On Tuesday, November 28th, Sierra Leone officials declared that a series of violent attacks on military barracks and prisons in the capital city, Freetown, was a failed coup attempt. This announcement came after a tumultuous weekend marked by chaos and bloodshed, revealing deep-seated political tensions in the West African nation.
The attacks, which occurred on Sunday, November 26, targeted key military installations and led to the escape of approximately 2,200 prisoners. Sierra Leone’s Information Minister, Chernor Bah, stated that the intention behind these assaults was to “illegally subvert and overthrow a democratically elected government.” The government’s swift response led to the arrest of 13 military officers and one civilian, with many of the coup leaders either in custody or on the run.
The violence resulted in at least 20 fatalities, including 13 soldiers, three assailants, a police officer, a civilian, and a private security worker. Additionally, eight people sustained serious injuries. Inspector General of Police William Fayia Sellu emphasized that the coup attempt was quashed in its early stages, highlighting the government’s commitment to maintaining order and stability.
President Julius Maada Bio, in a televised address, assured the nation that most of the attack’s leaders had been apprehended and that efforts to capture the remaining perpetrators were ongoing. The president’s reelection in June, which was narrowly won and contested by the opposition, has been a source of escalating political friction. The opposition All People’s Congress (APC) candidate, Samura Kamara, rejected the election results, citing credibility issues.
Sierra Leone has also been grappling with economic challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the global impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These strains were evident in August when police fired on demonstrators protesting against high food prices.
The country is now under heightened security, with checkpoints established throughout Freetown. Schools and banks remain closed, and a dusk-to-dawn curfew has been imposed to ensure public safety. The West African bloc ECOWAS and Nigerian National Security Adviser Mallam Nuhu Ribadu have expressed readiness to support Sierra Leone in strengthening national security and preserving democratic stability.