Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 November 2023:
When the wife of President Bio announced a while ago that the president has a PhD in staging coups, many dismissed her as a buffoon. But since then, there has been no fewer than three alleged attempted coups in Sierra Leone in which, despite the president saying that many people had been arrested, not a single suspect has been charged to court, nor the names of those accused made public.
Yesterday morning, Sunday 26 November 2023, the peace and tranquillity of the poor people of Sierra Leone who would have woken up thinking about where breakfast was going to come from, were disturbed by sounds of gunfire in the capital Freetown.
Is this just another well orchestrated ploy from President Bio’s PhD playbook at work, aimed at purging the country’s main opposition All People’s Congress Party, who until a few weeks ago had refused to take part in any governance arrangement with Bio’s government, until the results of a controversial election held in June 2023 were published?
The decision by the opposition APC not to engage with the government and parliament, almost crippled the economy and threatened to bring down the government. This prompted the international community who previously had also declared that the June elections were rigged by President Bio and the National Electoral Commission, to bring both sides together to find a peaceful resolution through inter-party dialogue brokered by the African Union and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
After just few days of talking, a peace accord was signed last month by the ruling SLPP and the APC, calling on the elected APC MPs and local councillors to return to parliament and council chambers in return for the salaries they had lost whilst on protest.
Other key terms of the peace agreement included the release of all political prisoners and detainees; the formation of an elections review committee to comprise of the two main parties – SLPP and APC, as well as the international community; and the cessation of all investigations and court actions brought by the government against members of the APC, including allegations of corruption.
But few Sierra Leoneans had trusted President Bio to honour the terms of the peace accord. President Bio had branded the APC as a terrorist group that must be crushed.
Yesterday’s alleged staged coup has most certainly killed any chance of raproachment between President Bio’s government and the opposition APC.
As one senior APC party executive told the Sierra Leone Telegraph yesterday, “the peace accord between APC and SLPP is now dead”, following an order by State House yesterday for a deadly armed assault on the personal security staff of the former chairman and leader of the APC – Ernest Bai Koroma, as well as the party’s 2018 and 2023 presidential candidate – Dr Samura Kamara, which resulted in the shooting dead of at least one of Koroma’s security officers in the capital Freetown.
Other members of the Koroma and Kamara security teams were arrested and have been detained.
Writing on Twitter yesterday, former President Koroma said: “I’m deeply concerned over the unfolding events in Freetown, and I strongly condemn the grave breaches of state security. I also condemn the tragic loss of Corporal Eddie Conteh, a dedicated military guard assigned to me who was killed on duty at my residence in Freetown. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones. “Warrant Officer John Swarray was also taken away from my residence in Freetown. I look forward to his safe return.
“The path to stability lies in our commitment to democratic values. I urge all stakeholders to prioritize the well-being and stability of our beloved nation.”
Samura Kamara is yet to comment on the alleged arrest or killing of his security staff including the man seen standing on the left in this photo, but said yesterday: “Fellow Sierra Leoneans, We are woken up today, Sunday, 26th November, 2023 with a security threat in this, our beloved country, Sierra Leone. I wish to draw from the Public Notice by the Ministry of Information and Civic Education to stress the critical importance of the advice contained therein.
“The Government has announced a nationwide curfew effective immediately. We are all advised to stay indoors while the state security forces are taking control of the situation. Let us all pay heed to this Advice and continue to put our Faith and Trust in God Almighty and pray that all will be over sooner rather than later, taking us back to our normal life soonest. His Mercies endureth forever.
“The peace, unity and safety of our country are paramount and everything else will follow for a prosperous and secure Sierra Leone. This country needs the peaceful energies of each and every one of us to build, sustain a better future for all.”
Following the declaration of curfew and the closing of the country’s airspace yesterday, the government has today said the curfew will continue indefinitely but between the hours of 9pm and 6am.
A senior police officer in Freetown told the Sierra Leone Telegraph yesterday that “dozens of people have so far been arrested and are being questioned, with several injured or killed during police-military raid at the homes of suspects.”
There were unconformed reports last night that 24 people had been arrested, including: 6 female ex soldiers, 9 retired senior officers, 5 current serving officers in what is known as the 999 group, and four security staff working for former president Koroma and Dr Samura Kamara.
But concerns are being raised by human rights groups about the abuse of police and military power, as some of those arrested yesterday were seen being publicly beaten and humiliated contrary to law. Human rights groups are calling for the rights of all detainees to be respected and granted access to legal representation.