US invokes visa ban on Sierra Leone’s President Bio and others for rigging elections

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 August 2023:

The United States government has today announced that it has placed visa restrictions on all “those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in undermining democracy in Sierra Leone, including through the manipulation or rigging of the electoral process; intimidation of voters, election observers, or civil society organizations through threats or acts of physical violence; or the abuse or violation of related human rights in Sierra Leone.”

This very wide visa ban comes as a response to the refusal of the country’s electoral commission to publish all disaggregated polling station results of the June 24, 2023 presidential and general elections, which the US government has described as lacking transparency and credibility.

The main opposition APC is accusing the electoral commission of rigging the votes to keep President Bio in power.

The APC party is also refusing to engage with the Bio-led government and is boycotting the country’s parliament.

This political crisis is compounding the deep economic problems facing Sierra Leone, amid rising human rights abuse and restriction of civil liberty.

The US government said few weeks ago that it has frozen hundreds of millions of dollars in aid earmarked for Sierra Leone, because of  election irregularities.

Despite calls for political dialogue by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the international community, President Bio is refusing to seek a peaceful end to the crisis.

The main opposition APC are calling for a re-run of the elections under a reconstituted electoral commission, supervised by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Announcing the visa restrictions today, US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said:  “The United States is committed to supporting and advancing democracy in Sierra Leone and around the world.

“Today, I am announcing a new visa restriction policy under Section 212(a)(3)C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act for undermining the democratic process in the June 2023 Sierra Leone election.

“Under this policy, the United States will pursue visa restrictions for those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Sierra Leone, including through the manipulation or rigging of the electoral process; intimidation of voters, election observers, or civil society organizations through threats or acts of physical violence; or the abuse or violation of related human rights in Sierra Leone.

“Family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions.  Persons who undermine the democratic process in Sierra Leone—including in the lead-up to, during, and following Sierra Leone’s 2023 elections—may be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy.

“The visa restriction policy announced today will apply to specific individuals and is not directed at the Sierra Leonean people.

“This decision reflects the commitment of the United States to support Sierra Leoneans’ aspirations to have free and fair elections that demonstrate the will of the people and strengthen democracy and the rule of law.”

By holding to account, those responsible for violating and subverting the will of the people of Sierra Leone as expressed in the June 24th elections, the United States is making its voice heard across the African continent that such behaviour by power hungry leaders which if allowed to fester can lead to coups and wars, will no longer be tolerated.

You can read the US government statement here:



  1. Leo Africanus, you are right. From personal experience the American Government, through its missions overseas, is not in the undiplomatic, unprofessional, undignified and clumsy habit of publishing the names of people that they have banned from stepping foot on American territory until they apply for a visa. Please don’t get into a fruitless and unnecessary argument with those who think they are the designers of American immigration laws .

  2. Leo Africanus, you are wrong. When such sanctions are imposed, the names of those affected are published in the media. When you do not see such publication, no sanction has been imposed on anyone.

  3. Some misconceptions need to be cleared. Firstly, Nigeria has faced the same visa ban for rigged elections, secondly, the US does not publish the names of those on the list, you will find out when you apply for a visa or be informed that your visa has been cancelled.Finally, the visit to the UN headquarters is under the rules of the Vienna convention that is concerned with diplomatic relations between states. As such, even, if you have a visa ban, you will be allowed to access the UN through American soil under diplomatic privileges that stem from the above convention.

  4. Bilal Coleman, in the world that the two of us live in, everything has a background; that’s why even in the interpretation of laws the world over unbiased judges take into full account what is generally referred to as circumstancial evidence. Reread what you wrote and then explain to this forum in unsophisticated English the background to the imposition of visa restrictions on members of the Bio government. Are electrons not part of the democratic process?

