Death of Fourah Bay College Student Highlights Deep Student Crisis

For a university that has been one of the proudest symbol of Sierra Leone, Fourah Bay College (FBC) has not only grown into an iconic symbol, but more importantly the institution has been viewed by many as the only hope for a better career in life. It is the dream of thousands to gain admission into FBC; hundreds have come from abroad to acquire educational laurels at sub Saharan Africa oldest university. So it was definitely a matter of public concern when things started getting awful in an institution which is known for it variety of social clubs, fraternities and sororities.

Orientation Experience

Life on FBC campus was definitely dominated with these social clubs, said Mabinty Koroma who graduated in 2004, “I can recall that since our initial orientation experience and on my first few days on campus, there were so many clubs that I noticed, majority of them were going around asking me to be a part of their unit, but I was resolute because of the advice of my mother not to join. But for me I enjoyed every moment of it – although I was not a member of any of these clubs, it was interesting to see how they polarised and the diversity of styles, colours and ideas each portray,” said Mabinty. “I thought it was something attractive until my room-mate was severely beaten with scars all over her body. I could not forget that night – I was afraid and even attempted to call her mother but she cautioned me and pleaded with me not to. I had to do the runs for her to purchase some medication. For three days she kept indoors and could not attend classes. She later revealed to me that during her initiation she was severely dealt with because of her initial attempt to join a rival club.”

“You know what?” Mabinty said that her friend kept her pace and ended being a leading figure in her club and despite her having a good job now; she still occasionally attends initiation ceremony of her former club.

Beginning of fray

The history of clubs in FBC date back a long time ago, but one of the earliest known clubs to draw attention was the first students’ association – the Gardeners. The association which was formed to seek the interest of the entire student body was the only body that was articulating the aspiration of students politically. As time went on, this body started to have confrontations with the college administration and some of the students who they were representing. The Gardeners was banned following the strike which led to the burning of the vehicle of the then Principal C.P Foray under the University Building. Later the Gardeners transformed into another group called the Auradicals. The formation of this group later coincided with another group in the early 90s called the General which was formed to also seek the interest of some section of students. These two groups who are today known as the ‘White’ and ‘Black’ (General and Auradicals respectively), the interesting thing about social clubs at FBC is that all of them are polarised under one of the abovementioned two political divide.

Spreading Polarisation

Also because of the great influence of FBC on the other tertiary institutions across the country, the same system quickly spread into these institutions, with other colleges from Milton Margai College of Education MMCE to Njala University (NUC) having clubs bearing the same or similar names that does not only share the same ideology but periodically hold meetings and organise social events.

Down the years, social clubs and political groupings on campus became so fashionable that they were a regular feature in university life. They became more sophisticated and their regalia and club attire were most times colourful, often depicting youthful pop culture with some of the more affluent members of clubs displaying their asset such as flamboyant cars, et al to show the status of the clubs they belong.

Fashionable Trends and the Lure

Variety of events from elegant fashion shows to lavish receptions at Lagoonda and elsewhere that sometime attracts renowned former members were held by several of these clubs. The most appealing feature of these clubs is that whilst they strive to manifest their material and social prowess, they were also keen to portray their academic excellence. Some clubs will boast most of the time that they have an history of producing the brightest students. According to Yusuf Cobba, he was persuaded to join Liberals because he was convinced that he stood a chance to make it academically if he joined.

Martin Koroma another former student of FBC said that in as much as he had a long time reverence for clubs like Quimanora – he was convinced to join because he noticed that the ‘best’ girls on campus were loved by guys from that club. A current student of FBC Steven Mannah said that since he was at secondary school, he had got an admiration for Auradicals because his senior brother who was a core member had inspired him. A current student who only identified himself as Patrick said that he was attracted to clubs because of a feeling of insecurity. “As an 18 years of age just coming from school I felt that joining will protect me because I lacked confidence at the time and the University environment looked so alien to me,” said Patrick.

According to Alhassan Jalloh, a former FBC student who graduated in the early 90s and now based in the United States, apart from the infighting that existed or the very few cases of verbal and physical confrontations that occurred during his time at FBC. The level of violence involved now is a totally new phenomenon – “we were initiated a bit physically but not in this present kind of way,” he said. Alhassan whose cousin lately was a victim of club initiation said that when he returned back from the US as an old member he found things completely different from the way it used to be. “I was shocked to see the new regime in place, which to me looked like s***,” he blamed the present scenario as a result of the post war mentality and very deep rivalry that existed on campus.

