Claim: US has slammed visa ban on Sierra Leone officials linked with election rigging.
Verdict: True. On Thursday, the US State Department announced a visa ban on individuals involved in election rigging in Sierra Leone.
Following Sierra Leone’s general election held in June, there has been a political standoff between the opposition and the government over the conduct and credibility of the entire process.
The United States, United Kingdom, and EU, among other partners, have repeatedly expressed their concerns regarding the tabulation process that saw President Julius Maada Bio secure a second term with a 56% win in the first round.
On Thursday, news broke on WhatsApp about a possible US Visa ban on some Sierra Leonean officials. Some of the earliest claims in some WhatsApp groups even listed the people banned.
The rumours were shortly followed by a full press statement from the US State Department, announcing a Visa ban on “specific individuals” who played a part in “rigging” the election.
Throughout its statement, the State Department did not name individuals. Given the controversy the ban generated and the names alleged to have been affected by the ban, DUBAWA decided to investigate it.
DUBAWA went on the X (Twitter) handle of the US Embassy in Freetown and found a post authenticating the ban. Whether the US Embassy publicly named officials affected by the ban, it was found that US officials vowed not to mention the names of affected persons publicly. The press statement also emphasised that point, citing US confidentiality laws.
In a virtual press briefing on Friday, Sept. 1, US Embassy Spokesperson Sarah Van Horne said their position on the Sierra Leone election has been consistent, and this latest move just reaffirms that.
“This is not a change of what we are saying. We are still concerned about the election process and vote tabulation. What we are saying is the same thing,” Ms Van Horne said.
Speaking to the Epic Morning Show on Friday morning, Ms Van Horne said they may expand the list if they get more evidence.
“This is the policy announcement, so additional names can be added if more information comes out later,” she said.
This US statement came on the backdrop of heated responses from government officials last week when the outgoing US Ambassador David Reimer mentioned in a radio interview that the $400 million MCC compact might be at risk due to these election concerns.
A day after the release of the US visa restriction, Press Secretary to the President Solomon Jamiru told AYV TV the ban is not the best decision, but they respect it.
Mr Jamiru said: “We believe that having a visa restriction at this moment doesn’t situate well with what we consider to be the justifiable narrative. This is our most peaceful election in post-conflict Sierra Leone.”
He added: “We have to accept it as a sovereign decision. We should be able to negotiate with the United States government. It is a diplomatic and bilateral relationship that we cherish….”
True; the US government has announced a visa ban on some Sierra Leonean officials.