Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 November 2023:
President Julius Maada Bio on Monday received a delegation from the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS Commission and the Government of Nigeria, following Sunday’s round of heavy gunfire, prisons breakout and the arrest and killing of dozens of members of the opposition including political prisoners, many of whom were awaiting trial. The government, yesterday said that last Sunday’s armed attack was an attempted coup.
Photo above: President Bio and visiting ECOWAS Commission in Freetown.
The West African delegation, including Nigeria’s National Security Adviser, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, Nigeria’s Chief of Defense Staff, General Christopher Musa, its Chief of Defence Military Intelligence, Major General Emmanuel Udiandeye and President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Alieu Touray, were in Sierra Leone as a show of support to the people of Sierra Leone who are now getting used to “intermittently staged coups” aimed at flushing out the opposition.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph understands that the leadership of the APC including former President Koroma, whose personal security staff were either killed or arrested by government soldiers on Sunday, had called West African leaders to raise alarm at the breakdown in law and order in the country and the targeting of his APC party by security forces.
Whilst expressing solidarity with the people of Sierra Leone, the delegation expressed serious concern at the growing insecurity in the country which could lead to war and anarchy.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph also understands that President Bio was told by the ECOWAS delegation that they will deploy ECOMOG troops on the ground in Sierra Leone, if the government fails to guarantee the peace, safety and tranquillity of the people of Sierra Leone.
The delegation spoke of ECOWAS commitment in preserving democracy and good governance across the sub-region, and assured the people of Sierra Leone of ECOWAS’s readiness to work with the government to preserve the hard-won peace achieved after a brutal civil war that came to an end with the intervention of ECOWAS and the UN in 2001.
Special envoy, Nuhu Ribadu said the Chair of the ECOWAS Authority, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Nigeria shares this commitment. “President Tinubu is a life-long defender of democracy and will always stand by what is right. He will defend democracy, good governance, justice and freedom. The events yesterday have touched Nigeria directly. Nigeria is with Sierra Leone, ECOWAS is with Sierra Leone,” he said.
President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Touray warned President Bio to ensure that his security forces do not go after the opposition in retribution.
“ECOWAS stands ready to support Sierra Leone’s national security, including deploying a standby force if need be. I want to call on the people of Sierra Leone to be law-abiding.
“I will also appeal to the security forces to follow the rule of law and don’t engage in witch-hunt. ECOWAS calls on all stakeholders to promote dialogue,” urging the government to ensure that security measures being deployed after Sunday’s armed attack “do not infringe on fundamental rights and freedoms and do not impact negatively on national cohesion.”
In response, President Bio said: “My government’s commitment to democracy, justice, the well-being and safety of our citizens remains unwavering. Sierra Leone’s leadership position in key institutions across the globe will be preserved.
“We are deeply thankful for the tremendous outpouring of support from key allies around the region and world. We shall continue to work towards preserving and promoting the priceless peace that we have enjoyed as a country since the end of our unfortunate decade-long civil war 21 years ago.
“Some of us have fought for this country and must protect it. We have seen the consequences of war and when I see people creating the conditions for war, it saddens me. Ever since I won in 2018, it has been one issue after the other. We have made gains in so many areas despite the binding constraints we have been confronted with as a nation, including our deep-seated politics.
“My party campaigned extensively and won the 2023 elections, but when the results were announced, the main opposition could not accept it. We agreed to dialogue all in the name of peace, and yet again, they decided to cause mayhem. This is not the first time, they did it on August 10, holding weapons and killing police officers, and yet, called it a civil protest.
“Our combined forces, together with the good people of Sierra Leone, stood firm yesterday in defence of peace, stability and democracy. That is the legacy we must protect, and our national security matters most. The focus of my administration is food security, which is a development imperative,” Bio told the ECOWAS delegation.
But despite President Bio’s assurances, concerns are growing among ECOWAS leaders about President Bio’s appalling and deteriorating human rights record which until last Sunday, shows that his security forces have killed over 200 unarmed citizens during peaceful protests.
Many in Sierra Leone and the international community believe that President Bio has lost the moral authority to rule Sierra Leone, and the rigging of the June 24, 2023 election results by the electoral commission to keep President Bio power is now the cause of much political instability in the country. President Bio has refused to publish the results of the election which he claimed to have won.