Massive protests in Sierra Leone over high cost of living, curfew imposed
Sierra Leone declared a national curfew on Wednesday in reaction to violent anti-government rallies that it said killed an unidentified number of people, including security officials.
The West African country, which has been grappling with growing prices and fuel crises, imposed the curfew at 3 p.m. local time (1500 GMT) in an attempt to quell the unrest.
Social media videos showed enormous groups of demonstrators and mounds of burning tyres in several locations of the city, Freetown. A gang of young guys was seen hurling rocks on a roadway surrounded by white smoke in another video.
“People are angry over the country’s disgusting judicial system, everyday price increases, and economic difficulties,” said Daniel Alpha Kamara, a university student.
He claimed the violence began at 10:30 a.m. local time when he noticed clouds of tear gas rising outside his dormitory room.
“These unscrupulous persons have launched a violent and unlawful demonstration, resulting in the deaths of innocent Sierra Leoneans, including security officers,” Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh said in a video speech.
He did not specify how many individuals were killed. It was not feasible to call the cops for comment right away.
Long-standing frustration has also been exacerbated by rising prices for basic goods in Sierra Leone, where more than half the population of around 8 million lives below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. Earlier on Wednesday, internet observatory, NetBlocks said Sierra Leone faced a near-total internet shutdown during the protests, with national connectivity at 5% of ordinary levels. On Tuesday, the national security coordinator asked the armed forces to be prepared to back up the police from Aug. 9-12, warning of a “potentially volatile security situation”, according to an internal letter shared widely online.
“A countrywide curfew is being declared by the government,” he stated. “The security sector has been given complete authority to implement this decision.”
ECOWAS denounced the violence and asked for “everyone to observe law and order and for the perpetrators of the violence to be identified and brought before the law” in a Twitter post.
According to Augustine Sorie-Sengbe Marrah, a constitutional lawyer and governance activist, discontent has been bubbling up for a variety of reasons, including a perceived lack of government assistance for ordinary people who are struggling.
“There has been no empathy from the central administration to encourage people that they recognize their pain and realize these are difficult economic times,” he told Reuters.