U.S economic support for Sierra Leone continues, despite President Bio’s human rights abuses – Op ed

KABS KANU: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 April 2022:

Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad,  who read the recent damaging U.S State Department Human Rights and Country Report on Sierra Leone, which accused the President Maada Bio’s Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP) Government of extrajudicial political killings, egregious and grave human rights abuses and massive and widespread  corruption, are wondering why the U.S. Government is continuing to provide economic aid to Sierra Leone, in the face of all these serious complaints against Bio by the very U.S.

The U.S knows that Maada Bio is abusing human rights, marginalizing the opposition and displaying tribalism in his appointments and provision of social services and they are aware of his extrajudicial political killings (All expressed in the 2021 U.S. State Department Report).  Yet U. S aid continues to come to Freetown to the shock, dismay and at times annoyance of patriots of the country, who want to see the most influential nation in international diplomacy and global governance punish Bio for his crimes against the people of Sierra Leone.

After all, past U.S. presidents, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama, Donald Trump and now Joe Biden, have been trumpeting from the rooftops that the U.S.  is committed to putting human rights and democratic principles at the center of American foreign policy and that countries that do not respect these values would not continue to receive U. S economic assistance.

President Obama at one time warned African leaders that they will face economic aid cuts if they did not respect human rights and govern their people well.

Seeing America continuing to give economic assistance to Bio’s dictatorial, corrupt and blood-stained government has forced Sierra Leoneans to accuse the U.S of empty talk, hypocrisy and double standards, as well as complicity.

Cocorioko  has been talking to some top U.S. officials in New York and Washington DC and this is what we have been made to understand.

Far from it, officials explain, it is not that America support President Bio per se or are even impressed by his governance style since he came to power or condoning his killings and abuse of power, highlighted in the U.S. State Department Report. As a matter of fact, their attitude to President Bio is summarized by U.S President Joe Biden’s refusal to invite President Bio to his World Democratic Summit last December and the grave charges the U. S State Department continues to make against his government in its annual country reports.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) scores adjudged the Bio government to have fared impressively in good governance and the fight against corruption , winning the Compact Award, which makes the country eligible to collect a whopping $440 million windfall in development package.

But when put side by side with the U.S. State Department Report on governance, human rights and corruption, the MCC scores are incredulous, bogus and unrealistic. They do not reflect the real situation on the ground in Sierra Leone and may not be reasons why the U.S.  is continuing to provide economic aid to Sierra Leone.

U.S. PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN

THE TRUE FACT IS THAT THE U.S. CANNOT STOP AIDING PRESIDENT BIO, IN SPITE OF HIS FRIGHTENING HUMAN RIGHTS AND SHAMBOLIC GOVERNANCE RECORDS.

According to a document provided the COCORIOKO newspaper, titled U.S FOREIGN ASSISTANCE AND FAILED STATES, Bio is lucky to be ruling Sierra Leone at a time when the country is counted among nations that U.S FOREIGN DICTATES AMERICA SHOULD BE   OVER-PROTECTIVE OF AND NOT ALLOW TO BECOME A FAILED STATE, AS THIS WOULD BE DANGEROUS TO U. S SECURITY AND GEOPOLITICAL INTERESTS.

The U.S. National Security Strategy (NSS) recognizes the significant threats to U.S. national security posed by failed and failing states and do not want Sierra Leone and the countries concerned to become failed states and fall into the hands of terrorists and transnational criminals who might use their resources to threaten U.S security and geopolitical interests.

The U.S. National Security Strategy (NSS) was conceived by former President George W. Bush, and it focuses attention on the threats posed to U.S interests by failed and failing states. According to the NSS, failed and failing states “can and often do serve as attractive safe -havens and staging grounds for terrorist organizations. They offer terrorists easy access to valuable resources, such as diamonds and narcotics, that help finance these activities.  Failed states create environments that spur wider regional conflicts with significant economic and security costs to neighbouring states. They pose serious challenges to U.S.  interests in terms of refugee flows, trafficking in illicit goods, peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance and in terms of lost trade and investment opportunities. ” The U.S would therefore choose the lesser of two evils by supporting these bad governments and keep them from falling into the hands of terrorists.

The Bush – inspired U. S national security strategy goes on to state that “Creating pockets of improved development and security would help limit the operating space of international outlaws. To this end, United States must go beyond focusing its foreign assistance on recipients that are high-performing or reforming states. Instead, the United States should devise innovative ways to assist failed and failing states through targeted development and counter-terrorism assistance as well as improved trade access to the U.S.  market.”

