At least four people, including a teenager, were killed and ten others injured when police and soldiers opened fire on protesters in northern Sierra Leone, a health official and witnesses said on Sunday.
Hundreds of people gathered on a rainy day in the town of Makeni on Saturday to try to block the movement of an electricity generator to another town, fearing it could endanger the region’s electricity supply , said five witnesses.
When the protesters started throwing stones, authorities opened fire, said Matthew Kanu, department head at Makeni University.
“They started with warning shots and people started running away … but after that when people kept throwing stones, they started shooting at them,” he said. .
The military and police are refusing to comment, for now.
In a statement on Saturday, the government said it was aware of a “potential loss of life,” without providing details. He declared that any attempt to undermine the public peace would be fought with “all the force of the law”.
The youngest of the dead was a 15-year-old schoolboy who died shortly after arriving at Makeni’s main hospital, the city’s medical director Mohamed Sheku said. Ten other people were admitted to hospital with gunshot wounds, four of whom were in critical condition overnight from Saturday to Sunday, he said.
“It was total chaos all day. We were afraid of being caught in the crossfire if we left,” Sheku told Reuters. “Many of the hospital staff have not come to work because they are afraid things will burn out again outside.”
Sierra Leone’s power generation capacity falls short of meeting the needs of its 7 million citizens. Prolonged power outages are common, even in the capital and urban areas, and are a source of frustration for the population.