A recent radio interview featuring David Reimer, the US ambassador to Sierra Leone, has brought to light concerns about the potential loss of revenue from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact grant following the outcome of the 2023 elections.
The interview, which was initially delayed due to disruptions, focused on the contested election results and their implications for the bilateral relationship between the United States and Sierra Leone.
During the interview, Ambassador Reimer expressed doubts about the integrity of the election results, which led to the re-election of President Julius Maada Bio.
“The US …would review its government-to-government programs, including a Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact grant worth hundreds of millions of dollars”.
“In the year or two preceding the compact, we were very clear with the government of Sierra Leone that to get a compact they needed to have a fair, free, open, and transparent election. Sierra Leone had done everything else up to that point to get a compact, given the fact that there are all sorts of questions about the results, we’re taking a look at everything, and that includes the MCC compact.”, Reimer said.
He further called for an independent investigation into the irregularities and highlighted the importance of upholding transparent and reliable electoral processes. Of particular concern was the potential review of the MCC compact grant, a substantial financial support system that underpins government-to-government initiatives between the US and Sierra Leone.
The controversy took an unexpected turn when Information Minister Chernor Bah demanded the right to respond to the interview on air. While the radio broadcast was briefly disrupted, Bah later appeared as a guest on the station’s morning show to address the situation. The station’s management issued an apology for the interruption and vowed to implement corrective measures.
President Julius Maada Bio had previously announced the establishment of a committee to review the election process, involving civil society members and development partners, including the vice president. However, Ambassador Reimer expressed reservations about the impartiality of a committee led by a candidate from the election, casting doubt on its ability to provide an unbiased assessment.
Information Minister Bah countered these concerns, emphasizing the enduring partnership between Sierra Leone and the United States through the MCC program. He dismissed any notion that Sierra Leoneans lack integrity or are hindered by tribal or political affiliations when acting independently and objectively.
The interview sheds light on the intricate web of challenges surrounding the election dispute in Sierra Leone, raising questions about the potential consequences for the MCC compact grant and the broader US-Sierra Leone relations.
In November 2022, Sierra Leone achieved a passing score on 11 out of the 20 indicators on the MCC scorecard for 2023. This marked the country’s fourth consecutive pass since President Julius Maada Bio’s government assumed office in 2018.
Sierra Leone’s progress positioned it favorably to continue its development efforts with the MCC, including a substantial power Compact aimed at reducing poverty through economic growth.
Back in December 2020, Sierra Leone was selected by the MCC Board of Directors to develop a compact. Collaboratively, MCC and the Sierra Leonean government embarked on a $44.4 million threshold program to enhance access to clean water and reliable electricity, alongside implementing reforms to combat corruption.