S Leone ex-defence minister released amid protests

FREETOWN, Jan 1: Police in Sierra Leone fired tear gas and rubber bullets Monday at supporters of the opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) party, injuring one, during protests following the arrest of a former minister for alleged corruption.
“Dozens of people were arrested during the protest for disorderly conduct at the headquarters of the opposition APC party on Monday”, police said.
“Police fired teargas canisters into our party office and one of our supporters was severely wounded”, Karamo Kabba, a senior APC member told AFP, adding the protest had been peaceful.
“We are not inciting anybody to perpetuate violence against the Government, but we are against ‘witch hunting’ of former government officials”, APC secretary general Alhaji Osman Yansaneh told AFP.
Former defence minister Paolo Conteh was arrested Friday but released on bail Monday, police said.
The Minister of Information and Communication Abdurrahman Swarray in a statement accused former president and APC head Ernest Bai Koroma of inciting tribal violence.
“It’s an irresponsible statement by the APC calling for tribal violence in the country”, The Minister of Information and communication Abdurrahman Swarray said.
Conteh was detained along with Sannah Marrah, the defence ministry’s former director general, at the Criminal Investigation Department on Friday.
Both face charges, the Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission said. The commission added officials are investigating allegations of corruption over procurement of military vehicles, uniforms and rice in 2015 in a procurement contract worth a reported USD 10 million.
On his release, Conteh was received by jubilant opposition party supporters holding placards and singing political victory songs in the capital Freetown.
President Julius Maada Bio succeeded Koroma nine months ago after a tumultuous election campaign in which he targeted corruption, ending a decade-long rule by the APC.
Soon after he took office a government report commissioned said “rampant corruption” in the former administration had led to the “near collapse” of the West African nation’s economy.
The government has approved a commission of enquiry, with hearings expected to begin in January 2019. (AGENCIES)

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