Elections in Sierra Leone that are currently underway, have thrown up some of the most bizarre campaign strategies and tactics ever seen in the nation’s history. The Chinese backed ruling APC party proudly referring to its leaders and supporters as Black Chinese, are not only throwing cash at voters to win their support, but are now being accused of massive electoral fraud and ballot stuffing.
Results of the first-round voting which took place last Wednesday, show that none of the parties’ presidential candidates have been able to win outright majority of 55% needed to form a government.
A run-off will now take place on Tuesday, 27 March 2018, between the ruling APC candidate – Samura Kamara and the opposition SLPP’s Julius Maada Bio. Dr Kandeh Yumkella of the NGC, is expected to support the opposition SLPP in winning the run-off and form a coalition government of national unity.
But anxiety has been growing over the role and influence of China and its citizens in helping the ruling APC win the elections, by any means necessary. The Chinese have directly and openly campaigned with APC supporters on the streets.
Support for the APC, which came in a narrow second place in the first round of voting, stems from a surprising source; not just from native Sierra Leoneans, but also Sierra Leone’s biggest trading partner, China.
A stir was caused recently by footage of ethnically Chinese men campaigning alongside the APC in full party uniform, raising the issue of direct partisan involvement by China in Sierra Leone’s political process.
This is but the latest in a long string of such incidents confirming the close relationship between the APC and the ruling Communist Party in China.
In 2017 construction began on a seven story “Friendship Building” donated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to the APC and earlier this year at an APC rally supporters could be heard chanting “We are Chinese! We are Chinese!”, an expression of support for the country that has poured vast amounts of resources into Sierra Leone.
It is projects like this that informed Tillerson’s criticism of China’s “predatory loan practices” in Africa.
However, while the United States remains the leading aid donor to Africa, it was China that took the lead in responding to Sierra Leone’s Ebola outbreak and to the global fall in iron ore prices, which badly hit the country in 2014.