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“Saving President Bio”: How Washington Controls Sierra Leonean Politics … and Diamonds!
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“Saving President Bio”: How Washington Controls Sierra Leonean Politics … and Diamonds!

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Natural resources seem to be Sierra Leone’s curse: With an annual diamond production of between $250 and $350 million, it’s too good for Western powers to resist.

Complicated history of relations between Sierra Leone and foreign powers

This former British colony that gained its independence from the crown on April 27, 1961, has a really complicated history. Its first presidential election took place in 1962, though the country remained far from stable, as a battlefield for Western countries duking it out over the nation’s resources and labor: Sierra Leone is known for its blood diamonds, which is both tragic and ironic in the context of the state's history.

Since the day Sierra Leone became independent, it has been torn apart by numerous civil wars, several epidemics (the latest being Ebola in 2014), tribal arguments, and other issues typical for the region. Military coups have occurred quite often, the most famous occuring in 1967-1968.

The government was overthrown twice. The first time came on March 23, 1967, when a group of military officers led by Brigadier General Andrew Juxon-Smith seized control of the government, arresting President-elect Lansana and suspending the constitution.

The rebels eventually set up the National Reformation Council (NRC), with Andrew Juxon-Smith as its chairman and Head of State of the country. This junta in its turn was overthrown by another army general, John Amadu Bangura, in April 1968. Since then, the word “turmoil” has been synonymous with Sierra Leonean politics.

The worst disaster in the modern history of Sierra Leone started on March 23, 1991, when a civil war broke out in response to the military involvement of the U.S.-supported Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. Taylor, known for atrocities such as cannibalism, was fostered and supported by the American education system, receiving a degree from Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts in 1977. A coincidence?

1991 and the following decade turned out to be hell on earth for Sierra Leone. Liberian forces and local rebels soon overthrew the legitimately-elected president, Joseph Saidu Momoh, who had been in power since 1985.

In the late 1980’s the Sierra Leonean political sphere was as close to stability it was possible for a West Africa country, despite the state coup that was suppressed in 1987. Of course, the Americans couldn’t tolerate such a situation and contributed much to the beginning of the Civil War there. As Momoh was overthrown, he fled to Guinea.

Bio’s Rise

And this is where the main character of our investigation enters the scene, as he was one of the organizers of the 1992 state coup. Bio was a member of a group of young Sierra Leonean soldiers including Captain Valentine Strasser, Lieutenant Sahr Sandy, Lieutenant Solomon Musa, Lieutenant Tom Nyuma and Captain Komba Mondeh that overthrew Momoh on April 29, 1992, with wide support from Western countries.

Although the coup was bloodless, it was evident that much blood lay ahead. The young soldiers later formed the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) with Strasser as their leader and Head of State of Sierra Leone. However this wasn’t supported by the vast majority of the population.

At this point, Bio was a simple perjurer, but his political career suddenly took off, as he was appointed as the Secretary of State South and stationed in the second capital of Bo. He was later moved to Freetown to work as Secretary of State in charge of Information and Broadcasting: a great position to get some experience in the field of propaganda and mass communication, which is always considered to be the first thing for a politician who wants to legitimize himself.

At this point, not only his political career was developing, but military as well, as he was promoted to Captain alongside other junior lieutenants. As a leading member of the coup that kicked out the APC government, Bio served as Supreme Council of State member throughout the NPRC's stay in power and when Strasser's deputy, Captain S.A.J. Musa, was sacked and exiled to the UK, he was appointed as Deputy Chairman of the NPRC.

The civil war had gained momentum by 1995-1996. Concentration and death camps for prisoners of war, displacement of millions of people, mass shootings, rapes, drafting of the underage soldiers and massacres were the main features of the war that cost the country up to 300 000 people killed and up to 2.5 million displaced persons both within the state borders and abroad. The SLA (Sierra Leonean Army) where Bio made his career became notorious for numerous war crimes as well, as, for example the soldiers used the tactics of “strategic hamlets” against the enemy.

“Strategic hamlets” tactis became extremely popular among American soldiers during the Vietnam War, so the roots of such war crimes are pretty transparent. This was the key measure used to “separate good Sierra Leoneans from bad ones”, and “the judges” were foreign military advisors, primarily Americans. Although the country is formally part of the British Commonwealth, it’s obvious the U.K. couldn’t contribute as much to the victory as their American “friends.”

However, fighting “for democracy and justice” in the already war-torn country wasn’t something the young man (at that time Bio was just 32 years old) really wanted for his life, so he retired from the army and moved to “the country of his masters”, the U.S, where he earned a Masters Degree in International Affairs from American University in Washington, DC and also served as the president of the International Systems Science Corporation, a consulting and investment management firm based in the United States. He was fostered and trained by the Americans.

However, there are sources that imply that Bio was connected to the Americans even before, at the time he took part in the military coup of 1992. This is pretty reasonable, since this probably was the only way for a young man from a poor country to get an education in a prestigious American university. Interestingly, Bio has also been incorporated in the British education system, as for a long time he has worked as a senior research fellow at the University of Bradford in England, where he is pursuing a Ph.D. in Peace Studies.

