Freetown, Sierra Leone – August 11, 2022: The Government in the West African country of Sierra Leone is struggling to contain large groups of anti -government protesters who are demanding the resignation of President Julius Maada Bio.
African Star’s Correspondent in Freetown quoting Vice President Mohammed Juldeh Jalloh reports that violent protests have claimed the lives of security personnel, although the exact casualty numbers are unknown.
Large crowds of citizens could be seen in the main streets of Freetown marching and calling for President Bio to go. They later clashed with security forces. Makeshift roadblocks were set up by some protesters who threw stones at vehicles that forced their way through.
President Bio won democratic elections in 2018 but has since seen rising discontent, scandals and investigations plaguing his Government. High cost of basic necessities and worsening inflation are pressuring Sierra Leonens who say the Government has failed to attend to their needs.
On Wednesday morning, following more anti-government protests, the internet observatory group Netblocks “confirmed a nationwide disruption of internet service on multiple providers across Sierra Leone…” The disruption lasted for about two hours and Netblocks, in a statement, recommended “against the use of network disruptions and social media restriction s to counter protests, given their disproportionate impact to fundamental rights incudi8ng freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.”
In the northern town of Makeni, protesters chanted, “We want peace!. Maada Must Go!” In the Waterloo area of the capital, protesters swarmed police reinforcements which were seen retreating.
Police have responded with live rounds against the protesters.
Sierra Leone Vice President Mohammed Juldeh Jalloh on Television announcing imposition of a curfew on Wednesday Government officials blamed violent protesters for attempting to “overthrow“ the government. A curfew was imposed at 3pm local time in Freetown to try to stem the protests and violence from spreading.
“Restrict” Letter Directing the Military to assist the Sierra Leonen Police
A communication marked “Restricted” from the country’s National Security Coordinator Abdulai Caulker directed the Chief of Defence Staff, on the instruction of Vice President and Deputy Chairman of the National Security Council, to be prepared to assist the Sierra Leonen Police “to ensure security of the state and its wellbeing.”
The country’s Information Minister Mohammed Swaray told the BBC that the Government condemned the violence and blamed “firebrands” who, he said, were exploiting unemployment and poor economic condition on the country.
The main opposition political group has distanced itself from the violence.
The sub-regional economic grouping known as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has condemned the violence in Sierra Leone and is urging adherence to the rule of law.
President Bio has not issued any public statement on calls for him to go.
Rising poverty levels in the West African subregion coupled with massive corruption in governance structures are threatening instability.
In neighboring Liberia, a senior Government official in the Office of the President Mr. Nathaniel F. McGill is facing a huge backlash from citizens and civil society groups for recent comments in which he defended the stealing of Government money, arguing, “…even If I was stealing the money and giving it to the Liberian people, it’s a good thing I’m doing because atleast I’m not stealing and carrying it to Europe…”
In a strong reaction, the local Center for Transparency and Accountability (CENTAL), a civil society organization and national chapter of Transparency International (TI), the global coalition against corruption, said in a press statement, “…Such anti-accountability comments have the ability to further undermine citizens and development partners confidence in the Liberian Government, which may have implications for their budgetary and other support to the country.. We like to remind the Minister that there is and should be no place for Corruption in Liberia. Corruption is forbidden in Liberia and around the world and there is no justification, whatsoever, for perpetrating it. His comments grossly undermine government’s stance and fight against corruption and reveal why President Weah and his Government have shown limited willpower to decisively and impartially address it…,” CENTAL held.
Minister McGill has now disavowed any corruption saying he was only speaking contexually.
In Guinea, the military junta over the last weekend dissolved the leading opposition movement following months of friction. Junta leader Mamady Doumbouya has pledged to return the country to civilian rule in three years.
Some Western Intelligence analysts say they are watching developments closely and have expressed fears of the spill over of instability to other countries.
By Our Correspondent in Freetown, Sierra Leone