The Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) has launched a perception survey report called Sierra Poll, focusing on the causes of the anti-government protests on August 10 and how to manage or prevent the right to protest in the future.

The report presented on Thursday 1st of September 2022 at the IGR’s headquarters in Freetown, clearly states that Sierra Leoneans are deeply divided over the motivations for and meaning of the said protest.

It said a random sample of about one thousand and seven (1,007) people or respondents asked about their views and suggestions in ensuring that citizens are allowed to protest in public without restrictions in the future, thirty-nine percent (39%) of the respondents believe that police should give guidelines and route plans to protesters to ensure that citizens can go about their normal business alongside the protest, according to the report.

Thirty-four percent (34%) say the protesters should sign a commitment to peaceful demonstration and comply with protocols stated by the police.

Twenty-seven percent (27%) agreed that the Sierra Leone Police should consult stakeholders including political parties, and civil society when faced with requests for clearance and for the media to develop a protocol for protests or demonstrations.

Sierra Poll finds that an overwhelming majority of Sierra Leoneans (71%) agree or strongly agree that government should maintain security presence and restriction of movement at night as long as it increases safety and security.

On the aspect of the reasons for the protest, the report reveals that overall, thirty-six percent (36%) see the protest as genuine concern about the economic hardship and bad governance while at least four in every 10 Sierra Leoneans (40.5%) believe that citizens’ concern about the economic hardship was hijacked by opponents of the government, and 23.8% see the protest as a plan to overthrow the government or discredit the regime.
Civilians and police officers were killed during the protest, and police stations, government vehicles, and private and public properties were destroyed in especially Freetown.

The report stated that “overall, at least 4 in every 10 (43.5%) respondents blamed protesters for the destruction compared to only 1 in 5 who blamed the police and government (21.9% and 20.7%), while 13.6% blamed opposition politicians.”

The assumption of public protest and the 2023 elections is that there appears to be a recognition of public protest as an important part of Sierra Leone’s democratic culture according to the report.

The document says: “Overall, three in four (75%) Sierra Leoneans said that the police should grant the request of people who want to protest, with men (79.4%) more likely than women (70.6%) to say yes. However, Sierra Leoneans (74.5%) say in the remaining months leading to the next elections, public protest is not an effective way of communicating grievances and views on issues.”