The case of the mysterious fugitive: after the war, comes the consolidation of peace. But it is proving to be a bit much for president Tejan Kabbah's government. Mike Butscher reports from Freetown.

Author:Butscher, Mike
Position:Around Africa: Sierra Leone

Recent rumours of a coup plot have called into question the government's ability to manage security as it brings back fresh memories of the war, the invasion of Freetown by rebels, and the May 1997 coup led by Major Johnny Paul Koroma (who won a seat in parliament in last year's elections).

There is still a large contingent of United Nations peacekeepers (UNAMSIL) in the country although they have started a gradual withdrawal that should last for three years.

The latest development wheteby the MP, Johnny Paul Koroma, and others escaped arrest in the wake of allegations that they were conspiring to destabilise the country, has increased the security fears of the people.

A ransom of $5,000 has been offered by the police for information on Koroma who miraculously escaped when armed government agents raided his house on 18 January. Several of his key allies were, however, arrested.

According to the police, the raid was in connection with an attack on a military depot in the east end of the capital, Freetown, on 13 January, Koroma denied any involvement when interviewed by the BBC from his secret location.

"I am just an innocent man. I'm sure they are looking at me as a political threat particularly when I formed a political parry and made it to parliament," he said. "They want to find a way of getting me out of the scene just because after the elections I carried the security votes.

"They knew that some time back they attempted to hit me. Sometime back they attempted to assassinate me using my security [bodyguards]. We've worked very, very hard for this peace to hold. But by doing this kind of things, it will be difficult to consolidate peace."

People who heard the interview questioned why he had not made public all these secret plots to kill him until now. The fact that he went into hiding instead of surrendering to UNAMSIL increased suspicions that he had something to hide. More than 70 people were arrested by the police in connection with the investigations.

After all the...

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