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Deadly protests over rising cost of living erupted across country, leaving two dozen dead; President Bio accused political opposition of insurrection. Protests over rising inflation and fuel crisis 10 Aug broke out in capital Freetown and elsewhere, with some protesters demanding Bio’s resignation; demonstrations turned violent as protesters clashed with security forces, reportedly leaving six police officers and at least 21 civilians dead in capital Freetown, Kamakwie town and Makeni city. In response, govt same day announced nationwide curfew and 10-11 August cut off internet access. Bio 12 Aug claimed deadly protests were orchestrated by political opposition attempting to overthrow his govt.
Deadly clashes erupted between protesters and security forces in north, while doctors went on strike amid COVID-19 pandemic. Security forces 18 July opened fire on protesters who attacked local offices of President Bio’s political party in northern Makeni city, Bombali district, leaving at least four killed and ten wounded; hundreds had gathered to block relocation of power generator to another city, fearing loss of electricity supply. Govt immediately imposed curfew in Makeni. In statement published 21 July, MPs from Bombali district condemned violence and demanded investigation into “use of excessive and disproportionate lethal force by police and military personnel”. Bishop of Makeni diocese 26 July called for calm and “immediate, independent and transparent investigation” into recent violence. Amid escalating tensions between health workers and govt over alleged misuse of COVID-19 funds, doctors 2 July went on strike to protest unpaid hazard allowance and lack of protective equipment, suspending care of coronavirus patients; 7 July threatened to suspend care for all patients if govt failed to meet their demands. Govt 22 July reopened air borders for commercial flights, closed since March amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid COVID-19 restrictions, riots erupted early May leaving at least three dead and fuelling political tensions. Riot erupted 6 May over COVID-19 restrictions in town of Tombo outside Freetown, leaving at least two protesters and one police officer dead. President Bio in televised address 8 May accused opposition party All People’s Congress (APC) of inciting violence and terrorism; APC next day denied claims. Court 22 May charged former minister of social welfare and APC politician Sylvia Blyden, arrested 1 May, with several offences, including seditious libel and publication of false news; Blyden released on bail 29 May.
Tensions continued following electoral violence. Court 8 Aug handed down prison sentences to 23 members of opposition party All People’s Congress (APC) for vandalism during 30 July clashes between APC supporters and those of ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), clashes triggered after electoral commission called off parliamentary by-election in Hamilton, about 20km from capital Freetown, citing irregularities. Authorities 15 Aug arrested APC politician Kashor Cole; 20 Aug arrested former mayor of capital Freetown Herbert Williams, for suspected involvement in Hamilton clashes. Electoral commission 25 Aug cancelled results of 24 Aug rerun in Hamilton after unidentified assailants ransacked polling station on election day. Amid reports of opposition victory, APC 26 Aug called cancellation “highest degree of provocation and injustice” and accused SLPP of orchestrating attack, pointing to complicity of police, who reportedly stood by during ransack and illegally arrested head of opposition’s polling staff.
High Court 31 May revoked parliamentary seats of ten MPs from main opposition party All People’s Congress (APC) for breaches of electoral law during March 2018 legislative elections. Same day police clashed with APC supporters protesting outside party offices in capital Freetown, firing tear gas into offices, injuring several people and arresting dozens, including senior party executives and former ministers.
At inauguration ceremony of President Bio in capital Freetown 12 May, attempts by Bio supporters to gain access to stadium led to police charge and stampede that left at least one person dead and about 90 injured.
Opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) candidate Julius Maada Bio won 31 March presidential run-off with 51.81% of vote and was sworn in as president 4 April. Samura Kamara, losing candidate of ruling All People’s Congress (APC), 4 April said vote was marred by fraud and vowed to appeal result. Police 5 April clashed with youths in Kenema district in east after fighting broke out between APC and SLPP supporters. High Court 23-25 April placed injunctions on sixteen elected APC MPs, following claims by SLPP that they had illegally received govt salaries throughout election campaigns. Police 25 April forcibly removed them from parliament’s opening session. President Bio late April sacked all country’s ambassadors.
