Sierra Leone police summon Freetown mayor over 'disorderly behaviour'

Sierra Leone police summon Freetown mayor over 'disorderly behaviour'

Freetown Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr has had several run-ins with authorities in recent months
Freetown Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr has had several run-ins with authorities in recent months. Photo: John MACDOUGALL / AFP
Source: AFP

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Sierra Leonean police Thursday summoned the mayor of the capital Freetown for questioning over allegedly obstructing police work and "disorderly behaviour", according to a letter seen by AFP and confirmed by the mayor.

"I can confirm the police invitation letter and I plan to attend" the questioning on Friday, Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr told AFP by telephone.

The letter, from the criminal investigations department, accused Aki-Sawyerr of "obstruction to police duties" and "disorderly behaviour", without providing further details.

The summons is likely tied to an incident at the airport earlier this month.

On September 17, the mayor streamed a live video on social media from Freetown International Airport, on her way to New York for an event coinciding with the annual UN General Assembly.

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She claimed in the video that a city councillor travelling with her had been escorted away by airport immigration officers and handed over to the police, who said they had an arrest warrant for him accusing him of incitement over deadly protests that rocked the country in August.

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Aki-Sawyerr said in the video that they had been about to board their flight when they were told that Sheku Turay, the city councillor who also goes by Ice T, was needed at the immigration office.

"Half an hour later, I received a call that he had been arrested," the mayor said in the video.

According to eyewitness accounts in local media and on social media, the mayor went to the police station where Turay had been taken and an altercation took place there, before she returned to the airport and posted the video.

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Local media reported that the minister of local government on September 22 issued a separate summons to ask the mayor why she had travelled to New York without informing her "superiors" in advance.

On Thursday, Aki-Sawyerr told AFP she was "on her way" to meet him.

The event she attended in New York was hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on September 20 and 21.

A former finance professional with a master's degree from the London School of Economics, Aki-Sawyerr was awarded an Order of the British Empire in 2016 for her efforts battling Ebola in Sierra Leone.

Elected mayor in 2018, she has had a number of run-ins with authorities in recent months.

Earlier this year, she was fined by the anti-graft agency and ordered to refund travel expenses for an allegedly unauthorised staff member, but denied any wrongdoing.

Last month, she claimed the information minister and the presidential press secretary had falsely accused her of inciting the deadly August 10 protests.

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"This deliberate and continued action of making false accusations publicly has already led to constant attacks of me on social media and attempts of physical attacks on (Freetown City Council) property", she wrote on social media.

Sierra Leone's presidential election is scheduled for June 2023.

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Source: AFP

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