Protests against the rising cost of living have increased in the last few weeks. Various regions globally have taken it upon themselves to vocalise their grievances on the inflation of food and petrol, such as the Sri Lankan protests five months ago and the recent fatal Themisa demonstrations in South Africa that happened earlier this month.
Protests in Sierra Leone's capital city Freetown began on Wednesday, 10 August. By the evening, Sierra Leone's youth minister Mohamed Orman Bangura confirmed the tally of dead police officers to be eight, six men and two women. In line with hospital reports, 21 demonstrators died in various areas of the country. Thirteen succumbed to gunshot wounds in Freetown and eight in Kamakwie and Makeni towns.
The response from the state, however, was less than desired. As a result, vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh imposed a curfew on Wednesday, which went into effect from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. local time the following day to prevent more violence.
After a quiet Thursday, protests picked up again on Friday in Freetown, where police shot live bullets at civilians. However, injuries from this protest are presently unclear. Among the complaints about soaring costs, protesters also called for the country's president Julius Maada Bio to step down.
Minister Bangura referred to the protests as "an act of terrorism." "Those are not protesters," he said, "There's a difference between protest and riot and acts of terrorism. Protesting is different from acting as a terrorist...going against the state, killing young police officers."
The anti-government protests are a continuation of the peaceful demonstrations enacted by hundreds of women in Freetown on 5 July, where consumers stayed away from the commercial district as shops and markets closed in support of the 'black Monday' movement. However, the protest against the government's economic strategy, which they claim exacerbated the effects of the global economic downturn and the rising cost of living nationwide, turned deadly.
A police statement claimed that about four law enforcement officers had died.
Despite the peaceful nature of the protest, several women were arrested for participating. Among those taken into custody was the leader of the Unity Party – Dr. Femi Claudius Cole, and the National Grand Coalition party Chairman – Dr. Dennis Bright. The prominent political leaders were refused bail and accused of inciting illegal protests.
In a televised address, President Bio offered his condolences to the families of the slain. However, the address emphasised how the law would punish those responsible for the death of the police officers. The number of how many more civilians who died has not yet been revealed.