Southwark’s sizeable Sierra Leonean population is raising awareness of widespread political violence in the west African country in the wake of its presidential elections earlier in the year.
Neil Coyle says many people from the borough’s Sierra Leonean community have approached him with their concerns about violence and intimidation in the country – and their fears for family and friends.
Last week in in the House of Commons the Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP secured a meeting with Foreign Office Minister Harriet Baldwin to meet with him and people from Southwark’s Sierra Leonean community to discuss their experiences and ways to help bring the violence to an end.
Neil says: “Many of the local Sierra Leonean community have been to see me to raise their concerns that, despite Foreign Office assurances, political violence and intimidation continues in Sierra Leone.
“They have described their fear for the lives and wellbeing of their family and friends who remain in the country.
“I am glad the Foreign Office Minister for Africa has accepted my invitation to meet to discuss concerns and outline what the UK can do to influence the situation in Sierra Leone.”
Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, was first founded in 1787 by British abolitionists and philanthropists as a place for repatriated and rescued slaves from north America.
The country became independent in 1961, later suffering a civil war from 1991 to 2002, and was one of the hardest hit countries by 2014-2016’s deadly Ebola virus outbreak.
Sierra Leoneans living in London have told Coyle violence has continued after March’s elections, which saw Sierra Leone People’s Party leader Julius Maada Bio, a former soldier, sworn in as president, with 51.8 per cent share of the vote.