Pro-government social media activists are claiming, and the government is also making similar claim that a few of the assailants killed in the assault in Freetown on November 26, 2023, were security staff of former President Koroma while he was in power. They are sharing photos which were taken long ago, showing few of the assailants with some of the main opposition leaders, including former President Koroma.
The fact is that, because they served as state security personnel, they indeed had photo-ops with APC leaders, which is common with political leaders, especially in Africa. Such photos should however NOT be seen as evidence of complicity of those APC leaders in the November 26 assault in Freetown.
Another important point is that the security staff of President Koroma and President Bio have had a long-running feud and confrontations since 2012, when Bio first contested against Koroma.
For instance, in 2012, the Bio campaign claimed that he was attacked at his hotel in Bo, Southern Sierra Leone and wounded in the head.
The person accused of perpetuating that attack was reported to be one of the alleged Nov 26 assailants was Idrissa Kamara (Aka Leather Boot), who was shot dead by security forces on the 26th November 2023 during his arrest.
Also, when Bio allegedly blocked President Koroma’s convoy, back in 2012, there were reports that some of his (President Koroma’s) security personnel were prepared to shoot at Maada Bio’s convoy, claiming that it was an opportunity to eliminate Bio.
The fact remains that it was President Koroma’s intervention and good wisdom that averted such bloodshed. Again, Leather Boot was alleged to be part of the then Pres. Koroma Presidential Guards who were involved in that fracas.
So, when Bio won in 2018, most of Koroma’s strong close protection guards, as well as other senior police and military officers, were either dismissed or arrested by President Bio.
The injustice against them started right at the presidential handing-over ceremony at the National Stadium. Many of them therefore had cause to leave the country. Some of those who stayed were arrested on trumped-up treason charges. Several of them have been in jail since then.
After the 2023 elections, several more military and police officers were arrested over alleged coup plots and were detained. One of the accused, a long-standing Bio antagonist called Yeate Yeate fled the country to neighbouring Liberia. The state went after him, got him arrested, brought back and detained at the Pademba Road Prison.
He was one of the detainees released when the Prison was breached on 26 November 2023.
It is important to note that there were ‘too many’ military or ex-military and police who were either on the run or were detained in Freetown. This was, by itself, a danger to state security.
The hostility between these military personnel and Maada Bio could be traced back to the 1991 NPRC coup which was led by Captain Strasser and Maada Bio.
A good number of the military personnel who became part of President Koroma’s guards whilst he was president, were reportedly squad mates with then-officer Bio in the army. Some were allegedly even senior to him.
Many of them have always claimed that Bio wasn’t a strong fighter during the war as they were, and allegedly felt displeased that when Strasser and others overthrew the APC, Bio could attain such prominent roles whilst they were left out.
Another strong source of grudge had to do with the fact that senior military and police officers who were brutally executed by the NPRC 1, predominantly from the north, had direct links either as relatives or as military trainers of some of these ‘anti-Bio military personnel. They tend to begrudge Bio for those killings because they believe that he has not been held accountable. This is especially as it has happened, that he is the only NPRC junta officer who has emerged as a political leader.
Therefore, while some of these 26 November 2023 assailants may have been associated with former President Koroma because they served him as part of his Presidential Guards, and while some of those assailants may have still been in contact with some of the current state security assigned to President Koroma, it is highly unlikely that former President Koroma could have known about, or played a part in the alleged attempted coup of Sunday, November 26, 2023.
What is happening in Sierra Leone today is a deep-rooted military and tribal grudge playing out in the national political scene, which appears to have put the former President in a very awkward and difficult position.
Sierra Leone strongly needs help from the international community to effectively overcome these festering military and tribal grievances before they head the country back into brutal conflict.
Source: The Sierra Leone Telegraph