The United States is considering further actions beyond just visa restrictions against people deemed responsible for elections related malpractices in Sierra Leone, a State Department spokeswoman said on Friday.
Sarah Van Horne, the head of Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Freetown, said that US officials were looking at other actions geared towards keeping to its commitment to upholding democracy in the country. She was speaking to the local press a day after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced a policy targeting officials the US government believes were responsible for allegedly manipulating the results of the June 2023 elections or engaging in intimidation and threats of violence against voters, elections observers and civil society activists.
“This is not a change of what we are saying… We are still concerned about the election process and vote tabulation. What we are saying is the same thing,” Ms Van Horne said in the virtual presser, in response to a question suggesting a change of tone in the statement from mere concerns about transparency in the electoral process to alleged rigging of the outcome.
The June 24 elections were mainly a two-horse race between the incumbent Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC).
The APC believes the process was rigged and it holds ECSL chairman Mohamed Konneh responsible and accused him of conniving with incumbent President Bio to declare him winner in the first round with 56.17 percent of the votes, ahead of APC’s Samura Kamara’s 41.17 percent.
The opposition party has ordered its elected members to stay away from taking their seats in parliament and local councils as part of its policy of non-participation in the governance process of the country until its demands are met, including the re-run of the election.
APC invited western countries to impose sanctions on the President and members of his government to pressure them to heed to its demands.
Thursday’s announcement was therefore hailed by opposition supporters and their sympathizers, who see the US move as heeding to that call.
However, Secretary Blinken, in the statement, didn’t mention names of individuals targeted. And Ms Van Horne declined to comment on this on Friday, insisting that it’s in line with the US government’s policy not to disclose the visa status of individuals. She also declined to comment directly on questions requiring clarification about whether the sanctions are meant for government officials or whether opposition supporters accused of involvement in violence and intimidation could also face sanction.
She however stressed that the move wasn’t directed at the Sierra Leonean people.