Nevertheless, Alhassan called for clubs on campus to behave in a decent way that will once more win the appeal of members of the public.

Psychological Malaise and Drug Abuse

Dr Edward Nahim, a Sierra Leonean consultant Psychiatrist defines violence as: “The infliction of physical or psychological harm on an individual for him or her to feel sever pain or discomfort.”

He observed that although student violence is not new, the war and drugs have accelerated the act of violence among students to new level.

He pointed that the main reason for students embarking on violence is drug abuse, noting that drug abuse has been going on at FBC and other tertiary universities openly.

“I spoke a lot about drug abuse at the universities and in the country at large but unfortunately people never understood what I was saying,” Dr Nahim stated. He added that there is generally a drug abuse process which takes place during club initiation ceremonies which resulted in sadistic rituals and the severe beating of initiates. Dr Nahim also believes that the issue of Whiteman and Blackman in colleges have also increased students’ participation in violence. He noted that the culture of violence has been spread to schools and everywhere now noting that it would be difficult to stop it now. On the way forward, he pointed that the government must try and rehabilitate some students who were involved in the war and there must be a general campaign against drug abuse nationwide. An FBC student who describes himself as Sammy supported Dr Nahim’s claims by saying that students openly drink alcohol in campus in broad day light. He even claimed that there are open ghettos in the mountain areas around the male campus section.

Island of Demise

However, an event which happened on Saturday the 20th December, 2008 could possibly change the history of Social Clubs in FBC and other institutions. Mohamed Juana an 18 years was allegedly beaten seriously during an initiation ceremony – his injuries were so severe that he later died. Police say the deceased died after the club’s initiation ceremony, which involved the beating of initiates, stuffing them with drugs and alcohol and putting them through hazardous drilling.

Already made public is the autopsy report which showed that physical torture was the cause of the student’s death.

According to friends and colleagues of Mohamed he was so determined to join three cited clubs at FBC that he went to the initiation only about two days after attending another initiation to a different club. However, in a press statement, the college administration said the name of the 18 year old Juana was not found on any of the college’s faculty lists. But the college later admitted that the student belonged to a specific department in the college. FBC Registrar, Sorie N. Dumbuya said there was however evidence to prove that Mohamed Juana was registered with an independent computer institution operating on campus. When contacted the computer school refused to comment on the matter.

Parents of late Mohamed Juana have expressed open dismay over the demise of their son. “No matter the outcome of the case in the court, I will not forget the perpetrators of the death of my son,” the father of Mohamed Juana is reported to have said. A cousin to the deceased said that the family is in deep sorrow at the loss of their son, and that grief is sure to be heightened as more testimonies of Juana’s death comes out. In a very passionate testimony; Juana’s mother and sister have already given account of their last minutes contact with Mohamed in his ongoing trial.

Presidential and Public Denunciation

The death of Mohamed led President Ernest Bai Koroma to President Koroma termed as “cults” the activities of clubs in learning institutions in the country. The President called for a full scale investigation into the incident and slammed an instant ban on the activities of all clubs on institutions nationwide.

And the ill-fated demise of Mohamed has opened a floodgate of discussion countrywide with several asking what went wrong? Did the Universities authorities don’t see this coming? Were the police and other law enforcement agencies doing their job?

But also some have been quick to point out that these clubs were mostly operating their repugnant acts under cover as there were already restrictions imposed by the FBC Warden of Student, Mr James Fofanah and University authorities for other violence related activities of clubs breaching college rules. Also most of the initiations were reportedly done in secret locations and interested members went there willingly for initiations. So this was something that was seen by some as really difficult to have been controlled by the authorities.

Law Enforcement Action

A senior lecturer of sociology and also member of the disciplinary committee, who prefers anonymity, said the act of violence in clubs initiation is uncivilized. “Have you ever seen or heard any society on earth that beats their members to death, only uncivilized and uncultured members of any given society can do that,” he said.

Minister of education, Dr Minkilu Bah who was also a lecturer at FBC cried the manner in which club initiations were done. He condemned it saying it was unbelievable student who were claiming to be undergoing tertiary education can espouse such a dreadful practice.

Head of Police media, Inspector Samura who is also a former student of FBC said the police hardly received formal complaints of student violence. He said the Mohamed Juana case is being taken very seriously by the police, he expressed confidence that the police will always act swiftly to stifle any violent act by students as they did some few days after the death of Juana when they arrested a group of students initiating some school pupils at the Kingtom Cemetry, adjacent to the St Edwards Secondary School. “We are still hunting for the suspects and will do everything possible to ensure that justice is done in this matter,” Inspector Samura assured. According to Cotton Tree News, Fourah Bay College administration says members of the Island Club will not be allowed to attend classes or take exams unless there is a police clearance.

