Freetown, Sierra Leone. September 11, 2023.
Freetown witnessed an uncharacteristic silence on Monday morning as numerous businesses, ranging from schools and markets to banks, chose to remain closed. This move, presumably in anticipation of possible unrest, came in response to a two-day protest planned for 11th and 12th September 2023.
According to observations from Sierraloaded, the usually bustling streets of Freetown showcased an eerie emptiness. Only a handful of residents ventured out, and just a few vehicles navigated the city roads. Major commercial entities, including Rokel Commercial Bank, Orange, and Africell, located in the Central Business District, kept their shutters down.
When our reporters visited Ansarul Islamic Senior Secondary School, Guard Street, Adjacent Abacha Street, there was only 1% of the school’s pupils present in class.
Since last week, there have been rumors of protests over the rising cost of living, fuel prices, and discontent regarding the June 24 presidential elections. The call for this strike proliferated mainly through messages on social media platforms, with WhatsApp being a primary medium. Investigations have linked these messages to Adebayo, a Sierra Leonean based in Holland and the leader of the People’s Power in Politics (PPP) group.
Attempting to allay fears and ensure continuity in governance, Chief Minister David Moinina Sengeh urged citizens on Sunday to refrain from joining the protest. He emphasized that all government offices would operate normally and ensured regular business activities would proceed without interruptions across the country.
he opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party had also denied involvement in the planned demonstrations, asking its supporters to stay away from it. Similarly, Sierra Leone police has said the protest is ‘illegal’ noting that there was no security clearance granted according to the law.
“We (the police) have not received any application for a demonstration as of yet and all the news about it has been on social media,” Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Brima Kamara said in an interview over the weekend.
He said the police will implement a two-track approach which is first, to warn people not to participate in it and second, is for the police to restore normalcy which is to arrest anyone that come out to protest.
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