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ECOWAS criticises attempt to disrupt democracy in Sierra Leone

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A nationwide curfew was declared yesterday by Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio after unidentified gunmen attacked military barracks in the West African nation’s capital, Freetown.

This is as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned the plot by some individuals to disturb the peace of the West African country.

The condemnation is contained in a statement by ECOWAS on Sunday in Abuja.

The situation in Sierra Leone has been tense since the disputed re-election of Bio.

Taking to X, Bio said unidentified gunmen attacked a military armoury within the barracks in the capital, Freetown, early morning. “They were driven back by security forces and calm has been restored”, he added.

As the combined team of security forces continues to root out the remnant of the fleeing renegades, a nationwide curfew has been declared and citizens are encouraged to stay indoors, he wrote.

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 condemns this act and calls for the arrest and prosecution of everyone involved in the illegality.

“The bloc has always maintained its zero-tolerance for unconstitutional change of government.

“We want to reaffirm our commitment to supporting the government and the people of Sierra Leone’s quest to deepen democracy and good governance by consolidating peace and security so as to foster socio-economic development”, it stated.

It was also learnt that some inmates from the central prison in Freetown had escaped and the authorities are investigating the incident. So far, it is not clear how many had escaped the prison.

Some of the videos that circulated on social media revealed many people fleeing from the prison area, while gunshots were heard in the background. According to officials, the gunmen who attacked the military barracks later broke into the prison and freed the prisoners.

Sierra Leone’s civil aviation authority had urged airlines to reschedule flights after the curfew was imposed.

The aviation authority said in a statement that passengers should be placed on the next available flights after the curfew is lifted. It added that the country’s airspace remains open.

Bio was reelected for a second term in June amid the opposition party’s accusation of Sierra Leone’s electoral commission of conspiring with his party.

Since the end of the 11-year brutal civil war, it was the fifth presidential election held in the nation.

Since 2020, there have been eight military coups in West and Central Africa. Bio has been facing criticism because of weakening economic conditions. The nation is battling severe poverty, youth unemployment among other issues.

On the latest attack, the U.S. embassy in Freetown said in a statement that such actions were not justified.

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