Blindfolded Initiation

According to a student who prefers to be known as Dado, he claimed he underwent a torturous initiation and later got through it, he said they were made to take vows that if they were to behave disloyal, breach the rules or join a rival club, the wrath of the lord will fall upon them and they will not succeed in their academic endeavours. He said they were also made to drink something which tasted like the blood of a chicken. “Since we were blindfolded I could not tell exactly where the blood came from but it had a very nasty taste, if you spat it out you get punished for that and forced to drink it again. It a society, I can’t say all but it is a really dreadful experience that I almost regretted taking part in because I was not forced to join. The good thing is that since then I became a part of a brotherhood and will always stand by my colleagues in good and bad times; we always look up to our leaders. If I don’t have food and money I just go to one of my mate’s room and eat, and if anybody from the opponent club messes with my mate I take up arms on his behalf. We had a tight sense of unity that will never be broken even after convocation,” said Dado.


An outspoken concerned parent who called in the VOH FM 96.2 radio call-in programme in Freetown after Juana’s death buttressed the president’s view saying that this was nothing other than cult like set-up that must be broken, but is this cultism?

Looking at the Oxford Online dictionary database, cult is defined as;

1, a system of religious worship directed towards a particular figure or object. 2, a small religious group regarded as strange or as imposing excessive control over members. 3, something popular or fashionable among a particular section of society.

Depending on your analysis, definition 2 or 3 could probably be fitted to some of the revelation or incidence that has emerged from club activities in tertiary institutions but Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, a former student of FBC and member of various clubs believes that the activities of clubs are being over-hyped because of one or two incidence. He said that he wasn’t forced to join clubs on campus and that his experience was far from being a member of a cult group. “As a member of Quimanora I was very proud and being a part of that club helped me a lot, we loved each other and always had a good time,” said Ahmed.

Others are not so positive, Malik Bangura said that since he was at FBC he was never impressed with club activities and according to him there were clear evidences of brutality by clubs there, “I can recall that a notable colleague of mine, Alpha Sesay was severely beaten to the notice of all, another Sama Banya was beaten and tortured during an apparent initiation ceremony. The other thing is that members of these clubs don’t behave rationally they just act on the ideology of their clubs even though it is sometimes against conventional wisdom. Based on that, I made up my mind not to join; although I was sometimes threatened by some of my school mates, I never gave up to their threats. I would not utterly say clubs are cults, but some do behave like cult groups,” said Malik.

Forced to Join?

Kwekegor Sheik Umar, a Liberals member and law student said his own experience is much better and was never forced to join Liberals. He however agreed that there are certain tactics used by clubs, such as persuasion through peers but said he had never witnessed a case in which a student was forced or threatened to join a club.

Mariama Turay, a first year student said that in her initial period at FBC saw her had various calls for her to join one of the clubs around, but she said she was never coerced neither threatened to join one of them. “Infact one thing I observed is that there are some clubs on campus that are very difficult to join and the burden is usually on students who want to join to go all out and convince these clubs that they are interested and ‘fit’ to be a part of their unit. I think most students can agree with me that generally students go out and join clubs with their free will,” said Mariama.

Blame Game

Some students are already pointing fingers elsewhere as criticism roundly fell on their head for what many now see as their fault. But Victor Karimu, an Honors I students at FBC says lecturers are themselves responsible for the divisive and violent nature of politics on campus, he said some lecturers even penalise students during exams that they believe are not in their camp. He also said there is a bit of national politics in the current problem – pointing out to the last Student Union elections in which there was allegations that the current government remotely interfered with electoral process to sway it in the way of the incumbent SU regime.

Mohamed Bah, a final year students even went further to allege that during the last elections Auradical names which were reportedly SLPP sympathisers were taken to State House by Liberals members, indicating that if they (Auradicals) win the SU elections those elements will bear more pressure on the current APC government. Bah feels that external influences are having very negative effects on students clubs and political associations. He said one of the solutions of violence on campus should be a halt to interference from both the national government and college administration.

Ban all Clubs?

As voices grew louder from various sections of the country for the banning of all clubs in educational institutions, some have called for caution against passing any law that would limit the activities of clubs in the country. Minister of Education Dr Minkailu Bah believes banning would not salvage the situation, he maintained the banning of clubs in university is a temporary one.

