The president of Sierra Leone has described a foiled assault on a military barracks in the capital Freetown as an “attack on democracy.”
In a video statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, late Sunday, President Maada Bio said most of the ringleaders had been arrested and calm restored. He vowed to “ensure that those responsible are held accountable through due process.”
Bio said in the statement following the attacks on the barracks, there was also a security breach at a Freetown prison, where an undisclosed number of inmates escaped.
The news sparked fears of another potential coup attempt in West Africa.
A nationwide curfew was imposed following an attack in the early hours of Sunday on the military barracks, leading to widespread flight disruption.
Authorities revised the indefinite curfew, saying it would now run from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. daily local time, starting Monday.
The country’s airspace was also closed but the country’s aviation authority later said the Freetown International Airport would resume full operations after the curfew was lifted.
“This will be in effect until further notice,” the country’s information ministry said.
A divisive election
President Bio described the incident as an “attack on democracy,” but did not state outright that it was a coup attempt. Global condemnation has however been swift.
In a strong statement, the West African regional bloc ECOWAS said it “has learnt with utter disgust a plot by certain individuals to acquire arms and disturb the peace and constitutional order in Sierra Leone.”
ECOWAS, which has been trying to prevent a contagion effect after a spate of coups in the region, called for the prosecution of the masterminds behind the attacks while reiterating its “zero tolerance for unconstitutional change of government.”
The US embassy in Sierra Leone condemned the attacks while adding in another statement on X, on Monday that: “We honor and remember those who gave their lives yesterday in defense of Sierra Leone’s Constitution and government.”
Sierra Leone has grappled with a political crisis since the conclusion of a disputed general election in June. Bio was sworn in for a second term after being declared winner of a fiercely contested presidential election that was fraught with controversies and described by international observers as “lacking adequate levels of transparency.”
According to local media in the West African nation, there have been three failed coup attempts to depose Bio’s government in the last year.
West Africa has been plagued by recurring coups in recent years, including one in Sierra Leone’s closest neighbor Guinea.
Bio assured residents following the Sunday attacks saying, “As your Commander in Chief, I want to assure everybody who is resident in Sierra Leone that we have overcome this challenge, and together, we will continue on the path of progress and development.”