Sierra Leone Telegraph: 04 January 2024:
President Bio of Sierra Leone has rebuffed a letter received from leaders of the West African regional block – ECOWAS, calling on the president to release the country’s former president Ernest Bai Koroma from house arrest to travel to Abuja, where the Nigerian President Tinubu has guaranteed his safety, whilst investigations and court hearings regarding an alleged coup attempt continues.
President Bio who is presently in Algeria where he is holding talks with president Abdelmadjid Tebboune, has been out of Sierra Leone since receiving the letter from ECOWAS dated January 2nd 2024, is refusing to honour the agreement reached with the high-level delegation of ECOWAS leaders with whom he held discussions about the plight of former president Koroma at State House last month.
Speaking on behalf of the government of Sierra Leone yesterday, minister of foreign affairs – Timothy Kabba whilst admitting that President Bio had received the letter from ECOWAS, went on to accuse ECOWAS leaders of misrepresenting what was agreed with President Bio.
Are ECOWAS leaders telling lies about the agreement reached with President Bio, or is the government of Sierra Leone shamelessly reneging on its agreement with President Akufo-Addo of Ghana and President Macky Sall of Senegal?
The letter “does not reflect the meeting His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio held recently in Freetown with his colleague West African leaders and the President of the ECOWAS Commission. So we will not countenance it,” said Timothy Kabba.
Former President Koroma was dragged to court yesterday by the Bio-led government, where he was charged with four counts of treason, despite calls from ECOWAS leaders for the government to drop all “legal and administrative procedures” against the former President.
The government of Sierra Leone is now at risk of losing support from ECOWAS which observers say is the reason President Bio is now on a three-day visit to Algeria to sign a bilateral agreement, which will include security assistance, including military support from the north African nation.
According to State House report in Freetown, “President Bio is in the North African country to further strengthen the collaboration between Sierra Leone and Algeria as they both take their seats on the United Nation’s Security Council, committing to collaborate on shared interest in furtherance of global peace.
“The two countries have over the years had bilateral ties and both Presidents have committed to deepening the relationship by exploring trade, social and cultural avenues for the benefit of both countries. These shared interests and the desire to collaborate to proffer solutions to regional and global emerging issues is a key consensus shared by both heads of state.”
With the treason trial now set for 17th January 2024, President Bio has made the acceptance of ECOWAS request to relocate former President Koroma to Abuja all the more complex, as this will most certainly involve embroiling Sierra Leone’s judiciary in diplomatic spat with ECOWAS. (Photo: Former President Koroma outside court yesterday, with lawyers and APC party leadership).
The Sierra Leone Telegraph understands that the decision by ECOWAS leaders to deploy ECOMOG standby force in Sierra Leone to help stabilise the country is now on hold, following President Bio’s rebuffing of the ECOWAS request for former President Koroma to be relocated to Abuja today 4th January 2023.
Speaking on AYV TV yesterday, Counsel representing Ernest Bai Koroma, Barrister Joseph F. Kamara said that the government has not come up with any evidence linking the former president to the alleged coup of 26 November 2023.
Joseph Kamara said that after 40 hours of interrogation by police, not a single shred of evidence has been put forward showing the former president to be culpable in the alleged coup plot, and accused the Bio-led SLPP government of waging a political vendetta against the former president.