Claim: A viral message on WhatsApp purporting to be from the Sierra Leone People’s Party’s (SLPP) spokesperson claims Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio will arrive back in the country from his London trip with a ship carrying tons of rice branded in his political party symbol among other things.
Both the Acting National Publicity Secretary of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Rtd. Lt. Lahai Leema, and Adviser to the President and Head of Strategic Communications at Office of the President, Dr Patrick Muana, have debunked a message which has gone viral on WhatsApp claiming a list of things President Julius Maada has negotiated on his travels.
President Bio departed Sierra Leone on 25th July 2020 for London, United Kingdom, to attend the Global Education Summit, Financing GPE 2021-2025, which was scheduled for 28th – 29th July. The summit is said to be the world’s biggest education conference and this time it was co-hosted by both Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and His Excellency Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya.
After the summit, President Bio extended his stay in London till 9 August and departed on Tuesday 10 August for a private visit to the Republic of Turkey.
Prior to his return to Sierra Leone on Sunday 22nd August 2021, a message went viral on WhatsApp claiming President Bio will arrive with a special package and a number of things are to take effect upon his arrival including the lifting of a toll gate fee and the reduction of price of rice, fuel, fish, electricity bills, and all imported commodities.
The Sierra Leone People’s Party’s (SLPP) mouthpiece, Rtd. Lt. Leema, says he is not the author of the viral message nor does he have any knowledge about the contents even though the message is purported to be written by the “SLPP Spokesman.”
Commenting on the issue, the Communications Head at State House, Dr Muana, said the Office of the President does not release such information via WhatsApp. He clarified that all correspondences from State House will be passed through a formal press release with the official letterhead and/or announced by the President himself or a government ministry assigned to do so.
“Most of the timelines may be speculative but His Excellency has worked on most of the stated initiatives. He has worked on making the investment environment more friendly and engaged investors at every opportunity,” Dr Muana said, commenting on some of the specific issues raised in the viral text.
President Bio returned to Sierra Leone with First Lady Fatima Bio on 22nd August 2021. The State House Communications lead confirmed that the President did not arrive with any sea vessel nor did he bring tons of rice carrying the Sierra Leone People’s Party symbol as the viral message claims. Dr. Muana concludes that any details of the President’s trip which are meant to be public will be disclosed in due time and through the normal official means.
The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with Africa Young Voices Media Empire to facilitate the ethos of truth in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country