Sierra Leone’s Capital Freetown Under Curfew Amid Violent Anti-Government Protests
On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Freetown Sierra Leone protesting inflation and the rising cost of living.
The protests grew violent at times. Security forces were also seen firing guns at citizens and some were seriously injured. Protesters and some members of security forces could be seen.
Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh declared a nationwide curfew on Wednesday from 3 p.m. local time (11 a.m. ET) while President Julius Maada Bio is out of the country.
The number of people injured or killed in the protests has not been verified yet. During a televised speech announcing the curfew, Jalloh referred to the protesters and the loss of lives without giving more details.
“These unscrupulous individuals have embarked on violent and unauthorized protests which have led to the loss of lives of innocent Sierra Leoneans including security personnel,” the Vice President said.
While US Embassy in Freetown appealed for “calm and restraint on all sides.”
‘Not the right way to go about it,’
An entrepreneur from Freetown Morris Marah explained that the protests had been brewing for a few days.
“There have been fledgling groups gathering since the 8th of August but it escalated and got much worse today. More people joined in huge numbers and there were clashes with police and there was violence on both sides. Some people lost their lives but I don’t know the count,” Marah said.
“The economic situation in the country is really bad, the government says it is due to Ukraine and the coronavirus crisis but to date, youth unemployment is very high. There are a lot of disgruntled young people in the country,” he continued. “There was recently a big spike in fuel prices, products and commodities. The President says he doesn’t have quick fixes but, as an entrepreneur, things were hard before Ukraine and the coronavirus crisis.”
“These protests are not supported by everyone in the country. No matter how hard things are. This is not the right way to go about it,” Marah stressed.
One witness, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals from the government, said: “The protests started this morning but have been brewing since last week.”
“People are protesting about inflation, hyperinflation, and the cost of living. The police are too aggressive when handling issues and it came to the point where the people’s backs were against the wall,” he added.
An earlier report indicated that the country is experiencing a nationwide disruption to internet service from several providers.
“Confirmed: Real-time network data show that #SierraLeone is amid a near-total internet shutdown amid anti-government protests in #Freetown; metrics indicate national connectivity at 5% of ordinary levels,” they said.