Kabs Kanu: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 December 2023:
Sierra Leone is sitting on tenterhooks and the atmosphere is charged with high tension, anxiety, edginess, fear and uncertainty everywhere, despite assurances by the SLPP Maada Bio government that things have returned to normal in the country after the alleged coup attempt of Sunday November 26.
There is uncertainty about what really happened in Freetown on Sunday November 26. While the arrest of Koita buttressed the SLPP Government’s claims that there was a coup attempt, it is believed that two different armed forces, one the government’s, operated that Sunday.
The invitation of ex- President Ernest Koroma by the CID to travel to Freetown to face investigations with respect to the alleged coup attempt and reports that, after two days of being interrogated at the CID, he has been put under house arrest until Monday when he will resume his meeting with the CID( Though it turned out to be false ) has exacerbated the tension, unease and apprehension in the country. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma is still a hugely popular man in Sierra Leone, with millions of supporters across the country. Maada Bio knows he has to tread very carefully that he does not accuse Koroma falsely..
All kinds of divisive rumours abound in Sierra Leone. Many people who described the Novermber 26 shootings in the capital as a stage-managed coup attempt , have changed their perceptions and now believe there was actually an attempt to overthrow the Maada Bio government , after the arrest in Freetown of Amadu Koita Makolo, a leading government social media critic and former military officer earlier declared wanted by the government.
However, there are rumours that the SLPP Government, having learned of the plot, also moved ahead of the rebels and helped launch some of the armed attacks, including the release of hundreds of inmates at the Pademba Road Prisons.
The conspiracy theory is that the SLPP Government has extrajudicially murdered many of the political detainees that international interparty peace facilitators would require to be released as part of a peace agreement and so they attacked the prisons and emptied it of inmates so that they will have an excuse for not presenting when the time comes the political prisoners they had killed. Government supporters have denied these allegations.
Meanwhile, many Sierra Leoneans are condemning the alleged coup plotters for coming to destabilize the country further. COCORIOKO has heard quite a good number of Sierra Leoneans denouncing the alleged coup and damning the plotters that they should have left alone our country, already bedeviled by multitudes of sociopolitical , economic and deep security problems under the junta- styled government of President Bio.
Our reporters say that since the November 26 incidents, residents of Freetown and its environs and some parts of the country have been on edge. As seen on videos, Police and soldiers are raiding neighborhoods and openly and loudly threatening residents to release alleged coup plotters and prisons inmates at large or face dire consequences. Not only are they searching home and cars in traffics but they are stopping even civilians and subjecting them to barrages of questions and even searching their phones. Because of this, many people have become afraid to go out.
Many parents and guardians are still afraid to send their children to school because nobody is certain about what might happen next, with police and soldiers everywhere and creating a menacing atmosphere. Some international organizations have asked their employers to work at home temporarily.
Residents around Goderich where the former President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma lives, complain about heavy armed police and soldiers, some even carrying RPGs. They described security as very tight around the former head of state’s home because there are rumours that his myriad of supporters all over the country are not happy with reports that he is under arrest at his Femi Turner residence, though his lawyers and media handlers , as well as BBC reporter, Umaru Fofana, have denied these suggestions by vociferous and vengeful SLPP supporters and Koroma detractors in the social media.
One employee of an international NGO interviewed by COCORIOKO said that people are afraid that more chaos is in the horizon ,in the country ” And what I can tell you is that democracy and stabilty are dead in Sierra Leone, “ he added. “What we have now in Sierra Leone is a police state, and everybody is at their wit’s end , coupled with the extreme economic hardships in the country .”
The SLPP Government is accused of not instituting any confidence -building measures to stabilize the country. Rather, by turning Sierra Leone into a police state, President Bio is aggravating tensions and putting fear in people.
Videos have appeared on social media of a section Chief in Bo addressing a big group of glum-faced and desperate looking men described as ex-combatants and former members of the notorious tribal militia,the Kamajors, whose leaders were arrested and tried for war crimes by the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone. If Maada Bio is planning to revive and use them to defend his beleaguered government , then many Sierra Leoneans are arguing that President Bio wants to take Sierra Leone back to war.
Rumors floating are that Bio has no implicit confidence in the army and police, now believed to be dangerously divided along tribal and regional lines, thanks to Bio’s politics of exclusion and blatant tribalism. Bio is about to repeat the same mistake made by the late President Ahmad Kabbah ,who catapulted the Kamajors over the national army and triggered the Johnny Paul Koroma Coup of May 1997.
The lack of neutrality , one-sided and asinine handling of the Sierra Leone crisis by ECOWAS is causing a lot of anger among opponents of the government, who believe that the regional organization is not making any attempt to listen to the other side of the story. They believe that ECOWAS should have engaged the opposition as well to hear their grievances, instead of just blindly supporting the Bio government and promising to send a standby force to defend the Bio government.ECOWAS will soon be part of the problem in Sierra Leone as it happened in the country and neighboring Liberia during their rebel wars in the 1970s.
People believe that ECOWAS is not actually supporting the Bio regime. Rather, ECOWAS being composed of corrupt leaders and dictators that their people do not want, and would jubilate if they are overthrown, they are protecting their own skins and megalomanic interests of ECOWAS member- heads of state, who have skeletons in their cupboards, like Bio.