Police fire tear gas at Sierra Leone opposition after vote

One person was severely wounded after police surrounded the APC headquarters during a post-election news conference.

A woman walks past a polling station in Freetown, Sierra Leone
A woman walks past a polling station in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on June 15, 2023 [TJ Bade/AP Photo]

Police in Sierra Leone have fired tear gas at the main opposition party’s headquarters in the capital Freetown as voters await the results of a fiercely fought general election.

The opposition’s presidential candidate Samura Kamara of All People’s Congress (APC) said on Twitter that live bullets had been fired at his office inside the party headquarters on Sunday.

The Reuters news agency also reported that one person – a woman – was found severely wounded and without a pulse at the opposition party headquarters.

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, a prominent APC member bidding for a second term as Freetown mayor, tweeted photos from inside the building showing people taking cover on the floor.

“I am in the APC Party office and we are under fire,” she wrote.

In a statement, police said members of the APC had paraded through Freetown, “announcing to the public that they had won” the election.

They attracted “a huge crowd” of supporters outside the headquarters, who “started harassing passers-by”, the force said.

“When the situation became unbearable, the police had to fire tear gas canisters so as to disperse the crowd which was harassing people on the road,” it added.

Vote tallying got under way across the country earlier on Sunday, but results have not yet been announced.

Violent incidents reported

Voting during Saturday’s presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections was mostly peaceful.

But on Sunday, chief electoral commissioner Mohamed Konneh outlined a number of districts where he said polling staff had been attacked by members of the public.

Also on Sunday, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) of President Julius Maada Bio alleged in a statement that “top-ranking members” of the APC had attacked its polling agents.

On Saturday evening, senior members of the opposition party told the AFP news agency that violence had taken place near several polling centres in Freetown.

Sixty-six people were arrested Wednesday across Freetown, police said.

The APC has also alleged that its supporters were attacked while campaigning in rural parts of the country.

“The exchanges between the opposition and election officials are making many people in Sierra Leone nervous,” Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris said, reporting from Freetown.

“And the owners of shops and other businesses are watching for any sign of trouble.”

Many polling stations opened and closed late in Freetown on Saturday, with voting officially ending at 11:30pm (23:30 GMT), according to Konneh.

Twelve men and one woman were running for president, but incumbent Bio’s main challenger is Kamara of the APC. Bio narrowly beat Kamara in a run-off in 2018.

Presidential candidates must secure 55 percent of valid votes for a first round win.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies