President Ernest Bai Koroma will again be a special guest of US President Barack Obama when the two outstanding Heads of State will meet in September at the annual United Nations General Assembly. But one man who will rue the day would be the flag-bearer of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Julius Maada Bio, who has recently suffered a fatal blow to his election bid when the US Embassy in Freetown denied him a visa.
“It is an irreparable psychological defeat not necessarily because Bio was denied a visa, but because his party and supporters had presented the issuance of a visa to their flag-bearer as if it were the decider of the election. With the noise they have been making both here and in the US, they raised the bar too high for themselves and they have now landed on their buttocks. They cannot possibly rise from this psychological fall. Any serious political analyst would tell you that Bio’s chances for the November elections are as good as dead now. No one would like their countries to be like Afghanistan or Iraq or Libya or Syria.
In this day and age, you would like to have leaders who have a very good relationship with the United States of America. If the USA rejects Maada Bio, obviously the people will reject him at the polls in November. I have no doubt about that. Sierra Leone is now a very enlightened society and I don’t think the tribal leanings will hold any sway in these elections,” a lecturer of south-eastern origin at the University of Makeni (UNIMAK) analyzed.
Sources at both the US State Department and the US Embassy in Freetown however state that the rejection of Maada Bio’s application has nothing to do with local politics. “We have strong institutions, not strong men; and our institutions cannot be influenced by politicians. We don’t comment on individual cases, but I would say we treat all applications on their individual merit. If anybody is denied a visa, there must be strong reasons for that. There’s no sentiment involved,” an official at the US State Department in Washington DC stated. Embassy sources in Freetown state that Bio was denied a visa because of particular answers he gave to questions in Part 3 of the application. “There are three key questions that could have disqualified Mr. Bio in the ‘Security and Background’ section, which is Part Three in the form. The first is, ‘Have you ever committed, ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in torture?’
Secondly, ‘Have you committed, ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in extra judicial killings, political killings, or other acts of violence?’ and lastly ‘Have you engaged in the recruitment or the use of child soldiers?’ Certainly, no consular officer would grant a visa to someone who answers ‘yes’ to these questions. And you would be sure that Mr. Bio cannot say ‘no’ to those questions due to his past records,” our source maintained.
A Fourah Bay College Peace & Conflict Studies student however taunted the SLPP Flag-bearer. “Bio has shown too much enthusiasm about and has put too much belief in America; and now America has rejected him. When he was elected flag-bearer, the US Embassy was the first place he visited. When he made a trip abroad, his supporters organized programmes, set dates, hired halls, and announced Bio’s coming to different states in America. It never happened. When he went to Canada, reports stated that he attempted to enter America by road, but was stopped. When he was recently invited to the Independence celebrations of America at the US Embassy in Freetown, alongside other political leaders, Bio grinned and speculated that he would therefore be given a visa. Now it has turned to be a great disappointment. The only option open to him now is to go to Mexico and try to enter the US through the routes of drug cartels,” the second year student said, and with a broad smile asserted, “Maada Bio has been defeated before even the game starts.”