Sierra Leone Imposes Curfew After Gunmen Attack Military Bases

On Sunday, Sierra Leone’s president imposed a nationwide curfew after gunmen targeted the largest military barracks in the capital, overran detention centers, and breached a significant prison in the West African nation.

The assault sparked concerns about a potential breakdown of order amid a wave of coups in the region. According to Information Minister Chernor Bah, the Pademba Road Prisons, housing over 2,000 inmates, along with other detention centers, came under attack precisely as security forces engaged in ongoing shootouts at the Wilberforce military barracks.

In response to the attacks, Sierra Leone’s president, Julius Maada Bio, announced a nationwide curfew.

An Associated Press journalist reported that gunfire persisted for hours in the capitol despite the government’s assurances of calm. It remained unclear who was involved in the exchange of fire, and there was no confirmation of any arrests.

Bah said, “The security forces are making progress in the operation to defeat and apprehend those responsible for today’s attacks. The government remains in control and on top of the situation.”

Both the president and the Ministry of Information and Education asserted that the government and security forces have the situation under control, attempting to alleviate concerns about a potential escalation of violence. Sierra Leone, with a population of 8 million, ranks among the world’s poorest nations, reflecting some of the lowest scores on the U.N. Human Development Index.

No immediate details were provided about the gunmen or the motive behind the attack.

The incident occurred several months after Bio secured reelection for a second term in a contested vote, during which the main opposition party accused the electoral commission of manipulating the results.

The regional economic bloc ECOWAS, of which Sierra Leone is a member, characterized the incident as a scheme “to acquire arms and disturb the peace and constitutional order” in the country.

In recent months, the bloc has made efforts to counter the rise in coups in West and Central Africa, which has witnessed eight military takeovers since 2020, with the latest occurrences in Niger and Gabon this year.

Bio secured reelection in Sierra Leone’s fifth presidential election since the conclusion of a brutal 11-year civil war over two decades ago. The conflict resulted in tens of thousands of casualties and widespread economic devastation. Nearly 60% of Sierra Leone’s population is grappling with poverty, and the youth unemployment rate stands as one of the highest in West Africa.