Sierra Leone activist arrested during protest over fuel price hike

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Police in Sierra Leone on Tuesday arrested a campaigner and dispersed others who were protesting a hike in fuel prices.

Edmond Abu, who heads the Native Consortium and Research Center, a think-tank, was arrested on Tuesday in rainy Freetown as he led a small march against the government’s decision to remove a fuel subsidy. The action effectively increased fuel prices from LE 6,000 ($0.75) to LE 8,000 ($1) for petrol, diesel and kerosene.  The price hike was announced on July 13 as  is part of a wider budget released by the Bio administration.

The demonstrations are the first public protests made against new president Julius Maada Bio who marked his first 100 days in office earlier this week.

International human rights group quickly condemned Abu’s arrest as well as the police actions against the protesters.

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.

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