Prelate in Sierra Leone Condemns Unrest that Killed Five, Urges Focus on COVID-19 Fight

Bishop Natale Paganelli, Apostolic Administrator of Makeni Diocese in Sierra Leone.
Credit: Public Domain

The Apostolic Administrator of Makeni Diocese in Sierra Leone, Bishop Natale Paganelli, has condemned a recent attack in a town in the west African country that left at least five people dead and several others injured.

In a statement seen by ACI Africa, Bishop Paganelli calls for calm in the country and urges the people of God to focus on the fight against the coronavirus, which has been reported in nearly 2,000 people.

“As a Church, we condemn all forms of violence, which we consider self-destructive and counterproductive,” the Apostolic Administrator of Makeni Diocese said, and added, “Every human life is sacred and is of inestimable value in the sight of God, the creator.”

The member of the Xaverian Missionary Fathers appeals to everyone to “respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life” and to pursue the path of honest and constructive dialogue, mutual respect and fruitful reconciliation.

At least five people were killed in the town of Makeni in northern Sierra Leone in a riot that was sparked by the relocation of a power plant.

Local media in Sierra Leone reported that the West African nation had been planning to move the plant to the country’s international airport near the capital, Freetown.

Protesters attacked the offices of President Julius Maada Bio’s political party in Makeni, witnesses said, while police fired live rounds and tear gas, leaving at least five people dead and several injured in the wake of the attack.

In his Sunday, July 26 statement, Bishop Paganelli expresses sympathy with people who lost their loved ones in the attack and calls for “immediate, independent and transparent investigation to address the cause of the violence.”

“As a Diocese, we register our deepest and heartfelt sympathy and condolences to their grieving parents, family members and friends. May Almighty God grant them the comfort and consolation they desperately need at this troubling time,” the 63-year-old Bishop who has been at the helm of the Diocese since April 2012 says.

He further calls for the release of those who had been nabbed in connection with the attack to reduce tension and ease the bitterness and anger among the people who were already feeling aggrieved.

The Italian-born Prelate calls on everyone to preserve the peace, stability and cohesion of the country and to avoid divisive politics.

He reiterates Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s words in the second African synod document, Africae Munus, that, “reconciliation overcomes crisis, restores the dignity of individuals and opens up the path to development and lasting peace between peoples at every level.”

The mid-July incident is the latest COVID-19 related act of violence in the West African country after a reported prison attack that left several people dead and an attack on a police station by fishermen following contested restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.

After a case of COVID-19 was confirmed in a Prison located in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, riots broke out at the correctional facility resulting in the death of seven people.

In the western area of the country, fishermen attacked a police station and a health clinic after the number of boats allowed to go to the sea were reduced as part of the measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Bishop Paganelli has condemned both attacks, noting that the recent spate of violence in various parts of the country has dented “the long-standing image of Sierra Leone as a peaceful, hospitable, unified and reconciled country.”

“Something needs to be done and done urgently, he says in his July 26 statement, and adds, “We all have the responsibility to preserve the peace, stability and cohesion in our country by saying no to cheap, hateful and divisive politics.”

The Xaverian Missionary urges the people of God in Sierra Leone to focus their energy in fighting the pandemic saying, “This is not the time to lose our focus on the fight against our common enemy, COVID-19, and its devastating socio-economic effects on all of us.”

As of Monday, July 27, Sierra Leone had reported 1,783 COVID-19 cases. Earlier reports indicated that a significant percentage of people infected with the virus were health providers.

Earlier in the month, doctors who were treating COVID-19 patients in Sierra Leone reportedly went on strike over unpaid dues, leaving patients in some of the main treatment centers without care.

COVID-19 restrictions have taken an economic toll on the people in Sierra Leone, spurring sporadic protests in the west African country for months.

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
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