Reverend Kabbs Kanu, the proprietor of the Cocorioko Newspaper lambasted the American ambassador to Sierra Leone Bryan Hunt for allegedly colluding with President Bio. In his article titled “America’s flip-flopping over democracy in Sierra Leone raises questions” (thesierraleonetelegraph.com-9/11/23), he describes Monday November 6, 2023, as “another tragic day for democracy in Sierra Leone”. Kabbs accused the ambassador of raising “the hopes of the Sierra Leonean people that America is going to help them fight to redeem democracy in their country and has now seemingly disappointed everybody, leaving a lot of people wondering what is actually going on.” Some people will beg to differ with Mr Kanu, and in retrospect compare notes here, to help us generate some barometric calibrations. The US Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken issued a press statement on 31 August 2023 on the visa restriction policy to be applied in Sierra Leone. Here is the full statement.
“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.”
You can tell that Antony Blinken’s statement was unequivocal and unambiguous. According to Rev Kabbs Kanu, the US withheld the $400 MCC grant and “also imposed travel restrictions on all officials who contributed to undermine democracy in Sierra Leone by rigging the June 24 elections. So, has the US “imposed” those restrictions yet? If so, who are the culprits? Mr Kanu further describes America as “the beacon of democracy in the world.” I personally beg to differ. Democracy by American standards is calibrated like American interests and foreign policies. A country is considered a democracy only of it fits in with American interests and foreign policy. How many despots and dictators receive political and financial massages from the US? How many such leaders were and continue to be propped up by the US? In America, citizens vote nation-wide for their President (popular vote) every 4 years but the responsibility to appoint the American President and Vice President rests with the Electoral College which comprises of 538 electors. Its sole purpose is to appoint the President and Vice President with a simple majority of 270 or more electoral votes. So, if democracy is for the people, by the people and of the people, how come the voices of 331.9 million are compressed into that of just 538 people? Ask Hillary Clinton.
Mr Kanu admits truthfully that America had no power to order a rerun of the elections but “help institute measures that will ensure that the kind of democracy of disgraceful rigging seen on June 24 never happens again in Sierra Leone”. Is that not what the 16 October dialogue summit between the APC and SLPP was all about, to provide guardrails as protection against future political larceny? Was it not more of a reflective exercise to identify what went well, what didn’t, how to avoid irregularities, and improve our political landscape in democracy? Didn’t we all see the horse-trading exercise of compromises for the good of the country? Was this not about breaking the shackles off the Sierra Leonean people, who had been held to ransom, as political pawns on the diplomatic chessboard of two political parties that belong to the same society of self-preservation?
The only institution that has the authority and constitutional power to call for a re-run of such elections is the courts of the land. Not even President Bio, America, The EU, or anyone has that authority. So, why were the APC and Kabbs Kanu false feeding the APC supporters and all those who bothered to listen with the idea and hope of a re-run of the elections? Did the APC use our courts to legally pursue this cause? Oh, I forgot, the courts are biased in favour of the SLPP government. Did Sam Sumana not take his case to the Supreme Court against the Koroma-led APC for wrongful dismissal even though he knew that he did not stand a chance in cats hell to win it? Did he not seek redress with the ECOWAS Court which later granted him victory? In the absence of any constitutional authority, did the APC expect the US to apply some clandestine soft power pressure to call for a re-run? Haille Selassie once said that “The nations of Africa, as is true of every continent of the world, from time-to-time dispute among themselves. These quarrels must be confines to this continent and quarantined from the contamination of non-African interference.”
How do the two US post-election press releases compare?
Mr Kanu is spitting feathers for Ambassador Hunt’s photo ops, video clips and extravagantly lavish praises on President Bio for meeting the pass mark for the MCC threshold halfway- ten out of twenty litmus tests. By Bo School standards you would qualify as a below average student. Looks like Christmas came early for Bio. In the article, Rev Kanu tells us that we do not need to hate Bio or SLPP to know that the MCC result is fake. Very reassuring there. However, it took three months to move from “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 (A. Blinken- August 31) to “This is an excellent way to assess government’s progress. This government has consistently continued to improve on the various scores in the MCC Scorecard,” (B. Hunt-6 November)? Was that a speed record? Phew. Remember that those who shouted Hosanna were the same people who cried “crucify him.”
