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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 25th August 2022

Why Sierra Leone's protests may spread

Blue Lines

Protests against escalating food and fuel costs in Sierra Leone last week which left more than 16 protestors and four police officers dead have rocked the government of President Julius Maada Bio, but they follow a pattern of growing anger on the streets across the continent. Maada Bio, who is running for re-election next year, accused the opposition of trying to overthrow the government. His banning of protests and curfew did little to quieten the mood; nor have higher interest rates slowed inflation, which hit 28% in July.

Financial pressures on national treasuries as debt service payments rise and national currencies weaken leave governments with little space for manoeuvre. Strikes and other protests are mounting in Africa's two biggest economies: Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari is preparing to leave power next year after national elections; South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa aims for another five-year term but has to win party elections in December. Both leaders are struggling to finance hefty consumer subsidies as they try to contain popular anger.

Over the past year activists have hit the streets Tunisia, Ghana, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire and Sudan. Few governments have responded effectively and their grip on power is threatened: whether the military junta in Khartoum or the authoritarian regime in Tunis, or the multi-party democracies in Abidjan, Accra and Dakar.