Sierra Leone’s parliament descended into chaos on Wednesday, with a major scuffle between government and opposition MPs.
Lawmakers in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital and largest city, were debating the government’s plan to introduce a new proportional representation electoral system for the country when the violence began.
Footage posted online shows rival MPs, from the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the opposition All Peoples Congress (APC), jostling and throwing pieces of furniture.
The violence erupted at 6 a.m. ET, with Africa News reporting that police entered the chamber to separate warring factions and evict some suspected troublemakers.
Sierra Leone’s Electoral Commission has advised the country to move to a proportional voting system, ahead of local and parliamentary elections in 2023, although this will not impact presidential elections.
The move, which requires parliamentary approval, is backed by the government but fiercely opposed by opposition politicians who have called it unconstitutional.
Chernor Maju Bah, alias Chericoco, leader of the APC, called the proposal a “serious constitutional violation”, in an article for the Sierra Leone Telegraph.
He argued that it would “significantly reverse the gains we have made in strengthening democracy in post-war Sierra Leone” if implemented.
The country suffered an 11-year civil war from 1991 to 2002, which saw the UK-US-backed government take on a number of rebel groups.
Bah added, “Using the proportional representation system instead of the constituency system would be tantamount to taking away the right of the people to choose their representatives directly and to entrust that power to political parties.”
Julius Maada Bio, President of Sierra Leone, has launched a major initiative to improve education in the country, giving it almost a quarter of the national budget in 2022.
Speaking to a British newspaper The Guardianhe said: “We put all our resources, all our energy into education. We cannot develop without improving education. I see it as an existential issue.
“I had to walk barefoot to go to school, without even shoes on my feet. For me to reach this level of leadership, I think education played a very important role.”
According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the literacy rate for people aged 15 and over in Sierra Leone is only 43%.
Sierra Leone is one of 67 UN member states that still prohibit same-sex relations by law.
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