The military coup in Sierra Leone that never was?

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 August 2013

rebels enter freetownLast week’s report of an attempted military coup in Sierra Leone is nothing short of an affront to the peace, harmony and political stability, which the people of Sierra Leone have enjoyed since the end of the brutal war in 2001.

Whilst State House itself has failed to issue a statement condemning and quelling the panic it had caused among citizens, both at home and abroad, president Koroma has in the meantime visited the military barracks in his hometown of Makeni, where soldiers are said to have plotted to topple his government.

He is reported to have joked, laughed and watched football on television at the barracks with the soldiers last Saturday, a few days after the report of the coup plot that never was. What an irony?

Although the story is as mickey mouse as the shadowy individuals who concocted it, questions still remain as to who is responsible and why such fabrication was engineered in the first place. There are suspicions.

As they say in Africa, ‘when a head of state says that the sun is shining, it’s best to open the window and check whether it’s true’.

What is clear in the minds of most Sierra Leoneans is that in the last few months, political allies close to the president have been testing public reaction to any future decision taken by the ruling APC party to use its overwhelming majority in parliament to change the Constitution, which could see Koroma extend his stay in office for a third term.

But the reaction of the public cannot be clearer. They do not want a change in the country’s Constitution that will extend the president’s stay in office, when it comes to an end in 2017.

So what has this got to do with last week’s fabricated story of a military coup?

Is the president indeed the co-author of that story – Mugabe’s style; and what is the role of those shadowy men in grey coats at State House?

Maada Bio preparing for State HouseNews of the military coup that never was, came just a few weeks after Julius Maada Bio (Photo), the country’s main opposition SLPP 2012 presidential candidate, also regarded as the only serious contender for the next presidential election, was accused by the government of training a private militia that could destabilise the country.

The police carried out a search at Bio’s house and offices. They said they were looking for arms and ammunitions, which according to the police were alleged to have been stored at the premises.

The search proved futile. Not a single firearm or bullet was discovered by the police, who said they were acting on report from a credible source.

But independent observers have always held that the police action was designed to provoke a violent confrontation, which could have led to the arrest of Bio and charged with treason.

Rather than reacting violently, Bio called on the government to protect his civil liberty and to guarantee his personal safety as a citizen of Sierra Leone. The government was caught on its back foot.

Following the demise of the plot to unlawfully incarcerate Bio, a presidential decree was quickly invoked, deploying heavily armed soldiers at the opposition SLPP’s convention.

The president said that he did so in order to ensure that the convention went on peacefully.

But few in the SLPP party trusted his motive. Bio sensing the possibility of his presence creating an excuse for his detractors to use lethal force, decided to stay away from the convention.

The history of Africa is replete with stories of dictators fabricating their own attempted coup d’etat, whenever it pleases them to frame and arrest their political opponents on charges of treason, and Sierra Leone is no exception.

parliamentary history - siaka stevensThroughout the 1970s in Sierra Leone, former president and leader of the APC party – Siaka Probyn Stevens (Photo), whose ideology has captivated president Koroma, executed dozens of the country’s most powerful and highly educated opponents in order to pave the way for his declaration and implementation of a One Party State.

There are serious fears in Sierra Leone that president Koroma may be following the same path as Siaka Stevens, in order to hang on to power ‘by all means necessary’.

Last week’s report of a plan to stage a military coup may have been seen as mickey mouse by peace loving Sierra Leoneans, who have quite rightly invested their faith and trust in the wisdom of the international community to restructure the military and establish a professional class of senior officers after the war in 2001.

But there is no mistaking the fact that the agenda at State House may be rather different.

President koroma - Feb 2013There are those in the Koroma (Photo) government who are now beginning to contemplate the scary possibility of losing the 2018 elections and a return to the cold wilderness, after the end of Koroma’s term of office. They have amassed hundreds of millions of dollars through the abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds with impunity.

Hence, for many in the president’s inner circle, losing power is not an option. But, declaring a state of emergency – should there be any semblance of political instability is quite appealing.

This they believe could guarantee Koroma’s automatic stay in power beyond 2018 and the protection of their ill-gotten wealth.

Who says last week’s report of a military coup in Sierra Leone, fabricated in the president’s home town of Makeni is mickey mouse? Think again.