I am not allowed to enter the United States – Maada Bio confesses

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 October 2015

The name Julius Maada Bio (Photo) is one that has the tendency to evoke mixed reactions, depending on which side of the political fence one is standing.

But, loathe him or like him, he will always be remembered as one of the young military boys who turned their tanks and guns away from the rebel forces in 1992, and headed straight for the capital of Sierra Leone – Freetown, to topple the corrupt and dysfunctional APC government of president Joseph Saidu Momoh.

Though regarded as a brutal soldier by many in Sierra Leone, as well as being held responsible for the numerous human rights abuses committed by soldiers under his watch back then, including the extra-judicial execution of 29 people in Sierra Leone, in 2012 Maada Bio contested the presidential election as the opposition SLPP candidate.

Bio not only lost the 2012 election, but his party – the SLPP faired much worse than in the previous 2007 elections when the party was in power, by winning only 37.4% of the popular votes.

Today, Bio is hoping to once again contest the 2018 elections, if elected as the SLPP presidential candidate. But there is a serious problem, described by many as “too much personal and political baggage”.

Across the country and within the SLPP party, there is a common held view that Bio would be unsuitable for the presidency. But Bio and his supporters think otherwise. They are confident of his chances this time around. And even the ruling APC are now backing the Bio campaign.

Bio’s opponents are alleging that he has either been banned from entering the United States of America, or he is a wanted man by the police in the States for crimes committed whilst living in America.

Bio ready for State HouseHow true are these allegations?

Speaking on local radio this morning, the retired military brigadier and former president of Sierra Leone said that he has not committed any crime in the United States, nor is he a wanted man by the authorities in America.

But he was quite evasive when pushed to confirm whether he can travel to the United States or not, and to explain the real reasons behind these allegations.

This is what Bio told the radio reporter:

Reporter: In a situation where you are elected flagbearer and automatically you happen to win the election in 2018, how will you negotiate your entry into the United States of America, upon the belief that you are not opportune to go there? How much do you want people to understand the significance of that particular assertion?

Bio: That is so irrelevant to what we are doing.

Reporter: Are you sure? This is principal… it is key, retired Brigadier.

Bio: You are wrong to also make that assertion. I did my first and second degrees in the United States of America – Washington DC, and I have absolutely nothing in terms of offence in the United States, and I have challenged you severally, to bring me a single offence that I committed in the United States, and you keep talking about this. But you can’t bring it to me.

I have a problem with the immigration, which is common with the United States, a difficult immigration problem, which is why I have not been allowed to go there. And sometimes you can have a simple problem, even filling your visa application.

If you mis-state or state anything that is not correct, or they consider being incorrect, you will be refused in the United States or any part of the world.  That is true.

But let me tell you, there are so many leaders around the world who……….I don’t need to go to the United States to lead my country. It is the people of this country who will have to decide.

And to be sure, I just want you to know that, as and when the people of this country say I am the leader of this country, the United States will not refuse me visa.

We saw what happened in India. If you are only current with international affairs, so many leaders have been banned from going to the United States. The present prime minister of India was one. Even Nelson Mandela was another.

I don’t even put myself in the same class as Nelson Mandela, but these are historic problems that have a direct reference to what is happening.

And I would have been worried if there was a criminal record against me in the United States. I would have been worried if I did anything wrong.

I left there on my own volition. When my visa ran out in the United States when I was there, I decided to apply for asylum at the time when the war was still heavy here.

Maada Bio handing over to KabbaWhen the war was over, I spoke to president Tejan Kabba when he was there, and he said to me: “You have to come back. We need all hands on deck.” He sent me my diplomatic passport, which had expired at the time, and he said you have to come.

But then I was still an ‘Asylee’, that means I was still being protected by the United States. And because I was an Asylee I was not supposed to come to Sierra Leone. Because when you apply for asylum, it means you are not supposed to go to the country where, you are in fear of persecution and other problems.

And at the time I applied, this was 1999, we all can attest to what was happening in this country. If I had come, I would have been part of the problem, because of my profile. So I refused to come.

But remember I came here on the 17th of April 2003. The United States have a problem with that, because I told them the reason that I applied for this status (Asylum) had expired. We have peace agreement in Sierra Leone, the various factions have been disarmed, we have 17,000 UN troops stationed here, and therefore the premises upon which I applied for this have completely vanished.

I don’t want to stay (in the States) anymore; I have to go back to my country. And because I came without their authority, they think that I had applied (for Asylum) wrongly and that I had no fear in the first place.

Somebody is trying to say that I have a problem in the United States, because I had a problem with my wife. You can phone my former wife, I have never been to a police station, and I have never had a fracas with her that, we caused anybody to come.

