/ 4 January 2024

Sierra Leone ex-president charged over ‘coup attempt’

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Sierra Leone former president Ernest Bai Koroma. (Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

Sierra Leone on Wednesday charged former president Ernest Bai Koroma with treason and other offences for his alleged role in what authorities have called an attempted coup on November 26, authorities said.

Koroma, who led the West African nation from 2007 to 2018, had previously been questioned, with authorities saying he was an official suspect in the organisation of the coup attempt.

“The former president is charged with four offences, including treason, misprision of treason, and two counts of harbouring,” a statement signed by Information Minister Chernor Bah said.

On November 26, armed attackers stormed a military armoury, two barracks, two prisons and two police stations, clashing with security forces.

Twenty-one people were killed and hundreds of prisoners escaped before authorities were able to regain control after what they deemed a coup attempt by members of the armed forces.

At least 80 people were arrested in connection with the clashes, most of them military personnel. 

Authorities said in early December that the former president had been confined to his home, amid questioning.

“The former president is going home,” Koroma’s lawyer, Ady Macauley, told AFP on Wednesday, adding that the case had been adjourned until January 17. 

A large security detail was set up near the court in the capital Freetown where Koroma’s hearing was taking place. 

Sierra Leone on Tuesday also charged 12 people with treason in connection with the coup attempt, including Amadu Koita, a former soldier and bodyguard of Koroma. 

Koita was widely followed on social networks where he criticised the government of current President Julius Maada Bio, according to police. 

ECOWAS mission

An advisor to Koroma, Sheriff Mahmud Ismail, told AFP before the charges were announced that the former president was discussing exile in Nigeria, a regional heavyweight which currently holds the presidency of regional bloc ECOWAS.

An ECOWAS delegation led by the leaders of Senegal and Ghana visited Sierra Leone on December 23 to lay the groundwork for a “security mission” in the wake of the attempted coup.

A recent ECOWAS summit launched the delegation to “facilitate the deployment of a security mission to Sierra Leone to help stabilise the country”.

Foreign Minister Timothy Kabba insisted that the mission would not be a military intervention, noting similar forces in Gambia and Guinea Bissau.

The violence in Sierra Leone at the end of November had sparked fears of another coup in West Africa, where Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Guinea have all experienced putsches since 2020.

© Agence France-Presse