Sierra Leone’s decision to deregulate the petroleum industry, as recommended by the International Monetary Fund, has been resisted by sections of the population including civil society organisations.
Last week, the Sierra Leone government removed a fuel subsidy and effectively increased fuel prices from LE 6,000 ($0.75) to LE 8,000 ($1) for petrol, diesel and kerosene.
The decision taken as president Julius Maada Bio marks 100 days in office led to the first public demonstration against his government’s policies.
Over the past decade, anti-government demonstrations have been systematically banned or violently dispersed in Sierra Leone.
On Tuesday, Freetown police arrested Edmond Abu, who heads a human and social rights organisation, as he led a small demonstration to protest rising fuel prices.
“We are interviewing the leader of the protesters for organizing an unauthorized demonstration,” Brima Kamara, a senior Freetown police official, told AFP.
Amnesty urges gov’t to restore right to demonstrate
Early this month, Amnesty International called out Bio’s government for failing to restore the right to demonstrate peacefully and to prosecute police officers responsible for the deaths of demonstrators under the previous regime.
“Over the past decade, anti-government demonstrations have been systematically banned or violently dispersed in Sierra Leone,” said Sabrina Mahtani, an Amnesty International analyst working in West Africa.
The human rights organization had called on the new authorities to seize the opportunity to “implement reforms that could help the police manage demonstrations effectively and without violence, and restore public confidence in the security forces”.
While in opposition, Bio’s party, SLPP, regularly accused the government of unduly restricting the right to demonstrate.
In neighbouring Guinea, demonstrations have also taken place since early July to protest against an increase in fuel prices.ALSO READ: Sierra Leone to probe corruption allegations against former govt