12th August 2022:
Barely forty-eight hours have passed and there is rising political and regional tension once again in Sierra Leone, after a massive street protest brought the country to a chilling halt, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of President Bio, who was holidaying in London with his family.
According to a senior government minister speaking to the Sierra Leone Telegraph, four police officers and at least sixteen civilians died in last Wednesday’s protest – now dubbed “Bloody Wednesday”.
Although the police made over 150 arrests – many of whom have appeared before magistrates to answer to charges of unlawful gathering, no one has yet been charged with the killing of the civilians and police officers.
It is thought that nearly all of the civilians died of gunshot wounds to the head, back or chest. The police are yet to take responsibility for the shooting of those protesters. Also there is video evidence on social media of some protesters visciously attacking security forces.
Sierra Leone’s foreign minister – David Francis, told memebers of the international community attending a government briefing yesterday morning in Freetown, that the protests and destruction that ensued were caused by the opposition APC – whom he labelled as terrorrists, a charge the leadership of the APC strongly denies.
But as the recrimination, backlash and extra-judicial intervention by security forces who are now out searching for suspects continue into the early hours of this morning in the north of the country and the capital Freetown, the security forces are being accused of committing serious human rights abuses.
In one video seen below, soldiers could be seen beating and kicking a civilian who was being dragged on the ground helpless. In another video, security forces could be seen firing live bullets randomly at unidentified targets, reminiscent of a battlefield. This will not bring peace to Sierra Leone. It will only fuel further violence.
As the people of Freetown start counting the economic loss suffered as a result of the destruction of property, market women and traders too have been dealt a big blow, with many of their stalls reportedly destroyed last night.
Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr told the Sierra Leone Telegraph : “It has been brought to my attention via photos on social media that the market stalls at Abacha Street Market were destroyed overnight. I have also seen posts stating that the Freetown City Council is responsible for this. I would like to inform the general public that the Freetown City Council is not responsible for this action and did not participate in this night operation.”