Several Dead in Sierra Leone Anti-government Protests

Riot police patrol as they pass smoke rising from a roadblock during anti-government protests in Freetown, Sierra Leone [Umaru Fofana/Reuters]

Violent clashes on Wednesday erupted between police and anti-government protesters in Sierra Leone, resulting in an unspecified number of deaths in the West African nation, neighboring Liberia.

Citizens had gathered in major cities across the country to protest against “economic hardship” and chanting “Bio must go”, referring to President Julius Maada Bio, who has 10 months left in his term. Maada Bio, who is eyeing re-election, is currently in the United Kingdom on a private visit. 

According to, a popular Sierra Leonean news outlet (founded 1973) whose content appears mostly critical of the ruling establishment, the street demonstration was called by an organization named PEOPLE POWER IN POLITICS (PPP) headed by a social media political commentator known as Will Adebayor, who operates from Holland. With an audience of 48,587 followers on his personal Facebook page, many have dubbed him the “King of SaLone”.

Efforts by the Daily Observer to get comments from Mr. Adebayor via his social media handle did not materialize up to the publication of this story. 

Wednesday’s demonstration was the climax of a two-day sit-down strike against the Julius Maada Bio administration, which took place earlier this week, August 8 and 9. On Wednesday, August 10, as allegedly directed by Adebayor, the people came out into the streets to demonstrate. Chanting, “MAADA MUST GO, WE WANT PEACE”, hundreds of people thronged the streets of Freetown and major municipalities across the country, denouncing economic hardship, rising prices, dictatorship, corruption, and bad governance. Adebayor posted a flier on his page, announcing the opening day of the protest (August 8), calling for an end to tribalism, political intimidation, police brutality, killings, and corruption. 

The government of Sierra Leone through Vice President, Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, announced a nationwide curfew from 3 p.m. after the clashes broke out when demonstrators set up roadblocks.

According to the Washington Post, VP Jalloh informed local media that “lives of both policemen and civilians were lost,” without giving further details.

But police spokesman Brima Kamara told the AFP news agency that “two police officers, a male, and female, were mobbed to death by protesters at the east end of Freetown this morning.” 

In a full statement broadcast on Sierra Leone national radio, the police said: “Following the declaration of a nationwide curfew by His Excellency the Hon. Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) wishes to inform the general public as follows: That the curfew shall be in force from 3 pm on the 10th August 2022 to 7 am on 11th August 2022. Every other day is from 7 pm to 7 am. That all essential workers at the following places: hospitals, hotels, radio stations, television stations, telecommunications, companies, Electricity Generation and Transmission Company (EGTC), and Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA), with valid identification, are allowed to move around during the period of  the curfew.”

Several protestors told international news agencies that security forces had also fired live bullets that resulted in deaths.

Dozens of protesters were arrested on Wednesday, police said. Dozens of injured people are also said to be undergoing treatment at hospitals in Freetown.

The internet and all other telecommunication services suffered a 2-hour blackout nationwide on Wednesday morning, according to NetBlocks, a web monitoring group. Netblocks said “Authorities subsequently denounced an attempt to ‘overthrow’ the government and imposed a nationwide curfew.”

“As a government, we have the responsibility to protect every citizen of Sierra Leone. What happened today was unfortunate and will be fully investigated. I urge all Sierra Leoneans to be calm,” President Bio posted on his official Twitter handle. He’s expected to address the nation today.

Meanwhile, expressions of concern and condemnation have poured in from the international community, including the ECOWAS Commission and the United Nations.

The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS Commission) has strongly condemned Wednesday’s violence in the country.

“ECOWAS calls on all to obey law and order and for the perpetrators of the violence to be identified and brought to justice, in accordance with the law.” 

In a tweet, the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Sierra Leone, Babatunde Ahonsi, said: “The United Nations in Sierra Leone expresses serious concerns over the violent incidents that occurred today in Freetown, including reports of casualties.”

Only two independent news websites on Sierra Leone have filed reports on Wednesday’s protest so far. Both outlets have published previous articles that point to a record of political intimidation by the Bio administration against political opponents. At least six other well-known independent news outlets (which are online) in the country have no coverage on the protests as at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

Cocorioko reported that a few months into the Bio presidency in 2018 the State House ordered the SLPP police to forcefully remove ten legitimately elected APC (All People’s Congress) party parliamentarians from the House, leaving many of the APC MPs ambushed to sustain serious beatings and injuries. And the 10 APC MPs were quickly replaced by 10 ruling SLPP party officials who were defeated in the 2018 general elections. 

But in July 2022, a band of thugs, believed to be supporters of Bio’s SLPP, entered the House of Parliament and began stoning opposition MPs, causing some to sustain injuries, while one APC MP was left unconscious, Cocorioko reported. 
On August 9, the Sierra Leone Telegraph, another independent news outlet, reported “allegations of misappropriation of almost One Hundred Thousand Pounds by Sierra Leone’s ministry of finance to fund the president’s latest holiday abroad – with the country in economic turmoil”.