Sierra Leone authorities have charged former president Ernest Bai Koroma with treason and other offences related to his alleged involvement in what they characterise as an attempted coup on November 26. The West African nation’s former leader, who served from 2007 to 2018, had been under scrutiny and was previously identified as an official suspect in the organisation of the coup attempt.
A statement signed by Information Minister Chernor Bah revealed that Koroma faces charges of “treason, misprision of treason, and two counts of harbouring.” The charges are linked to the events of November 26, when armed attackers reportedly stormed a military armoury, two barracks, two prisons, and two police stations, engaging in clashes with security forces. The incident resulted in 21 casualties, with hundreds of prisoners escaping before authorities regained control.
“At least 80 people were arrested in connection with the clashes, most of them military personnel,” authorities stated.
Koroma’s lawyer, Ady Macauley, informed AFP on Wednesday that the former president had been allowed to return home, and the case has been adjourned until January 17. A heightened security presence was observed near the court in the capital, Freetown, during Koroma’s hearing.
In a related development, Sierra Leone charged 12 individuals, including Amadu Koita, a former soldier and Koroma’s bodyguard, with treason in connection to the same coup attempt. Koita, known for his criticism of the current government on social media, was among those charged.
Sheriff Mahmud Ismail, an advisor to Koroma, had mentioned to the AFP before the charges were officially announced that the former president was exploring the possibility of exile in Nigeria. The suggestion of exile came amid concerns over political tensions in Sierra Leone following the coup attempt.
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 response to the attempted coup. Foreign Minister Timothy Kabba clarified that the mission would not entail military intervention, citing similar forces deployed in Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. The situation in Sierra Leone has raised fears of potential coup attempts in West Africa, which has witnessed political upheavals in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Guinea since 2020.