COMMENTARY: US Visa restriction: The way forward

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By Ishmael Dumbuya

The United States on Thursday, 31 August, announced that it had taken steps to impose Visa ban on persons who undermined the democratic process in Sierra Leone during the June 24 presidential election

According to a statement on the US State Department website, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the US is committed to supporting and advancing democracy in Sierra Leone and around the world.

He added that those individuals are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in undermining democracy in Sierra Leone, including through the manipulation or rigging of the electoral process, intimidation of voters, election observers or civil society organizations through threats or acts of physical violence, or the abuse or violation of related human rights in Sierra Leone.

Recently in Nigeria, a Visa restriction was imposed on the country following allegations of election fraud. Within 24 hours of the announcement, US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken called the newly elected President, Ahmed Tinubu that the US will and is now ready to work with the Nigerian government.

Sierra Leone has always been a close ally of the US. In all UN Security Council resolutions, Sierra Leone always supports the US in major global decisions, shunning Russia and other world powers.

Having pondered on the Visa restriction slammed on the Bio administration, here are some possible solutions to the current diplomatic stand-off.

Soul-searching

President Bio must take an inward look within his government and the country at large as well as pinpoints areas that have undermined the tenets and provision of democratic ideals in the country. He should ensure that everyone is brought on board his governance journey particularly aggrieved All People’s Congress  officials, who stated that the June 24th elections was marred with fraud. President Bio should bring them together and chat new way forward in respect to governance and developments across the country.  He should promote the concept of ‘market place of ideas’ where no one is left behind. He should also be seen as a unifier rather than one who intimidates and terrorize people who didn’t vote or supported him. President Bio should open a line of dialogue between all aggrieved parties concerned.

Diplomatic channel

2. If President Bio cares and cherishes the ties between Sierra Leone and the US, he should appoint a diplomatic negotiator that will go to the US and chat the way forward with regard the relationship between the two countries.

The US established diplomatic relations with Sierra Leone in 1961, following its independence from the United Kingdom. The two countries had enjoyed a warm and cordial relationship. Therefore if the President doesn’t want to end the relations, he should do everything within his diplomatic capacity to cement and invigorate the ties between them.

By all indication, considering the support the US Government is providng for the Government and people of Sierra Leone, it is but worth mending fence with the world power.

 I strongly agree that Sierra Leone is a sovereign state with the absolute authority to determine it fate, but that doesn’t mean the government cannot adhere to good governance directives that is largely in the interest of peace and national cohesion.

As a country that can only survive on donor support, Sierra Lone cannot afford to pick up a fight with the United States.

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