Presidential run-off vote took place 31 March; results yet to be announced end-month. In first round 7 March, opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) candidate Julius Maada Bio took 43.3% of vote, while ruling party All People’s Congress (APC) candidate Samura Kamara took 42.7%. Electoral process largely peaceful but low-level violence and inflammatory tribal rhetoric increased ahead of second round. Skirmishes erupted in capital Freetown 7 March after SLPP spokesman said police had come to search party’s offices without warrant, at least one wounded. Joint military and police patrols deployed 13 March in Koquima town, Kono district in east after APC and SLPP supporters clashed 12 March, several reportedly wounded and eighteen arrested. APC and SLPP supporters reportedly also clashed 15 March in Bo town in south east, SLPP stronghold. Following legal request by APC member and allegations of electoral fraud, electoral commission postponed second round, initially planned for 27 March, by four days.
Ahead of 17 Nov polls, violence 27-28 Oct between supporters of rival parties in Kono district wounded at least 10.
Violent incidents highlighted potential for unrest ahead of 2012 polls. Internal Affairs Minister Musa Tarawallie’s security entourage 3 Sept shot at youths in Koidu, Kono district, allegedly on his orders. President Koroma condemned incident, ordered investigation. Police 9 Sept responded to violence in Bo between supporters of ruling All People’s Congress and opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) with tear gas, live ammunition; clashes occurred during visit of SLPP candidate Julius Maada Bio to area. Police 22 Sept announced ban on all political rallies; SLPP condemned ban. UNIPSIL Head of Mission Michael von der Schulenburg warned of risks surrounding elections, called for parties to reach agreement on legal framework, code of conduct. UNSC extended UNIPSIL mandate to Sept 2012.
Special Court for Sierra Leone wound down 26 Oct, upholding convictions of 3 former RUF leaders; trial of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor continues in The Hague.
Leaders of SLPP and APC parties 7 Apr agreed to end political violence and assist investigations into March clashes. Freetown now calm. Special Court for SL sentenced 3 former RUF commanders to 25-52 years for crimes during civil war, including forced marriage, mass rape by subordinates. Court received $6.5m additional donor support after raising concerns shortfalls would necessitate release of ex-Liberian President Taylor.
Simmering tensions between opposition SLPP and ruling APC members erupted in violence 12 March in southern Gendema during local council by-election in Pujehun district; sparked further clashes in Freetown 13, 14, 16 March; SLPP HQ partly destroyed, at least 17 injured, 3 women reportedly raped. Party radio stations accused of stoking violence closed down. President Koroma 17 March warned of crackdown on those responsible.
Special Court for Sierra Leone 25 Feb found guilty RUF leader Issa Sesay and 2 senior commanders of war crimes including mutilation, rape, use of child soldiers during 11 year war. Ruling APC party 3 Feb said unidentified army group issued coup threat over alleged govt corruption, favouritism towards president’s Limba ethnic group.
Charles Margai, leader of opposition PMDC, 22 Dec announced talks with leading SLPP suggesting coalition deal may follow.
5 police officers seriously injured 25 Nov in attempt to quell student rebellion in Freetown after several students arrested for harassment. 3 Guinean pirates killed by armed forces in foiled 27 Nov raid on South Korean ship off Yeliboya.
President Koroma 14 Oct announced inquiry into corruption in previous administration; opposition SLPP claim govt will use for “witch-hunt” against opposition.
Govt took steps to deliver 2007 election pledges: President Koroma 1 Sept declared assets under new anti-corruption law requirements for public officials; proposal for return of property seized under former President Strasser’s 1992-1996 rule announced 10 Sept.
Ruling APC party youths 13 Aug attacked opposition SLPP offices in further inter-party clashes; govt- called meeting between parties ended in violence including police attacks on journalists. President Koroma suspended Transport Minister Sesay 4 Aug after brother’s arrest following 21 July cocaine load seizure.
Local elections held 5 July; UN envoy Schulenburg said “generally fair”. UN Peacebuilding Fund 17 July approved $17m for social reform projects. Army deployed in Tongo ahead of elections after series of inter-party attacks. 58 arrested 13 July over large cocaine load intercepted from Venezuela; tightened drug bill approved 21 July.
