In a keynote speech at the American University School of International Service in Washington, DC, President Julius Maada Bio lashed out at the US government, accusing it of pressuring him to interfere in the counting process of the June elections and inviting a coup.
Bio said that the Election Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) had completed all its calculations and collations, but the US government had asked him to stop the Commission from calling the result.
“They are an independent, semiautonomous body,” Bio said of the ECSL. “I declined, and I said I have never called this institution, I am not going to call them now.”
“When the United States casts doubt on the credibility (of the election), you are calling for a coup,” Bio said.
Given the extenuating circumstances facing Sierra Leone, one would have expected Bio’s speech to be diplomatic and conciliatory. Instead, he turned the tables on the US government right in their face, on American soil.
Whether Bio’s allegations against the US government are genuine or false is beside the point. The point is that the Bio administration has taken to attacking the credibility of anyone who attacks the President or his government. This was evident in the suspension of the Auditor General, Lara Taylor Pearce, after her audit report showed mismanagement of funds in the offices of the President and the First Lady.
The Bio government’s use of the strategic offensive principle has become its primary weapon against adversaries. As the saying goes, the best defence is attack.
This strategy is not new. It is a replica of the Donald Trump leadership playbook. When attacked, Trump would react with a hostile counterattack, no apologies. He used social media to strengthen and promote his narrative, and his supporters amplified his messages on social media in a bid to promote his narratives.
Like Trump, we are also using government institutions to reinforce our narrative. We set up a commission to look into the issues surrounding the 2023 elections, headed by the Vice President.
Likewise, the Judicial and Legal Service Commission was used to suspend the Auditor General pending her current investigation.
For the longest time, this strategy of responding to attacks with hostile counterattacks worked for Trump as President, and it still seems to be working for him outside the Oval Office. Whether it will work for President Bio is not so clear, but what is clear is that we learn all of our bad tricks from the far right in the US.