FREETOWN (Reuters) - Sierra Leone will prosecute more than 50 people after clashes between rival political groups in the West African country last month that injured a top opposition figure, the government said on Thursday.
Violence in the West African nation has raised tensions ahead of a presidential election due to be held next year. The poll will be seen as a bellwether of recovery from civil war.
“Peace must reign in this country. Whoever attempts to undermine peace in this country will be dealt with,” Information Minister Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said on state radio.
More than 40 people will be charged over clashes in Sierra Leone’s second-biggest town, Bo, last month in which opposition presidential hopeful and former junta leader Maada Bio was struck on the head by a stone and ruling party buildings were torched, according to a government statement late on Wednesday.
Another 12 people will be charged in connection with a fracas in the diamond mining town of Kono, where a convoy of the ministry of internal affairs was attacked.
The statement did not identify the defendants.
“Some ill-motivated persons continue to stoke up the flames of chaos and anarchy, thereby exposing peaceful citizens to harm and danger,” it said, adding that the government was committed to taking “every necessary step” to maintain peace.
Sierra Leone’s diamond-fuelled civil war ended in 2002.
President Ernest Bai Koroma, seeking a second term in next year’s poll, said last week that anyone inciting election violence could be tried by the International Criminal Court, which has charged several Kenyan politicians and officials over their role in the bloody aftermath of a 2007 vote.
An adviser to Bio, Abass Bundu, told Reuters he was awaiting the list of defendants to be charged over last month’s clashes to “identify whether they are members of our party or not”.