Reports of violent ruling APC party attacks on SLPP supporters and property 19-20 June, Kono, ahead of 5 July local elections. Female candidates reportedly facing harassment; UN Envoy Schulenburg arrived late month to assess preparations. Govt 13 June announced formation of second corruption commission, to investigate former Kabbah administration. Hundreds arrested, 4 deported mid-month in drive to expel illegal immigrants, mostly Nigerian, blamed for trafficking crimes. UNSC 9 June removed 5 former fighters from sanctions list imposed during civil war.
UNIOSIL said UN-led inter-party meeting 13 May ahead of July local elections successful. But opposition SLPP vowed to “hit back” if provoked; electoral/party commissions said parties failing to comply with electoral rules. Govt shut down SLPP’s Unity Radio early May, citing technical issues. In ongoing SL civil war trials (see also Liberia), ex-SL President Kabbah testified in defence of rebel RUF leader Sesay; jail terms of convicted militia leaders that fought for CDF doubled 28 May.
300 youths clashed with police, military in Kano late Apr over ownership of sand stock allegedly promised by ruling APC. Police 11 Apr vowed to curb lawlessness, citing rise since Feb. UNDP announced 3-year $80m capacity building program for SL govt.
Low turnout reported at 29 March by-elections for 4 seats vacated by appointment of ruling All People’s Congress (APC) parliamentarians to cabinet. Regional chairs of APC, opposition parties 6 March demanded deferral of July local elections until boundary concerns addressed. Anti-Corruption Commission arrested 13 officials 6 March. National army began downsizing from 10,000 to 8,500 to increase efficiency; pledged 850 troops to future UN peacekeeping missions.
UNSG Ban Ki-moon 6 Feb set out plan for UNIOSIL drawdown: initial 20% reduction of 62 posts to be completed 31 March before full transition to smaller integrated political office by Sept 2008. Electoral commission 13 Feb blacklisted 477 presiding officers for malpractices at Aug 2007 polls. Move comes ahead of 29 March by-elections for 4 seats vacated by appointment of ruling All People’s Congress parliamentarians to cabinet posts; lead opposition SL People’s Party threatened boycott. UK 10 Feb announced resumption of aid to SL after suspension in run-up to 2007 elections.
People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) claimed pre-election alliance agreement with President Ernest Bai Koroma’s All People’s Congress (APC) not being respected. Clashes between alleged supporters of APC and ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party in Port Loko resulted in 4 deaths and 11 houses burned 14 Jan. Port Loko District land ownership dispute 17 Jan led to burning of 10 houses.
Youths clashed with police in protest at local diamond mining practices in eastern town of Koidu, 13 December: residents claimed 4 killed. President Koroma urged investigation into former government leaders; part of anti-corruption drive. Government agreed 3-year cooperative framework with UN Peacebuilding Commission, 12 December. UNIOSIL’s mandate extended 21 December for 9 months to help prepare for June 2008 elections.
President Ernest Koroma inaugurated 15 November following September election victory, completing first democratic transition since civil war’s end 2002. Koroma announced “zero-tolerance” for corruption; leaked internal government report documented widespread graft under previous administration. Former Revolutionary United Front spokesman Michael Omrie Golley, in custody since January 2006 on coup attempt charges, released due to insufficient evidence 1 November.
President Koroma addressed new parliament, 5 October; pledged to implement recommendations of Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Former leaders of pro- government Civil Defense Force, Moinina Fofana and Allieu Kondewa, sentenced by Special Court 9 October, to 6 and 8 years respectively; denounced by prosecution as too lenient.
Opposition All People’s Congress leader Ernest Bai Koroma sworn in as president 18 September, after winning 54.6% in run-off against Vice-President Solomon Berewa of ruling People’s Party. National Electoral Commission concluded poll valid, despite limited unrest and fraud allegations, successfully completing first elections since 2005 departure of UN peacekeepers. Koroma pledged security for ousted government.
