Petty traders who sell their wares at 'Fire Burn', along Fourah Bay Road in the east end of Freetown, yesterday stormed State House to complain about alleged police harassment, after officers barricaded the street to prevent hawkers from selling on the crowded thoroughfare.
Fourah Bay Road, which links the eastern part of Freetown with the central business district, is often congested as a result of both human and vehicular traffic, partly because street hawkers occupy large parts of the road, which makes it almost impassable.
The issue of traffic congestion, caused by unregulated street trading, is among the reasons President Koroma declared 'Operation WID' early this year, and famously declared there will be no sacred cows in the fight against effective waste management, street trading and indiscipline in Freetown in particular and the country in general.
However, after the initial zeal with which the operation started, things have since slowed down, with many blaming political interference and lack of political will to implement the presidential edict.
This latest clash between the police and street hawkers is one pointer to that fact, according to a socio-political analyst.
While at the State House, the protestors demanded to see the president.
According to their chairlady, Ms. Adama Kamara, Operational Support Division (OSD) officers, the paramilitary wing of the police, on Tuesday morning arrived at the place where hundreds of predominantly women sell their wares and demarcated a line beyond which trading was prohibited, citing traffic congestion along Fourah Bay Road, which the traders obeyed.
She said they woke up yesterday morning and as usual went to sell their wares, only for an armed group of OSDs to arrive at the makeshift market and ordered that they stop trading altogether.
Ms. Kamara said their only option was to mobilize and storm State House, to bring the development to the attention of President Ernest Koroma. The protestors also accused the police officers of maliciously destroying their wares.
President Ernest Bai Koroma did not meet all the protestors, but had audience with five representatives of the traders.
After emerging from the meeting with the president, one of the five reps, Mohamed S. Kamara, came out to report that the president has ordered the police not to go ahead with the eviction order, and that the traders should continue selling on the street for the time being, until the authorities find a suitable place to relocate them.