Normally when you organise a successful coup d’etat, there’s a high chance you are not going to hand over power after three months. Now, that is what 53 year-old Julius Maada Bio did back in 1996.
On January 16, 1996, Bio, an ethnic Sherbro and a native of Bonthe District in Southern Sierra Leone led a military coup in Sierra Leone, ousting his close friend and the leader of the NPRC junta government, Captain Valentine Strasser, following a division within senior members of the NPRC junta.
Surpringly, this wasn’t his first attempt at staging a coup. Bio and six other soldiers had in 1992 organised a coup that overthrew president Momoh. Mr. Bio was made deputy head of state then.
In his first public speech after the coup, Bio justified his actions as a means to return Sierra Leone to a democratically elected civilian government and end the Sierra Leone civil war.
After retiring from the military in 1996, Bio moved to the United States, where he earned a Masters Degree in International Affairs from American University in Washington, D.C.. He also served as the president of International Systems Science Corporation, a consulting and investment management firm based in the United States.
As the winner of the elections, Julius Maada Bio, was Wednesday night immediately sworn in as the country’s president by the country’s chief justice, Abdulai Charm.
Candidates from 16 parties ran for president, but in the first round of voting last month, no one won the 55 percent required to avoid a second round.
Mr. Bio, the Sierra Leone People’s Party, received 51.8 percent of the vote in the runoff on Saturday, narrowly defeating Samura Kamara from the governing party, the All People’s Congress, who won 48.2 percent, according to the Electoral Commission.
Mr. Bio succeeds President Ernest Bai Koroma, who is stepping down after serving a second five-year term. His tenure was punctuated by tragedy, including an outbreak of the Ebola virus and a deadly mudslide, in a country that is still recovering from a civil war that ended in 2002 after the deaths of more than 50,000 people.
The Electoral Commission had postponed the runoff after a High Court judge found irregularities in the first round of voting. And even after the runoff was held on Saturday, the outcome was delayed because of disagreements over how to count the votes.
Sierra Leone has abundant natural wealth, including diamonds, bauxite and iron ore, but the country is one of the world’s poorest, with high rates of maternal and infant mortality. Many adults make a living from activities like selling clothes along the road, pushing loads in wheelbarrows for hire and driving motorbike taxis.
Bio is a senior research fellow at the University of Bradford in England, where he is pursuing a Ph.D. in Peace Studies.
Mr. Bio’s victory in Sierra Leone resembles, in some ways, that of Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president since 2015, according to Mr. Lavali. Mr. Buhari was a former military commander who led his country after a coup there.