• August 15, 2022

Protesters Wake-Up ‘Sleeping’ Bio

Protesters Wake-Up ‘Sleeping’ Bio
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By: Francis F.M. Harding

President Julius Maada Bio is facing the biggest challenge to his leadership; hunger is wide spread despite the massive deployment of the Sierra Leone Police personnel angry protesters gathered in the East of Freetown and in the North of the country, allegedly the strong area of the opposition where people in large crowd reportedly showed their displeasure. A mere wake up call to the government, President Julius Maada Bio and the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party.

There has been serious acute economic situation in Sierra Leone which the government is unable to solve and they argued that it is the situation in Ukraine as well as COVID-19 pandemic, before that situation and prices of commodity keep souring up which angered a lot of people and for the last few months the cost of living rise by more than 40%.

Sierra Leone’s real Gross Domestic Product growth is projected to average 4.4% during 2022-24, with contributions from mining and agriculture, and partial recovery in tourism and manufacturing. The World Bank Sierra Leone Economic update says the growth outlook faces significant downside risks and uncertainties due to the Ukraine, global inflationary pressures, and the continued threat of COVID-19 pandemic.

The leadership of Sierra Leone Police, Inspector General of Police William Fayia Sellu, has put measure in place to tackle violence and lawlessness by launching an operation, code “Calm Nation” with its modus operandi by deploying personnel across major streets in the country to forestall the plan of the demonstrators on the 7th August, 2022.

Patrol team of security personnel shortly after the curfew was declared

The Sierra Leone Police is expected to be using proactive policing approaches to be implemented to the fullest, as since an audio has been widely rumoured and gone viral on social media. Police clashed with hundreds of demonstrators at Congo Water, Rokupa, PMB Wellington and Cabala Town all in the East of Freetown. Security forces also faced similar confrontations at Waterloo, in the Waterloo in the Western Rural District. Elsewhere in the country, similar violence acts were put up in several towns across the North by protesters for what they claimed to be high prices of commodity, as the country continue to grapple with spiraling inflation and economic downturn. Sierra Leoneans in recent months have been feeling the pinch of record inflation and the Ukraine war. Hundreds on Wednesday 10th August joined an unauthorized protest including children denouncing economic hardships, social media footages showed. Police responded with teargas and life live round bullets when the crowd veered off the proposed route, an eye witness said. The West African bauxite and gold country.

A police officer told Forum that they were forced to use teargas and life bullets to restore order after while demonstrators were threw stones, burnt tires and mounted road blocks. Police officers were killed, police posts at Congo-Water, City Road, Calaba Town Bai Bureh Road were damaged beyond repairs, as well as the Kamakwei Police Station was burnt down. Several government vehicles were also damaged.

The demonstrators were dispersed by Military Aid to Civil Power (MACP) and streets in the city centre and towns in the North were lined with both Operational Support Division (OSDs) and military personnel. The police arrested dozens of unlawful demonstrators for their alleged involvement in violent attacks on the police personnel and the destruction of public property.

Information and Communications Minister, Mohamed Rahaman Swaray described the protesters as group of self-seeking faceless people fire brands issuing out threat on the social media and in one instance in a video letter to the police.

The Information Minister said; “Military Aid to Civil Power has been invoked as we know see visible presence of the army jointly with the OSDs of the police to restore law another. Already lives have been lost including lives of security personnel, police stations in various parts of the country have been touched, and government strongly condemn it in the strongest of terms as this very important. Self-seeking politicians must behind this they are using unsuspecting young people, they exploiting the joblessness situation of the young people, they exploiting the global economic situation which is just to localise at while,” lamented Mohamed Rahmand Swaray.

Eye witness accounts are that there were protests in the East end of Freetown and in the Northern towns and cities areas that are opposition strong hold, the Northern protesters were chanting saying “We want peace Maada must go.”

Reports says the violent protest continued in the East of Freetown for long hours and protesters were blocking roads, setting ablaze tyres.

The AIG North, Gabriel Tommy described the situation as tense and civilians were running around, attacking police officers while some eye witness account say police opened fire on civilians.

When asked by the BBC’s Umaru Fofana about the way the government responded to the situation, if only they would have allowed the people to protest peaceful this would have averted the unfortunate loss of lives and property? Swaray replied saying that nobody approach the police for demonstration, all you hard were a group of people self-seeking faceless fire brands issuing out threat on social media and in one instance in a video letter to the police.

