Who is Julius Maada Bio?
Julius Maada Bio is the current President of Sierra Leone. He is in office since April 4, 2018.He was born as the 33rd child of the Paramount Chief of the Sogbini Chiefdom in Southern Sierra Leone. An ethnic Sherbo, he is also a practicing Roman Catholic. After completing his secondary education at Bo School, he joined the Military Academy of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces, graduating from there as a Second Lieutenant at the age of 23. At the age of 28, he played a leading role in a coup that dislodged the then president and thereafter he became an important member of the Supreme Council of State. Four years later, he staged a second coup, becoming president of the country for three months, after which he handed over the power to a democratically elected government. He also resigned from his post in the army and went off to USA for higher studies and returned to Sierra Leone at the age 39. At the age of 41, he officially joined Sierra Leone People's Party (SLLPP). He was nominated as SLPP’s presidential candidate in 2012 national election. After losing the election, he intensified his political activities, eventually winning the 2018 national election.
Childhood & Early Years
Julius Maada Bio was born on 12 May 1964, in Tihun, a village in the Sogbini Chiefdom, located just outside Mattru Jong in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone. His father, Charlie Bio II, was the Paramount Chief of the Sogbini Chiefdom.
His mother’s name was Amina. Little is known about her except that she was calm, hardworking, calculative and had a strong belief in God. In an interview he had later said that he acquired most of his values and driving principles of his life from her.
Named after his paternal grandfather, who was also the paramount chief of Sogbini Chiefdom before his father, Julius grew up in a large family consisting of forty-five members. His mother was one of his father’s nine wives while he was born 33rd of his father’s thirty-five children.
Julius began his education at a Roman Catholic Primary School in Tihun. But very shortly, he was sent to live with his elder sister Agnes, a primary school teacher in Pujehun. During this period, she became more of a mother to him.
In Pujehun, he was admitted to the Holy Family Primary School, where he studied for five years. Thereafter, he was sent to study at Bo Government Secondary School, a boarding school for boys located in Bo Town, the largest city in the Southern Province.
Julius studied at Bo School for seven years. He became a prefect in his senior years and graduated with his A-level in 1984. Thereafter, he secured employment at a Methodist Secondary School, teaching there for one year.
In 1985, he decided to earn his college degree and applied for admission to Fourah Bay College in Freetown. But shortly after that, he was informed that the army was recruiting new cadets and eventually joined the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces Military Academy at Benguema.
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In October 1987, Julius Maada Bio graduated from the military academy as a Second Lieutenant. His first posting was at the Lungi Airport. But shortly, he was shifted to the newly created Economic Emergency Unit and posted in the Kambia District to counter the already deepening criminal activities along the Guinean border.
In 1988, he was brought back to Lungi to be trained in aviation security by the United Nation forces. After completion of the training, he became a platoon commander at Benguema.
In 1989, the First Civil War broke out in Liberia, causing a massive humanitarian problem and mass exodus to Sierra Leone. In 1990, West African leaders set up Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) to which Sierra Leone was to contribute troops.
Bio was initially posted at Gendema, located at the border. Very soon, they received news that Liberian rebel leader, Charles Taylor, was planning to invade Sierra Leone.
Although they sent the news to Freetown, nothing came of it. Shortly after that, Bio was sent to Liberia as his country’s contribution.
In March 1991, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) under Charles Taylor invaded Sierra Leone, overrunning the border regions. Bio, along with few of his colleagues, was ordered to return home and join the newly formed battalion called Gladio in the Kailahun District.
Gladio consisted of 600 men, who were hastily put together. Most of them were poorly trained and poorly paid. They were also ill fed and were equipped with Second World War guns, which did not often fire. Therefore, when the rebels attacked, two-thirds of the men ran away.
Bio remained with Gladio for four weeks before being transferred to Segbwema. Here, the commanding officer was an old friend, Prince Benjamin Hirsch. Both of them were very bitter about the then state of affair and often talked about changing the system. Many other officers also felt the same way.
1992 Coup and Thereafter
While Bio and Hirsch were talking about changing the system, they were visited by another young officer, Captain Valentine Strasser. They eventually planned the coup, which was to take place on the night of 29 April, 1992.
While Straaser moved to Freetown, where he mobilized f40 hardcore soldiers, Bio remained at Segbwema. On the night of 29 April, he moved to Freetown; so did Lieutenant Sahr Sandy, Lieutenant Solomon Musa, Lieutenant Tom Nyuma and Captain Komba Mondeh.