This is all a calculated means to smear my character, and that’s why I have challenged you. In the US there is openness, go there and try to find out about me; and if you come back with anything that I was involved in any problem with my wife, bring it out and I will talk about that. (End of Radio Interview).

This radio interview, though fascinating as it was, raises many questions as much as it answers.

For example, many listeners would perhaps ask Maada Bio whether his application for asylum in the USA was genuine. They would also ask whether he was fully aware of the asylum application rules at that time, which made it unlawful for him to have travelled back to Sierra Leone, without the permission of the US authorities.

Furthermore, does Bio understand that by overstaying his visa; leaving the US without the permission of the authorities as an asylum seeker, he was clearly breaking the US law?

And if so, does he then accept that his image and credibility as a potential world leader have been badly damaged?

Bio argues that other world leaders such as Nelson Mandela and the Indian prime minister have also been banned from entering the US, and in the case of the Indian Prime Minister – Narenda Modi, he has since officially visited the US and stayed at the White House – courtesy of Obama.

But most Sierra Leoneans would say that the two cases are significantly different.

Bio was judged by the US authorities to have committed a crime in the USA after overstaying his visa and then sought to regularise his stay as an asylum seeker without complying with the rules, whilst the Indian prime minister and Nelson Mandela, were believed by the Americans to have committed a crime in their own respective countries.    

The argument surrounding Bio’s inability to travel to the US will continue. But what matters most, as Sierra Leone approaches presidential and general elections in 2018, is whether the electorate will be prepared to elect a president, who has not only got overseas travel restrictions overshadowing his presidency, but is believed by many to have lied about his asylum application to the US authorities.

Maada Bio 2015Is this US visa issue a question of honesty and trust?

Perhaps much more significant for the Bio campaign, is the allegation of extra-judicial killings that refuses to go away.

There are sections of the Sierra Leonean population, especially in the north of the country, who are still finding it very difficult to forgive Maada Bio for leading a military junta that executed 29 people on the 29th December, 1992, without due process.

And up till today, no one knows where their bodies are buried.

In 2011, Maada Bio apologised for the behaviour and conduct of his soldiers, and accepted collective responsibility for all the human rights abuses suffered by the citizens of Sierra Leone.

President Koroma has decided he will not open up investigations into the killing of the 29 people.

Today, senior ruling APC politicians – including the president, believe that Maada is a reformed statesman – a man they can do business with, especially as the 2018 election approaches.

But would the people of Sierra Leone, especially the northerners who are largely finding it very difficult to forgive Maada Bio, be prepared to elect him to State House, where this time he is expected to rule without the barrel of a gun?

A serious question also raised by the interview, centres on Bio’s assertion that president Kabba sent over to him his expired diplomatic passport. Why did president Kabba – a highly trained, ex – UN official send Bio an expired diplomatic passport that legally was of no use to Bio? Potentially, that could have landed him in much bigger trouble, had he tried to travel with that passport.

Why did president Kabba send Bio a diplomatic passport (expired or otherwise), despite Bio having ceased to be a government official?

Can Bio convince the majority of Sierra Leoneans that despite his huge personal and political baggage, he can still be trusted to rule and transform Sierra Leone from its current state of economic decline and deep social inequalities?

Can Maada Bio unite the whole of Sierra Leone?

Listen to the radio Interview here:

  

12 Comments

  1. I have always loved and still love the Rtd. Brig. Julius_Maada_Bio for dozens of reasons. Among which are for his calculated firmness in his response to the media. He has responsibly handled somany allegations ranging from corruption to murder and now to a travel ban to America. Just gone through a review of Dr. AKK’s newly published books, which I believe will lay the issue of former Inspector General of police (Bambay Kamara) to rest. They will keep on smearing his (JMB) character till he ascends to presedency. May God bless the young Brig. Julius_Maada_Bio.

  2. Whether anybody likes it or not, especially those in the North of Sierra Leone, who are still finding it very difficult to forgive Maada Bio for leading a military junta that executed 29 people on the 29th December, 1992, without due process, can I just remind this section of people that Maada Bio is just unique in political leadership in all areas as follows; that Maada Bio is a pacesetter and has demonstrated political leadership at the highest level and even beyond boundary in Sierra Leone because of the following records he in his profile:

    i. He staged a palace coup against the Junta Leader Valentine Strasser without killing him but instead, he provided him security escort through a military helicopter to Guinea. As I write, Strasser is still alive with his life intact and he is still living well in Sierra Leone. Maybe, he could rise up one day and develop a political leadership to rule Sierra Leone. Therefore, Maada Bio’s hands are still quite clean with no blood. Let the unforgivable Northerners understand this and comes to terms with realities.

    ii. Maada Bio is yet the only military leader of Sierra Leone who handed power to the civilian government through a democratic election process. Let the unforgivable Northerners understand this and comes to terms with realities.

    iii. Maada Bio is a nationalist and not a tribalist. He lodges no grudge in his mind for anybody and should the unforgivable Northerners understand this and comes to terms with realities?

