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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
24 January 2006

SIERRA LEONE: Ex rebel official accused of bid to overthrow government

FREETOWN, 24 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - As Sierra Leone works to overcome a decade of civil war and unrest, a former rebel spokesman was accused of treason on Monday for alleged involvement in a recent bid to overthrow the government and assassinate the vice-president.

Lawyer Omrie Michael Golley, former spokesman for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel movement, was arrested on 12 January along with two other men in a luxury hotel in the country’s seafront capital, Freetown.

The RUF rebel movement led by Foday Sankoh, which was backed by former Liberian leader Charles Taylor and controlled the country’s lucrative diamond mining, won notoriety for hacking off limbs during the West African country's 10-year civil war.

In court, Golley and two others were charged with plotting between 1 December 2005 and 13 January 2006 to slay Vice President Solomon Berewa and overthrow the government.

Mohamed Alpha Bah and David Kai-Tongi, who are both believed to be former RUF combatants, were also arraigned before Magistrate Sam Margai at the Freetown Magistrate court.

According to the charges, the three are alleged to have "prepared" and "endeavoured" to overthrow the government of Sierra Leone by unlawful means.

They are also alleged to have held meetings at the Bintumani Hotel and Kadi's Beach Bar, Lumley, where they "met, participated and deliberated together" and also "manifested their complicity in the plot to overthrow the government."

It is also alleged that Mohamed Alpha Bah "visited the arms store of the Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces" for the purpose of "ascertaining the availability of arms and ammunition" in the store.

No plea was taken and the matter was adjourned to 30 January.

Outside the court, Golley told journalists that "for a man who fought for peace in this country it would be inconceivable to do anything but to work hard to consolidate and to nurture the peace process here."

Golley, who holds British-Sierra Leonean nationality, was arrested the day he was due to leave the country after a tip-off to the Sierra Leonean authorities.

A senior government official who requested anonymity told IRIN that Golley had made contact with former members of the West Side Boys militia, when he was in England, and had talked them into overthrowing the government.

But the Boys referred the matter to the Sierra Leone authorities, who then laid a trap that resulted in the arrest of the trio. Their detention was announced on state radio and television by President Tejan Kabbah.

The source said that the boys "do not want war anymore".

The 1991-2001 war in the diamond-rich country claimed 20,000 lives, left thousands maimed and displaced half of the five million strong population, according to the government.

It was followed by a 17,500-strong peacekeeping operation that managed in six years to restore government control over the territory.

The peacekeepers left the country at the end of December, and uncertainty remains as to the capacity of the newly trained police force to maintain security in the country.

[ENDS]

This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but May not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006



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