The former president can leave Sierra Leone amid Nigeria exile rumors
Despite facing treason charges, a former president of Sierra Leone has been granted court permission to travel abroad for medical reasons. Speculation suggests that Ernest Bai Koroma may consider exile in Nigeria if the charges against him are dropped.
Accused of treason and related offenses in connection with a failed coup last November, Koroma, who governed from 2007 to 2018, maintains his innocence.
The High Court ruling allows him to travel to Nigeria for medical treatment but specifies a three-month limit, with a requirement to appear before a Sierra Leonean magistrates court on March 6.
Last year’s attack, characterized as an attempted coup, involved gunmen breaking into a military armory and prisons in Freetown, resulting in the release of nearly 2,000 inmates.
Sources from the United Nations and Ecowas suggest that a deal for Koroma’s exile in Nigeria has been brokered, contingent on dropping the charges, allowing him to retain the privileges of a former president while in Nigeria.
However, Sierra Leone Foreign Minster Timothy Kabba previously told the BBC the government did not support the proposal, which he described as a “unilateral proposition” by the president of the Ecowas Commission.
Ecowas has been concerned about heightened tensions in Sierra Leone following the coup attempt. In the 1990s Ecowas closely witnessed the horrors of a brutal civil war in the West African country and sent a peacekeeping force to help end the conflict.
Some diplomats believe Mr Koroma will not return from Nigeria after traveling there on medical grounds and that the court order in effect allows him to go into exile as a way of restoring calm to the country.
Mr. Koroma was president for 11 years until 2018 when the current President Julius Maada Bio was elected.
The former president’s daughter, Dankay Koroma, has previously been named on a list of suspects wanted by police investigating the failed coup. She has not commented.
The attempted coup came five months after a disputed election which saw President Bio narrowly re-elected for a second term.
The results were rejected by Mr Koroma’s All People’s Congress. International observers also criticized the elections, highlighting a lack of transparency in the count.