President Julius Maada Bio has accused the United States of seeking to force him to interfere in the June 24 General Elections.
Bio said US officials called him and requested that he halted the scheduled announcement of the results and asked that the elections go into a second round.
“The Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) had done all their calculations, collations, all the processes. I was now requested to stop them from calling the result by the United States. So, I don’t know who is accusing who of interference,” Bio said in an interview conducted at an event at the American University in Washington on Friday.
President Bio is on a visit to the US as part of the annual UN General Assembly. It is his first visit to the country since his re-election for a second and final five year term.
While in the US, the Sierra Leonean leader has been attending several side events geared towards promoting bilateral ties between Sierra Leone and other countries.
Bio is an alumni of the American University in Washington, where he attained bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He moved to the US after handing over power following elections that brought to an end his brief military rule in 1996.
Bio said in a Q & A session following a lecture at the School of International Service of the American University that he couldn’t interfere in the work of the electoral commission because it’s an independent body. He also said that elections were never free of problems anywhere in the world, including in the US.
He insisted that his victory in the June 24 polls was a foregone conclusion because “all the polls made that clear.”
The US was critical about the conduct of the elections, over its alleged lack of transparency, especially during the counting and tabulation process.
The US Mission in Freetown, in a joint statement with counterparts from the European Union, France, Ireland and Germany, condemned the “lack of transparency in the tabulation process”.
The ECSL has insisted that the results it announced on June 27 reflected the true will of Sierra Leonean voters, stressing that its actions were all in accordance with the electoral laws of the country.
But it seems the US and some Western government believed the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC)’s position, which holds that the process was rigged.
According to President Bio, the US’ move to cast doubt on the credibility of the 2023 elections amounted to calling for a coup.
“When the United States casts doubt on an election that was considered the most peaceful, not my words, but the observers… you are calling for a coup,” he said.
The US government last month announced visa restriction on unnamed officials it said were responsible for “undermining democracy” in the country through their involvement in alleged vote rigging and intimidation of election observers. But a statement by the State Department did not indicate any name of those slammed with the sanctions.
President Bio though expressed regret for the decision which he believes was taken on the basis of “wrong information.” He said however that his government will continue to pursue amicable relations with the US, with the hope that “somebody somewhere will hear the truth and know that sometimes dialogue is better than these coercive and punitive actions.”