A group of Sierra Leone students took over their country's Portland Place High Commission in London on Thursday, held 14 people hostage, and demanded the release of their leader detained in Sierra Leone.
A group of Sierra Leone students took over their country's Portland Place High Commission in London on Thursday, held 14 people hostage, and demanded the release of their leader detained in Sierra Leone. Spokesman of the group, the United Democratic Party, was a 26 year-old student of journalism, Olufemi John.
A few hours later, when London's police had returned control of the building to the High Commission's officials, the Commission Press officer John Bankole-Jones explained how he had been locked in an office at gun-point by the raiding students.
The Secretary-General of the Sierra Leone Students' Union, who is studying in Britain, said the occupation of the building was not the work of his Union.
The leader of the occupying students Mr. John declared himself acting High Commissioner during the occupation by his group, and said his movement was demanding the release of its leader Dr. John Karefa-Smart, former external affairs Minister, who was arrested last October.
Dr. Karefa-Smart was a leader of the short-lived United Democratic party in Sierra Leone which was banned by the Prime Minister Dr. Siaka Stevens shortly after it was formed.
In a telephone call to Freetown broadcast over a news programme in London, one of the raiders spoke to Dr. Stevens and asked him what he was prepared to offer for the release of the hostages. Dr. Stevens hung up.
The take-over took place just as High Commission staff reported for duty in the morning. Later self-styled High Commissioner Olufemi John made a statement to reporters at a press conference called by the raiders.
After police had ended the occupation, High Commission Press Officer John Bankole-Jones explained what had happened to him when the raiders took over.
An official of the Sierra Leone students' Union made his statement on the affair.