Military Council to Replace Ousted Sierra Leone Leader
Coup leaders in Sierra Leone named a military council Friday to replace ousted President Joseph Momoh and promised to halt the war that brought down his government.
The leader of the council, Lt. Col. Yahya Kanu, was the most effective field commander in battling last year’s invasion of Sierra Leone by Liberian rebels. A report this week by Amnesty International said Kanu’s units in Kenema, southeast Sierra Leone, were guilty of many atrocities.
Kanu said Thursday that the new government is “absolutely in favor of a return to multi-party rule.” In London, the secretary general of the Commonwealth of Britain and its former colonies, Nigerian Chief Emeka Anyaoku, urged the new rulers to make that a top priority, saying, “Any military coup d’etat is a setback to the cause of democracy.”
Middle-ranking Sierra Leonean officers led the mutiny Wednesday morning, arriving in Freetown from the war front with their troops.
Complaining that they had not been paid for three months and had nothing to eat, they seized the presidential palace. After briefly retaking the seat of power, Momoh fled to neighboring Guinea, and what had begun as a protest by troops turned into a full-fledged coup.
There were no reports of deaths, though reporters saw wounded soldiers.
The U.S. Embassy in Freetown reported that looters had attacked some stores.
In Washington, the State Department said several cargo planes were on standby in Africa pending a decision on whether to evacuate nearly 1,000 Americans here.
An 80-member U.S. military medical team that arrived recently will probably be evacuated. The decision on others--about 27 embassy employees, 80 Peace Corps volunteers and 800 private Americans--will depend on whether violence erupts in the country.
Late Thursday, the coup leaders announced a state of emergency and imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew, warning that violators would be shot.
The coup leaders said they want to halt corruption and remedy Sierra Leone’s economic troubles before bringing multi-party democracy. They provided no details or timetable.