Public resistance to countrywide lockdown orders put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 has given rise to numerous protests and public displays of frustration, but in Sierra Leone these tensions have become much more violent, leaving more than a dozen people dead. Responding to the violence, President Julius Maada Bio delivered a stern national address affirming he had diverted security resources to capture and punish those involved in the riots.
Bio promised to prioritize investigations into corruption by his predecessor.
Various civil society groups in Sierra Leone viewed the speech as rather aggressive, and have called upon the government to more clearly spell out restrictions linked to pandemic management. Most troubling is that Bio accused the political opposition of deliberately funding and encouraging the demonstrations. Not only does this threaten national unity during the pandemic, but it also accentuates the recent arrests of former ministers of the APC opposition. In his campaign for the presidency in 2018, Bio promised to prioritize investigations into corruption by his predecessor, Ernest Bai Koroma.
Bio’s transition team uncovered evidence that top APC officials and Koroma had sold off profitable shares of the Sierra Rutile mining company at an artificially low value while also taking bribes from the company’s former CEO in exchange for mining licenses. Several high-ranking members of Komora’s cabinet were recommended for investigation, yet the names of the former defense minister, his wife, and minister of social welfare currently detained without due process were not on that list.