The violent protests that erupted in Makeni on July 19, 2020, have finally been quelled by the Sierra Leone Police, leaving the city in a state of tension and mourning. The unrest resulted in the deaths of six young people, serious injuries to several others, and numerous arrests. Many of those detained are currently held at the Mena Hills Police Station as authorities gather evidence to charge them with unlawful protest and riotous conduct.

As normalcy begins to return to Makeni, a city that now resembles a ghost town, young residents remain wary of venturing out. The police have been indiscriminately arresting individuals believed to have participated in the protest, causing widespread fear and hesitation among the youth.

Among those targeted for arrest is Pastor Franklyn Mustapha George, an Honorary Executive Member of the main opposition APC Party and Chairman of the APC Youth League in Makeni. Known for his past involvement in protests against the ruling SLPP government, Pastor George was instrumental in organizing the latest demonstrations.

Despite initially evading police capture, Pastor George was eventually apprehended near Makeni’s Clock Tower. He was reportedly beaten and tortured before managing to escape from detention amid a distraction caused by a noisy crowd at the police station. A manhunt is now underway to recapture him.

The protests began when residents noticed the impending removal of a standby generator, which provided electricity to the city, to be transferred to the Freetown International Airport in Lungi. Many young people, led by Pastor George, viewed this as a politically motivated act of deprivation and marginalization by the government.

Eyewitnesses recount Pastor George’s role in rallying the youth to resist the generator’s removal, leading to violent clashes with police. The confrontations escalated with both sides reportedly exchanging gunfire, resulting in the tragic deaths and injuries.

Superintendent Brima Kamara, Head of Police Media, stated that the police are still actively searching for the perpetrators of the unrest, including Pastor George. He emphasized the importance of their prosecution to deter future acts of political violence. The police have issued a notice offering a reward for information leading to Pastor George’s capture.

The incident underscores the deep political tensions in Makeni, a stronghold of the APC Party, and highlights the volatile relationship between the city’s youth and the ruling SLPP government.