Presidential and parliamentary elections 11 August, first since UN peacekeepers withdrew 2005, generally fair and free of violence. Main opposition APC won 59 of 112 seats, defeating ruling SLPP with 43. Run-off for presidency between VP Soloman Berewa SLPP and Ernest Koroma APC scheduled 8 September. Parties traded accusations of irregularities immediately following vote. Independent Media Commission accused APC-owned radio station of inflaming tensions by broadcasting allegations of vote-rigging. Tensions culminated with violent clashes between SLPP and APC supporters 26, 27 August; police restored order. President Kabbah threatened state of emergency 28 August; further clashes, attack on Koroma’s convoy, 31 August. Trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor by Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) delayed to January 2008. SCSL convicted 2 former leaders of CDF militia 1 August.
Police reported upward trend in campaign violence before 11 August presidential and parliamentary election; announced tougher measures, but admitted insufficient resources. 10 July campaign start marred by several incidents. PMDC accused SLPP supporters of attacking its Freetown offices 10 July, denied by SLPP. UN’s Sierra Leone Peace Building Fund approved 4 new projects 12 July targeting judicial sector, National Election Commission, armed forces and security sector. Former Liberian President Charles Taylor appeared in The Hague before Special Court for first time 3 July. UK agreed to imprison him if found guilty. Special Court announced first sentences 19 July: 3 rebel leaders convicted of using child soldiers, enslavement, rape and murder; sentenced to 45-50 years each.
Trial of Former Liberian President Charles Taylor by Special Court of Sierra Leone (SCSL) opened 4 June in the Hague. Taylor, charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, boycotted proceedings; failed to appear again 25 June, citing lack of funds for adequate defence team. Judge ordered SCSL to bolster Taylor’s team by 31 July. Court delivered first verdicts 20 June against 3 Armed Forces Revolutionary Council militia leaders guilty on 11 counts of war crimes, including first legal condemnation of recruitment and use of child soldiers. Following mediation by Liberian President Johnson-Sirleaf, Guinean troops began to withdraw from disputed Yenga region 11 June ending 7-year presence. Parliament dissolved 25 June in preparation for postponed 11 August parliamentary and presidential elections.
MP and speaker, Justice Edmond Cowan, announced parliament to be dissolved on 25 June ahead of 28 July parliamentary and presidential elections. Elections groups warned limited time between dissolution and polls would cause prejudice, pose logistical difficulties. Earlier dissolution urged.
Voter registration for July presidential and general elections closed 18 March. Electoral Commission announced 72% of electorate registered in 3-week period and rejected extension request by politicians and civil society groups who claimed over 50% not registered due to logistical problems, violence and poor pay for registrars. First-ever UN Peacebuilding Commission mission began talks 22 March with President Kabbah and senior officials; UN Peacebuilding Fund to extend $35 million. Resentment rose against Special Court for Sierra Leone for indicting Hinga Norman, ex-defence minister, following his (natural) death 22 February.
Government appointed broad-based 35 member panel to update constitution. Referendum on new draft to take place with legislative and presidential elections 28 July 2007. President Kabbah raised concern over threat to regional stability posed by violent unrest in Guinea. Ex-defence minister Hinga Norman died 22 February, weeks before UN Special Court to issue verdict on alleged war crimes.
Internal Affairs Minister Pascal Egbenda warned SL police not to favour any political party ahead of or during presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007. Special Court for Sierra Leone postponed Charles Taylor trial to 4 June from 2 April to give defense more time to prepare.
UNSG Annan’s 28 November report raised concern over prospect for peaceful 2007 elections. Report highlights culture of political intolerance and failure of main parties to articulate clear political platform. Parties accused ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) of denying opposition fair election. UN Peacebuilding Commission announced plans to deliver initial contribution of $25 million by January 2007 to ensure SL begins tackling short-term priorities for youth unemployment plus justice and security sector reforms. UNSC unanimously extended mandate of United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) for 1 year to July 2007 elections. 90% of SL debt, worth about $1.6bn, to be cancelled in series of deals with creditors including World Bank.
