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Simmering tensions in Sierra Leone have led to a popular
uprising partly driven by particularly high rise price rises (see:
Inflation in West Africa, June 2022). These
protests will be defused in the short term, but are indicative of
increased risk, and the government transition process remains
challenging ahead of the 2023 elections.
SIGNIFICANCE – ECONOMY AND DISSENT
On 10 August, security forces violently put down protests in the
capital Freetown and opposition areas in the north. Police stations
were burned and there were fatal shootings. The government views
the uprising as an attempt to overthrow President Maada Bio, and a
nationwide curfew has been declared for an indefinite period.
The protests were inspired by popular figures such as Adebayor
and Egerton Shabba1, whose social media broadcasts have
gained a large following in the context of tensions between the
ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the main
opposition All People’s Congress (APC), and cost of living
pressures. Consumer price inflation has increased from 16.7% at the
start of the year to 28.0% in June2.
During this period in which the inflation rate has almost
doubled. opposition leaders have been arrested in a crackdown on
dissent over issues such as the 2021 census (See: Sierra Leone’s new census figures favour
ruling party ahead of 2023 elections). Many people are also
unhappy that President Bio rarely engages with constituents and is
often absent from the country. He has been in the UK on a
‘private’ visit since 28 July, prompting adverse media
reports about how these trips are being funded given the state of
the economy at home.
OUTLOOK – TRANSITION
Elections in which Bio will be contesting for a second term are
scheduled to be held in June next year, and we are revising our
risk rating on the transfer of power from moderate to high due to:
(a) this week’s events, escalating the simmering tensions
described in previous briefings; see: Sierra Leone proposes new electoral law before
2023 polls, and (b) the absence of reform to clarify the legal
framework. Bio himself was quickly sworn in at a hotel just hours
after the electoral commission declared he had won the 2018
election. Now, the available version of the Public Elections Bill
that parliament passed last month still lacks a timeframe for
concluding post-election litigation, and the nature of a 2018
change in Supreme Court leadership further signifies gaps in
1. Footballer Emmanuel Adebayor and popular DJ Egerton
2. For food and non-alcoholic beverages, it is 28.9%,
according to the most recent official data.
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