Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio suspended a cabinet minister on Sunday for allegedly threatening to kill troublemakers, after a recent spate of violent incidents in the West African state.
The move comes after the president accused the political opposition of inciting the recent violence that has left over a dozen people dead, and which in some cases has been linked to coronavirus restrictions.
Bio’s office said in a statement that it had suspended Abu Abu Koroma — a minister for Sierra Leone’s northern province, an opposition stronghold — for “unacceptable conduct and public remarks”.
A video circulating on social media, which AFP was unable to independently verify, appears to show Koroma telling a crowd that rioters will be shot.
“We will kill you if death is what you prefer,” Koroma appears to say in the video, speaking in a mixture of Themne and Krio.
“Any youth who misbehaves, we will break your legs and go after your mother and father,” he appears to add.
On Saturday, Bio gave a televised address accusing members of the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party of being behind Sierra Leone’s recent violent flare-ups.
Eleven people died in one such incident last month, in an attempted jailbreak in the capital Freetown which occurred after an inmate tested positive for coronavirus.
The APC was not immediately available for comment.
Authorities in the former British colony have recorded 307 coronavirus cases to date, with 18 fatalities.
Bio — who briefly led a military junta more than two decades ago — took office in 2018 after a tumultuous election campaign which ended a decade-long spell in power by the APC.
Sierra Leone is one of the world’s poorest countries and is still recovering from the 1991-2002 civil war which claimed some 120,000 lives.