Sierra Leone Declares Nationwide Curfew After Attack On Barracks

A soldier of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces directs traffic after supporters of the opposition party, All People’s Congress (APC) clash with police during a protest calling for the Chief electoral Commissioner, Mohamed Konneh, to step down after allegations of electoral fraud in Freetown on June 21, 2023. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

The government announced an urgent countrywide curfew after a military armoury in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, was attacked on Sunday.

The government stated that individuals attempting to break into the armoury at a major army barracks were repulsed, but the public was asked to remain at home.

Witnesses said AFP they heard gunshots and explosions in the city’s Wilberforce sector, which includes the armoury and several embassies.

Other witnesses reported hearing gunfire near a navy base in Murray Town, as well as outside another military facility in Freetown.

Automatic weapons fire and explosions could be heard on soundtracks posted on social networks.

The streets of the capital were empty, the witnesses said.

“The public is assured that the government and our state security forces are in control,” Information Minister Chernor Bah wrote in a “public notice”.

“To enable the security forces to continue the process of apprehending the suspects, a nationwide curfew is declared with immediate effect across the country,” the minister said.

There was no information provided about the alleged perpetrators of the incident or their motivations.

Sierra Leone, an English-speaking West African country, has been in a political crisis since the June presidential and general elections.

Series of West Africa coups

Since August 2020, West Africa has witnessed a number of military coups and attempted coups.

Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Guinea, which shares a border with Sierra Leone, have all been taken over by the military.

Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio also assured citizens that calm had returned to the city, asking them to remain indoors.

“In the early hours of this morning, there was a breach of security at the Military Barracks at Wilberforce in Freetown, as some unidentified individuals attacked the military armoury,” he posted on X, formerly Twitter.

“Unidentified individuals attacked the military armoury. However, they were repelled by our gallant Security Forces and calm has been restored,” said Bio.

“As the combined team of our Security Forces continue to route out the remnant of the fleeing renegades, a nationwide curfew has been declared and citizens are encouraged to stay indoors,” Bio said.

He went on to say that the government will “continue to protect the peace and security of Sierra Leone against the forces that wish to truncate our much-cherished stability” and that it was “resolute in our determination to protect democracy in Sierra Leone.”

Bio, who was elected for the first time in 2018, was re-elected in June with 56.17 percent of the vote — just above the 55 percent required to avoid a run-off.

Inconsistencies and a lack of openness in the count, as well as acts of violence and intimidation, were condemned by international observers.

The main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party has challenged the results of the June 24 presidential, legislative, and local elections and has boycotted all levels of government.

Following talks mediated by the Commonwealth, the African Union, and the West African group ECOWAS, the APC and the government struck an agreement in October.

The APC decided to halt its boycott and resume participating in government in exchange for an end to politically motivated detentions and court cases.

Written by PH

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