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Curfew Partially Lifted In Sierra Leone After Attempted Coup

Early on Sunday, armed assailants stormed a military armoury and several prisons, sparking battles with security forces that lasted for hours in the capital.


People walk through a road in Freetown. A national curfew was imposed on November 26, 2023 in Sierra Leone after a military amoury was attacked. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

 

Daily life began to resume amid a heavy security presence in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown on Monday, as the government partially lifted a curfew imposed after armed clashes erupted in the city.

Early on Sunday, armed assailants stormed a military armoury and several prisons, sparking battles with security forces that lasted for hours in the capital.

Sierra Leone is an English-speaking West African country that has been going through a political crisis following elections in June.

On Monday, the government lifted the daytime curfew that it had imposed and urged people to resume their daily lives while remaining vigilant.

It said a curfew would remain in place between 9:00 pm (2100 GMT) and 6:00 am.

“While we encourage citizens to return to their normal activities… we continue to urge everyone to remain calm but vigilant, and to report any suspicious or unusual activity to the nearest police station”, the information ministry said in a statement overnight.

In Freetown, some stores and banks opened and traffic had restarted on Monday, but schools remained shut, according to an AFP correspondent in the city.

Checkpoints had been set up on the main roads, where members of the security forces were searching vehicles.

READ ALSO: ECOWAS Condemns Coup Plot In Sierra Leone, Ringleaders Arrested

Meanwhile many questions remained over what happened in the country, amid fears of another coup in West Africa, where Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Guinea have all experienced putsches since 2020.

The current president, President Julius Maada Bio, himself led a coup in the 1990s before handing over power and returning to politics as a civilian years later.

Early on Sunday, armed assailants tried to break into a military armoury in Freetown, sparking clashes with security forces.

Several prisons were also stormed, with some prisoners reportedly escaping.

Late on Sunday, Bio said that calm had been restored after what he described as an attempt to undermine peace and stability.

“Most of the leaders have been arrested. Security operations and investigations are ongoing,” Bio said on national television, adding that the government would “ensure that those responsible are held accountable”.

The government has not identified the attackers or their motives.

No death toll from the violence, nor any information on those arrested, has been officially released.

Videos posted on social media appeared to show men in uniform under arrest in the back or beside a military pick-up truck.

American Support

West African bloc ECOWAS described Sunday’s events as an attempt to “disrupt peace and constitutional order”, language commonly used for political coups.

Sierra Leone’s various partners called for “constitutional order” to be respected.

Former president Ernest Bai Koromo of the opposition APC said in a statement that one of the soldiers assigned to guard him had been shot dead at close range and that another had been abducted.

He said he strongly condemned Sunday’s attacks and called for calm and order.

The US embassy said it “strongly supports President Bio in his call for national unity”, in a message posted on social media.

“We honour and remember those who gave their lives yesterday in defence of Sierra Leone’s Constitution and government”, it said.

Bio was in June re-elected to a second term as president, winning 56.17 percent of the vote, according to the results published by the electoral commission.

The main opposition party disputes the results of the presidential election, as well as legislative and local elections in June.

A political crisis ensued until an agreement was reached in October following mediation by the Commonwealth, the African Union and ECOWAS.

AFP