Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 January 2020:
Violence erupted this afternoon outside the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party office, with at least one person – an APC supporter seriously injured.
It is not clear what started the violence, but from various video clips published on social media, large crowds of APC supporters could be seen shouting about being attacked by supporters of the ruling SLPP party, who they said were throwing stones at the APC supporters.
One adult male APC party supporter is said to have been stabbed several times on his head. (Photo).
The APC supporters are claiming that the minister of internal affairs – Lahai Lawrence Leema , who is responsible for the country’s police force, was seen driving past the APC party office at the time of the attack on their supporters. They are accusing the minister of orchestrating the attack.
A video of his vehicle driving past the APC office could be seen in the video shown below.
According to some eye witness reports, the attack on the APC supporters started when a funeral cortege carrying the remains of senior SLPP supporter – named as Yanka Dauda Sesay – believed to be the Chairman of the SLPP Sweissy traders, drove past the APC party office.
The photo and name of the deceased they said was on the SLPP banners draping the vehicle carrying the deceased.
As the search for answers as to how today’s violence could have started in one of the most sensitive areas of the city – the environs of the opposition APC party office, questions are being asked as to why the funeral procession could have been allowed to pass in front of the APC party office to get to the Kingtom Cemetery, given the political history and heightened tensions between the ruling SLPP and the APC.
Although some armed police presence could be seen in the area during the violence, there was no evidence of an attempt to arrest those involved.
A few months ago, similar violence erupted at the APC party office when police stormed the office in an attempt to arrest supporters who they said were throwing stones at the police and SLPP supporters.
The findings and recommendations of the investigations into that violence is yet to be made public by the police.
Supporters of the APC say they have lost confidence in the police. They are accusing the police of acting on behalf of the ruling party, instead of enforcing law and order impartially.
While there has been no official response from the police or the SLPP party bosses, supporters of the SLPP are denying accusations of involvement in the violence.
The late Mr Yanka Dauda Sesay (Aka YD) they say was the chairman of the SLPP support group known as “Vision for the New Direction”.
His laying out ceremony was this afternoon held at the SLPP party offices in central Freetown, with the party’s chairman Dr Prince Alex Harding (seen here at the centre of this photo above) and senior officials of the party – including its national secretary general – Napoleon Koroma , national publicity secretary and minister of internal affairs – Lahai Lawrence Leema, leading the mourners (Photo below).
How a funeral procession could have left the SLPP party office in central Freetown to make its way down to the APC party office – several miles away in the west of the city where this afternoon’s violence erupted, is the question the police would need to answer – and soon.
In the meantime, the US Embassy in Freetown has issued this security advice to its citizens in the country:
Security Alert – U.S. Embassy (Freetown, Sierra Leone) (January 14, 2020)
Location: Brookfields, Freetown
Event: Reports indicate there are currently violent confrontations between APC and SLPP supporters near APC headquarters in Brookfields. U.S. government personnel are advised to avoid the area today.
Additionally, there is an increased amount of police in the area tasked with maintaining order. Expect the increased personnel and confrontations to congest traffic in central Freetown. Exercise extreme caution in the Brookfields area.
Actions to Take:
Avoid the area of Brookfields. Avoid crowds. Monitor local media for updates.
Videos below showing the scene outside the APC party office; and the white government vehicle seen being driven past the APC office believed to be that of the internal affairs minister – Lahai Lawrence Leema: