Former Sierra Leone president, Koroma charged with treason

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Former Sierra Leone President, Ernest Bai Koroma  has been formally charged with treason for his alleged role in the attempted coup seeking to overthrow the government of President Julius Maada Bio on 26 November 2023.

The country’s Attorney General, Mohamed Lamin Tarawally filed the charges on Wednesday in a court in Freetown.

It’s not yet clear whether this twist of events will affect the former President’s planned exit to Abuja tomorrow on exile as requested by ECOWAS.

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Koroma was indicted for treason and other offences on Wednesday, January 3, 2024, in front of Magistrate Santigie Bangura at Magistrate Court #2.

The former President was charged with four offences, including treason, treason, and two counts of harbouring. Dr. Koroma was represented by Joseph F. Kamara and other lawyers.

However, It appears this development might have a legal implication on ECOWAS’ request for the former President’s exit to Abuja tomorrow on exile. ECOWAS has been trying to provide a soft landing for the former president. But President Bio is yet to officially respond on the ECOWAS letter addressed to him.

Sequel to a followup agreement reached, resulting from an ECOWAS mission to Freetown immediately after the botched coup, when it was collectively agreed that Koroma will proceed on exile in Abuja, ECOWAS President Omar Touray has written a follow up reminder to the deal.

If finally consented by President Maada Bio, the former President will depart to Abuja tomorrow 4 January 2024. Arrangements have been concluded for his accommodation by the host authority. The letter also demand full continued payments of all his allowances and entitlements as a former President.

Meanwhile, Koroma’s arraignme t is coming after his 11 of his bodyguards were arraigned on January 2, following interrogations on the November 26 botched coup. This took place before Magistrate Santigie Bangura at the Pademba Road court 2 in central Freetown.

The bodyguards, both current and former, include Amadu Koita Kamara, Mohamed Jalloh, Sergeant Edward Salifu Kamara, Alimatu, Hassan Bangura, Hassan Leigh, Mohamed Woodie, ASP Ibrahim Seasay, Tamba Yamba, Kabba Kamara and Hassan Kamara.

Defence Counsel, Chernoh Kamara, was silent in court, since the final charges were not read out, with the accused remanded and the matter adjourned to 9 January 2024.

The Minister of Information, Chernoh Bah, has dispelled rumours that the ongoing trial was a “ witch-hunt “, stating that “ there is irrefutable evidence that both the former and current bodyguards of former President Koroma were actively involved in the failed coup attempt “.

He stated further, “Some of the current armed bodyguards travelled from his residence in Makeni with their assigned arms and ammunition to actively take part in the coup operations in Freetown.”

He went on to further reveal: “When the operation failed, these current bodyguards returned to Makeni to continue guarding the former President’s residence”.

He revealed further: “Evidence gathered so far show that one of his current bodyguards, Yapo, who took active part in the coup “is presently on the run”.

The former President is still under tight security watch at his private Freetown residence at Goderich. He is allowed three family members and three political associates per day, who are let in, but are restricted out, due to security reasons.

The former President cannot step out of his residence, without the “expressed permission” of the IGP.

Normalcy has however returned with the lifting of the curfew, though there is an uneasy calm, as the country is deeply divided, politically, ethnically and tribally. Sierra Leone used to be the “Athens of Africa”, with the first renowned university, Fourah Bay College, that was affiliated to the prestigious Durham University in the UK.

Many prominent African leaders schooled at the college widely reputed as the fountain of knowledge. The country is topographically beautiful, surrounded with breathtaking mountains, hence its Portuguese name, Sierra Leone, meaning lion mountains