Protest rights infringed in Sierra Leone

Peaceful Assembly

Disturbances occurred during independence day commemorations in April and the authorities were accused of politicised policing. While there are constitutional protections for all citizens of Sierra Leone, members of an opposition party were arrested, while a large gathering of ruling party supporters went ahead unimpeded. On 27th April, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) were celebrating their 65th anniversary when police fired tear gas and shots at the party's offices and arrested several of its members for taking part in an unlawful procession. According to police reports, the SLPP march resulted in disorderly behavior and malicious damage of properties worth millions of Leones. Meanwhile, local media reported that on the same day, the ruling All People's Congress (APC) party members held their national party conference involving thousands of participants, including President Ernest Bai Koroma, with no detentions or disturbances. In the weeks since, clashes between rival political parties have resulted in police shootings and the use of tear gas; several people have been arrested and charged with offences related to public disturbance and destruction of property. Violent attacks have also marred political campaigning ahead of by elections. On the 12th of May, the office of the President issued a  statement banning all protests outside 'the precincts of state house'. Local rights advocates claimed that this arbitrary restriction on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly was a response to growing pressure from a civil society coalition pushing for access to clean and safe drinking water. 

In a separate development, on 19th May the Ministry of Internal Affairs  enforced a law banning motorcycle riders known as ‘Okada’ from carrying their activities in the streets of the Central Business District (CBD) to avoid traffic jams. Many of the ‘Okada’ riders responded with a sit down strike and took to the streets to vent their anger.