Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio arrives at the European Council building in Brussels on February 17, 2022 for an EU Africa summit. JOHN THYS FREETOWN - Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio said this week's anti-government protests, which resulted in the deaths of six police officers and 21 civilians, were an attempt to overthrow the government.
On Wednesday, police officers used tear gas and in some cases guns to disperse large crowds of protesters throwing rocks and burning tyres in the capital Freetown and several towns in the opposition's northern heartland.
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This was not a protest against the high cost of living caused by the ongoing global economic crisis, Maada Bio said in an address to the nation.
He said that the government would investigate all deaths because of the chants of the insurrectionists for a violent overthrow of the democratically elected government.
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Several residents told Reuters that the protests were driven by frustration with the worsening economic situation and the failure of the government to cushion the impact of rising prices.
In June, inflation rose to nearly 28 percent, putting pressure on the majority of Sierra Leone's population of 8 million who live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.
The price of fuel goes up as well. The price of rice is always going up. Solomon Forna, a 42-year-old driver in east Freetown, said they "can't live the way we did only a few years ago."
He said he heard some noise in his neighbourhood on Wednesday and joined in with the crowds, shouting that Maada Bio must go until the police came.
Unrest in Sierra Leone is highly unusual, especially in the West African country of Freetown.
The countries around the world are seeing protests over economic hardship, due to the disruption to global supply chains and the knock-on effects of Russia war in Ukraine, which has pushed prices of energy, commodities and basic items higher.