The elections in Africa in 2023 will be consequential, said US President Biden, in December 2022. Now, Sierra Leone goes to the poll before the month’s end.
Sierra Leone Election Series: US speaks on relationship with Sierra Leone
On 24 June, Sierra Leone will hold elections, which are less than two weeks away.
In December, US President Joseph Biden met with Sierra Leone’s President Julius Bio, at the White House, along with other African leaders: President Felix Tshisekedi, President Ali Ondimba, President George Weah, President Andry Rajoelina, and former President Muhammadu Buhari.
“While the United States does not support any specific candidate or party, the United States is committed to supporting electoral processes to deepen democracy in Africa. Working with Congress, the United States plans to provide over $165 million to support elections and good governance in Africa in 2023,” President Biden said, at the time.
To support the country, the US has “contributed an estimated $600 million in the fight against the 2014 Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone” and Bryan Hunt, nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Sierra Leone was nominated by President Biden on 6 March, a White House press statement confirms.
On the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP)’s Global Conflict Index (GPI), Sierra Leone ranks in the top five most peaceful countries in Sub-Saharan Africa ahead of Zambia. Ghana, The Gambia, Botswana, and Mauritius placed in the top 4 spots. However, the report published that Sierra Leone is listed as “likely to experience increasing levels of violence over the next decade” because it had experienced a “Positive Peace deficit in 2020.”
Sierra Leonean activists expressed their sentiments in a Twitter Spaces event titled, “The Road to Sierra Leone’s Elections,” held 8 June. “As citizens, we are being asked to hold off and restrict our rights … so what kind of democracy do you think we’re building in #SierraLeone? The ground that we have been building is now eroding because our rights are being held hostage,” said Ishmael Beah.
“The police in #SierraLeone, as we move into elections, and thinking about post-election …immediate efforts need to made to reform them and get them back on track. The right protest have been outright denied,” said @cellasey [Marcella Samba-Sesay] on @ResistBureau.
PREMIUM TIMES asked the US Department of State to comment on where the U.S.-Sierra Leone relationship stands ahead of its 24 June elections. On Friday, 9 June, a US Department of State spokesperson told White House Correspondent Pearl Matibe.
Matibe: Country Reports (Human Rights): All People’s Congress presidential candidate, Samura Kamara, in a recent broadcast for a large network broadcaster, questioned how the US Department of State obtains its information to produce the Country Report on Human Rights; that information could be coming from NGOs and journalists.
State Department Spokesperson: The individual reports are prepared by US diplomatic missions around the world. They collect information from a variety of credible sources, including government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the media.
Matibe: After six decades of Independence from colonial rule, a Sierra Leonean is at “$2.15 per person/day at 2017 PPP,” according to World Bank data which is current as of 30 March 2023. Given this context, what measurable outcomes has the US-Sierra Leone relationship helped the country move positively towards its goal of attaining middle-income status, in a regional economic community (REC) facing complex security challenges?
State Department Spokesperson: US investments in Sierra Leone total more than $954 million over the past 20 years, including nearly $260 million for health. Following a peaceful election and transfer of power in 2018, the government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) embraced a “new direction” which seeks to transform the country from a fragile state into a stable and prosperous democracy. The government has set ambitious goals of achieving middle-income status and sustainable development for the country by 2035 and sees Human Capital Development as the most fundamental pathway to achieving those goals. The GoSL’s Medium Term National Development Plan for 2019-2023 lays out a renewed focus on basic services, including free universal education and increased investments in health. U.S. assistance seeks to support those efforts and improve the lives of Sierra Leoneans through strategic investments in pandemic preparedness and global health security, health service delivery, democracy and governance, and security.
Matibe: US-Africa Leaders’ Summit: Could you comment on (or list) meetings held with the Sierra Leone delegation, what, when, how was anything achieved, of note (or opportunities to overcome)?
A State Department Spokesperson: During the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in December 2022, President Biden met a wide range of African Leaders, including President Bio, to discuss our vital partnerships with African nations. President Biden met with President Bio and other African leaders whose countries have presidential elections in 2023 to discuss their countries’ upcoming elections at a critical time for democracy globally.