Controversial S.Leone radio interview with US envoy airsThu, 17 Aug 2023 16:53:03 GMT

A radio interview with Washington’s ambassador to Sierra Leone, whose scheduled broadcast was disrupted Wednesday, aired on Thursday after the station apologised to the information minister for not having him on air to react to the points raised.The interview, in which Ambassador David Reimer discussed the United States’s concerns about the disputed June 24 elections, was recorded on Tuesday and due to be broadcast on Radio Democracy 98.1 on Wednesday morning.But just before, the station temporarily went off the air.A journalist from the station who was present on Wednesday morning told AFP that Information Minister Chernor Bah had arrived there and demanded the right to react to the interview on air. The journalist said that, after a verbal altercation, power was then cut to the station.Bah, who was a guest in the studio for Thursday’s entire morning show, denied interfering with the broadcast and said he did not have the remit to turn off the station’s electricity.”Yesterday indeed we had the minister… (here) to talk about the government’s position on the interview with the US ambassador, but one or two problems prevented him from coming on,” station manager Michael Kakpindi Jamiru — who is also the brother of the president’s spokesperson — said at the beginning of Thursday’s show.”We want to apologise to you profusely on behalf of the station and promise you going forward we will take correct measures.”He also apologised to the public for the station going off the air Wednesday, saying it “was out of our control”.- ‘Irregularities’ -In the interview, Reimer said the US government has raised “questions about the integrity and the credibility of the results” announced by the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) in June, which saw President Julius Maada Bio re-elected.”The United States is concerned about irregularities in the results that were announced by the ECSL,” he said.International observers had noted “statistical inconsistencies” and condemned a “lack of transparency” in the ballot count.A national observation group also found significant discrepancies between voter results for presidential, parliamentary and local council elections.Reimer called for an “outside, independent” investigation into the election.He said the US would review its government-to-government programmes in Sierra Leone, including a Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact grant worth hundreds of millions of dollars.Bio in early August announced that a committee comprising members of civil society and development partners would be set up to review the vote, under the leadership of his vice president.But in the interview, Reimer said “It’s just not possible for someone who was a candidate in the election to then look at the process and be not biased.”Responding on Thursday, the information minister said the MCC programme was “based on a partnership and shared values… not based on the ambassador’s position; it is not colonisation or weaponisation of aid”.”I take a very dim view of the idea that Sierra Leoneans do not have integrity and that anyone belonging to a tribe or political party is not capable to act with independence and objectivity,” he said.