As Sierra Leone gradually returns to normalcy after the August 10 violent demonstration that claimed many lives and properties, the president of the nation has vowed to punish all those suspected to have been behind the protest.
President Julius Maada Bio, who was out of the country when the protest occurred on Wednesday 10 August 2022, returned a day after to address the nation on 12 August, saying: “My government will crack down hard on violent insurrectionists, their collaborators, their sponsors, and their supporters. My government will relentlessly fight those who would rather use terror and gruesome violence to achieve political goals.”
The president said those who were behind the insurrection “had severally identified themselves on social media” as warriors of the major opposition party (the APC), as PPP (People’s Power in Politics) and as “persons who are determined to capture political power even at the cost of hundreds of lives.”
Hence he said he would leave no stone unturned in investigating and punishing all those found to be supporters of the protest. “In the coming weeks and months, the government will undertake necessary security actions meant to guarantee the peace and security of all citizens,” he said. The president also said while he acknowledged the fact that there was economic hardship in the country mainly as a result of the daunting global economic crisis, his government had done well in providing socio-economic development in the nation and in upholding human rights and rule of law in the country.
“Let us be reminded that since COVID-19 struck, government has undertaken specific economic recovery and resilience measures that have kept essential food items and fuel on the market, kept businesses running, and maintained public services,” he said. “In fact, government has reduced fuel and transportation prices twice in the last month. This is in addition to other social safety payments and cash transfers to poor and vulnerable populations and microfinance loans to women and youth. “Government is expanding skills development and vocation educational opportunities and creating jobs in various sectors of the economy especially in mining in the northern province, and small-scale manufacturing in other parts of the country.”
“Government has also undertaken large-scale efforts towards food security and kept its free quality school education and healthcare priorities on course. However, many Sierra Leoneans both home and abroad believe that the government has not done much over the last four years to promote human rights, rule of law and to improve the economy.”
“A lot of people were killed in prison in April 2020, and other people have been killed in Lunsar, in Makeni and other places in the country under this government. For all these killings, we are yet to see any thorough report of the investigations they said they conducted to ascertain the truth of the matter,” an opposition leader Dr Dennis Bright of the National Grand Coalition party recently said, adding that about nine opposition elected Members of Parliament were craftily removed from Parliament in 2019 via a controversial court ruling and replaced by the ruling party members without going through the democratic process of election.
Peace and dialogue
However, there is serious call for peace and dialogue between the government, the security apparatus on one hand and the opposition parties and civilians on the other. The US Ambassador, the British High Commissioner, the EU Representative, members of the civil society, opposition party members among other opinion leaders in the country have called for peace and dialogue as the nation continues to lick its wound after the August 10 violent demonstration.
Freetown Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, a member of the major opposition APC, who stated that she had been falsely accused to be an inciter of the August 10 protest, says: “This deliberate and continued action of making false accusations publicly has already led to constant attacks of me on social media and attempts of physical attacks on FCC property. But this is not about me. In the past week, dozens of people have been killed, an unspecified and increasing number of people have been detained and it is my understanding that the detainees have been denied access to legal representation, and sadly thousands of traders (mainly women) have overnight lost their source of livelihood through the destruction of their market stalls. My heart goes out to all those who are suffering at this time. May the souls of the departed rest in peace.”
“I believe that in challenging times we must nurture a spirit of unity and foster platforms for peaceful engagement. I call for calm in the city and for all to avoid violence.”Meanwhile, the president on Friday 12 August 2022 replaced the Chief of Defence Staff and made some other promotions in the army, as the clock ticks on to the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in Sierra Leone slated for 24 June 2023.