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Former Sierra Leone President Koroma Seeks Exile in Nigeria Amid Treason Charges

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LAGOS, Nigeria – Ernest Bai Koroma, the former president of Sierra Leone, accused of treason and related offenses, has reportedly fled to Nigeria, heightening political tensions in the West African nation.

Koroma, who led Sierra Leone from 2007 to 2018, arrived in Nigeria on January 1, 2024, under the guise of a medical trip, according to sources familiar with the arrangement.

This development follows the alleged involvement of Koroma in an attempted coup in 2023, which he vehemently denies.

The attack, which claimed around 20 lives, has plunged Sierra Leone into a state of heightened political unrest, particularly after the contentious presidential election in June 2023.

Despite being granted permission by the High Court for medical treatment in Nigeria on January 17, there is widespread speculation that Koroma may not return to face trial.

Insider sources suggest that a deal may have been brokered by the regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to facilitate Koroma’s exile.

The Sierra Leonean government, led by President Julius Maada Bio, initially agreed to this arrangement but later reneged, influenced by members of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) who viewed ECOWAS’s involvement with suspicion.

However, following an attempted coup on November 26, 2023, where militants attacked a military armory and two prisons in Freetown, releasing hundreds of inmates, the government’s stance shifted.

The Sierra Leonean government attributed the coup attempt to officials from the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC), including Koroma, leading to his house arrest and subsequent court charges on January 3rd.

In response to the escalating crisis, the ECOWAS end-of-year summit in December 2023 saw President Bio requesting a mediation mission to Sierra Leone.

A high-level delegation, including Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo and Senegalese President Macky Sall, was dispatched by ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government Chairman and Nigerian President Bola Tinubu.

According to a source, tt was President Bio who proposed that Koroma leave the country, mirroring Bio’s own political asylum in the United States after handing over power in 1996.

After negotiations, all parties agreed to the exile plan, with Nigeria as the host country for Koroma. The agreement stipulated that Sierra Leone would drop all charges against Koroma, who would retain his entitlements as a former head of state.

The situation in Sierra Leone, a country with a tumultuous history marked by colonialism, slavery, and a devastating civil war from 1991 to 2002, remains tense. The country, known for its rich mineral resources, has made strides in rebuilding post-war but continues to grapple with political instability and economic challenges.

Koroma’s exile to Nigeria marks a significant chapter in the region’s political history, reflecting the complex interplay of national and regional politics in West Africa.

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