Whilst Victor Karimu who described himself as a neutral supports the banning of clubs as a plus and a very good decision to restore sanity to university campuses, Mohamed Bah of Auradicals disagrees, saying that outlawing clubs is not the solutions. He said any such move will forced clubs to operate underground and likely intensify violence rather than curb it.

Kwekegor Sheik Umar of Liberals shared the same view with his opposing colleague that banning is not the solution but suggested that the university administration should commit head of clubs to sign a memorandum of understanding that they should refrain from violence during elections and initiation processes. “If there is any violence, heads of clubs should be brought to book,” said Kwekegor.

Online Campaign

Proponents of the beleaguered Island Club have already commenced their campaign online as there is already a Group Cause Campaign being launched in the world’s biggest social online networking website, Facebook, the name of the group which is already growing in numbers is; Prayers and Plea of NOT GUILTY for those accused with the death of M. Juana.


As the debate rages on it looks like the Mohamed Juana murder trial which has already begun would bring to light most of the usually hideous side of students’ club life. But based on our research so far, the Juana incident is only an epitome of a problem that has been boiling over the years. Students are desperate to express themselves; and a couple of reasons such as alcohol, drugs, divisive ideologies, interference and prop up from some lectures and politicians are all encouraging students to go berserk and behave as if they are above the law.

As a former student at FBC myself I believe the university authorities should engage student and set up new systems to regulate the activities of social and political clubs on campus.

***Some names have been changed to protect their identities as most demanded.

Reporting done with contributions from Sheik Sesay and Princetta Williams

Names of clubs in Fourah Bay College




Gentle Men Quarterly G Q


Dahilia – Female

Syramax – Female















Who is Mohamed Juana?

When he aspired to go to Fourah Bay College (FBC), Mohamed Gamanga Juana made his mother Kadiatu Juana felt a sense of pride and optimism for his son’s future, little did she realised that her son was slowly moving towards a tragic demise.

Mohamed was not a FBC student in the right sense, since he was a member of a computer department that had not been granted full accreditation by the university authorities; but friends of Mohamed said he had the FBC dream that was always visible in him. He did not only had the FBC dream but he also had the dream of being among the ‘elite social clubs’ of the nation’s leading university. In fairness to Mohamed he had a justified sense of being an FBC student, because he did not only utilized most of the facilities FBC students use, he rubbed skin with FBC students some of whom were his primary and secondary school mates.

“My son was quite friendly and a sportsman also, hadn’t he be gone by now; he would have been playing football and having some time with friends. He was a fairly wild boy when he was coming up as a child, but later he became more thoughtful and calm,” said Kadiatu Juana, Mohamed’s mother.

Before Mrs Juana could go forward and say more about her late son, there was a deep sense of silence and despair in her face. You could immediately share her pains and her sombre mood tells you without delay the trauma she has been undergoing since her son met his tragic demise. I immediately shared her agony – and what was more compassionate was when you see Mrs Juana’s own handwriting on the back of a picture of Mohamed when he was a toddler which reads; “My Sweet Loving boy, Mohamed.”

One of Mohamed’s secondary school colleagues at the Beacon High School at Main Motor Road, Johnny said Mohamed’s bereavement came as a shock not only to his family but also to them, “I knew Mohamed as a very determined chap who always have strong convictions on what he does, so therefore I wasn’t surprised he took the risk,” said Johnny.

Mohamed’ elder sister, Fatmata Juana says that she would never forget the time she went to receive her brother after she was left in a nearby field by an unknown person. On his part, Mohamed’s father Sheik Lamin Juana has decided to keep his cool since the death of his son and has not commented on reports as to whether he said he would not forget the perpetrators of his son’s killers no matter the outcome of the court case.

Muctaru Wurie is a Sierra Leonean born writer who grew up in Freetown at a time the war in Sierra Leone reached it peak.
Growing up in the eastern part of the capital city, Muctaru said he was inspired to writing when he was a kid attending the Cathedral Boys Primary School, as they used to have various writing sessions & essay in which he usually excelled.
He later attended the St Edwards Secondary School and then Fourah Bay College where he had a BA Honours in Mass Communications. Since then he has written on almost all aspects of Sierra Leonean society, sometimes taking a critical look at issues that are mostly deemed as taboo in the country.
Muctaru’s works have been published in various publications from All, Sierra Eye Magazine to Fourah Bay College Journal – Aureol Torch.
He has also edited The New Tempo and Kalleone Newspaper. Muctaru has worked in the humanitarian field also, acting as a Communications Officer for Handicap International Sierra Leone and The Mohamed Kallon Children’s Foundation (MKCF).