Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 August 2020:
A press statement issued last night by State House in Freetown says that: “His Excellency President Dr. Julius Maada Bio will depart Sierra Leone today, Thursday 27 August 2020, on a private visit to the Republic of Lebanon. His Excellency will be accompanied by the First Lady, Mrs Fatima Bio. The First Family is expected to return to Sierra Leone within one week. (Photo above: President Bio and Mrs Bio in the Gambia in 2019).
“For several decades, the government of Sierra Leone and the government of Lebanon have maintained close cordial relations based on mutual respect and cooperation. This visit will further strengthen ties between the two nations.” The statement ends.
But cynics are questioning the president’s motive for embarking on a foreign trip at this difficult time, with the COVID-19 pandemic spreading uncontrollably, especially across the Middle East where the president is now on vacation.
“Who goes on vacation to a COVID-19 infested country, as Lebanon is fast becoming?” a social commentator asks.
The State House press statement does little to stop speculation about the health of the president, after his bungled holiday trip to Kenya on a Safari in 2019 prompted questions about the whereabouts of President Julius Maada Bio.
Today, president Bio’s whereabouts is not in doubt if the press statement is to be believed. What is in question is the motive for his private visit to war torn and economically battered Lebanon, where the government is fighting for its existence amid calls by the people for the resignation of the president and his ministers.
President Bio is to a lesser extent facing similar calls for his government to step down, given its incompetence in managing the worsening economic crisis in the country, despite almost $500 million poured into the country by the international community, IMF and the World Bank since president Bio came to power over two years ago.
Some cynics say that president Bio has gone to the Middle East to sell stolen diamonds. Others say he is on transit in Lebanon to Dubai for shopping and to enjoy the finer things in life, while his fellow compatriots back home in Sierra Leone are suffering and struggling to make ends meet.
Speculations about the health of the president was sparked this morning by a news report published by MTV.Com saying that president Bio has flown out of Sierra Leone for emergency treatment for COVID-19.
This is how the SENATOR Newspaper in Freetown reported the breaking story last night:
“All efforts to reach the Presidential Spokesman and the Office of the President of Sierra Leone have been futile this evening and the same as well with the Information Minister and Government Spokesman but it is very important that State House needs to immediately update the people of Sierra Leone about the medical condition of the President of Sierra Leone.
“A respected Lebanese Television Station, the MTV, has just published this evening that H.E. President Julius Maada Bio has caught Coronavirus and will be taken for treatment to the Medical Center of the American University of Beirut.
“According to the MTV News report, “Sierra Leone President will arrive in Lebanon at midnight and the Lebanese Red Cross awaits him to transfer him to AUBMC to receive coronavirus treatment”.
“This news is now viral. Please, State House is urged to contact this newspaper so we can help to clear the air or confirm the news in our tomorrow publication. Thank you.”
Then came this report from a local journalist in Sierra Leone:
Here is the link to the MTV Website breaking: https://www.mtv.com.lb/News/Live_Feed/1095124/Sources-to-MTV-Sierra-Leone-President-will-arrive-in-Lebanon-at-midnight-and-the-Lebanese-Red-Cross-awaits-him-to-transfer-him-to-AUBMC-to-receive-coronavirus-treatment