Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 December 2020:
After over a decade of trying to win the US Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) major grant funding award, which for many African countries run into hundreds of millions of dollars, Sierra Leone has at long last succeeded.
It is not yet clear how much exactly the MCC has awarded Sierra Leone but there are reports in Freetown that the government will be receiving a whopping $400 million.
A statement published by the US embassy in Freetown today did not specify the exact sum, but this is what it says:
“Demonstrating the United States’ commitment to helping lead the fight against global poverty, the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) Board of Directors selected Sierra Leone for an MCC compact program – a multimillion dollar grant agreement – on Tuesday, December 15, 2020.
“The compact program will follow the successful $44 million threshold agreement between MCC and Sierra Leone that is currently improving water and electricity services in the greater Freetown area.
“Since MCC’s inception, MCC has invested more than $13 billion in economic growth projects around the globe that are expected to benefit about 190 million people. The US government agency invests in projects that drive growth and help people lift themselves out of poverty, like power, education, clean water, land rights, and roads.
“Once a country is selected for compact development, the partner country leads a constraints analysis that determines which sectors are limiting economic growth.
“This analysis is then used by partner countries to design the compact programs and tackle these constraints. The final investment amount will depend on the strength of the projects and their ability to support long-term economic growth in the selected country.
“The U.S. government and the Sierra Leone government are committed partners in Sierra Leone’s economic growth. Since 2012, the government of Sierra Leone and MCC have worked closely together to support good governance and reducing poverty through economic growth.
“MCC looks forward to continued collaboration with the government of Sierra Leone and to launching the compact development process. “
But there are questions tonight about the sincerity of president Bio in abolishing the seditious libel laws which criminalise anyone who makes public statements against the government, as opposition female politician and journalist – Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden was this afternoon arrested by dozens of heavily armed police after surrounding her home in Freetown.
Today’s arrest goes against the spirit and substance of the government’s avowed belief in freedom of speech and civil liberty – key tenets of the US Millennium Challenge Corporation’s grant funding programme.
Dr Blyden was arrested on charges of seditious libel early this year and was kept in prison for several weeks without trial, before appearing in court on several occasions without any tangible evidence brought forward by State prosecutors to corroborate their charges.
Sources close to Dr Blyden say that she has been arrested today after a local newspaper – Awareness Times – of which she was editor and proprietor, yesterday published a frontpage story accusing president Bio of lying to the people of Sierra Leone and the international community, about the true reason as to why she was arrested early this year.
Critics of the Bio-led government are today saying that by awarding $400 million to president Bio, the US government is rewarding bad behaviour – human rights abuse and poor governance in Sierra Leone.
It is not clear whether Dr Blyden will spend the night – and possibly the whole of Christmas behind bars yet again, in what is being described by many as “government retributive justice” based on orders from above.
Sierra Leone’s seditious libel laws may no longer exist in the statute books, but arbitrary police arrests, based on orders from above, continue with impunity.