    Therefore, even though Maada Bio contested once and “lost”, let us just move forward with the reality that making a come back for the SLPP leadership is nothing new to African politics. Can everybody understand that the former President of Senegal Abdulai Wada contested for three times before he finally warned until when he later on conceded to a younger contestant, Macky Sall. Should the unforgivable Northerners understand this and comes to terms with realities?

  3. Although there are sections of the Sierra Leonean population, especially in the north of the country, who are still finding it very difficult to forgive Maada Bio for leading a military junta that executed 29 people on the 29th December, 1992, without due process, can I just remind this section of people who are still finding it difficult to forgive Maada Bio, that he was not Head of State by then at the time this mass execution took place in our country. The Head of State or Head of the Military Junta by then was called Valentine E.M Strasser whilst his Deputy was Saj. Musa.

    Can I also remind people that Maada Bio was not even in Sierra Leone at the time of that execution, but got the information in the news just as any other person.

    Another information I would like to uncover to all Sierra Leoneans is that the reason why Maada Bio overthrew Valentine Strasser is that he discovered that Strasser who was the Junta Leader by then was not ready to enter into democratic process of handing power over to the civilian and he staged a palace coup with no intention of killing Valentine Strasser.

    Bio took a very great risk with his very life. In such a military coup, you either kill or get yourself killed; but Maada Bio was guided by God to save the nation of Sierra Leone by kicking away what would have become a stumbling block to the progress of our country.

    This is just my calculation of Maada Bio that he has already demonstrated a pacesetter leadership style which is why Sierra Leone is today boasting of its democratic credentials.

    The time has come for Maada Bio to put things straight for the benefit of us all in Sierra Leone without malice, for people of the North, although he is from the South. That is why we just have to let him take up leadership.

  4. The reason that I left APC in 2012 was their increasing intolerance for free speech, especially towards our media. I voted for SLPP in Kenema in 2012 against APC. I am concerned that some of you SLPP hardliners are as bad as the APC bigots who do not respect press freedom. Why criticise the Telegraph for asking Bio difficult questions?

    I see nothing wrong in this article and the issues and questions raised by the Telegraph. Why should certain issues be swept under the carpet because it is Maada Bio that is in the spotlight? Why shouldn’t the media ask questions about Bio’s present and past?

    You guys must stop trying to muzzle the media. I thought SLPP stands for civil liberty and freedoms. Maada Bio is not a God that must not be questioned. So get over it and leave the Telegraph to do their job.

    If this was cocorioko, kabs kanu would have deleted your comments and no one would be any wiser. But not so the Telegraph, champions of free speech and social justice.

    Bio is game, just like all the other candidates aspiring for the presidency. He is not a sacred cow and must be scrutinised. And in my opinion he is unfit to lead our party and our country.

    Right now we need leaders with brain – not brawn, to take us out of abject poverty. The days of the military turncoats are over in Africa.

  5. The moderator is short-sighted. His comments about the execution of 29 APC corrupt officials was improper. That same APC group executed Francis M. Minah and others, especially Bambay Kamara. He lied and engineered the whole fake coup against Minah. Why did’t they say a word about that.

    Is it because they want KKY to now be flag bearer of SLPP? America is not important in the lives of Sierra Leoneans. Show us just what America has done for Sierra Leone. As long as they have no permanent interest, they are less concerned about the country and its people.

    During the war, it was Britain that came to our aid, militarily and financially. Further, Mr Bio have the right to abandon his asylum and return home if he felt safe. And he clearly said the ex-president Kabba did call him back. So the man used his right to free movement, which the same America is preaching, or was it that they wanted to keep him there to use him later as one of theirs?

    Thank God the young man was smart. As long as Britain can accommodate Bio, America will gradually bury their asylum papers that Bio filled. If Mr Bio was not having Sierra Leone at heart, he could have held on to power and called drug barons, gun traffickers including other countries like Russia, Lybia etc… to come to his aid.

    But he abandoned all that. J.J. Rawlings of Ghana executed all previous corrupt public officials in Ghana. Today Ghana is progressing, so also is Sierra Leone.

