Sierra Leone. Curfew decreed in capital Freetown amid violent anti-government protests

The protests sometimes turned violent. Graphic images and videos of beaten and seriously injured protesters and some members of the security forces could be seen on social media. Security forces were also seen shooting at citizens.

CNN verified that the videos were filmed in Sierra Leone multiple times on Wednesday.

Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh on Wednesday declared a nationwide curfew starting at 3:00 p.m. local time (11:00 a.m. ET) while President Julius Maada Bio is out of the country.

CNN has not yet been able to verify the number of people injured or killed during the protests. During a televised address announcing the curfew, Jalloh referred to the protesters and the loss of life without giving further details.

“These unscrupulous individuals have engaged in violent and unauthorized protests that have resulted in the deaths of innocent Sierra Leoneans, including security personnel,” the vice president said.

In a tweet, the United States Embassy in Freetown called for “calm and restraint on all sides”.

“It’s not the right way to do it”

Morris Marah, a Freetown entrepreneur, told CNN the protests had been simmering for a few days.

“Incipient groups have been gathering since August 8, but it has escalated and got even worse today. More people have joined in large numbers and there have been clashes with police and there was violence on both sides. Some people lost their lives, but I don’t know the count,” Marah told CNN in a phone call from Freetown.

“The economic situation in the country is really bad, the government says it’s due to Ukraine and the coronavirus crisis but so far youth unemployment is very high. There are a lot of disgruntled young people in the country,” he continued. “There has recently been a sharp spike in the prices of fuel, products and raw materials. The president says he has no quick fixes but, as an entrepreneur, things were difficult before Ukraine and the coronavirus crisis.”

“These protests are not supported by everyone in the country. It doesn’t matter how difficult things are. It’s not the right way to go,” Marah added.

A witness, who asked not to be named for fear of government reprisals, said: “The protests started this morning but have been building since last week.”

“People are protesting inflation, hyperinflation and the cost of living. The police are too aggressive in dealing with the issues and it’s gotten to the point where people have their backs against the wall,” he said. he adds.

Earlier, internet monitor NetBlocks reported that the country was experiencing a nationwide disruption in internet service from multiple providers.

“Confirmed: Real-time network data shows #SierraLeone is in the midst of a near total internet shutdown amid anti-government protests in #Freetown; measurements indicate nationwide connectivity at 5% of mainstream levels,” NetBlocks said in a tweet.

CNN’s Arnaud Siad also contributed to this report.




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