President of Sierra Leone bans peaceful protests as tension rises over poverty

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 May 2016

President Koroma has today issued what has been described by critics as a tyrannical presidential order, banning all street protests heading towards State House.

This order comes as tension rises in the capital, amid growing social and economic discontent.

The worsening water and electricity crisis, which started three months ago, is now causing serious problems for the health of almost two million people in the capital Freetown.

Two months ago, there was widespread disquiet on the streets of Freetown, in response to the government’s refusal to reduce the pump price of fuel, despite falling global oil prices.

And now, it’s the water and electricity crisis that has become the bugbear of president Koroma and his ministers.

It is understood that several groups, including students and school children are planning to stage peaceful street protests in the coming weeks.

But president Koroma’s banning order may now be seen as an open invitation to street confrontation with the police by disgruntled youths.

Sierra Leone policeThe president’s statement reads:

“The president has noticed with grave concern that in recent months representatives of various organisations, groups and stakeholders have on several occasions assembled outside the precincts of state house to register protests over the handling of pertinent issues by government ministries, departments and agencies.

“It should be noted that such protests have a disruptive influence on the peace and quiet of the presidency.”

Is the president’s peace and quiet more important than the welfare of the people of Sierra Leone? This must be seen as a shameful and lazy politics of a dictator. It is time for president Koroma to take leave of office.

The statement further reads: 

“Quite apart from the fact that those who organise such protests do not obtain prior approval from the Sierra Leone police, the targeting of state house as their first port of call is unacceptable. Indeed, they should first seek redress from the sectoral ministry, department or agency of government within whose competence the matter lies.

“The general public is hereby informed that with immediate effect the staging of protests outside the precincts of state house is strictly prohibited. Anyone who contravenes this order will face the full force of the law.”

But civil libertarians in the country say that this presidential order is a serious infringement of the constitutional and human rights of citizens of Sierra Leone to peaceful protest.

Zhao Yanbo, Ernest Bai Koroma, Samuel Sam-SumanaAnd what is clear is that the ruling APC is increasingly becoming despotic, despite lofty claims by senior ministers and party officials about their democratic credentials.

Critics say that the ruling party’s ethos and values are deeply based on an anti-libertarian ideal, which sits comfortably with communist China.

Government oppression and the curtailing of civil liberty, through the use of heavily armed police tactics is once again being used by the ruling APC, as it did with deadly consequences in the 1970s and 1980s.

According to local media, a group of civil society organisations held a press conference in Freetown, where they called on the Board and senior management of the capital’s water supply company – Guma Water Company to step down.

children lined up for water in Freetown April 2016

The group, calling itself – the ‘Civil Societies for Safe and Available Drinking Water’ met on Tuesday, 10th May, to demand an immediate resolution to the water crisis in the capital.

Its leaders say that they have given management of the Guma Water Company twenty-one days to start supplying clean drinking water to households in the city, or resign.

They are calling on the minister for water resources to take full control of the water company and demand accountability by the national commission for privatisation, for millions of dollars they received for the improvement of water supply in the city, since president Koroma came to power over eight years ago.

Failure to meet these demands, the group says will result in widespread street protest involving mothers and school children.

Sierra Leone president Ernest Bai Koroma in suit and red tieAs a result of this demand by this and other groups in the city, president Koroma has today issued his protest banning order.

It remains to be seen, whether frustrated youths and school children, along with angry civil society groups will take heed of president Koroma’s dictatorial orders.

Since coming to power over eight years ago, electricity supply in the capital has dwindled by 50%, from a paltry 30 Megawatts to an intermittent average of about 15 Megawatts a day.

Freetown alone needs over 500 Megawatts of electricity a day, to keep households and businesses running. But in the last six months, less than 10% of households in the capital have had access to electricity.

This crisis is set to get worse, despite yesterday’s lofty promise by the government of solar power for every household by 2020, at an estimated cost of almost $1 billion.

But who will pay the cost of solar electrification across Sierra Leone? The British government? The World Bank? The IMF? President Koroma?

