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Sunday, December 10, 2023

U.S. Ambassador Warns Sierra Leone May Lose MCC Compact Due To Unaddressed Election Irregularities

By Lawrence Williams

United States Ambassador David Reimer (Photo) has clarified the U.S. government position regarding the conduct and outcome of the June 24 elections in Sierra Leone. In an interview with Radio Democracy on Wednesday, Ambassador Reimer said the U.S. remains concerned about irregularities and inconsistencies in the official results announced by the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL), and that these issues cast doubt on the integrity and outcome of the process.  

The United States government had expressed concerns about the integrity and credibility of the election results, Ambassador Reimer said. He stated that the results announced by the ECSL are significantly different from those of the parallel vote tabulation, and that there are inconsistencies analysed by domestic and international observers. As a result, the U.S. government has requested an independent investigation to be conducted by an outside source to examine the process.

He stated: “We have raised concerns about the integrity and credibility of the results. This is not my personal opinion, but rather the position of the United States government.”

In response to the government’s plans to establish a National Electoral Systems Review Committee (NESRC) headed by Vice President Mohammed Juldeh Jalloh to assess the “planning and management of the 2023 electoral cycle”, Ambassador Reimer stressed the importance of establishing a neutral and impartial committee. As a matter of principle, he said the U.S. strongly advocates that any investigation into the 2023 electoral cycle must be conducted by an “independent outside source” that does not have any vested interests.

“It is simply impossible for someone [Vice President Juldeh Jalloh] who was a candidate in the election to look at the process from an unbiased perspective,” Ambassador Reimer noted, adding that they needed an outside source completely divorced of political, ethnic, or family ties to the government or the opposition. However, Information Minister Chernor Bah, reacting to Ambassador Reimer’s statements, said Sierra Leone and the U.S. enjoys strong bilateral ties, and Reimer’s comments do not represent the official position of the U.S. government.

When asked whether the United States government recognises Julius Maada Bio as the president of Sierra Leone, Ambassador Reimer stated that the U.S. did not dispute his status as president, but they have not yet “congratulated” him. 

In response to questions about whether Sierra Leone’s Compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is affected by these concerns, Ambassador Reimer replied affirmatively, pointing out that conducting free and fair elections is an important requirement for obtaining the MCC compact. According to him, the U.S. government is “slowing down” and taking a “pause” on the MCC Compact due to the “irregularities and inconsistencies” related to the conduct and outcome of the June 24 elections.

“The MCC Compact has not been cancelled outright…we are slowing down…we are taking a pause…”, Ambassador Reimer said, while reiterating the U.S. position for an independent investigation led by an outside source. 

Ambassador David Reimer concluded by calling for a cross-party national dialogue to resolve the current political gridlock between the government and the opposition All People’s Congress, and advised the APC to rescind its decision not to participate in the country’s governance.

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