Sierra Leone charges former president with treason

Sierra Leone has formally charged ex-President Ernest Bai Koroma with treason and related offenses linked to an alleged coup attempt, prompting heightened concerns about political stability in West Africa.

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Sierra Leone's former President Ernest Bai Koroma addresses an international observers briefing on Kenya's general election organised by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in Nairobi, Kenya August 11, 2022. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi/ File Photo

Sierra Leone officially accused former President Ernest Bai Koroma of treason and other charges related to his purported involvement in what authorities have labeled an attempted coup on November 26. Koroma, who led the West African nation from 2007 to 2018, underwent questioning, and authorities have officially identified him as a suspect in orchestrating the coup attempt.

A statement from the Information Ministry announced that the ex-president faces four charges, including treason, misprision of treason, and two counts of harboring. Sierra Leone had already brought treason charges against 12 individuals linked to the coup attempt, among them Amadu Koita, a former soldier and one-time bodyguard of Koroma. Koita had gained significant attention on social media for his criticisms of the government led by the current President, Julius Maada Bio.

A high court granted bail to the former president, who is currently under house arrest in the capital. The court adjourned the case until January 17.

Under Sierra Leone’s penal code, a person convicted of treason could face a life sentence.

A letter from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) stated that Nigeria had extended an offer to temporarily host Koroma, which he accepted. Sierra Leone’s foreign minister, Timothy Kabba, acknowledged that the government had received the letter. However, Kabba underscored that the government strongly opposes the proposal to relocate Koroma.

On November 26, a group of armed assailants launched an attack on a military armoury, two barracks, two prisons, and two police stations, engaging in clashes with security forces. During the violence, twenty-one individuals lost their lives, and a significant number of prisoners managed to escape before authorities successfully restored control. The incident was characterized by authorities as an attempted coup orchestrated by members of the armed forces.

The outbreak of violence raised concerns about the possibility of another coup in West Africa. In recent years, countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Guinea have all witnessed coup attempts, creating a heightened sense of unease in the region since 2020.

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