-Says for rigging elections, but leaves concerns in Liberia.
The United States government has 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.”
Though the names of specific individuals weren’t included, local media houses in Sierra Leone have disclosed that the President is included.
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 Thursday, August 31, 2023, 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.