The soldiers occupied the State House very easily while President Joseph Saidu Momoh fled to Guinea, where he spent rest of his life as the guest of the country’s government. Eventually National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) was formed and Strasser became the Head of State of Sierra Leone.
Until then a Second Lieutenant, Julius Maada Bio was promoted to the post of the Captain after the coup. He also became a key member of the Supreme Council of State, simultaneously being appointed to the Secretary of State South and was stationed at Bo Town for a short period.
Possibly in 1993, he was brought back to Freetown as the Secretary of State in charge of Information and Broadcasting. Later in the same year, when Captain S.A.J. Musa, at that time Strasser's deputy, orchestrated some extra judicial killings, Bio took a leading role in sending him to exile.
After Musa was sent to exile, Bio was promoted to the post of Brigadier and made Deputy Chairman of the NPRC and Chief Secretary of State. Slowly, he began to rise in importance while Strasser began to take a back seat.
The new regime had three goals; they wanted to end the war, revive the economy and install democracy. During this period, peace talks were initiated, roads were constructed, electricity was restored and most importantly, rice and petrol were made more easily available. A multi party election was also planned in 1996.
In late 1995 or early 1996, a dispute arose between Strasser and Bio on whether to establish peace first and then hold the election or vice versa. On January 16, 1996, Bio led a bloodless coup against Strasser, bundling him into neighboring Guinea in a military helicopter.
Following the coup, Julius Maada Bio made his first public broadcast, declaring his commitment for establishing democracy as well as peace in the country. Thereafter, he ruled for three months, handing over the power to elected President, Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah on March 29, 1996.
In 1996, Julius Maada Bio resigned from the army and moved to the USA, where he lived until 2003. Here he continued his education and earned his a Masters Degree in International Affairs from American University in Washington, DC. In 1999, he successfully sought asylum in the USA.
In the USA, he was employed with various firms, including International Systems Science Corporation, where he served as its President. On his return to Sierra Leone on 17 April 2003, he set up different ventures including a grass root diamond valuation business.
In 2005, he became an official member of Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP). In September, he ran for the post of the Party President and came third behind Vice President Solomon Berewa and lawyer-cum-politician Charles Margai.
In 2007, he again ran for the post, but lost. Concurrently, he continued to expand his business and established Tropical Farms Ltd, a cocoa and coffee production company in 2008.
In 2011, he again ran for presidential nomination and won the election held on the night of 31st July at the SLPP’s convention. Thus he became his party’s presidential candidate for the 2012 national election.
In 2012 national election, Bio garnered 37% of the votes, losing to President Ernest Bai Koroma of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC). Despite defeat, SLPP became the only viable opposition party. From now onwards, Bio began to take more active interest in politics.
In 2014, Bio launched a charitable organization called ‘Maada and Fatima Bio Foundation’ with the objective of providing educational subsidies for disadvantaged children. They also offer skills training programs, enterprise development programs, agricultural development programs and health care.
In 2015, Bio was supposed to travel to the United States; but was denied entry. This gave rise to speculation that he had committed some offence while living there, a charge he strongly denies.
Along with taking active interest in politics, Bio also continued to further his education, pursuing a PhD in Peace Study at the prestigious University of Bradford in UK. During this period, he also published number of articles on international affairs in esteemed journals like The Guardian and Huffington Post.
President of Sierra Leone
In 2018, Bio was again nominated by SLPP to run for the country’s presidential election. During the campaign, he hit out at corruption of the ruling regime, promising to review mining concession agreements if elected.
He also promised to provide free primary and secondary education. Moreover, he criticized the Chinese infrastructure projects as a sham with no economic benefits to the countrymen and accused the APC government of trying to intimidate his party workers.
The first round of the general election was held on 7 March 2018. As none of the sixteen presidential candidates won the mandatory 55% of the vote, a second round of voting was held on 31 March between two top candidates; Maada Bio and Samura Kamara of APC.
Maada Bio won the final round by 51.8% votes. Although Kamara challenged the election, Bio was sworn in as the President of Sierra Leone on the evening of 4 April, 2018, barely two hours after the election results were out.
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Personal Life & Legacy
While studying in the USA, Julius Maada Bio married Francess Bio. They had three children; Ivan Bio, Agnes Bio and Charlie Bio. Nothing else is known about this marriage.
Possibly in 2013, he married his long time companion, popular Gambian actress Fatima Jabbi in a private ceremony in London. In 2015, a baby girl was born to them. She has been named Amina Maada Bio.
After the news of Bio’s marriage to Fatima leaked out in Sierra Leone, there was uproar in the country. He was accused of bigamy, a charge he refuted strongly saying that he had divorced his first wife before he married for the second time.