Fighting broke out in Sierra Leone’s capital on Sunday following an alleged assault on a military arsenal, prompting the government to enforce a nationwide curfew.
According to witnesses, there were reports of gunshots and explosions in the Wilberforce area of Freetown, where the armory and several embassies are situated.
Witnesses also stated that there were gun battles in the Murray Town district, which houses the navy, and at another military location in the capital city.
A video circulating on social media showed a large group of prisoners supposedly escaping from the main jail. One individual, who was captured on film by an AFP journalist, claimed to be part of the prison break.
The officials announced that peace had been regained, but did not provide any additional statements regarding the attackers’ reasons.
Ecowas released a statement emphasizing their strict stance against any unconstitutional government changes.
Paralleling previous failed coup attempts, Ecowas expressed its strong disapproval of a scheme by certain individuals to obtain weapons and disrupt the tranquility and constitutional structure in Sierra Leone.
Susan Kargbo, who was reached by phone, stated that she was awakened at approximately 4:30am by the intense sounds of machine guns and bombs originating from the Wilberforce barracks.
She expressed her shock and horror as the sound of gunshots persisted into the morning, comparing it to a war-like atmosphere.
The authorities reported that individuals trying to invade the weapons storage at a significant military base were turned away, but advised citizens to remain in their residences.
Chernor Bah, the information minister of the country, stated that the government and state security forces have everything under control. In order to allow the security forces to continue their efforts in apprehending the suspects, a nationwide curfew has been declared with immediate effect.
Since June, Sierra Leone, a country in west Africa where English is spoken, has been facing a political turmoil following its presidential and general elections.
Julius Maada Bio, the nation’s leader, also reassured that the capital had regained peace.
“In the early hours of this morning, there was a breach of security at the military barracks at Wilberforce in Freetown, as some unidentified individuals attacked the military armoury,” he posted on X.
But our brave security forces were able to drive them away and now everything is peaceful again.
The security forces are working together to eliminate the remaining renegade group, and as a precaution, a curfew has been implemented across the country. It is advised that citizens remain indoors during this time.
The bio stated that the government’s goal is to safeguard the peace and security of Sierra Leone from those who seek to disrupt our treasured stability. They also expressed their unwavering commitment to defending democracy in Sierra Leone.
The US embassy expressed disapproval of the social media posts attempting to access the armoury and pledged ongoing assistance for those striving towards a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous Sierra Leone.
Bio, who won the initial election in 2018, recently secured re-election in June with a slim majority of 56% of the vote, narrowly preventing the need for a second round of voting.
The count was criticized by international observers for its inconsistencies, lack of transparency, and instances of violence and intimidation.
The leading opposing party, All People’s Congress (APC), contested the outcomes of the presidential, legislative, and local elections on June 24 and refused to participate in any levels of government.
In October, an agreement was signed between the APC and the government following negotiations facilitated by the Commonwealth, the African Union, and Ecowas.
The APC has decided to halt their boycott and resume involvement in the government, on the condition that all politically motivated detentions and court cases are ceased.