Sierra Leone foiled coup: Lessons to be learnt

President Maada Bio of Sierra Leone

President Maada Bio

By Abubakar Hashim/Freetown

Sierra Leone’s topographical beauty is a tourist delight. It is a resource-rich, mountainous terrain that descends into the Atlantic Ocean, through a beautiful landscape of magnificent houses and hospitable people.

The coup attempt on Sunday, 26 November 2023, was a cowardly act and condemnable in all perspectives.
The first coup in the country was in 1967 after the general elections the same year, that overthrew late President Siaka Stevens.

The country is on record to witness 2 coups within 48 hours, Stevens was overthrown by Gen Lansana in 1968, while he was restored by Gen Juxon Smith.

Steven’s rule, from 1967 to 1985, first as Prime Minister, then as President, was a one-party state.

This period was the genesis of the country’s foundation of underdevelopment. Other leaders in this era, like Houphuet Boiny of Ivory Coast, Yakubu Gowon of Nigeria and others, laid solid foundations, particularly in infrastructure.

Through a machinated referendum in 1985, Stevens fielded Joseph Momoh as the sole presidential candidate with an approved 99.85% votes.

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Late Momoh’s rule was an apotheosis and a continuation of Stevens’ despicable rule. Civil war erupted, that further pushed the country backwards.

In 1992, Momoh was overthrown by Valentine Strasser, who came to power just 3 days after his 25th birthday, the then youngest head of state in the world. He ruled from 1992 to 1996 when incumbent President Julius Maada Bio took over in another military coup.

Former Sierra Leonean President Joseph Momoh

Maada Bio ruled for only three months from 16 January 1996 to 29 March 1996 to prove his determination towards ending military rule in the country and handed power to a democratically elected President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

This ended the chequered history of coups in the country.

Valentine Strasser
Valentine Strasser

The lessons learned are so numerous for a country so richly endowed, but underdeveloped. The undesirability of ethnic colouration and tribal sentiments are the most lessons to be learned in the country’s chequered history.

President Bio, first as military head of state in 1996, and now, as civilian president, since 2018, remains the most famous President, a leader of nationalistic instincts and a survivor of major catastrophes.

The journey has been tough, but the imminent future is promising, particularly the twin projects of “Feed Salone” and the Lungi Bridge that will transform the economic landscape of Sierra Leone.

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