Is this yet another massive gravy train for corrupt government officials and their business cronies, before the ruling APC leaves office in 2018?

6 Comments

  1. Where is the ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ taking us. We better coin it as ‘Agenda for Poor’. Indeed the proposed plan of this agenda for prosperity has been achieved – those in governance have prospered while the masses continue to wallow in abject poverty that is killing thousand slowly.

    Visit some hard-to-reach communities and find out how millions are suffering under hardship and financial drought and how many have gone six feet below due to extreme poverty and hardship.

    I am surprised at this new decree issued by President Koroma banning street protest at the State House. Let him understand this and understand it well that it was the people who elected him into that office he has place high valued on.

    It was based on what all thought he could deliver that pushed them to put him there and if they feel he is not delivering as he promised they have all the rights accorded to them by the very constitution he is upholding to let their concerns be known through peaceful protest at the very house where they let him occupy.

    Let him know also that that house is not his private house but that of the state and that is the only venue where people can make their concerns and grievances known to him and to the entire world.

    My dear president know your role and what you promised to defend and uphold – democracy, good governance and human rights and please do not wear the dictatorship shoes of your predecessor – President Siaka Stevens who took us gradually to a one party and dictatorial rule that led to the ten years bloody rebel war.

    My friends note that humans are not machines but mere beings that are subjected to weakness and tiredness. ‘DE PA DON WOKE EN E DON TAYA’

  2. The President is about to show his true colour. The ruling APC is about to unleash lethal force on the peaceful citizens who are just trying to express their First Amendment Right, which is a right to speak or assemble freely.

    They are about to do what they did to Mohamed Sorie Fornah and 14 Others,Late Sam Bangura,Late FM Minah,the students they terrorized at the FBC in the 1970’s and finally the destruction of Freetown by their son Johnny Paul who is a native of the APC headquarter (Binkolo).

    Let the desperate people just keep pressing on by demonstrating peacefully because they have no other alternative.Mr President don’t forget that a “HUNGRY MAN IS AN ANGRY MAN”.

  3. Very well said concerned citizen. I could not agree more. President Koroma is now behaving like the roman emperor Herod.

    He has forgotten that he was the same one who told the people that his doors are open anytime to receive them.
    In a democracy people have the right to march peacefully to the vicinity of State House which as you say is not his personal property.

    State House belongs to all of us.

    The people of this country are sick and tired of politicians treating them with contempt and pushing them around.
    When the people of this country get fed up of poor performing ministers and their institutions who do they turn to if not the president.

    By shutting the doors of State House on the faces of citizens president Koroma is driving unhappy people underground who may one day become rebels.

    President Koroma has no shame and he is not a democrat. Its a shame Tony Blair’s poor judgement of character got the better of him.

    President Koroma is a dictator and must not be trusted by the international community. It is time APC is laid to rest. They have had enough time in office to fix the country’s problems. It is now time for another party to take over.

  4. ‘Such protests have a disruptive influence on the peace and quiet of the presidency’

    How cheeky of Ernest Bai Koroma to issue such a statement whilst in THE PEOPLES’ HOUSE.

    Dis man get mind o !!!

    He is there to work and if he wants peace and quiet he should go home.

    He has no sympathy for the masses – children queuing at odd hours for water – does he not feel their pain and suffering?

    Why have we been so unfortunate to be lumbered with yet another lazy man at the helm?

  5. Solar power for every household by 2020? Talk is cheap, is all I will say to such rubbish!

    The impossibility of sourcing that amount of funding aside for a near bankrupt government, the lot are so lacking in competence and ability (but blessed with abundance of corrupt munkus) they couldn’t be trusted to organise a piss-up in a brewery.

    So this has to either rank as one of their most ridiculous thoughtless gimmick or I would have to agree that it potentially is another massive gravy train. The latter assumes though that some international organisation with more money than brain falls for the bait and coughs up the cash.

    Just think Bumbuna! How many years? How many billions down the drain? And where are we? i rest my case!

    `Bra leff yah, lew we lick’, as we use to say when Aureol was Aureol!

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