    Let me repeat myself once more, and this is the last time I shall do so: I am not fighting for APC, I am fighting for my Sierra Leone and, in the process I am ready to kick any backside (APC or SLPP) that stands in my way. How many times do I have to tell you that in 2018 I supported Bio because of the uncontrollable corruption perpetrated by APC, prompting the Nigerian Jurist in the COI to tell APC that they had transformed our nation’s bank to a “piggy bank “? If current events were the reverse I would support SLPP to the hilt, no one, just no one, would put a straitjacket over me, because I want to feel free. If you’re looking at things from a tribalistic or regional standpoint, please enslave yourself that way, it’s your prerogative.

    If Samura were to assume the presidency,see whether I would not run him down if I felt that he was leading the country in the wrong direction – I take no prisoners. Being Temene, as I told you the last time Bilal, doesn’t influence my political opinions – Allah be my witness. Oh I must inform you that my maternal home is Kamalo where Samura hails from, I was born in the Wilkinson Road/Lumley area, but when fighting for my Sierra Leone, I cast emotions into the farthest reaches of the solar system. My little education helps me along the way. Does your education help you at all? I pause for a reply.

  5. If not for the tragic ramifications that continues to manifest among our poor helpless citizens, one will be tempted to laugh off the despicable lies, treacheries, propaganda, and outright incoherent ramblings of delusional POAPA diehards. Indeed, years of political brainwashing, tribalistic sentiments, indoctrinations, couple with selfish desires of seeking personal interest above all, with absolutely no iota of patriotism, can definitely exposes the worst of humanity.

    Five years ago, a MAFIA clique, donned in political misfit, with an authoritarian label— POAPA, which translates in our local parlance as, ‘my way or the highway’, showed up in our nation’s politics. In no time, the SLPP, the political party they claim to belong, experienced a violent turn of events. Party members who failed to toe the line were harassed, abused with invectives, personal properties vandalized, some beaten up, with a young man (John Benjamin supporter)brutally killed.

    Fast-forward after the 2018 elections, they wasted no time in amplifying political polarization with apposition figures and any citizens deem not on their side targeted. A botch INQUIRY of past regime official, mostly targeted on political vendetta, with millions of dollars spent on foreign judges, was only the tip of the icebergs.

    In the guise of nation rebranding, the president then engage in extensive, cost involving, global trekking. Millions of dollars wasteful expenditures was carry out on private jets, 5-star hotels, with members of the first family, in addition to a host of government officials, tagging along. In no time, Maada Bio became the most travel president in the entire world, with absolutely no visible impactful foreign investment.

    Next was a massive expenditure on foreign public relation medias, design to portray the PAOPA regime in good light to western governments. Again, millions spent on these entities, rather than the poor suffering masses. Consequently, the MCC challenge was awarded to our nation, touted by regime propagandists as a result of good governance, despite the realities on the ground showing quite the opposite.

    Leading to the 2023 elections, from the fake mid-term census, down to the purely skew voter registration list, with the forceful implementation of a PPR system, all to maintain power at all cost, the stage was set. Come election day June 24th, when all undemocratic schemes seems to have failed, with the people’s power on full display, they decided to forcefully steal the elections. PAOPA mantra on full display. My way or the highway.

    Now with western democracies, whom the so called regime spent millions to get their interest, with more than half of our annual national budget and election expenses covered by these nations, caught them stealing the elections with their pants down, they suddenly began to shout, ‘ hands off’ our nation.

    How ironic! You come to me with a begging bowl to always solve your problems, and you have the audacity to tell me not to interfere in your reckless decision making? Are you mentally sane??

  6. Words matter, words have meanings. Only those who say the word know the true meaning of it”. The words spoken by US secretary of state Antony Blinken can only be understood by him and those who initiated it.

    It is absolutely clear that the statement did not specify any particular individual or group of individuals. That is something as food for thought.This signal is for those who wish to undermine the democratic principles in Sierra Leone and then run to the United States of America for refuge. It is also a signal for those who are perceived to have undermined the democratic principles in Sierra Leone. Democracy all over the war follows the rule of Law.

