Sierra Leone: Indefinite curfew declared after violent protests over rising cost of living

By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

The West African nation of Sierra Leone is in its second day of an indefinite curfew in its capital, Freetown, after violent protest left dozens dead including security personnel, on Wednesday.

Protesters in the country were chanting on the streets ‘‘they want peace‘’ whilst calling for the resignation of President Julius Maada Bio as they protest against his government over the rising cost of living.

On Wednesday, the country’s vice president Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh in a state of the nation address declared an indefinite nationwide curfew in the country stating that the government have shown restraint in an effort to uphold the fundamental rights of citizens thus adding the security forces have been authorized to enforce the directives.

‘’ Fellow citizens,  you will recalled that  for  the last several weeks some self- serving Sierra Leoneans have intensified the call for violence and the forceful overthrow of the legitimate government of Julius Maada Bio . Government have shown restraint in an effort to uphold the fundamental rights of citizens,’’ Vice president Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh announced.

Vice president Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh alleged that some unscrupulous individuals have embarked on a violent and unauthorized protest which he said has led to the loss of lives of innocent Sierra Leoneans including security personnel in the country.

‘’It is also reported that public buildings including police stations have been attacked and burnt down in various parts of the country. Therefore, government wishes it to be known that as a country of law and order   these violations are unacceptable in all their forms. Consequently, I hereby declares a nationwide curfew with immediate from today Wednesday 10th August 2022 commencing at 3 pm,’’

The country’s second gentleman added that their government re-affirm its commitment to maintain law and order including protecting the fundamental rights of the general public.

In a tweet on Wednesday, President Julius Maada Bio wrote, ’’As a government, we have the responsibility to protect every citizen of Sierra Leone. What happened today was unfortunate and will be fully investigated. I urge all Sierra Leoneans to be calm’’

But human rights lawyer Augustine Sorie Sengbe Marah argued that the government imposition of the curfew is that unless the National constitution is suspended, a national curfew cannot be decided in the absence of a declaration of a state of emergency in the whole or part of Sierra Leone.

‘’ I understand the need for tough response but security measures mustn’t breach the supreme law,’’ he wrote on his twitter account.

Meanwhile, the UN Resident Coordinator Babatunde Ahonsi has called for calm and dialogue over the spate of violent incidents in Freetown thus stating the United Nation’s willingness to facilitate such dialogue.

In a tweet issued on his twitter account and later retweeted by the official UN in Sierra Leone Twitter account, Mr. Ahonsi said,’’ The United Nations in Sierra Leone expresses serious concerns over the violent incidents that occurred today in Freetown, including reports of casualties.’’

The regional body the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in a statement also strongly condemned the violence that occurred in many locations in Sierra Leone and the loss of lives in the former British West African nation.

‘’ ECOWAS calls on all to obey law and order and for the, perpetrators of the violence to be identified and brought to justice, in accordance with the law,’’ the regional body urged.

Wednesday’s protest have also been condemned by human rights and civil society groups in the British West African nation which included LEGAL LINK, Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) and  CHRDI-SL condemned the violence by the protesters .

In a statement, one of the human rights group, LEGAL LINK condemned the killings of security officers and protesters as well as the burning of vehicles and properties whilst appealing to president Bio to speak out to the nation and call-off his vacation trip in the UK.

‘’ LEGAL LINK has been following keenly the events of August 8, 9, and 10 and unequivocally condemns all killings that have taken place both on the side of the protesters and that of the security forces and appeals for calm and restraints on both sides ,’’LINK LEGAL said.

The right group added that, in such a difficult moment in the nation’s history, it said, they wanted to remind citizens, security forces and all stakeholders in the country of the need to pursue peaceful solutions, de-escalate tensions, restore normalcy and embark on constructive engagement for the betterment of the country.

‘’While we applaud the interim measure that are currently being put in place under the supervision of the vice president, it is important to however emphasized that it is the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone that the 1991 constitution confers with enormous powers to deal with situations that poses imminent threat to the peace and security of the whole of Sierra Leone or a part thereof,’’ LEGAL LINK added.

However, the Sierra Leone Police in a statement on Thursday noted that there were destruction of public and private properties across the country adding that they lost four  of their personnel with  four injured during the violent protest in their  line of duty.

The police added that they arrested 113 suspects for both Northwest and North East region as of Thursday.

‘’ The Inspector General, Executive Management Board and the rank and file of the SLP wish to extend heartfelt condolences to all the families who lost their relatives /loved ones (police officers) whilst in the discharge of their lawful duties to the state . They were killed in the service of humanity and in pursuit of the stability of the state. The savagery meted on our colleagues is indeed painful. We therefore will continue to mourn their painful deaths and will always remember them in our prayers.’’



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