He said according to the Inspector General of Police all effort were made to reach the telephone number but proved futile. The BBC reporter furthered asked the Information and Communication Minister that the last time there were people who formally asked for permission they were turned down. To which the minister responded saying that they were not turn down they agreed with the police to postpone the demonstration, but they went ahead with it. The Western of Freetown was relatively calm with no skirmishes.

As other parts of the country were under high tensions, Forum observed that the Western urban was so quit and residents were receiving calls and making enquiries from other parts of the country, and the discussion was about the demonstration both online or offline before the internet went down. The United Nations Development Programme expressed concerns over the violent incidents and called for calm. Also the British High Commissioner on Thursday called on government to ease tension in the country. She was speaking at a meeting with diplomatic missions in the country at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Freetown. Returning home late Thursday evening, President Julius Maada Bio late Friday 12th August 2022 encouraged all to stay calm.

Amid all of this, opposition political parties have accused government that they eroded their rights and freedom as they referred to previous incidents in Makeni, where people were killed following disagreement over the transfer of a thermal plant to Lungi.

Burned tyres block a street during the protest in Freetown.

The mood at the demonstration reflected the feelings of many Sierra Leonean. Political critics and some opposition parties feel let down by a leader they thought will improve the economy. President Bio is only is only few months into the end of his first term of office, with elections around the corner but he is already faced with stiff resistance.

By way of calling for calm, the Hon. Vice President, Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh imposed a nationwide curfew from 3: PM to 7: AM.

It could be recalled that Sierra Leone was racked by a civil way (1991-2002), a deadly Ebola outbreak, mudslide and now battling with the COVID-19 pandemic. Sierra Leone in the midst of the global economic crisis, COVID-19, the situation in Ukraine, skyrocketing cost of commodities, and as recently the Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone announced the missing of Le 8000M.

In a press release dated on the 10th August by the Sierra Leone Police, on preliminary report on the destruction to property and loss of lives occasioned by violent protests on August 10th, 2022.

The fatalities and injuries sustained are personnel and also government and police property destroyed during the violent protests and demonstrations. The following personnel were injured by irate youths: PC 19061 Momoh Kallon of Harbor Division. He suffered gunshot wounds, S/Major 11890 Ibrahim Jalloh attached Harbour Division sustained bullet wounds on his stomach whilst escorting PC Kallon, Sgt. Desmond Hancils aka Pastor who was attached to OSD Headquarters was fatally injured at Rokupa by irate youth. Police stations and post vandalized or completely burnt down. Kissy Division: Kissy Market Police Post Old Road under Kissy Division, Approved School Police Post were completely vandalized, Congo Water Police Post vandalized and Wellington Police Post vandalized. Harbour: PWD Police Post was burnt down. Waterloo Division: Bassa Town Police Post was burnt down, Corner Kick 55 Police Post vandalized, Lumpa Police Post vandalized, Tombo Junction Police Post vandalized, 2 Government buses were burnt down at Waterloo, NaCSA’s office and warehouse were burnt down, Ministry of Land Office at Waterloo also burnt down, the release confirmed. In the North-east Region-Makeni 97 suspected demonstrators were arrested. Death at the North-East Region. Two personnel were killed in Kamakwie, namely: Supt. Osman Fofana (Support Officer) and one Sgt. 7389 Munda Turay (OSD) and one in Makeni PC 14625 Abu Barkar Turay. The police station and barracks were burnt down as well as private property belonging to Police Officers. Magburaka Division: 2 male suspects and one female were arrested. North West Region: Lungi Town: sixteen suspects were arrested. Two police officers were injured and a motorbike belonging to police officer was burnt down. Signed by the media and public relations department.

It could be recalled that Sierra Leone is a state party to the 1960 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 governs the right of peaceful assemble, providing: the right of peaceful assemble should be recognized. No restriction may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of a national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Sierra Leone is also state party to the first optional protocol to the ICCPR, which allows individuals to petition the Human Rights Committee if they believe the state has violated their human rights as protected under the covenant. At the regional level, Sierra Leone is a state party to the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR). Article 11 made that provision. Sierra Leone is also state party to the 1998 Protocol on the African Court on Human and people’s Rights, and has allowed the right of petition to the Court by individuals and non-governmental organizations.

According to article 25 of the Sierra Leone’s 1991 Constitution “All persons shall have the right to freedom of assembly, including freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations…”  Article 25 of the Sierra Leone’s 1991 Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, to hold opinions and receive and impact ideas and information without interference. And the Public Order Act enshrined in section 17 (1), which says that any attempt by anyone, groups or organizations to stage a protest or demonstration is a crime and would face the penalty of the law.

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