• September 15, 2023


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There is an unholy alliance between the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the embattled ‘president of Sierra Leone’ Julius Maada Bio that beats all imagination regarding incumbents winning credible re-election campaigns.

Why is it that while the rest of the international community that had elections observers in Sierra Leone’s 24 June 2023 elections are saying that the presidential results announced by the electoral commissioner Mohamed K. Konneh that declared incumbent Julius Maada Bio as winner is not credible, former Portuguese prime minister and now United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres is congratulating Mr Bio?

This is the question many Sierra Leoneans and members of the diplomatic community and civil society activists have asked.

It must be recalled that at a recent ECOWAS Summit, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, took the opportunity to extend heartfelt congratulations to Julius Maada Bio for his successful re-election as the President of Sierra Leone. The global broadcast of this felicitation was met with gratitude by President Bio, who expressed his appreciation for the support and warm wishes from the international community.

Although Mr Bio and his electoral commissioner are refusing calls and demands by the US, UK, Germany, Ireland, ECOWAS, AU and others to release the tallied disaggregated polling station level data to compare it with what they had tallied, and although they have called our elections process as not being free and fair and credible, Mr Antonio Guterres congratulated Mr Bio knowing full well what members of the international community and the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) and civil society umbrella organisations have been demanding.

His congratulation, which such validations Mr Bio desperately needs, emboldened him to make this ironic and contradictory statement about our democracy in light of the people of Sierra Leone saying that he is operating as president on a ‘stolen elections mandate’ that is against their expressed wishes and desires:

“Excellencies, Sierra Leone just concluded free, fair, credible and peaceful elections on the 24 June, 2023, with an overwhelming victory for me and my governing Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). This resounding victory provides us the unique opportunity to consolidate the progressive socio-economic development gains we have achieved over the past five years, consolidate peace and strengthen our democracy.”

If Mr Guterres was interested in knowing how things turned out for registered voters that didn’t get to vote because of intimidation and threats from Mr Bio’s party gangsters, if he wanted to know how incredibly incredible our electoral process was on polling day, if he had wanted to know how Sierra Leone has become polarised since Mr Bio took over in 2028, then Mr Guterres would have known that what we have at State House is a man that cannot be taken seriously when he makes all these well written public relations spins his people write describing a government that ours is millions of miles away from.

Maybe Mr Guterres is unaware that for the past five years the parliament failed to debate the auditor general’s audits of Mr Bio’s regime public finance expenditures. The spate of public corruption under Mr Bio has led followers of our economic progress to call his the most corrupt regime ever on record. Things got so bad for Mr Bio’s anticorruption campaign platform that he ordered the auditors not to include audits of his and the offices of his wife and deputy president in future audits, refusing which cost the auditor general and his deputy to be suspended and are awaiting to face a tribunal since 2022.

Under Bio’s watch millions of US dollars have gone unaccounted for and his wife has also been complicit in corruption by not being able to account for millions of donated funds to her “Hand off our girls” campaign.

Swimming in the recognition from Guterres, Mr Bio waxed lyrical: ‘For decades, Sierra Leone’s electoral process has stood the test of time to guarantee the constitutional rights of every eligible citizen to vote and be voted for.

Following the successful conduct of our multi-tier elections, let me convey my nation’s gratitude to Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas and the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission Team to Sierra Leone for their professionalism and diligence in observing our June 24 multi-tier elections,” President Bio stated.

Mr Guterres should know that ECOWAS has not congratulated Mr Bio and does not recognise his ‘victory’. The elections observers from ECOWAS have overwhelmingly described the elections process as devoid of anything that can be described as free, fair or credible and have advised the Sixth Parliament to wait until the electoral impasse is settled before proceeding further. Parliament has gone on an unplanned for recess despite not operating for more than two months after Mr Bio’s ‘elections victory’.

In light of how Mr Bio won the elections, which is a classic example of institutional coup against an outspoken electorate, and considering how many regimes that have refused to hand over power after losing an election have fallen to the militaries in the sub region, Guterres congratulating Mr Bio at such an occasion as an ECOWAS summit is a slap to the face of the democratic tradition that the west and the UN have been tirelessly championing.

Considering all that has happened in Sierra Leone since 2018 it is a crime against the people of Sierra Leone for the UNSG Antonio Guterres to call Sierra Leone a beacon or champion of African democracy. Which democracy? Surely not the type where the elections commissioner is refusing to release elections results and the main opposition has boycotted parliament and all the town and city councils across the country. Sierra Leone’s democratic credentials have taken a serious dent under Bio.

For openly stealing the people’s will and using the military and police to cower then from publically protesting against the victory and other hardships, Mr Bio has created a situation where the country is divided and not at peace. The country tethers on the brink of all out running battles on the streets between protesting civilians and an armed public security sector that will shoot on sight based on orders from above. Many civilians have lost their lives this way since Mr Bio took over in 2018.

What is a democracy that does not allow for peaceful protest and demonstration?

By congratulating Mr Bio, the UNSG Antonio Guterres’ call for peace and cohesion to settle our electoral dispute is false because his message has added to our problems with his shameful recognition of an electoral thief as the people’s choice of an elected leader.

The fact that he is calling for peaceful dialogue with his rivals the APC and other key players in the contest tells the whole world that the entire elections process was faulty. Why would Guterres still congratulate Bio knowing this?

The rest of the international community should not join Mr Guterres in his shameful courting of Mr Bio (after he invited him to a food summit in Europe in the midst of Mr Bio seeking such invitations after the rest of the world had shunned him).

Mr Guterres, Mr Bio didn’t make it in the presidential elections and his charade trying to get recognition and photo opportunities with other world leaders while trying to call the opposition to come and take part in government is a ruse aimed at furthering his assault on our collective conscience and a farce also aimed at convincing himself that he is a respectable democrat, while the elections process says he is not.


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