MONROVIA: The Sierra Leonean government yesterday indicted former President Ernest Bai Koroma for treason and other charges having been accused of being involved in the failed military coup of November 26, 2023 just as efforts were stepped up by the leaders of the Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) to request a temporary departure of the former President from the country to Abuja, Nigeria to ease off the growing tension in the country following the botched military coup.
A press statement by the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Information and Civic Education announced that Dr. Koroma was charged on Wednesday, January 3, 2024, in front of Magistrate Santigie Bangura at Magistrate Court #2, for his alleged role in the failed coup of November 26, 2023.
“The former President is charged with four offences, including treason, misprision of treason, and two counts of harboring,” the official statement from the Ministry has said.
“On Wednesday, January 3, 2024, in front of Magistrate Santigie Bangura at Magistrate Court #2, the Republic of Sierra Leone charged Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma for his alleged role in the failed coup of November 26, 2023,” a release signed by the Minister of Information Chernel Bai said, adding Dr. Koroma is represented by Joseph F. Kamara and other lawyers.
According to multiple sources monitored by The Analyst, the former President who was physically in court yesterday as he was charged, was granted bail under the same conditions of remaining under house arrest with restrictions on visitors. The case has been adjourned for two weeks.
Reports further said that on resumption of the case, the case may be leapfrogged from the magistrate court to the High Court under section 136 of the 1965 Criminal Procedure Act, this bypassing all preliminary investigations at lower courts and swiftly fast-track the treason trial at the High Court.
Before the indictment of the former president on yesterday, leaders of ECOWAS through the President of the Commission, Dr. Omar Aleui Touray, having received reports of the delegation led by Presidents of Ghana and Senegal, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Macky Sall, communicated to President Julius Maada Bio for Dr. Koroma to be allowed to leave Sierra Leone and take temporary stay in Nigeria.
Accordingly, the Commission informed the Sierra Leonean government that as part of the agreement reached during the mission, the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has offered to host His Dr. Koroma, Former President of Sierra Leone, in Abuja on a temporary basis, adding that the former president has accepted the offer.
With Reference ECW/PC/DC/2024-001/Oat dated January 2, 2024, the communication to the President of Sierra Leone continued that “Subject to your approval, arrangements will be made to fly Former President Koroma out of Freetown on Thursday 4 January 2024. He will be accompanied by his office manager and personal assistant”.
“In addition to seeking Your Excellency’s approval for the departure from Sierra Leone of the Former President on or around the date indicated above,” the President of the Commission, Dr. Omar Aleui Touray pleaded, “I would like to seek your confirmation that once President Koroma leaves Sierra Leone, the following arrangements (as agreed during the mission) will be put in place.
Dr. Touray recounted that the Government of Sierra Leone will discontinue all legal and administrative procedures against him and will also continue to disburse to him his benefits as former President.
The ECOWAS Commission President further recounted that the Government of Sierra Leone will secure his residences in the various locations in Sierra Leone, and will consider refunding medical and travel expenses he has incurred, concluding that the Commission is looking forward to His Excellency, President Bio’s favourable response to the submission made to him.
Copies of the Commission’s communication to President Bio were sent to Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu –Chairman of the Authority of ECOWAS, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Ado and Senegalese President Macky Sall.
It is not yet clear how the arrangement will now proceed with the former Sierra Leonean President being indicted formally and a new date set for the trial to commence.