Sierra Leone president punishes uncle for breaking Ebola laws

AFP , Tuesday 18 Nov 2014

Sierra Leone's president has suspended his uncle from a prestigious position as a tribal chief for flouting laws designed to contain Ebola, officials said on Tuesday.

Amadu Kamara, the head of the northern village of Yeli Sanda, is accused of covering up secret burials of victims who are supposed to be reported by their families to the authorities.

Bombali District Council, the local authority, said President Ernest Bai Koroma had handed his uncle an "indefinite suspension and fine of 500,000 leones ($115, 92 euros)".

Koroma also fined a brother and an aunt for their involvement in the cover-up, the council said.

Most of Sierra Leone's six million people live in villages, and their lives are governed by hereditary chiefs who raise taxes, hire the local police and decide who is entitled to land.

The village heads answer to 150 "paramount chiefs" from powerful families who were recognised by the British colonialists in the late 19th century and formed the sole local government until elected councils were formed 2004.

West Africa is battling the deadliest Ebola outbreak on record, which has killed more than 5,100 people -- 1,200 in Sierra Leone -- and infected nearly 15,000 in total.

Bye-laws introduced as part of the country's state of emergency mandated residents to report strangers in their villages and alert the authorities to sick family members.

The aim was to eradicate traditional burials which involve washing the bodies of departed loved-ones -- a practice blamed for a large proportion of the spread of the epidemic. 

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