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Sierra Leone

Post-elections sanctions mark setback to US ties

President Bio blindsided as Washington imposes visa restrictions over concerns about result that gave him second term

The decision by the United States' State Department to impose sanctions against those it believes were responsible for rigging and intimidation in June's disputed elections, which saw President Julius Maada Bio re-elected for a second term, marks another setback for the government (Dispatches 14/7/23, Election observers cry foul as Maada Bio starts second term).

In a statement last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the visa restrictions target 'those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Sierra Leone, including through the manipulation or rigging of the electoral process' and, without naming names, were aimed at 'specific individuals and not directed at the Sierra Leonean people'.

The European Union Election Observation Mission said there were 'statistical inconsistencies' with the official results presented by the electoral commission, and similar concerns had been raised by the State Department and Carter Center, but the imposition of sanctions marks an escalation that has blindsided Bio.

He had been earlier angered by David Reimer, the outgoing US Ambassador in Freetown, who  called for an independent review of the elections after a one to one meeting with Bio.

All People's Congress leader Samura Kamara has rejected the official results which gave Bio a 56% to 41% win, alleging rigging and that his election agents had been unable to verify the vote tallies.

It is a major test for President Bio's newly appointed advocates in the US, including Florida-based security consultant Jerry Torres, Bio's unlikely new national security advisor, and K-Street lobby shop Mercury (AC Vol 64 No 18, President Bio taps Trump ally as security worries grow).

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