On Tuesday, November 28, 2023, the Sierra Leonean government characterized the events of Sunday, November 26, as an unsuccessful coup attempt aimed at unlawfully undermining and toppling the democratically elected administration of President Julius Maada Bio.
Sierra Leone experienced violent attacks perpetrated by unidentified armed individuals who targeted military barracks, detention centers, and other facilities in Freetown on Sunday.
The attack began in the early hours of the morning, when the assailants broke into the armory of the Wilberforce military barracks, which is close to the presidential lodge. They allegedly stole weapons and ammunition, and then headed to the main correctional center, where they freed thousands of inmates as reported.
The incident came as a shock to many, as Sierra Leone has been enjoying relative peace and stability since the end of the civil war in 2002. In connection with these events, a minimum of 20 individuals, including 13 soldiers, lost their lives, and several others sustained injuries.
Additionally, nearly 2000 prisoners escaped from the Pademba Road Correctional Center after the assailants breached the detention facility.
In a televised address on Sunday evening, President Julius Maada Bio, who secured a second term in a closely contested June election, pledged to bring the attackers to justice. He expressed gratitude to the security forces for their bravery and professionalism.
President Bio, however, accused the main opposition All Peoples Congress Party (APC) of causing chaos, even after agreeing to dialogue for the sake of peace following the elections. He cited previous incidents, such as the events on August 10, where individuals purportedly associated with the APC wielded weapons, resulting in the death of police officers, yet termed it a civil protest.
Addressing a visiting ECOWAS Delegation, President Bio remarked, “We agreed to dialogue, all in the name of peace, and yet again, they decided to cause mayhem. This is not the first time; they did it on August 10, holding weapons and killing police officers, and yet, called it a civil protest.”
The APC party strongly condemns the incidents, calling for a swift, fair, and transparent investigation into the failed power seizure attempt. Their Freetown headquarters was hit by bullets, and they denounce the killing of a security guard at the residence of former president Ernest Bai Koroma.
Chernor Bah, the Minister of Information and Civic Education, has confirmed that thirteen military personnel are currently under arrest. A curfew has been enforced nationwide during the night to manage the situation.
Sierra Leone’s recent attack adds to a string of coups and attempts in West and Central Africa. In September, last year, Guinea saw a military coup ousting President Alpha Conde over constitutional changes for the prolonged rule. The coup leaders pledged elections without specifying a timeline. Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Niger have also faced coup-related incidents in recent years.