In other words, Bio became a true “man of the deep state system”, while his country was going through its hardest years. He was educated in the U.S. and in the U.K., and, probably, for free, so he had no other moral option than to pay those countries back with his political influence in his home state.

“This is the end, the end of the Sierra Leonean Civil War, my friend”

Cruel and bloody, the Sierra Leonean Civil War ended in 2002, with a political adjustment beginning the same year. On July 28, 2002 the Brits and Americans formally withdrew their 200,000 strong military force from the country that was involved in the war, but the occupation of the state had only just begun. Sierra Leone became the land of military advisors trained in Washington by the CIA. The main goal of these advisors was the supervision of loyal Sierra Leonean forces; the main goal of Washington, as usual, was control over the country’s rich diamond resources.

They did it under the cover of United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone, whose mandate lasted till the end of 2008. Of course, after this mandate was over the occupation didn’t end, as another institution was established by the Americans - the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL). The UNIPSIL, in its turn, worked in the country till March 31, 2004, helping steal money from the diamonds trade from ordinary Sierra Leoneans.

For more than ten years, from September 2007 until April 2018, the international institutions in Sierra Leone worked with President Ernest Bai Koroma. He received wide financial help from the UN to rebuild the war-torn country, and, of course, was involved in numerous fraud schemes. Drug trade issues were also the means of enrichment both for Koroma and for his administration, along with his masters in the U.S. and in the U.K. For example, in July 2008, Koroma pledged to crack down on cocaine trafficking in Sierra Leone after a large drug bust of an aircraft loaded with cocaine at the national airport, but, since that time, there has not been a single such story, leading to a huge conspiracy with accusations of Koroma’s illegal drug trading.

However, the cause of such “silence” may have been simpler, as Koroma had been accused of brutality against opposition journalists many times. An atmosphere of fear and the suppression of the freedom of speech were the key features of Sierra Leone under Koroma, who was supported not only by the UN, but also by the U.S. and the U.K. For example, several Sierra Leonean journalists critical of President Koroma, including Jonathan Leigh and Bai Bai Sesay of the Independent Observer newspaper and radio journalists (who actually compared the president to a rat), and David Tam Baryoh who criticized the President’s Ebola response, have been arrested and detained on seditious libel charges by the Sierra Leone Police.

Even Koroma’s masters from Washington and London how slow his reforms were. For instance, in 2016, under Koroma, Sierra Leone was estimated as having a gross national income per capital of just $490. Access to potable water was still a huge problem for the vast majority of the country trading diamonds.

Presidential Election of 2018 in Sierra Leone: “No choice, no hope”

Koroma was constitutionally ineligible to run for President in 2018, so two other men became the most popular candidates. One of them was Julius Maada Bio, at that time a representative of the Sierra Leone People’s Party and highly influenced by American political power. He got married in 2013 in a ceremony in London--quite a “typical” city for an ordinary Sierra Leone man to get married in!

The Americans tried to hide their support for Bio as his campaign launched, and he was refused an American visa due to his “participation in junta activities.” He had been educated in America but was now denied a visa. The media reported that Bio couldn’t get any vital support from Washington, and Bio played his role in the farce, “defending” himself in several media outlets.

For example, the Standard Times Press stated: “The rejection of the Applicant by the United States of America Consulate Office has been perceived by him as unfair and his supporters too are seeing it the same way, however; Officials of the US Embassy in Freetown knew why the ex-junta member was refused an American visa and issued other members of his delegation that applied. Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio wanted to prove his critics wrong and end the controversy that surrounded his exit from the borders of America.”

As if nobody in 1996 knew that the simple Sierra Leonean guy that came to the States to study International Relations was one of the organizers of the state coup of 1992! It doesn’t make any sense.

Interestingly, the Western powers didn’t even play in “real democracy”, as during the election Bio was opposed primarily by technocratic candidate and a former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the country and governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone, Samura Kamara, who was also a “man of the system” and was involved in numerous USAID programs for Sierra Leone.

Thus, ordinary Sierra Leoneans had to choose between a man who studied in the U.S. and received a degree in International Affairs and a man who received money from the Americans while working for financial institutions in Sierra Leone.

Other candidates (16 candidates took part in the election including Bio and Kamara) weren’t even considered to be of much importance, as they had no chances of winning, the only exception being the agricultural economist Kandeh Yumkella, who also received her education in the U.S., earning a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. He eventually received 6.9 % of votes. The election was staged, with money from the country leaking to Western powers; the ordinary people continued to live poorly, as often happens with Western democracy in third world countries.

As the campaign “against” Bio wasn’t needed anymore, and as he won the election with 51.8% (Camara gained 48.2% of votes) on May 11, 2018, all masks were thrown off, as the White House delegation met with President Julius Maada Bio on the eve of the inauguration and attended the inauguration itself.

The story of the “visa refusal” has been seemingly forgotten, and Americans control the diamonds of Sierra Leone, while the ordinary people starve--another war-torn country occupied by the U.S.

Author: USA Really