  6. In my own point of view, let us wait and see who SLPP will give the flagbearership to contest the 2018 Presidential election. It only depends on the people who have the mandate to elect the flagbearer for their party. Whether you are Maada, Yumkella, Alie kabba, etc, it all depends on these people who have the mandate to elect the flagbearer for the party.

    The silent question is: Do we know on what grounds these people are going to vote for the flagbearer? Me ah dae wait for di tem, nor to now for draw bush na tong, leh we nor condemn any body now. Lonta

  7. Julius Bio failed to give us the real reason or reasons why in his capacity as presidential candidate of a major opposition party, the SLPP – the Americans turned down his visa application to travel to America to attend party functions of which he was invited as the chief guest of honour. His answers to the interviewer’s questions were totally unsatisfactory and deceitful.

    Bio is a mendacious character who is clearly besieged by his excess NPRC baggage, but he never say the truth and his explanations are extremely poorly delivered and unconvincing. When someone applies for a visa and his application is refused the authorities will issue the applicant their reasons for refusal in writing, with the right to appeal.

    Bio should have been told why he could not travel to the USA in a clear and simple statement, citing the provision of the immigration law under which his application was refused. So he knows the reason why he cannot travel to America. Instead he has told us to ask his former wife.

    But his former wife is not the authority that issue visa to applicants. The appropriate authority to make an inquire is the American embassy in Freetown. Bio said travelling to America is irrelevant. Currently almost all SLPP big guns flagbearer aspirants are in America attending the SLPP convention.

    Andrew Keili, Kandeh Yumkella, Ali Kabba, C Sam, Joe Blell and others are all there addressing the conference. The SLPP America branch is powerful and important to the SLPP election campaign. It has huge membership and made substantial intellectual and financial contributions to SLPP campaign. So, I would say that it is a requirement for any potential flagbearer to honour their invitation to attend their conference.

    The fact that Bio was unable to attend this conference because of American visa restriction on him, he cannot dismiss it as irrelevant. To me, that is an irresponsible statement to make.

    In 2007 the support given to Ernest Koroma by the APC supporters in America significantly helped the APC victory in the 2007 election. But here we are Bio telling us that it is not important to travel to America. I say to all SLPP members that America is important. Of course America does not elect the president of Sierra Leone. But they can influence the outcome.

    The fact that Bio is persona non grata, i.e he is not wanted in America, has enormous political and diplomatic implication weighed against the SLPP if they elect Bio again as their flagbearer. The American authorities don’t think highly of Bio and this could have negative impact on SLPP.

    Whereas the APC presidential candidate for the 2018 will be able to travel to strategically engaged with the American authorities, meet their party members and raise funds, Bio cannot if he wins the SLPP flagbearer for the 2018 election. In effect, SLPP would be disadvantaged.

    Bio’s attempt to draw a comparison between his visa predicament with the Indian prime minister Modi, Kenyatta of Kenya and brazenly the legendary Nelson Mandela confirmed to me how ridiculous and deceitful he is. India and the party of Modi knew why America imposed visa restriction on Modi.

    Kenyatta was also estranged from America and his party, and the country knew the reason. Nelson Mandela was at one time estranged from America because he was at one point in his fight against apartheid movement classified as a terrorist, hence visa restriction was imposed.

    In all these cases mentioned above, we know and the party these men led knew why America had imposed visa restrictions on them. In the case of Bio he has failed to tell us the real reason why America had imposed visa restriction on him. Instead, he has told us in the interview that it was irrelevant.

    As a member of the SLPP I deserve to know and so is the entire party members. I don’t give a damn if Bio is barred from travelling to America, but if he wants to lead SLPP, he must tell us the truth, which he failed to do in this interview.

    • I think Brigadier Maada Bio’s explanation about his visa problems with the US immigration system is a credible and reasonable one, especially taking the complexity of the global security situation the United States is in post the September 2011 world.

      It is therefore easy to understand why the United States will act in such a manner, as there is no more room for error in today’s global security environment.

      To however, have somebody as flag bearer of a major political party, especially from our part of the world Africa, Sierra Leone in particular, and not be able to travel to the United States has far reaching implications. For aside from the political, diplomatic and other capital the person will earn, there are enormous socio-economic benefits to be derived as well.

      It is therefore far too risky to have such a person as the nominee of the SLPP, especially at a critical time like this for Sierra Leone.

      This is because the United States is the only developed country that understands the strategic importance of money in political campaigns. It is also the only country among the advanced country’s that has effectively recovered from the 2007 – 2009 economic and financial crises, and has the largest concentration of Sierra Leoneans with the disposable income to contribute towards political campaigns.

      Thus, a flag –bearer that is not availed the opportunity to harness this potential poses a huge problem for the political party that will put up such an individual to head their ticket.

