Curfew Partially Lifted In Sierre Leone Capital As Govt Says Calm Restored

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)

On Monday, daily life resumed with a robust security presence in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown, as the government partially lifted a curfew imposed following gun skirmishes in the city.

Armed assailants assaulted a military armoury and three prisons early Sunday, prompting hours-long confrontations with security authorities in the capital.

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

The administration relaxed the daytime curfew it had imposed on Monday, urging residents to go about their normal lives while staying watchful.

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.

According to an AFP correspondent in Freetown, several stores and banks reopened on Monday, and traffic resumed, but schools remained closed.

Checkpoints have been set up on major roadways, with security personnel searching vehicles.

Meanwhile, many doubts remained about what happened in the country, amid fears of another coup in West Africa, which has had putches in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Guinea since 2020.

President Julius Maada Bio, the current president, conducted 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

The West African group ECOWAS termed the events of Sunday as an attempt to “disrupt peace and constitutional order,” a phrase typically used to denote political coups.

Sierra Leone’s numerous partners demanded that “constitutional order” be upheld.

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

He strongly condemned the attacks on Sunday and urged for calm and order.

In a social media tweet, the US embassy stated that it “strongly supports President Bio in his call for national unity.”

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

According to the election commission’s results, Bio was re-elected president for a second term in June, receiving 56.17 percent of the vote.

The biggest opposition party is disputing the results of the June presidential, legislative, and local elections.

Following mediation by the Commonwealth, the African Union, and ECOWAS, a political accord was reached in October.

Written by PH

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