned from my treatment. My family called him at one point and they told them to beg me,” she said. Also, a group of women from the barracks came and begged me to return to the barracks but I told them that I had paid Le 45m for the house that I now stay.”
She said that what she fears most is the fact that in spite of the treatments she has endured in her husband’s house, her husband is not remorseful.
On August 31, 2023, this medium went to the Legal Directorate of the Ministry of Defence to hear from Major I.T.P. Bangura [one of the Military Officers attached to that Directorate] but he refused to comment, but Colonel M.B.S. Kamara Esq, head of the Defence Legal and the other officers present posed a series of questions which premier news reporter responded to, also the reporter was asked to write to the military requesting permission to allow Major I.T.P. Bangura to acceded to Premier News request for a response to the allegation brought against him by his wife.
This medium sent a letter on September 1, 2023, requesting for the Ministry to allow Major I.T.P. Bangura to grant an interview. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Defense responded in a letter dated September 14, 2023, that it is not averse to permitting Major ITP Bangura to respond to the Press, noting however that, they are mindful of his [Major ITP Bangura] fundamental human rights in respect of his decision to speak to you [Premier News] or not.
They said, “Major I.T.P. Bangura is to make a decision whether to speak to you or not.”
According to the data submitted to this medium by the Ministry of Defence, there are 151 cases of domestic violence reported from 2019–2023 against its personnel.
Analysing the reported domestic violence cases, Col. MBS Kamara said in a letter that in 2019, there were 22 cases of domestic violence reported, adding that most of the cases are associated with economic abuse relating to inadequate financial support to family members or existing relationships outside of marriage.
In 2020, there were 39 cases. Out of the 39 cases recorded, 29 were complaints of wives against their husbands mainly economic abuse. One complaint recorded of husband reporting his wife (soldier) for alleged fraternization with her colleague soldier thereby causing emotional and psychological abuse to the husband. One report was recorded for sexual penetration between the children of two serving personnel, the matter was referred to SLP Congo Cross. Seven of the reports had been related to women previously in a relationship with offenders for failing to take care of their child/children.
In 2021, there were 26 cases. “Col. MBS Kamara added, “The 26 cases reported are all alleged cases perpetuated by serving personnel. 21 of which are reported by wives for lack of financial support or abandonment of home. Two related to previous relationships for child support. One report against personnel for alleged embezzlement of the death benefit of their late mother and father while two reports recorded are against two senior officers (one for sexual harassment and intimidation, respectively).”
In 2022, there were 53 cases reported. “37 reported cases are associated with economic abuse of serving personnel failing to take financial support towards their families,” Col M.B.S. Kamara said. “In 2023, 11 cases were reported. Nine of the cases are reports of economic abuse by wives of serving personnel. While one was a report by an ex-husband against female personnel for taking custody of their son without mutual agreement.”
Responding on how RSLAF handles complaints of domestic violence by personnel from within it rank and file, Col M.B.S. Kamara said that RSLAF has a Gender Policy which is applied in consonance with the Sexual Offences Act 2012 and its amendments, the Domestic Violence Act 2007, the Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act and the Devolution of Estate Acts. He added that these Acts normally aid the Commanders and Gender Directorate on how to address cases of domestic violence.
“Section 72 of Armed Forces of the RSLAF Act 1961 as amended makes provision for military personnel to be also tried for civil offenses,” he said whilst responding to standard procedure the RSLAF has in place to deal with perpetrators of domestic violence [assault and battery]. “Section 71 is also applicable in this matter. However, victims of domestic violence are at liberty to pursue their matters in civil courts.”
The Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) has decided to take legal action against Major Issa T.P. Bangura for allegedly subjecting his wife, Mrs. Musu M. Bangura, to life-threatening, inhuman, and degrading treatment and intimidation, and for subjecting her to emotional and psychological abuse for several months.
The Chief Executive of CHRDI, Mr. Abdul M. Fatorma told this medium on Wednesday, August 30, 2023, that his organization had written a letter to the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) of the Republic of Serra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) entitled: Human rights violations in the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, and informed the military High Command that within seven working days his organization will take legal action against the perpetrator of the alleged serious crime against the following laws of Serra Leone, to wit: Assault occasioning bodily harm (common assault), S. 47 and S. 20 of the Offences against the Person’s Act 1861, and Part 2 of the Public Order Act 1965.
“As per our investigation, we have collected overwhelming relevant evidence that Mr. Issa T.P. Bangura (Major) allegedly subjected his wife, Mrs. Musu M. Bangura to life-threatening, inhuman, and degrading treatment and intimidation, and for subjecting her to emotional and psychological abuse for several months to life-threatening, inhuman and degrading treatment and intimidating messages via audio recordings, subjecting her to emotional and psychological abuse for several months,” Mr. Fatorma said.
According to CHRDI, Major Bangura admitted during their inquiry that he [Major] recorded the audio message and posted it to his wife when he was on deployment in Mali from late 2020 to early 2022, adding that Major Bangura also revealed to them that his wife and himself have had two physical confrontations throughout the course of their over 20-years of marriage.
He said that the serious, systemic, and widespread nature of human rights violations and abuses that have been taking place in the military barracks across the country, including this one, has been reported to his organization.
“On multiple occasions in our human rights policy brief publication several months ago, we noted that grave human rights violations and abuses persist unabated and with impunity,” he said. “We are concerned with the severity and serious nature of these allegations and the failure of the MoD and the RSLAF to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of the victims and survivors of domestic and other serious human rights abuse by military personnel,” Fatorma commented.
According to Fatorma the CHRDI has private practitioners who will be representing Mrs. Bangura in the matter which they have decided to prosecute. He also informed Premier News that they also make use of Alternative methods of Dispute Resolution ( ADR) such as Mediation and Arbitration as an option for litigation which they adopt according to how appropriate and effective they might be in addressing the problem in the complaints which are forwarded to the organization.
Note: This story was published on Premier News on Monday, October, 9th 2023 edition.