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PoliticsSierra Leone

Protests 'premeditated' plot: Sierra Leone leader

August 13, 2022

President Julius Maada Bio has dismissed cost-of-living claims and said protesters this week were part of a "premeditated" plot to take down the government.

Protesters running through the streets of Freetown, with dark smoke in the background
Deadly anti-government protests erupted in Freetown on WednesdayImage: REUTERS

Sierra Leone's President Julius Maada Bio on Friday accused protesters who demonstrated earlier this week of attempting to overthrow the government.

On Wednesday, police dispersed large crowds in the capital, Freetown, using tear gas and firing guns. The incident led to the deaths of 21 civilians and six police officers.

The protesters, who burned tires and threw rocks, said they were demonstrating against high cost of living and called for the president to resign.

"This was not a protest against the high cost of living occasioned by the ongoing global economic crisis," Bio said in an address to the nation. "The chant of the insurrectionists was for a violent overthrow of the democratically elected government."

He also said the government would investigate all the deaths.

A close-up shot of President Julius Maada Bio, wearing a blue button up shirt and black hat and glasses
President Julius Maada Bio blamed his political rivals for the violenceImage: Ali Balikci/AA/picture alliance

Political tensions rising

Bio blamed the "premeditated" unrest on his rival political party, the All Peoples Congress. The party quickly released a statement urging supporters to adhere to the rule of law, but it did not directly address the president's allegations.

"We urge all stakeholders to de-escalate tensions and avoid inflammatory rhetoric (or) unfounded pronouncements," the opposition party said Friday.

"As a party, we continue reaffirming and reinforcing our commitment to sustainable peace and national cohesion." 

Economy on the brink

Sierra Leone is a relatively stable country, but like much of the world it is experiencing rising food and energy prices due to pandemic-related disruption in global supply chains and the knock-on effects of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In July, the country slashed three zeros off its currency hoping to restore confidence in the economy. Inflation nevertheless rose to nearly 28% in June.

"Look at the way the price of fuel goes up, the price of rice is always going up," Solomon Forna, a 42-year-old driver in east Freetown, told the Reuters news agency. "We can't live the way we did only a few years ago."

Sierra Leone's youth take on the world

zc/wd (Reuters, AFP)