Sierra Leone Telegraph: 02 September 2023:
President Bio of Sierra Leone, his ruling SLPP party leadership, heads of security forces, and officials of the country’s electoral commission are under serious pressure, after the United States government two days ago announced that it is imposing a visa ban on all those responsible, including their family members, for manipulating the results of the June 2023 elections or engaging in intimidation and threats of violence against voters, elections observers and civil society activists.
The visa ban comes after a controversial presidential and general elections held over two months ago in Sierra Leone were declared by the United States and the international community as lacking transparency and credibility.
Social media is awash with evidence of serious violence and intimidation during the election process in Sierra Leone, including a video showing the wife of the President calling for the opposition APC not to be allowed to have their offices in ruling party towns and cities. Few days after that call, an APC party office was burned down.
Perhaps more serious of all was the shooting of live bullets into the APC party office in Freetown where an APC party official was shot dead by security forces, after attempts to assasinate the APC party leader at various roadblocks during his campaigning.
Supporters of the opposition say that the elections were rigged by the President, the electoral commission and officials of the ruling SLPP to keep President Bio in power.
Since the elections in June, a political crisis is now crippling the country’s governance structures, threatening to descend into serious violence and chaos, as the President and the electoral commission refuse to publish all polling station results as requested by the main opposition APC and critics of the government.
Yesterday, Sarah Van Horne – Head of Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Freetown, said that the US is considering taking further actions against those responsible for denying the democratic freedom and will of the people of Sierra Leone.
Speaking to the media, Sarah Van Horne said that the US government is “concerned about the election process and vote tabulation.”
According to independent election observers, no single party had won the elections which should have therefore resulted in a run-off between the main opposition APC and the ruling SLPP, but instead the head of the electoral commission – Mohamed Konneh who is believed to be a patron of the ruling SLPP, went on to declare President Bio the winner with 56.17 percent of the votes and Samura Kamara of the APC with 41.17 percent.
Since the imposition of visa ban by the US government on President Bio, government officials and their families two days ago, many in Sierra Leone say that they are beginning to renew their faith in the will and ability of the international community to hold those in power accountable for their human rights abuse and impunity, including the extra-judicial killing of hundreds of Sierra Leoneans in cold blood by the Bio-led government since coming to power in 2018.
This is what Sarah Van Horne – Head of Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Freetown said on radio yesterday:
There has been no reaction from President Bio or Mohamed Konneh – Chief Electoral Commissioner to the US visa sanctions. But spokesman for President Bio – Solomon Jamiru, spoke on Radio 98.1 yesterday, defending the Bio-led government. This is what he said: