Sierra Leone’s Minister of Information and Communications, Chernor Bah, has issued an apology for a tweet that sparked controversy over changes to the passport application process for Lebanese residents.

The now-deleted tweet, quoting Chief Immigration Officer Alusine Kanneh, stated that “all Lebanese living in Sierra Leone” would no longer be able to apply for passports remotely without biometric capture.

The statement drew criticism for singling out a specific ethnic group. Prominent Sierra Leonean figures, including Sheka Forna, a development consultant, condemned the Ministry of Information and Communications (MOICE) labeling it as an “interesting piece of casual discrimination.”

Forna argued that the new procedures, if true, should apply to all non-citizens seeking Sierra Leonean passports.

Martin Edmond Michael, a Sierra Leonean-Lebanese figure, questioned the logic of the statement altogether, pointing out that only Sierra Leonean citizens are eligible for Sierra Leonean passports.

In his view, Rodney Michael, a football administrator said: “This statement does not look good…in fact appears targeting one group. It should have been said “all non indigenes would not be allowed to apply remotely” instead of “all lebanese”.

In responded to Michael, BCC Journalist Umaru Fofona emphasized the need to amend citizenship laws to prevent such remarks. He argued that biometric requirements should be applied universally, “regardless of skin color.”

“Until our citizenship law is amended such racist remarks will continue to be made. I don’t know the context in which this was said, but it appears to me to target one community, which is discriminatory. In fact, biometrics should apply to all, regardless of skin colour.” Fofona said.

Responding to the concerns, Minister Bah acknowledged the discriminatory nature of the initial tweet without context and confirmed its removal. He directed users to a more comprehensive video for a clearer picture of the Chief Immigration Officer’s comments. The Minister concluded by expressing a commitment to improvement and active listening.

“I agree. Without context it reads discriminatory. The live tweet, drafted and posted during the press conference has been taken down. We have shared the fuller videos that adequately situate the CIO’s comments. We will continue to listen and do better. Thank you.”