Alan Luke: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 March 2022:
According to sources within the newly renamed Election Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL), the Head of the EU Elections Observers to Sierra Leone, is being monitored by the Government of Sierra Leone, meaning that his movements within the country is being watched by the government.
As such, the Head of the EU Elections Observers to Sierra Leone whose organisation is funding the 2023 elections will be unable to obtain free and unfettered access to the operations of the ECSL, to satisfy himself that the election processes is free, fair and transparent on election day and post-election, during the counting and tallying process, and will not be interfered with by the government and the ruling SLPP party.
The Bio administration is unhappy with the diplomatic community, following their courtesy call at the Goderich home of former President, Ernest Bai Koroma on 8th February 2022. The visit was a follow-up to previous discussions and consultations relating to the country’s social and political situation ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Among the visiting diplomats were the British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone – Lisa Chesney (Photo), the United States’ Ambassador in Sierra Leone, David Reimer and Manuel Muller, the Head of the EU Delegation to Sierra Leone, Manuel Muller.
Sierra Leonean’s will also be aware that the EU Election Follow-up Mission’s Final Report of November 2021, did not paint a rosy picture of the readiness of the ECSL (then NEC) to conduct free, fair, and impartial elections in 2023. Their report noted that only one of the twenty-nine recommendations from the 2018 General Elections, had been fully implemented and four had been partially implemented. This painted a clear picture that both ECSL and the Bio Government were dragging their heels on implementing the recommendations.
According to sources within the Bio administration, on return from his visit to Turkey and Vietnam, President Bio intends to ask the EU to stop funding the 2023 election and will be seeking to solicit support from other friends of Sierra Leone, specifically the Chinese government. Such a move would demonstrate President Bio’s determination to retain office until 2028, not only by rigging the elections, but by ensuring that the election outcome is endorsed by those who would act as guarantors of the electoral process.
Sierra Leoneans should take very seriously any attempt by President Bio to undermine our democracy by installing the Chinese as the primary funder and guarantor of the election process.
China is not a beacon of democracy. It has crushed the democratic foundations of Hong Kong and Macau, following the handover of these territories from the British and Portuguese in the later 1990s.
China wants to provide finance for the Lungi Bridge under its Belt and Road initiative. Sierra Leone is a country which is under significant risk of debt distress, with public debt at 77% of GDP. Accepting Chinese funding for the Lungi Bridge is likely to be a quid-pro-quo, that the Chinese government will demand, to provide financial support for the 2023 elections and act as a moral guarantor of the process.
This would be further insult to injury to Sierra Leoneans, given that the Bio government handed over Black Johnson Beach to the Chinese, who will destroy the ecosystem around the beach, by the creation of a fish farm on the site.
The Bio government’s shambolic handling of the Mid-Term Census, which international donors refused to support, because it was designed to gerrymander the 2023 election outcome, by creating more parliamentary seats and district councils in the Southeast of the country, provides a good indicator of the likely outcome of the 2023 elections process, if EU funding and monitoring of these elections is prohibited.
Sierra Leoneans will not accept monitoring of the 2023 elections by President Bio’s new friends, be it China, Turkey, or Vietnam. Their likely endorsement of a rigged process may well provide the spark that puts the country back on a path of civil strife and we would not let our hard-won peace, our fledgling democracy to be sacrificed for the self-interest of President Bio and his cronies.
President Bio has become increasingly unpopular as Sierra Leoneans are faced with an unprecedented cost of living crisis, for which the Bio government has no solution.
Fuel prices have increased from Le 12,000 to Le15,000 per litre. Cost of public transport has also gone up by thousands of Leones in some cases, sparking an immediate hike in food prices as well as other commodities.
In addition, the capital Freetown has been in constant darkness for several months as electricity outage becomes the new normal under the Bio-led government. The same calls for change which were directed at the Koroma government in 2018 are now directed at President Bio.
About the author
Alan Luke is the former Chairman of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) Party, UK/I Branch.