    The definition of law is rules made by men which men are bound to obey. This is where politicians gets the people confused whenever election is held. All over the world, election rules are very complicated. We saw that in the USA election result in November 2016 when Donald Trump was announced as the 45th President of the United States of America against his rival Hillary Clinton. In all the elections conducted in the respective nations across the world, their rules stands, and their government have function despite criticisms from the outside.

    Thanks for allowing us the space to release stress.

  7. Following the recent increase in fuel pump prices from NLe 25 to NLe 30, Sierra Leone is confronted with a new and critical challenge. On Thursday, August 31st, 2023, the United States of America declared a visa ban on individuals suspected of involvement in the alleged manipulation of the June 24th, 2023 Elections.

    This significant development, communicated by US Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken, necessitates prompt and resolute action from the Sierra Leonean government.
    Tensions have escalated further as government officials grapple with the aftermath of the US Ambassador’s comments on 98.1 FM, which many perceived as critical of the election process. This incident has strained relations between the Sierra Leonean government and international observers, including the Carter Centre.

    National observers have consistently raised doubts about the credibility of the June 24th Elections, painting a concerning picture of the nation’s democratic integrity.
    Adding to the complexity, a circulating letter on social media alleges that the ICC prosecutor intends to meet with Sierra Leone’s president, Julius Maada Bio.
    This development has reignited a heated debate, intensifying the controversy surrounding the June 24th, 2023 elections.

    Given these unfolding events, Sierra Leone finds itself at a crossroads. The imposition of a visa ban by the US underscores the international community’s apprehensions about the electoral process.

    In order to rebuild public trust and restore international credibility, the government must urgently address the accusations of election manipulation and foster transparent dialogue with all stakeholders. The nation’s future hinges on the effective management of this situation in the days to come.

  8. “The Visa Restriction Policy on Undermining the Democratic Process in Sierra Leone” is very clear from the perspective of the Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, which I personally believe started before the elections when APC executive tried to disrupt the elections process by giving the Electoral Commissioners 24 hours to resign.
    Post elections, the outgoing Ambassador, David Reiner, targeted the Electoral Commissioners to release the aggregated data results and also targeted (by tweeting) the elected officials from the APC party who boycotted the governance democratic process in the country.
    He clearly stated that President Bio is the newly elected president of Sierra Leone. I believe President Bio will be addressing the United Nations General Assembly next month and also meeting with the ICC prosecutor for bilateral talks together with our UN representative in New York due to our new status as Non – Permanent Member of the Security Council. Targeted Visa Restriction is not new between the United States and Sierra Leone as can be seen in the link below:

  9. A . Sanussie, please relax and be assured that Bio is now dealing with a country with diplomats who consume and digest diplomacy without a sip of water; they know how to dangle a noose in front of their target to give them the chance to hang themselves. Remember, it’s been over a couple of months since Bio declared himself the winner of the Presidency. And just when some of us were about to entertain despondency, the jab came from Washington by way of the State Department to give Bio and his entourage sleepless nights. It reminds me of how the Brazilians play their brand of football sometimes: they would knock the ball all the way back to their half of the field to make their opponent relax and inattentive, that’s when they come back at speed, and the next thing the opponent knows is the ball is in the back of the net. The opponent doesn’t even know how it got there. Please be patient, the list will come out.

  10. Now these are some of the reasons that, a sovereign country has to rely on it’s own not always depending on foreign donors. All what we have in Sierra Leone, the natural resources… the best diamond, Iron ore, bauxite we can even mine gold and oil, but yet, we are totally depending on the West to control us even escorted us to the bathroom.

    What happened to Nigeria elections, the whole world watched the videos on tiktok, some of the Citizens displayed the rigging elections on Facebook, did US or the European countries made any attacks or condemned it? Did the US made any announcements for visa restriction on any Nigerian Citizen?

