Monday, November 5, 2018
US citizen missing for 100 days in Sierra Leone – Massah Kaikai
Massah Kaikai has not been seen or heard from for 100 days. She went missing sometime between 4 – 8 August 2018. Massah’s mother, Ayodeji Babalola (nee Ademu-John), her sisters in the U.S., her father, Ansumana Jaia Kaikai, her business colleagues and friends have been trying frantically to find Massah. The investigative trail has uncovered twists and turns but Massah is yet to be found.
Ayo, Massah’s mother, said, “This is a very serious security and safety issue for Sierra Leone. A young woman, diligently giving back to her country and promoting development, suddenly cannot be located. And, no efficient efforts are being made after three months… The safety and security of all individuals coming into to Sierra Leone for work, tourism, development, investment and other matters should be a top priority.”
Massah Kaikai (left) with international partners
Massah is a 40-year old American citizen born of Sierra Leonean parents. She lived on Lower Pipeline Road, off Wilkinson Road and had a training workshop on a family property on Manfred Lane, off Kissy Road in the east of Freetown.
Kaikai returned to Sierra Leone in 2014 to work on development projects with women, the disabled community and children. She set up a small business and made connections with giant American retailers, local NGOs, government ministries such as Tourism, Foreign Affairs, Trade and funders.
The Chief Immigration Officer, Andrew Jaia Kaikai, said there was no record of Massah leaving Sierra Leone on any flight or across any overland border. Interpol has been notified and airports and borders around the world are keeping an eye out for her passport, which is also missing along with all her identification.
Massah’s mother, Ayo Babalola, arrived in Freetown from New York on 9 September 2018 to personally initiate a missing person’s file with the Sierra Leone Police and launch her own search. She said, “Nothing was being done to find Massah. Her father hadn’t contacted the Police. Her friends or sisters hadn’t heard anything. I had no word so I had to come myself. I just want her back, safe and sound.”
The Regional Security Officers of the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone are aware of the situation and are working with local police. Two U.S. Embassy officers have visited ASP Lebbie, the officer in charge of the investigation at the CID, on several occasions. The Security Officers could not comment on the ongoing investigation but U.S. Ambassador, Maria E. Brewer is aware of Massah’s disappearance. After three weeks, she indicated, “We have been encouraging Sierra Leone’s police to follow up on all available information and keenly await an outcome from their investigation.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the U.S. and West Africa have been notified and are monitoring the ongoing search and investigation.
The Police investigation is very slowly progressing but is stalled by a lack of capacity, inefficiency and a seeming lack of will, according to Massah’s mother. Ayo attends the CID almost everyday to encourage the Police. She said, “There is a major gender issue as I try to navigate and encourage the investigation, as a mother and a woman, I am not respected or my concerns are not addressed equitably because I am not a man.” Ayo complained to R.P.G. Roberts, Deputy Head of CID and Legal Adviser to the Sierra Leone Police, who promptly called a meeting of all involved. He instructed investigators to show more respect and to put more efforts into actions to find Massah. The second officer in charge of the investigation has since requested a transfer off the case. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Priscilla Schwartz, is in receipt of documents and letters but is yet to respond.
One suspect, Ibrahim Mansaray, Massah’s driver, is currently in custody and has been questioned by the Inspector General of Police, ASP Memunu Jalloh, who knows Massah personally, and the Head of CID. The suspect has provided very little information as to Massah’s disappearance but was in possession of Massah’s IPhone when he was arrested. After 45 days, the Cyber Crime Unit of CID has finally retrieved scant information from Massah’s phone but it has not proved useful in tracking Massah’s movements or whereabouts. The legal team at Orange, the telecom provider, will not comment and have not been helpful in providing information to the investigation.
Mansaray also looted Massah’s apartment of furniture, clothing and kitchen items before returning the keys to the landlords, Neneh and Samuel Carlton-Carew. According to the landlords, Massah was a quiet, good tenant. The apartment was paid for until the end of December 2018.
Massah’s father, Ansumana Jaia KaiKai, is the former SLPP Member of Parliament from Pujehun District, and former Deputy Minority Leader of Parliament. He and Massah were not on good terms and are estranged. Ansumana Jaia Kaikai has refused comment but has not been overly helpful in the search for his daughter, according to Massah’s mother. Ansumana Kaikai left the country for two weeks just after Massah’s mother arrived in Freetown and had not notified the Police nor filed a missing person’s report even though Massah had been missing for almost a month. According to the Police, Ansumana Jaia Kaikai made a brief statement to officers at CID.
At one point, according to a friend of Massah’s, Ansumana Kaikai said he sent a private search party to Bo and Pujehun to investigate his daughter’s disappearance. He said he held prayers in his home area and Massah would be returned on a specific date, which has long since past. Interestingly, Massah’s driver, Mansaray, used to work for the former MP, who also provided a vehicle to Massah for a short period of time.
Prior to Massah’s disappearance, Massah was recommended to President Bio by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Peter Bayuku Konteh, for an appointment as Executive Chair of the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency (SMEDA) based on her professional qualifications and previous successful projects with American Apparel retailer and the United States Embassy. Massah met Minister Konteh when he was Minister of Tourism and Massah was working on a project with Brussels Air. The Minister said he last spoke to Massah sometime in June. He added, Massah was also having meetings with the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Samura Kamara and the current minister, Alie Kabba. The SMEDA position is yet to be filled and no one has been called to the Parliamentary Committee of Appointments or Parliament for approval.
Interestingly, Edward Sesay, who also works at the Ministry of Trade, said he used to see Massah around the Ministry offices and became a friend. He helped Massah find her apartment almost three years ago. He also recommended Ann Marie Turay, whom he knew as a neighbour and friend, as a housekeeper to Massah. Turay worked for Massah up until the time of Massah’s disappearance. She has been questioned by the Police but provided very little information that could lead to Massah’s return. She remains a person of interest in the investigation. Apparently, with Massah’s permission, Ann Marie moved into Massah’s late grandfather’s family home on Manfred Lane on 3 August 2018, around the time Massah disappeared.
“With respect and never-ending love and admiration for my daughter, Massah Kaikai, I will leave no stone unturned, knock on every door… do all I can to see Massah Kaikai in front of me, safe and sound.” Ayodeji Babalola (nee Ademu-John).
The family property on Manfred Lane is a large farm with several buildings. It belonged to Ayo’s father’s family and after his death was divided between nine siblings including Ayo. The property has been greatly reduced in size by encroachers but remains a valuable piece of real estate in the heart of Freetown. Massah was given Letters of Accreditation over the property through her mother, Ayo, and was trying to develop sections of the land. Ansumana Jaia Kaikai was also named in the Accreditation document.
Gladys Quee, a lawyer and former girlfriend of Ansumana Jaia Kaikai, was advising Massah about removing her father’s name from the Accreditation document, including other land matters.
Ayo, Massah’s mother, met with the First Lady, Fatima Bio, on Friday 19 October 2018, who took immediate action and called her husband, the President, during the meeting. Fatima Bio explained the situation briefly to the President who was to “make some calls and take action”. Vice-President Juldeh Jalloh is also aware of the situation.