UK has no interest in influencing outcome of Sierra Leone’s elections -British High Commissioner

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British High Commissioner Lisa Chesney

By Alhaji Haruna Sani

The British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Lisa Chesney, has disproved claims of meddling in Sierra Leone’s politics. She was making the clarification during an interview with Radio Democracy, 98.1 FM on their popular radio talk show ‘Gud Mornin Salone’.

The British High Commissioner, during the interview conducted on the 23rd March, stoutly refuted a recent allegation made by Dr. Sylvia Blyden, accusing her of meddling into the local politics of Sierra Leone.

Sylvia O. Blyden had on March 8th this year accused the British High Commission in Sierra Leone under the watch of Madam Lisa Chesney of engaging in an undiplomatic conduct for clicking like on Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr’s announcement on twitter for re-election as mayor of Freetown, which she claims contravenes the Vienna Convention.

Among several allegations, Blyden said Lisa Chesney was responsible for siding with the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) Party of having their way through the court.

On March 9th, during a press briefing with the British Foreign Secretary,James Cleverly, who was on a diplomatic visit to Sierra Leone, Blyden posed same allegations to him against the British High Commissioner. But unfortunately for Blyden, Cleverly countered her allegations,stating that the click was to amplify the tweet. He also told Blyden that Lisa Chesney is a fantastic woman.

During the interview, Chesney made it categorically clear that the UK and herself  have no interest in influencing the outcome of any election in Sierra Leone, whether it is won by the current Government or any other party. She stated that the UK-Sierra Leone partnership is a long-term relationship and should work irrespective of whosoever is in power.

Asked whether it is right that she sent a tweet using the official account of the High Commission, the High Commissioner stated that there was nothing that was re-twitted or liked on that account or hers. Her response left more to be desired as to whether the allegation was wrongly directed.

Chesney emphasized that her role is not to endorse any candidate, but to engage with all political parties, civil society groups and businesses that care about the issues that matter. She reiterated that the people of Sierra Leone deserve free, fair, and multi-party elections, and that the High Commission will support the attainment of that goal.

The High Commissioner acknowledged the concerns of the Government, opposition, civil society and diplomatic partners related to the accusations of partiality and the rise of hatred on social media. However, she stated that her priority is to ensure that the democratic process is transparent and inclusive, and that all voters have right to cast their ballots without any hindrance.

Chesney stressed the importance of voter education and the need to remove any obstacles that might impede the voting process.

She also recommended the creation of space for independent observation and commended the efforts of Civil Society Organizations in that regard. Chesney added that the High Commission would organize a Voter Observation Mission to monitor the process and ensure that every vote is counted fairly.

She stated that the High Commission would work closely with international partners to achieve that goal and to prevent any violence or social unrest after the elections.

Chesney concluded by saying that the UK-Sierra Leone partnership is based on shared interests and values, and that it is essential to maintain it irrespective of political affiliations. She urged everyone to focus on what is needed to ensure a free and fair election, where every voter has a genuine democratic choice.

The High Commissioner reiterated that the High Commission has no interest in meddling in domestic politics but rather is committed to promoting democracy, human rights and good governance in Sierra Leone.

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