Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 August 2021:
Sierra Leone’s president Bio yesterday arrived in Freetown, after his controversial two weeks holiday in Turkey where he had private meetings with the president of Turkey – Erdogan and his wife.
According to State House report, president Bio was in Turkey on a private visit aimed at wooing investors for Sierra Leone’s key industry sectors, such as farming and mining.
But few days ago, photos were released showing president Bio inspecting an array of lethal military weapons and armoury in Turkey. These military hardware do not come cheap.
Sources say that president Bio has agreed a concessionary loan, amounting to millions of dollars with the Turkish government to build the fighting capability of Sierra Leone’s armed and police forces, who have been criticised for turning their weapons on civilians across the country, killings dozens – including unarmed prisoners in Freetown and protesting youths in Makeni.
Sierra Leone’s economy is on life support – thanks to international donor support which makes up over 60% of the government’s budget, as well as loans and grants from the IMF and the World Bank.
Over 80% of Sierra Leoneans are at serious risk of malnutrition as costs of basic foods accelerate. Food inflation is now almost 20%, with unemployment rising faster than in the last previous three years.
Although the IMF has warned the government to curtail unnecessary spending and external loans, due to declining taxation receipts and export revenue, however president Bio appears to be showing very little concern for the poor state of the country’s finances as poverty grows.
Spending millions of dollars on new military hardware and weapons for the police force ahead of the 2023 general and presidential elections, may boost the confidence of ruling party supporters but raises questions about president Bio’s intentions, and his commitment to holding free and fair elections in 2023.