Sierra Leone police criticised after gang violence erupted in Freetown

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 August 2017

If the whole point of banning jogging along the streets of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown was simply to prevent violence and criminality, then it seems the police may have an ulterior motive, critics of police chief Francis Munu say, after football gang violence erupted in the east of the city yesterday, Saturday.

There has never been any history of violence or criminality by people jogging in groups along the city’s main streets.

Hence, it came as a surprise to many when the head of police – Francis Munu decided two weeks ago to impose a ban on jogging.

But analysts believe that the real motive for banning jogging in the streets by groups, is to stop opposition politicians such as Dr. Kandeh Yumkella – whose love for jogging with his supporters is well known, from taking to the streets.

Yesterday’s football gang violence erupted when a large group of football supporters took to the street to celebrate victory in a neighbourhood known for rival gang violence.

There has been no report of serious injuries or deaths, but several properties were damaged.

Critics of the police say that for political reasons, the group was allowed to parade the streets without seeking permission from the police as required by law, sparking accusations of nepotism and the politicisation of community ethnic differences.

“Sanusi Bruski was allowed to parade from Mountain Cut to the West of Freetown. The Police knows the rivalry between Foulah Town FC and Mountain City FC, but yet allowed them to go ahead with their float parade with very few Police officers,” say critics.

According to report by Umaru Fofana of the BBC: “On the morning after the night before tension is mounting again at Foulah Town, in the east of Freetown. A league cup trophy parade on Saturday resulted in riot with homes said to have been vandalised or looted.

“Teargas was used to quell the situation. Supporters of the cup winners – Foulah Town FC – clashed with those of their arch rivals – Mountain City FC.

“The police Operations Commander in the area says the football rivalry is the tip of the iceberg of a deep seated rumble of ethnic animosity among the inhabitants.

Residents, some of whom blame the police for not handling yesterday’s parade well and approving an ill-advised route, have told me of threats of reprisal attacks today.

“Police deny any faulty handling of affairs saying the procession was well goaded until they got to the community. They say they are keeping a close eye on the situation in an area infamous for gang violence among rival cliques.”

General and presidential elections are due in Sierra Leone in about seven months, and there are fears such gang violence as witnessed yesterday – Saturday, 5th of August, 2017, could play out into full blown political violence. (Video courtesy of AYV TV).

[videopress pEwqYBhi]

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