World in View: Sierra Leone protests

September 25, 2022

From the September-October 2022 issue of News & Letters

For a week, army convoys patrolled the streets of Freetown, Sierra Leone, after mass protests on Aug. 10 escalated, with police firing live bullets into the crowds of mostly young people in three different parts of the capital city, while either protesters or provocateurs burned tires and set buildings ablaze.

“I think people are shocked. It’s not the country we know. Sierra Leone is a peaceful place,” said 19-year-old protester Suleiman Turay.

In the midst of snatch-and-grab arrests and as detainees face legal limbo, a politically compromised investigation was criticized when it released a “Wanted” poster that included a young man holding a gun who turned out to be a long-deceased Nigerian rap artist.

Through the summer, people in Sierra Leone suffered a 28% general inflation rate, as high as 50% for food commodities. Decades of government neglect have left Freetown without an electrical grid, and its pipe system to deliver clean water is in disrepair, so that the widespread use of dug wells has led to a prevalence of typhoid.

A local adage, invoked by sympathizer Joshua Lezy in a comment published by the Sierra Leone Telegraph, states: “A hungry man is an angry man.”

Yet the government characterizes the Aug. 10 protest as terrorism and an insurrection attempt by the main opposition party.

—Buddy Bell

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