|08FREETOWN203||2008-04-29 17:20:00||UNCLASSIFIED||Embassy Freetown|
1. On April 29, 2008, the Ambassador chaired Embassy
Freetown's Emergency Action Committee (EAC) to review the
security situation surrounding the rising food and fuel
prices in Sierra Leone and the affect on the population. The
potential for unrest is compounded by political tensions
preparatory to the scheduled July local elections. EAC
participants included the AMB, DCM, MGT, USAID, RSO, ARSO,
CONS, POL, PAO, DLO, and the CLO.
2. The EAC members reviewed the current situation of rising
food and fuel prices. To date, there have been no known
incidents related to the increase of cost for these two
commodities. The Ambassador reports that during the April
28th Independence Day comments, President Koroma expressed
his hope that such incidents would not occur in Sierra Leone.
As reported reftel, Sierra Leoneans have been directly
affected by the escalation in prices, but have remained calm.
The Government of Sierra Leone (GOSL) has routinely updated
the civilian population on the current conditions and
continues to emphasize that this dilemma is not exclusive to
Sierra Leone, but is a global problem. This sensitization by
the GOSL, thus far, has proven to be effective in suppressing
public panic and unrest.
3. The RSO also briefed EAC members on the current security
environment preparatory to the planned July 5 local
elections. Although public reaction has been calm regarding
the price increases for food and fuel items, political
tensions have provoked skirmishes. The RSO reported that
since February 12, 2008 there have been 12 incidents of
political intolerance reported throughout Sierra Leone.
These incidents were short-lived and isolated, but could
foreshadow a contentious local election. In addition,
tensions such as those arising from the recent incident in
Kono (ref A) highlight the need to be alert. Rising prices
and the onset of the rainy season are likely to bring about
an upswing on petty crime as well.
4. The RSO also briefed the EAC on the Embassy emergency
preparedness plans. All present agreed that the current
security posture is adequate under the existing conditions.
The Consular Officer also noted that a new warden alert
system designed to disseminate information rapidly via cell
phone SMS (text message) will be tested in the next few days.
5. Post will continue to closely monitor these situations.