    Let’s go to Egypt, President Sisi’s actions toward his people when they demonstrated – the gov’t sprayed over 500 people, did any country sanctioned them? Sierra Leoneans don’t love their country, otherwise after the 1990 to 2002 brutal civil war that left un-heal scares in the country, nobody would say this because of someone’s political ambitions will trigger another war again.

    APC ruled this country for over 26 years, came back for another 11 years and wanted to stay again forever. The whole world watching. APC if at any given time you come back to power, would you like this kind of torment on your gov’t? Now, we want to see the names on the list. Thank you.

  11. The United States has spoken in plain, understandable English, in tones which befits the biggest defender of democratic values. One can extrapolate that the rest of the democratic world (The West )will soon follow. What looked like a hill for Bio to climb over a few weeks ago is now showing features of Mount Everest.

    My suggestion to Bio: approach the Americans, and hence the West, through the back door and tell them you are willing and ready to release the real results of the elections if they can give you a little more time to prepare your hangers on. Alternatively, if they are prepared to help you rerun the elections, that would be even better. Don’t allow all the doors and windows to close right in front of you while you have time.

    • Santhkie Sorie,

      You are guilty of building expectations on false premises. Please carefully read the release from the United States Department of State and also listen to the audio of the interview with the public relations officer of the US embassy in Freetown where the visa restrictions issues are clarified.

      The visa restrictions are imposed for the undermining of democracy in Sierra Leone and not for the refusal of the ECSL to publish disaggregated polling station data. In fact credible sources state that neither President Bio nor any official of the Bio government is on the list. Conversely, there are members of the opposition APC that are on the list. So, brother, it is premature to start your jubilation.

      Since the end of the elections two months ago, I am yet to see or hear a single statement that even remotely establishes that the Americans and the International Community are unwilling to work with the Bio government or that the APC has their support. It is you APC guys that have constantly been propagating lies with the expectations that folks would eventually start believing your lies.

      Additionally, it is instructive that the APC is its worst enemy. The party just cannot get out of its way of self-destruction. Consequently, the APC does not have an iota of credibility with members of the international community. For your party to gain credibility in the international community it must renounce violence and have as its flagbearer a man of high integrity and not a shady character that violently disposes of his competitors at party level elections. Your party must also have evidence that elections that it participates in are not free and fair and such evidence must be presented to a court of law.

  12. Haven’t see the list but I hope the US doesn’t go half measures on this and not include Bio who was giving the orders because I don’t understand why a list wasn’t published when we already know who the major perpetrators are; Bio, the top brass of ECSL and the top brass of SLPP who should be included as well. Konneh is the fall guy, but we know he wasn’t acting along and wasn’t the instigator. He was going on the commands and plans of Bio. The US has shown they appreciate the gravitas of the matter (ambassador doing the unthinkable and going on radio to criticize the govt), so hoping they continue and don’t treat Bio with kid gloves.
    Visa ban should apply to Bio! While he should get to face the Sierra Leoneans planning to show their displeasure with his theft of the election through protests at the United Nations General Meeting next month, it will also be fitting if he is unable to attend because he is not allowed in the country so he begins to understand say play play don don. He has been doing things that seems to think he can play the US after stealing the election such as setting up a bogus Commission of Inquiry, looking to hire publicists/lobbyists to lobby the US government and the plans to set up an embassy in Jerusalem, which, while it seems on the face of it, he is being bought by Israel to make the move, it can’t be lost on him that the US might be happy with the move, although I don’t know if the Biden administration has the same view as the Trump administration did when it comes to foreign embassies in Israel being moved to Jerusalem. I also think part of the agreement the US made with the UN when the UN building was located in NY was that foreign leaders/officials can attend events without interuption by the US, so hopefully, Bio is not able to get around a ban if he is on the list, which he needs to be. He needs the shame and we need the savings that will come from him, his wife and his entourage hopping on private planes to go to the US especially being that they always take/steal more than is neccessary for the trip.

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