They told AYV that: “We have dedicated workers who are taking care of the cemetery, especially at Ascension Town, and we have stepped in the shoes of Freetown City Council to clean and identify graves of people, build vaults, tile and dig graves”.
Their chairman, Mohamed Bangura, said they had always respected the dead and they would never involve in acts of attacking and desecrating graves “even as people say it has to do with rituals”.
“We are all responsible people and we have our homes. The only reasons we come to the graves is to earn our living and there has never been a time when we stay at the cemetery beyond 6pm because we don’t have houses at the cemetery,” he said, and called on government to provide security and solar light at the cemeteries as that could be the only way to prevent attacks on graves.
Community Elder, Umaru Sankoh, explained that they had seen people at the Ascension Town Cemetery at 3am going around a particular cotton tree at the grave yard and they had informed the Adelaide Street police station.
He said a certain officer in charge at the station knew what was going on and he had assured them that a police patrol team was going to help but nobody came to their aid.
He said some Freetown City Council, FCC officials visited the scene the next day after they were notified of the strange movement of people at odd hours around the cemetery.
“We showed the council team the very spot where graves were dug open but nothing was done. We had to find cement and sand to seal some of the graves that where opened up at the time,” he said.
When asked if they were aware of the claims, the Officer-in-Charge at Adelaide Street police station, ASP Foday Sesay, confirmed that he did receive calls from one of the elders in the community but not from ‘Friends of the Dead’. He said he would have nothing to do with them as that will legitimize their existence or their activities at the cemetery.
Environment and social officer at the FCC, Sulaiman Zainu Parker, said they were aware of some youth working at the cemetery and they did tiling and also building vaults for a fee but they would normally work from 8am to 4pm.
He said that the council had their own grave diggers and that those youth were not grave diggers, adding that they had been informed on several occasions about strange activities going on at the cemetery.
“As a council we don’t have the mandate to work at night and also the metropolitan police did not have any weapon to patrol at night. However, they have been coordinating with the police who in turn have been helping council on such issues whenever they are reported”, he said.
Parker also confirmed that they had received calls about people going to the cemetery very late at night and we had also relayed the information to the police who should be equipped enough to undertake night patrols. He said they were also aware that those youth had lived around the cemetery doing some skills training and earning their living and empowering themselves.
He disclosed that they were considering constructing solar lights at the cemetery to enhance efforts at protecting the place.