On August 8, 9, and 10, 2022, Sierra Leone witnessed violent protests that erupted in various parts of the country, disturbing the peace and stability of the state. In response to these incidents, President Julius Maada Bio appointed a Special Investigation Committee (SIC) on August 24, 2022, to investigate the organizers, planners, and funders of the protests, identify the root causes, and make recommendations to prevent similar incidents from occurring again.
Download: The Special Investigation Report
The SIC, comprised of heads of government institutions and professional bodies, conducted meetings in various locations across Sierra Leone, including Lungi, Port Loko, Lunsar, Kamakewie, Makeni, Binkolo, Magburaka, and the Western Area, as well as in selected locations where the protests did not take place, such as Kono, Kenema, and Bo. The Committee gathered empirical evidence by meeting with various entities and persons of interest and asking questions related to the events.
Based on their investigation, the SIC said it found that although there were complaints of youth unemployment, marginalization, substance abuse, economic hardship, and food insecurity, these were not a justification for the level of violence witnessed during the protests. Instead, the evidence indicated that rogue politicians exploited these issues for their political advantage, and social media was flooded with hate messages and tribal bigotry propagated by one Will Kamara, alias Adebayor, and his cohorts under the umbrella of the People’s Power in Politics (PPP).
The committee, therefore, said it concluded that the August 8th-10th, 2022 incidents were not solely attributed to socio-economic problems in Sierra Leone but were rather an insurrection against the central government, fueled by political vendetta expressed on social media and other platforms.
“The insurrection was well-planned, financed, well-orchestrated, timed and geared towards destroying public property and undermining the peace and stability of the state by removing the legitimate and democratically elected President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Brig. (Rtd) Dr Julius Maada Bio, from political power. This was exemplified in words like “Maada Bio must go!”. Additionally, in Lungi in particular, the Committee found out that protesters attempted to enter the airport (critical national infrastructure) to dig out the runway to prevent the President from returning home from his overseas travel” the report continued.
The SIC said it further discovered that while there was no evidence of support from the leadership of the main opposition party, All People’s Congress (APC), at the national level, the ringleaders of the insurrection were active members of the APC at the subnational level. In Lungi, Port Loko, Kamakwei, and Makeni, individuals were identified who were involved in planning and executing the incidents, providing PPP T-shirts, placards, water, and food to protesters. Some senior members of the APC were also seen publicly associating with the rioters who were arrested and detained, and even providing free legal services for them, implying tacit support for the insurrection, according to the committee’s findings.
The SIC also said it found that the security sector was relatively prepared but not proactive enough to prevent the incidents. Factors such as command and control challenges within the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) and the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) during the period of the incidents, inadequate intelligence, and limited resources, including vehicles, communication equipment, and riot gear, posed challenges for the security sector in effectively responding to the threats facing the nation at that time.
Additionally, the SIC said it identified that the authority of traditional leaders had been eroded in many communities across Sierra Leone, with complaints of a disconnect between them and the central government, leaving room for politicians to manipulate their subjects and undermine their authority.
The report ended by making recommendations to prevent a recurrence of such incidents which include upscaling the Police professionally and in other aspects, judicial reforms, supporting the media, looking into youth unemployment and support to various other sectors.