      The Brigadier is a great citizen, whose sacrifice for our country is laudable and appreciated by a whole lot of Sierra Leoneans, and therefore the huge following he has within the SLPP and Sierra Leone in general.

      However, with the present state of the Sierra Leonean economy or lack of, and the dire economic and financial situation the SLPP is presently in, the opportunity cost of running the Brigadier this time around to head the SLPP ticket is going to be very high, and I will plead with the Brigadier to rethink his decision this time around.

      The Brigadier should do some serious research and then do some horse trading for a strategic role in the future SLPP administration, maybe as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

      The Brigadier can then use such a platform to regain his diplomatic stature and think about another presidential run in 2028. The Brigadier is after all still a very young man as far as politics is concerned.

      Think about the current Nigerian president Buhari, the current Democratic party field in the United States- Senator Bernie Sanders is over 70, Senator Hilary Clinton is in her 60’s, and so is vice president Joe Biden who is thinking about getting into the race is also over 70 years of age.

      Thus, there is a lot of time for Maada Bio to become president of Sierra Leone. This time however is not the right time for him.

      Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, Engineer Andrew Keili and a host of other great candidates can carry the SLPP flap this time around without a hitch.

      You have made unbelievable sacrifices in the past for our beloved country. A grateful country like Sierra Leone will never forget your hard work and sacrifices. Just one more time Brigadier Bio! One more time for Sierra Leone!!!

  8. I think most of the opinions suggested by the moderator are merely a calculated maneuvering to complicate the whole issue about Maada’s inability to visit the US.

    Mr. Moderator must understand that it is common everywhere in the world that people break the law fully knowing that they are doing it.

    In the case of Maada, I want to believe his own account that he did not believe it would reach that far.

    He, in fact, had clearly sent you a challenge to go and find-out about the record the US authority held on him. If you did and it came out to be criminal offence he said he was more than willing to talk about.

    But until then this is his own account. For you Mr moderator conjecturing about what you think the people of Sierra Leone would think about Maada’s account is very unfair and totally unacceptable.

    If I would re-echo Maada’s mentioning of other world leaders who were once or now banned from entering the US, I certainly agree that some of the scenarios mentioned may be different, but what is important is that they were or are banned from entry into the US.

    For argument sake, let us even accept that Maada did wrong by not adequately informing the US authority of his return back to his country on the call of his President, and for that reason the US authorities have now banned him. Mr. Moderator you tell me if such behaviour is uncommon in that part of the world?

    Is that not even better than Maada or anyone to stay underground, mortgaging your integrity, humanity, and above all your country, in those countries?

    I have a very serious issue with your comments after the interview. You are more speculative than real. Most of what you are now commenting on did not come up during your interview; such as the execution of 29 people on the 29th December, 1992, without due process, as you put it.

    But then you did not see the need to appreciate the fact that Maada had in 2011 apologized for the behaviour and conduct of his soldiers, and accepted collective responsibility for all the human right abuses suffered by the citizens of Sierra Leone. This is the characteristics of a Statesman.

    Clearly, Maada needs Sierra Leone far more than he would Europe. He had to go to the US and stayed there at that time because he wanted refuge and was given asylum – fair enough.

    Like I said before, Mr. Moderator, I suspect you have problems with Maada Bio’s achievements over the years. Let me remind you that Maada does not have personal or political baggage as you trying to smear him.

    Maada is a likable person. He is loved by us his people of this country and we do trust him. If you don’t that is your problem. Even the US trust him, respect him and cannot stop us voting him as our flag bearer and finally as our President in 2018. Please mark my lips.

  9. I think it is incumbent upon us to cease our fixation with Julius Maada Bio and instead focus on how we can bring positive change to Sierra Leone. The man has spoken relative to why he would not travel the United States. Why don’t we give him the benefit of doubt and move on?

    Also, it must be emphasized that Bio was not the leader of the NPRC, as the article above erroneously states, when the NPRC executed 29 Sierra Leoneans in 1992. Captain Valentine Strasser was. Why is he not being questioned about those executions? Is Strasser not still alive?

    Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya was charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2007 with the perpetration of violence in Kenya and thereby slapped with travel restrictions abroad. Did that stop him from becoming president of Kenya? Has he not already been cleared of all the ICC charges?

    Correspondingly, why should Bio’s travel restrictions to the United States disqualify him from running for the presidency of the Sierra Leone? Since when did Sierra Leone become an appendage to the United States?

    Lastly, Bio and the SLPP are not in power. Let’s focus on those in power who are plundering our country’s resources and destroying any basis for constitutional rule.

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