For a people who are routinely not allowed or permitted by the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) to stage peaceful protests against a sitting government in clear violation of their constitutional guarantee of peaceful assembly and protest, Monday’s protest action by the people against the ruling party (SLP) government headed by Julius Maada Bio stands to be the most successfully organised and executed in the history of the nation.

For Sierra Leone standard, the protest action was well organised as people mainly stayed home in solidarity with street vendors, shop owners and commercial transport entities .

The people say this is the new normal that they will no longer sit aside and watch any government headed by anyone misuse their trust by doing what they want instead of what the people want. Since they are always denied their constitutional right to peaceful assembly and protest, they say they will hit government where it hurts most, its purse, which strings are controlled by the people of Sierra Leone.

On Monday, business, including commercial vehicles and traders, was reduced to a standstill in the nation’s capital, Freetown, leaving thousands and thousands of people walking long stretches from all parts of the city to their various workplaces and other important destinations.

The call to shut down all businesses and keep off the streets by commercial vehicles was widely honoured as for the first time, kekehs, okadas and private taxis joined their bus and podapoda compatriots in a collective strike action aimed at sending a clear and strong message to the president and his ruling party that the people are not pleased with how things have turned out under their stewardship.

The Central Business District of Freetown was so empty that banks and other public and private sector, businesses that opened saw little to no activity. With young men using the empty city streets as football pitches, the day was very similar to a typical Sunday in Freetown.

Organisers of the day say the protest action is not necessarily only against the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) government, but, as a warning to any present and future leader to take the people serious by performing instead of depending on party, tribal or regional affiliation to win votes.

Tired of party after party making promises they always fail to keep, the people say the days of rhetoric are over as they are now demanding that anyone in public office seeking re-election and aspirants seeking public office and support through votes should know that this is now the new normal: PERFORM OR PERISH AT THE POLLS ON ELECTION DAY!

As a testament to how widespread the hardship that has gripped the country is the protest action was bipartisan, a unique event by Sierra Leonean standard

in a country where it is hard to find common ground for unity. This day should send a clear message to President Bio and his ruling party tha we the people of Sierra Leone representing all tribes, parties and regions are ready and waiting to kick him out of State House come election day No matter what he does or tries to do, be it the Proportional Representation system, creating new districts, the writing is on the wall na we bin say we want you, now we nor want you again. Na by force?” asked one of the protesting market women dressed in all black.

As women who sell on the streets we depend on daily sales to provide for us and our loved ones so to close down business even for a few hours is very difficult for us. But we had to sacrifice staying home for the day just to get this message out to President Bio that we are tired of how things are just getting

worse and worse on a daily basis. Since we were the ones that voted him into power, we are now saying that we have had enough of his regime and want him to peacefully exit State House next year,” added another street vendor.

As the people strolled to work Monday, the common topics of discussion were the women in black that were arrested by police officers across town and Femi Claudius Cole and Dr Denis Bright, who were arrested for allegedly calling or the protest, and for visiting Madam Cole at the CID headquarters, respectively, and the Proportional Representation Bill before parliament. The people called the SLP heartless and enemies of progress for arresting vulnerable women taking a stance the police should have been a part of as they are also experiencing the same under President Bio.

On the eve of every election cycle it is usually easy to guess when a party is either on its way out or into power. At the height of its popularity, the people say Ernest Bai Koroma’s regime could do no wrong. But with inflation rising and growth trajectory pointing downward, the people found a champion in Julius Maada Bio of the main opposition SLPP. Now, they say, the tables have turneded with Bio on the receiving end.

The main point of the protest is the rising cost of living with no apparent end in sight. The IMF is impressing on this government to raise prices to pay off the ore than $3 billion debt President Bio took mainly to pay salaries for his friends in the new ministries, departments and agencies he created for these people. The same is happening in Sri Lanka where the people are allowed to protest and demand their head of state to step down. But we are not allowed protest like people in other democracies,’ said one of the organisers. said although government is blaming the frequent rises in the price of petrol an the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, the organiser was quick to point out the action taken by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda who instead of raising the price of fuel opted to side with the people by implementing fuel subsidies to limit the global impact on them.

President Bio has filed up the cup he was being measured with the overflowing. He said Paopa Salone go betteh, but na lie,!. We are saying by thunder, by fire, president Bio must go go next year!’

But Bio made no speeches. He didn’t explain anything to us neither did any of his cabes miners. He is telling us that he does not really not owe an explanation for his actions and how they affectes fut voe are waiting for him. We are waiting for the campaign pests to stan become we plan to isters to him. We plan on disrupting any prone hikes to us during the compaign as they will be more lies. The police should be ready to arrest us in huge numbers we hope they have enough cells or jails as to hold all of us.
Papa wey nor respect ih pikin nor deserve respect said one of the ladies in black