At least 26 killed in Sierra Leone protests over food prices

At least 26 killed in Sierra Leone protests over food prices

During an anti-government protest on Wednesday, police officers patrolled the streets of Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Two dozen people have been killed due to protests between security forces and fuel over rising food and fuel prices, and the government has imposed a nationwide curfew.

The country s authorities said on Friday that the demonstrations against rising prices in the West African nation of Sierra Leone turned deadly this week, as long-simmering economic grievances exacerbated by the global food crisis, which has resulted in street clashes. Hundreds of street vendors who staged peaceful gatherings against the rising cost of living were joined on Wednesday by hundreds of political protesters who gathered outside the police and demanded the president s resignation over the government's failure to confront rising fuel and food prices. According to a police statement, at least four police officers were killed, and an unknown number of protesters also died in clashes, according to Sierra Leone s information minister and multiple news reports.

The protests in the West African nation of eight million people underscored the rising inflation, the impact of the war in Ukraine and the aftermath of the coronaviruses have had cascading effects on social stability across the world. Several months of protests in Sri Lanka caused President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down last month due to economic hardship and fuel and food shortages. Countries like Ghana, where the country's inflation rate reached its highest level in nearly two decades last month, and Ecuador have also been roiled by protests. The effects of the latest food crisis have been piled onto older challenges in some of the world's poorest countries like Sierra Leone, particularly after the outbreaks of Ebola and the coronaviruses.

Wednesday was the tipping point of something that had been going on for months, said N jai, a professor of environmental science at the University of Sierra Leon's Fourah Bay College. It brought together groups that are completely different, but they were united by economic difficulties. As tensions rose on Wednesday, protesters threw stones at police vehicles, lit fires on the streets and beat police officers with sticks and stones. Security forces used live ammunition against them, and the internet was shut down briefly. One police officer was killed in Freetown and three others died in two towns in the country s northeast, according to a police statement. More than 100 protesters were arrested and several police stations were burnt down. Sierra Leone had enjoyed relative stability since it emerged from a civil war between 1991 and 2002 that left at least 70,000 people dead and 2.6 million displaced, according to the United Nations. Despite its extensive mineral resources, it remains one of the poorest countries in the world. More than half of Sierra Leone's eight million people suffer from chronic hunger, and more than half of its population lives below the poverty line, according to the World Food Program.

According to a leak by Politico, Sierra Leone is one of 60 countries identified by the United Nations as struggling to afford food imports. Food accounts for about a third of all the merchandise imports in Sierra Leone. President Julius Maada Bio, who was in London and returned to Sierra Leone on Wednesday, took to Twitter and urged all Sierra Leonans to be calm. He was quoted by the BBC as calling for unrest terrorism at the highest level. The United Nations, the European Union and the United States have issued pleas for calm this week.