Sierra Leone’s Information Minister Mohamed Rahman Swarray has played down a comment made by the country’s first lady that her husband holds a PhD in staging military coups.
Fatima Bio said at a fundraising event in the US over the weekend that President Julius Maada Bio was a teacher of coups and therefore nobody could overthrow him.
Her comments were a reference to protests held on 10 August in opposition strongholds over the rising cost of living and to the fact that her husband had been a part of two coups in the 1990s.
“I am not aware of any university where they offer coup studies,” Mr Swarray told the BBC
In 1992 Mr Bio and other junior military officers overthrew the civilian government of Joseph Saidu Momoh. In January 1996 he staged a palace coup and succeeded Captain Valentine Strasser as head of state.
Two months later he held elections and handed over to a civilian rule.
Mr Swaray said the 1992 coup “was the most popular in the history of this country… because several attempts at a democratic change of government had failed”.
He said the palace coup happened “because President Bio wanted to ensure that they kept to their commitment to the people to deliver a return to multiparty democracy as laid out in their original plan”.
The information minister fell short of condemning the first lady’s statement, saying instead that he was only “putting it into context”.
He said the president was one of the morale guarantors in West Africa to return Guinea and Mali – where the military has seized power – to democratic civilian rule.
The first lady has still not clarified her statement.