Clashes in Sierra Leone: “No One Thought It Would Happen Now”

Soukaina Sghir
Soukaina Sghir
2 Min Read
Sierra Leone

A precarious calm prevails in Sierra Leone after the violent incidents on Sunday. Unidentified assailants attacked a barracks and an ammunition depot in Freetown, also releasing prisoners from several detention centers. Street battles erupted in the capital, but the authorities claimed to have gained control.

The military reported that the violence resulted in about twenty deaths, including 13 soldiers. The country has experienced several instances of unrest in recent years, but this one occurs in a surprising context.

From a prison mutiny in 2020 to riots in 2022 and an attempted coup in July, Sierra Leone regularly witnesses upheavals. However, Sunday’s violence caught many off guard, considering the de-escalation context following the disputed elections last summer, as explained by political analyst Idriss Mamoud Tarawallie.

“No one thought it would happen now. There were electoral tensions. The credibility of the election was questioned, and the opposition refused to be part of the government. However, the two sides had just reached an agreement. So, it’s surprising that this happens when the opposition has returned to Parliament and municipal councils. The country believed there was a path to bring the two rivals closer. It gave hope.”

This hope could now be dampened, warns a professor of political science. “Political dialogue is in danger. However, I was reassured by the president’s speech. His best in 6-7 years. It was concise, and precise, without launching accusations. In the past, he labeled opponents as terrorists and coup plotters. On Sunday, he didn’t. It’s as if the presidency no longer has as aggressive a stance toward the opposition as before. Therefore, the political process could continue. Nevertheless, much will depend on the coming days. If opposition figures are arrested, political dialogue will be in jeopardy.”

Soukaina Sghir

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