Deadline for repatriation of 25,000 Liberian refugees from SL set for 30 June 2007. Rumours of coup plot sparked by arrest of soldier and former RUF fighter Abdul Sesay with arms cache 7 November and subsequent escape.
Médecins sans frontières (MSF) reported public health has not improved since 2001 despite relative stability.
UNSG Annan expressed concern over delays in trial of former Revolutionary United Front spokesman, Omrey Golley. Government began planning talks to resolve dispute with Guinea over border town of Yenga.
President Kabbah set July 2007 date for next presidential elections. Joint security patrols began along Liberian border, closed since 2003.
Former Liberian president Taylor appeared before Special Court of SL in The Hague; lawyers said defence team unlikely to be ready before July 2007. World Bank, DFID and African Development Bank signed Improved Governance and Accountability Pact with government to ensure fair elections in 2007 and reduce corruption and graft.
Former Liberian President Taylor transferred to The Hague to face war crimes charges before Sierra Leone Special Court, after UK agreed 15 June to house him if convicted. Political parties began campaigning for 2007 polls; opposition leader Margai stoned by supporters of ruling SLPP party in visit to Kono. New UN peacebuilding commission announced redevelopment as working group subject.
Transfer of former Liberian President Taylor to The Hague on hold as no country willing to house him if convicted. Justice George Gelaga King from Sierra Leone elected to succeed Justice Fernando as president of Special Court. Presidential candidates began to prepare for 2007 elections; police announced impartiality.
Former Liberian President Taylor appeared in Special Court 3 April, pleaded not guilty to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for role in SL civil war. UN Security Council considered resolution to transfer trial to The Hague for security reasons, but question remained as to where Taylor might be accommodated afterwards; Taylor’s defence lawyer filed motion trial be held in SL. Peoples Movement for Democratic Change party, headed by Charles Margai, officially registered 11 April.
Special Court asked International Criminal Court in Hague to host trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to avoid regional instability. Liberia handed Taylor to Special Court following extradition from Nigeria. Trial for Revolutionary United Front spokesman Omrie Golley and 2 co-accused continued despite reports all needing medical attention. Charles Margai, Golley’s lawyer, appeared before Supreme Court in relation to harassment of Vice President Berewa in Bo, December 2005.
Trial continued for former leader of Civil Defence Forces militia Samuel Hinga Norman, indicted by UN Special Court for crimes against humanity during civil war: President Kabbah subpoenaed to testify. In local trial, former Revolutionary United Front rebel spokesman Omrie Golley and 2 co-defendants charged with treason boycotted proceedings alleging judge biased.
UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone began mandate 1 January to help consolidate peace and prepare for elections, after UNAMSIL departure. Former rebel Revolutionary United Front spokesman Omrie Golley arrested and charged with treason; case adjourned to 7 February.
UNAMSIL 5-year mission ended with departure of last peacekeepers 15 December. Opposition leader Charles Margai arrested 7 December on conspiracy charges in connection with November harassment of Vice President Berewa by Margai supporters. Situation remained tense amidst threats of violence from Margai supporters as hearing adjourned until 12 January.
Tensions escalated between Vice President Berewa and opposition leader Margai, threatening political turmoil. Margai arrested on charges of provoking instability after his supporters reportedly harassed Berewa 21 November, later released on bail. Violent protests after arrest; situation somewhat defused upon Margai’s release. Media censorship continued but journalist Paul Kamara released 30 November. Anticorruption Commissioner Val Collier sacked; considered blow to commission’s independence. UN Security Council authorised UNMIL to arrest Charles Taylor and transfer him to Sierra Leone Court if he returns to Liberia.
Situation improved with President Kabbah stating intention to repeal seditious libel law, used to silence media, and continuation of anti-corruption cases, including charges of trafficking in passports. Opposition leader Margai asked Kabbah to appoint Political Parties Commission, saying failure to do so impeding party registration. UN announced aid shortfall for special war crimes court threatening 2006 activities. UN called for establishment of human rights panel and program to monitor situation after UNAMSIL departure.