The fragile interplay involving Bio, Koroma, and Ecowas is critical to either support or undermine the stability of Sierra Leone.
It’s January 6, 2024! Sierra Leone has begun the year with a mix of emotions, primarily fueled by the recent charging of former President Koroma with treason and other offenses related to a purported failed coup attempt on November 26th. This development has put the stability of Sierra Leone in the hands of a delicate interplay involving Koroma, current President Maada Bio, and the regional body ECOWAS. Even though, we condemn the incident, but the government has not presented any strong evidence has been shown in public to confirm to critics that it was actually a failed coup. What’s treason?
Treason, a capital offense in Sierra Leone, has shifted from the death penalty to life imprisonment under President Bio’s direction. The charges against Koroma emerged alongside a letter from ECOWAS, suggesting the relocation of the former president to Nigeria and the adherence to legal benefits owed to him. However, conflicting statements regarding the content of the ECOWAS letter, particularly from Sierra Leone’s Foreign Affairs Minister Timothy Kabba, raise questions about transparency and communication within the regional bloc.
Former President Koroma (2007-2018)
Former President Koroma, who peacefully governed Sierra Leone from 2007 to 2018, relinquished power to President Bio through democratic elections. The sudden accusation of plotting a coup after years of retirement seems incongruent with his past conduct. Supporters argue that the charges are politically motivated, especially given President Bio’s history of crackdowns on opposition figures.
Bio’s threats and persecution against the opposition
President Bio’s tenure has been marked by allegations of persecution, arrests, and violence against opposition members, leading to strained relations with international bodies and criticism from observers. The arrest and subsequent release of figures like Paolo Conteh, Sylvia Blyden, Kemoh Sesay, and Kamaremba Mansaray highlight the political tensions in Sierra Leone. They were all charged for various offences.
ECOWAS versus President Bio
The ongoing dispute between Bio and ECOWAS further complicates the situation. ECOWAS, represented by regional leaders from Ghana and Senegal, has called for Koroma’s relocation and adherence to his benefits. Bio’s alignment with ECOWAS is crucial for his political standing, especially after international observers questioned the legitimacy of his second-term election.
The potential diplomatic fallout looms large, with the United States withholding MCC funds, and Bio seeking support from ECOWAS, AU, Asia, and Turkey. The current standoff between Bio and ECOWAS may impact Sierra Leone’s future stability, as the regional body could leverage this disagreement against the president in the event of any ugly situation.
As Sierra Leoneans welcome the new year 2024, the uncertainty surrounding Koroma’s charges and the political dynamics between Bio and ECOWAS adds an extra layer of complexity. In the words of Koroma’s lawyer, Joseph F. Kamara, the outcome of this situation has the potential to set a dangerous precedent and jeopardize the hard-earned peace and stability of the country.
Happy new year 2024.