In response, President Bio said “I have seen that my government has consistently made progress in the area of gender, control of corruption, regulatory policies, and health expenditure, employment opportunity, among others. Apart from the MCC compact that we will eventually have to benefit from, it is good for us to know what progress we are making”. You be the judge. What is not lost on most readers here is that, if Mr Kanu’s protestations are anything to go by, how many other APC followers feel disappointed, livid, and disillusioned? Should they be? Was the whole exercise an illustration of delusion dyed in false hopes on the part of the APC?
So, what does this tell us about the APC’s knowledge or idea of diplomacy and foreign affairs?
Mr Kanu now claims that “U S foreign policy has always been under suspicion for its hypocritical nature”.
As a US citizen, he feels ashamed by his country. However, if the US foreign policy has always been under suspicion for its hypocritical nature, why did the APC party rely on the US “to help them fight to redeem democracy in their country” as he stated in his article (6/11/23)? One thing we noticed was how the APC and its supporters ran along with every “diplomatic utterance” the US made about the outcome of the elections. Diplomatic language does not reflect reality. The language is marinated in semantic seasonings to satisfy specific palates, specific targets and specific outcomes-made to measure. When the US threatened to impose travel restrictions, the APC concluded that certain people have already been banned from travelling to the US. Names were suggested even before the US ambassador finished reading the press release. So, who are they? Or did the APC dance itself lame even when the main dance was yet to come?
It is obvious to conclude that the US did not buy into the APC stance to ignore the court route to seek redress. The US did not tag along with the boycott prank either. Ambassador Reimer once said “I urge the APC not to boycott government. A vibrant democracy needs a strong opposition; those who voted for the opposition need to have their voices heard.” The Sierra Leone constitution provides the avenue for such redress, irrespective of your political persuasion or conventional perception of the courts. There is no doubt that the APC’s stance on the result of the elections was to protect democracy. So, how do you protect democracy by ignoring the very tenets of democracy as symbolised by the constitution? Many people pointed to Kenya as a similar example of how a rerun of elections was conducted in 2017, when President Uhuru Kenyatta was re-elected with 54.3 percent of the vote, ahead of opposition leader Raila Odinga with 44.7 percent. That is where the similarities end.
In Kenya Odinga filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Kenya contesting these results on a number of grounds. On September 1, the Supreme Court of Kenya issued a decision annulling the original presidential results on the grounds of what it identified as several “irregularities and illegalities” – the first time in Africa in which a court nullified the re-election of an incumbent president. The situation in Sierra Leone shared similar DNA of irregularities and illegalities with the Kenyan situation. Unlike the situation with the APC, the opposition adhered to the constitution and the Supreme Court of Kenya rescheduled the rerun which took place 26 October 2017. The rest is history.
The APC’s excuse for not following the constitution was based on the conviction (pardon the pun) that the courts would be bias in favour of the incumbent Maada Bio led government. What a turn up for the books. If anyone should know about these things, the APC should know. Was this a case of “cunning man die, cunning man berr”? By not taking their case to the courts, the APC gave the ECSL a “get out of jail card”. For argument’s sake, what would the Supreme Court have said, if all the APC had asked for, was the release of the aggregated results by ECSL? If the Supreme Court were going to be biased in favour of Maada’s government and in effect reject the APC’ request, what would have been the legal and constitutional excuse, reason or ruling to justify the ECSL’s recalcitrance? The Supreme Court would have had to manufacture or conjure constitutional alchemy on why the ECSL could not release the results- this is just a theory. The APC alleged fraud but could not provide evidence. This reminded me of my friend Ngor Manna whose goat went missing. For the next three days, Ngor Manna saw his neighbour using toothpicks every lunch time. You should have seen Ngor Manna’s face.
So, where next for the APC?
This calls for a thesis but firstly, the APC needs a total and an unadulterated root and branch reset. When the APC decided to get in bed with the political wet dream called the Consortium of Progressive Political Parties (COPP) that was a clear signal and an admission from APC the main opposition party, that it was no longer confident of its ability to unseat the SLPP on its own. It now required extra political muscle. When the APC splintered into National Reformation Movement (NRM) and People’s Power in Politics (PPP), one would have expected the APC to try and bring these dissenting groups together or dissociate them from the APC brand. Instead, the party went juvenile by fondly branding the main branch Team A. The party became a trinity, which was in the name of the father, the son, and the holy ghost- three parties in one. The next phase for the APC needs thoughtful consideration which cannot be summarised here. Next time.
Lest you forget, EBK gave us Agenda for Change the first term. He gave us Agenda for Prosperity the second term but left us in austerity. President came with New Direction the first term. This is his second term. Waitin now?
Don’t forget to turn the lights out when you leave the room.