United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to visit Sierra Leone on January 23rd, 2024, according to a leaked letter from the Office of the Chief Minister.
The purpose of the visit remains unclear, but it marks a significant diplomatic moment for the country.
The letter, written by Kenei Lamin, Permanent Secretary of the Chief Minister’s Office, requests a landing permit for a US military aircraft transporting Secretary Blinken to Freetown International Airport.
“I write to inform you that the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken will arrive at the Freetown International Airport on 23rd January 2024. In view of the above, I hereby request for a Landing permit for the US Military Aircraft that will be used.” the letter addressed to the Director-General of the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority (SLCAA) reads.
The US Secretary had previously travelled to Türkiye, Greece, Jordan, Qatar, U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank, Bahrain, and Egypt as tensions remain high amid Israel’s escalating war against Hamas in Gaza.
While the specific agenda for the visit to Sierra Leone is not yet public, speculation suggests it could focus on topics ranging from regional security and democracy to economic development and post-pandemic recovery efforts.
The United States has refused to congratulate President Julius Maada Bio since his re-election in 2023. Rather, it expressed concerns regarding the transparency of the election procedures, particularly during the tallying phase.
On August 31, the U.S. State Department imposed visa restrictions on individuals “suspected of undermining Sierra Leone’s democracy,” which encompasses activities like vote manipulation or intimidating election monitors.
The United States also suspended Sierra Leone’s participation in the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact grant but re-selected in 2024 it on condition that the agreement of national unity which followed an inter-party post-election peace dialogue is fully implemented.