According to the Security strategy, “America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones.” In his letter introducing the NSS, President Bush elaborates: “The events of September 11, 2001, taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make people into terrorists and murderers. Yet, poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders…..First, these states provide convenient operational bases and safe-havens for international terrorists . Terrorist organizations take advantage of failing states’ porous borders, of their weak or non-existent law enforcement and security services, and of their judicial institutions to move men, weapons and money around the globe. Terrorist organizations may also recruit foot soldiers from local populations, where poor and disillusioned youths often harbor religious and ethnic grievances “.

Sudan is accused of having served as sanctuary and staging ground for Al Qaeda. Somalia also “afforded safe operational space to affiliates of Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have also been active throughout much of Africa with known cells in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Cote Ivoire, Mauritania and elsewhere. …Terrorist organizations have hidden effectively in various African states and from these places have planned, financed, trained for, and sometimes successfully executed terrorist operations against American targets. International terrorists have also sought uranium and other precious minerals from such places as Niger, Congo and Sierra Leone “. Sierra Leone and Liberia are also named among countries that are “cause for concern due to their lack of control over parts of their territories.” Both countries are vulnerable to a takeover by international terrorists who might use their resources to threaten U. S security and geopolitical interests.

Sierra Leone’s BLOOD DIAMONDS, for instance, have often been highlighted as resources that were used by terrorist groups during the war not only to finance terrorism but to set up more terrorist cells around the world, encourage money laundering and other divisive activities that threatened U. S national and geopolitical interests.

Faced with such a grave conundrum and given that U.S places their national and geopolitical interests over all other interests, the country considers it more imperative to help nations like Sierra Leone develop good economic systems, free and fair elections, strong, credible and democratic institutions and peaceful, stable environments that will give terrorists no elbow room to encroach and use their resources to harm the U.S. Thus, the U. S is not actually helping countries like Sierra Leone but protecting their national and geopolitical interests.

This will be difficult to understand for Sierra Leoneans fed up with President Maada Bio’s undemocratic, lawless, bloody and tribalistic rule, but it is one of the truths of today’s post-Cold War world realities where terrorism has become the most pervasive threat to U.S national and geopolitical interests. According to officials in New York and Washington, U.S. would rather help countries like Sierra Leone than see them flounder and fail and become sanctuaries for terrorist organizations.

THE AUTHOR OF THIS ARTICLE SERVED AS SIERRA LEONE’S MINISTER PLENIPOTENTIARY AND COORDINATOR OF THE AU COMMITTEE OF 10 AFRICAN STATES ON U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL REFORM AT THE UNITED NATIONS BETWEEN 2009 AND 2018. HE IS PRESENTLY A CONSULTANT WITH A U.N. ORGANIZATION.

2 Comments

  1. Since September 11 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States, unlike other countries where the US has established norms and bounds by political,economic and military treaties ,like NATO in Europe, and the Northern Hemispheric countries, and long established historical military alliances in the Indo -pacific regions like Australia, Japan , Singapore, Twain and South Korea , over the last few decades US policy towards Africa has always been driven by political, economic, security and strategic interest with no military commitments as sort to any of the fifty or more countries in the whole of the African continent. AFRICOM , the US military answer to the growing threats of Islamist terrorism in Africa and how to combat the threat is headquartered in Germany not in any one of the African countries in the continent.

    To understand US policy towards Africa and Sierra leone in particular one has to listen to Gen.Stephens Townsend’s 2021 testimony before the US Armed Services Committee in which he called for:”caution and concern towards Chinese activities in Africa, stating the United States cannot afford to underestimate Africa’s economic potential and it’s strategic consequences.” And in his first visit to Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal, the US Secretary of State underscored this point in a speech he made during that November 2021 reset button tour in Nigeria.According US secretary of state Anthony Blinken , under the new Biden administration policy towards Africa , he said the new US policy is expected to “tailor it’s arrangements around five key areas :Dealing with the COVID19 pandemic, ehnacing trade , promoting and revitalising democracy , combating climate change , and ensuring peace and stability with a focus on equal partnership”. Bio and his one directionless government is playing the suitor between this two great power rivalry China and the United States.

    Now there is even a third more aggressive power in the mix in the form of Putin’s Russia . Making a splash or inroads in the ECOWAS region .Guinea , Mali and Burkina Fasso are all turning to Russia for military assistance.Which has set the alarm bells ringing in the United States , the European Union and the United Kingdom.So western powers can do anything to support Bio’s dictatorship to keep him out of China’s and Russian orbit .Is the cold war all over again. And is the ordinary man and woman that pay the price for this great power play. The end results has always been human rights abuses ,corruption and bad governance . Bio is Mobutu Seseskoh 0.2 all over again.

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