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.
SVs student squatters in High Commission
SCU Olufemi John - self-declared High Commissioner speaking (SOUND ON FILM)
SV Africans in High Commission corridor
SV Journalists, police and cameramen in the High Commission
SCU Bankole-Jones speaking (SOF)
GV & SV Police outside High Commission
SCU Students' Union General-Secretary (SOF)
TRANSCRIPT: SEQ. 3: OLUFEMI JOHN: "We have taken over the embassy because we want to bring to the attention of the public what is happening in Sierra Leone. We want our leaders who are now detained in Sierra Leone to be released immediately." (ANOTHER VOICE: "These are leaders of the U.D.P.")
REPORTER: "What about the staff here?"
JOHN: "Well, we are holding them as hostages."
REPORTER: "How long are you going to hold them?"
REPORTER: "And are you going to stay here indefinitely too. Are you going to sleep here?"
JOHN: "Well, we are here, we have occupied the building and we are here".
TRANSCRIPT: SEQ. 6: BANKOLE-JONES: "I personally was escorted to an office and locked up, with a gun in my back. During the period within which we were locked up in our offices, the students had control of the building. But myself, and one or two other officers attempted to contact the police. When we did contact the police, we were gradually able to get the situation under control."
TRANSCRIPT: SEQ. 8: SIERRA LEONE STUDENT LEADER: "I am the Secretary-General of the Sierra Leone students' Union, and I was reading when I read the news that Sierra Leone students have already captured the High Commission Building, and they were tentatively acting as the High Commissioner and officials. I would like to say officially and on behalf of the Sierra Leone students' Union, that this was not organised by the students' union at all. As far as we know we have not organised any protest against he Government."
Initials CM/TB/OS/205 CM/TB/OS/227
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Background: 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.